Humanities mentorship programme grows in 2014

30 Sep 2014 - 12:00

The 19th of September 2014 was a very special day in the Faculty calendar. A tea party was held to thank the more than 100 Humanities student mentors for the work they do for their fellow undergraduate students in the Faculty. The elegant silver and gold event featured cupcakes, live music and poetry readings performed by the students. 

Humanities is home to more than 4000 undergraduate students and is the largest and most academically diverse Faculty at the University of Cape Town. The Humanities mentorship programme was established in 2006 as part of the Faculty’s Extended Degree Programme. It has since evolved to provide peer support for all first-year students during their initial transition from high school into the tertiary environment. Each year, senior students apply to become mentors and, following a rigorous interview process in August, they undergo training at the beginning of the academic year. The mentor training helps them understand the role of a mentor, and the nature of the relationship between mentor and mentee. They also receive guidance on how to support their mentees, and where, within the university, they can refer students for specialised support.

The Humanities mentorship programme has grown exponentially since the early days and now boasts over 100 student mentors, making it the largest programme on campus. This year the programme was extended to include mentors from the Drama, Fine Art, Music, and Politics programmes as well as the general Humanities Programme. The Faculty’s Student Development Officer, Verusha West-Pillay, who is also a registered Clinical Social Worker says that mentors provide first year students with a unique source of peer support while they adjust to the new challenges of university life. “Mentors were once first years themselves, and so have first-hand recent experience of trying to fit in, learning about the resources available to them and even physically finding their way around not just the Humanities Faculty but the university as a whole. At the end of every year we host a Thank You event to show all our mentors how much we appreciate their involvement in the programme and their dedication and support of their mentees” says West.

Pictured above: the Humanities Mentorship Programme has grown to include more than 100 student mentors. Clinical Social Worker Verusha West-Pillay convenes the popular programme.

At the event in September, each mentor received a certificate and a letter of thanks signed by the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Sakhela Buhlungu. Speaking at the function guests of honour, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Crain Soudien, and the Deputy Dean of Staffing and IT in the Humanities, Professor Sally Swartz stressed the importance of the mentoring relationship within the university environment and the impact that this level of peer support has on student development. Further insights were shared by Julia Kabat and Mitchell Ilbury, representatives from the Fine Art and Humanities mentorship programmes who spoke of their positive experiences of being on the mentoring programme. Guests included academic staff members who have been involved in the programme as well as representatives from UCT’s Student Orientation and Advocacy Services who currently assist with mentor training throughout the year. The evening ended with a musical showcase produced and performed by the mentors themselves:  Drama mentors performed Seasons of Love from the hit Broadway musical Rent and South African College of Music mentors performed Ubunye, a musical piece composed by senior mentor Miles Warrington.

 “The Humanities Faculty Mentorship Programme as well as all the various departmental programmes rely heavily on the diligence and commitment of the student mentors. As one such mentor, I can attest to the programme’s impact and reach. We are extremely grateful to our fellow student mentors for all they have done in making the 2014 programme such a success.” Zakiya Chikte, Humanities student mentor.