Academic and Administrative Coordinator of the BSS4 programme in the College of Humanities, Mr Skhumbuzo Mtolo, graduated with his Master’s in Population Studies for his research that explored the academic, social, and psychological experiences, as well as challenges faced by students within the programme.
Popularly known as BSS4, the Bachelor of Social Science Extended Curriculum degree is an alternative qualification that caters and is designed for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have not realised their academic potential due to disadvantaged educational backgrounds.
His study interrogated how University academic support strategies, initiatives, mechanisms, and services assisted early completion programme (ECP) students in attaining their academic goals, while also assisting in developing strategies that seek to improve the programme and support that is accommodative to the needs of the current generation enrolled in the programme.
According to the study, lecturers, tutors, and administrators play an important role in redefining the University experience and making it more manageable for students, thereby enhancing their sense of belonging.
His study will benefit the perceptions and attitudes of students who have gone through the programme. Graduates of the programme indicated that they appreciate and recognise its relevance, some however expressing negative attitudes regarding its duration and the attached stigma of “intellectual inferiority”.
‘My research will disseminate positive and impactful stories to change the narrative about the programme and inspire students to achieve their educational goals,’ he added.
Besides the inconvenience of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mtolo also had to balance his work responsibilities and his research. ‘There were moments where I thought I had written my thesis well and then received feedback from the supervisor with red corrections. Although this discouraged me at times, it motivated me to push even harder. When I received positive feedback, it showed an improvement. This encouraged me further and propelled me to succeed.’
Mtolo is currently working on his PhD proposal. ‘Be consistent, don’t let peer pressure consume you, and remember that this is not a group journey but an individual one,’ he said while urging his peers.