Orientation at a Post-Apartheid University in South Africa

We have been curious to see how orientation takes place at one of our ‘new’ universities, i.e. one of the institutions created in a post-apartheid context. UMP has a small but growing student population, (169 at the time of creation in 2013). Since 2013, the university has been steadily increasing its student intake. UMP currently has a student population of 3650. We saw approximately 1500 first-year students take part in the orientation programme held over the week of 03-07 February 2020.

We chatted to Mr Trust Nkomo from the University of Mpumalanga (UMP), one of South Africa's new post-apartheid universities. Mr Trust Nkomo drives the orientation programme at UMP on both the Mbombela campus (main) in Nelspruit and Siyabuswa campus in Limpopo. He gave us the opportunity to visit UMP and attend their orientation programme.

The programme began with an opening and welcome address on the first day. It was followed by a range of sessions, such as study skills, academic guidelines, guided tours of the campus etc. Other topics covered, included student wellness, career counselling, student finance, student safety and security, student governance and housing, sports and recreation, and basic computer skills.

UMP’s orientation programme included some fun too. A vibrant atmosphere was created with background music, morning and afternoon breaks and colorful gazebo stands with various resources available to first-year students. A number of senior students were recruited to offer mentorship and facilitation during the orientation week. The presence of the senior students lent a vibrant note to the proceedings. First-year students came to our gazebo stand to learn more about the First-Year Experience and the Centre. We gave the students highlighters to go with printed tips for making the most of their first year of study. We held a lucky draw competition, whereby ten students winners stood a chance to win an emoji cushion.