Student retention and throughput rates are a global phenomenon facing higher education that dates back to the 1960s, and currently remains a critical concern, worldwide. It is a particular concern to stakeholders at tertiary educational institutions, who are continuously concerned about improving the throughput rates of registered students.
The throughput rate at tertiary institutions is defined as the percentage of students who register for a module or course and pass the prescribed examination. It is a predictor of the number of years a student takes to complete the degree/diploma/certificate course for which they are enrolled.
In Africa, there are numerous impediments to the improvement of throughput rates at tertiary institutions. These include broad socio-economic and political issues, sluggish progress in a country's development and the influence of encumbrances such as underdevelopment and poverty, on throughput rates.
Juxtaposed to these impediments are compounding factors such as poor preparation for higher education, lack of commitment among students, unsatisfactory academic experiences, the lack of social integration on campuses, financial and health issues, the lack of support structures, the lack of education among parents and family responsibilities. All of these factors have an impact on low student throughput, often culminating in prolonged study periods or the termination of studies.
These negatives frequently have serious implications for the funding of students' education. Such funding often takes the form of grants allocated, either to institutions or directly to students. In some cases, this funding comes from private donations.
By contrast, Mukhanyo has, in the past few semesters and, despite the impact of the COVID pandemic, achieved an overwhelming throughput rate of around 90%. This has been confirmed across degree/diploma/certificate programmes. What is particularly gratifying is that student performance has been enhanced through Mukhanyo's dedicated teaching and learning support facilities, and the success of the academic and social integration of its students. This has been achieved through the tenacity and dedication of staff and students, in pursuit of Mukhanyo’s goals.
The impressiveness of these achievements, both at the academic, personal and social support services level, augers well – we believe – for the future of its funding support, which Mukhanyo receives both from local and international sources.
We praise God for this phenomenal progress and the tenacity and commitment of all stakeholders to this outstanding achievement.
(written by Prof Patrick Palmer, director on Mukhanyo’s board and chairman of the Education Portfolio committee)
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down some ministry matters, Mukhanyo is thankful that most of its activities could continue. Dr Brian DeVries, Principal, stated in Mukhanyo’s annual report that the college is well-positioned by God’s grace for at least the next five years.
At the annual general meeting held virtually on 24 July 2021, Dr DeVries reported that the recent unrest did not affect Mukhanyo’s Durban Advanced Learning Centre or the Johannesburg Campus, the two cities where most of the riots took place.
In addition, on 27 July contact classes at the five centres/campuses started for the second semester, only a week later than originally scheduled and two days after South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, made the re-opening possible by relaxing some restrictions.
According to the 2020 Annual Report, both semesters last year were completed successfully with minor scheduling and procedural changes, although many classes had to take place virtually during the lockdowns. The lecturers were able to spend more time than usual developing teaching material, especially more and better study guides at all levels. In addition, software for student records and learning management was further expanded.
From a financial point of view, things worked out well during 2020. Expenses were cut by 10%, to 2019 levels, during the lockdown to plan reduced donations. Indeed, income from African sources decreased, but income from other sources increased somewhat – something to be thankful for. The result was that total income increased by 2,2% compared to 2019.
For 2021 and beyond, further growth is expected in respect of academic quality and spiritual formation of the students, additional contact students, expansion of student support systems and further material development. Considerable growth is expected in distance student groups of which there are some 85 already – of which more than 10 are outside South Africa.
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The Bible teaches that Christians must always grow in their faith. There should also be growth in the efficiency of the work they are doing. Therefore, all institutions should continuously keep abreast of new developments and train their staff to make full use of the latest in facilities and equipment. Mukhanyo does this annually and used a whole week in June for staff training.
Monday: Mukhanyo’s library staff were trained on the first day of the week. In the last few years, all five regional centres have built up substantial library collections with thousands of books, as well as the ability to draw academic journals and other information from all over the world. But these facilities need to be optimally managed, which requires capable and well-trained full-time and part-time librarians. The training included advice about motivating and training students to make use of these facilities.
Tuesday: The second day was used to train the staff members involved with the implementation of the new POPI Act about the protection of personal information. In addition, Mukhanyo’s health and safety policy was discussed in detail.
Wednesday: On the third day, all support staff using Outlook and Office received further training. Although most trainees are regular users of this software, the training showed them that the platform has more utilities to enhance optimal usage and to save time, and thus improve efficiencies.
Thursday: The fourth day was used to coach several staff members about basic principles of management. Aspects such as planning, organising, leading and control were discussed in addition to aspects such as team building and co-operation.
Friday: The last day of the staff training week focused on Mukhanyo’s gardeners and cleaners together with staff from the Nakekela Christian Community Centre, a sister ministry with close ties to Mukhanyo that serves the terminally ill. They exchanged ideas and applications came forward with proposals to improve gardens (also vegetable gardens) and cleaning facilities.
It was a week well spent, according to Jan Pelser, Mukhanyo’s Operations Manager.
It's now easy to support Mukhanyo with the new online giving portal. Gifts of any size can now be made from anywhere with online payments by credit card, cheque card, instant EFT, MasterPass, and SnapScan.
Mukhanyo is thankful for its many generous donors! This ministry would not be possible without the regular faithful support of many Christians and churches within South Africa and globally.
Mukhanyo’s Pretoria Centre has been approved for campus status by the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and will be advertised as such once the Department of Higher Education and Training gives final approval. Amanda Nel, the academic compliance manager at Mukhanyo, said this is the end of a very long process, with the CHE campus application being submitted last year. Mukhanyo is very thankful for the fact that it has now been fully approved.
This approval means that Mukhanyo will have three full campuses (KwaMhlanga, Johannesburg and now Pretoria) as well as two advanced learning centres (Durban and Rustenburg). These locations are in addition to some 85 distance learning centres in South Africa and beyond.
What are the advantages of campus status? Firstly, a campus can offer programmes in its own right and is not limited to distance education programmes. Secondly, this enables the college to advertise the Pretoria location as a fully-fledged campus. And thirdly, it means that Pretoria is now officially recognised by the authorities to have all the necessary facilities to function as a campus, such as a proper library, internet facilities, lecturing rooms, etc. While this has been the case already for several years, it has now been officially recognised as such.
Once again, the Theological Education Association of Southern Africa (www.teasa.co.za) held a very successful Bible College Consultation, for the tenth time in eleven years! The three-day event was attended from 8 to 10 June by some one hundred delegates, while several other delegates participated via Zoom. In total 32 Bible colleges and other institutions from several countries in Southern Africa participated in one or another way.
And not only was there much to learn, but this event continues to promise much for future fellowship and networking.
The theme of the consultation was “Standing firm for the truth in Bible education within Africa”. Some of the most important points made by the dozen speakers during the consultation are summarised as follows.
Apologetics Urgently Required
Believers must always be ready to defend the faith convincingly, according to Rev. Rodgers Atwebembeire of the Africa Centre for Apologetics Research in Kampala, Uganda. But many pastors lack Biblical and theological knowledge. How can they teach their flock?
The result is that in Africa there are numerous cultic groups and heretical movements with many millions of followers of local cults and African initiated churches, such as the amaZioni and amaNazaretha, as well as Africanized neo-Pentecostalism. There are also millions who support imported cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.
Islam is growing fast in Africa, as well as the Western influence of atheists and sceptics. Not to mention the belief in the Prosperity Gospel in many churches of established denominations.
Many Bible colleges and churches in Africa do not give proper attention to apologetics in their theological curricula. Apologetic courses, such as Mukhanyo is offering, should be introduced in all diploma and degree programs of all Bible colleges.
Undermining the True Faith
The true faith of the Bible is undermined in subtle ways by the many forms of the African Traditional Religion, according to Pastor Sipho Mfusi who grew up within the Zionist Church. He now pastors the Estcourt Community Church in KwaZulu-Natal, a Reformed Baptist church plant. Common examples of African syncretism include:
However, Bible education in Africa must also be defended against Western errors, as expounded on by Prof. Vhumani Magezi of the North-West University, South Africa. Eurocentric and colonial influences everywhere are seen in ideas, philosophies, worldviews, individualism, materialism, etc. The unbiblical ideologies of liberal theology, cultural Marxism, secularism and humanism are infiltrating African society at every level. In addition, the attempts to defend the Bible include many voices and unbiblical views such as African, Black and liberation theology, feminism, different hermeneutical approaches, etc.
Visit the TEASA website for information on the 2021 event (www.teasa.co.za) and to download the audio recordings of all the keynote addresses and some of the afternoon discussion topics. You can also register online for next year’s event planned for 14-16 June 2022, the Lord willing.
To establish and run a quality Distance Learning Support Centre for the Mukhanyo distance programme, you don’t have to be a pastor, theologian, teacher, secretary, or accountant, but you do have to be equipped in several areas.
On 5 to 8 July 2021, Mukhanyo held its first-ever DLSC Management Training Workshop for tutors and administrators responsible for the running of several Distance Learning Support Centres. Held online via Zoom, it was attended by 14 tutors and 2 administrators, from as far afield as Cape Town, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana. Although some may have been a little apprehensive in attending a training workshop online instead of physically at one of our campuses, all logged off after three days of instruction and interaction, inspired and motivated for the work ahead. Everybody agreed that it was a worthwhile time together.
Apart from going through the processes needed to establish a Mukhanyo DSLC and recruit students, several skills were covered to assist the attendees to run the centres well into the future. Skills included: how to tutor students, marking assessments, student administration, ordering, managing finances, marketing, discipleship, and care.
Two sessions in particular issued personal challenges to the tutors. Firstly the session on discipleship challenged the tutors’ walks with the Lord, reminding them that to qualify to be a disciple-maker, one first has to be a disciple. But what does it mean to be a disciple? This question was answered in detail in this session.
The second challenge came in the final session that asked the question, “Why are we here?”. This session took the tutors from the surface motivations on why they’re involved in the Mukhanyo distance programme down to the heart of their ministry. Each tutor was challenged to assess their motivations, with the understanding that it’s not for fame or fortune, nor just to educate others or fulfil a calling, but to glorify God.
The three-day event was a great success and will be an annual event to be held in July. All Mukhanyo distance tutors and administrators are encouraged to attend.
We look forward to the next key distance event, the annual Distance Forum in September (www.mukhanyo.ac.za/distanceforum.html).
Having a life-long experience in library and information services (LIS) as a metadata specialist (conventionally known as ‘cataloguer’), Tienie de Klerk was recently appointed as Mukhanyo’s senior librarian. She will be co-ordinating and integrating the libraries at Mukhanyo’s five centres with a total of some 30 000+ books, with another 8 000 waiting to be recorded onto Mukhanyo’s new integrated library management system (ILMS).
Ideally, the centralised ILMS will provide access to all five Mukhanyo libraries. The recently developed system has just been implemented. Some aspects still need to be expanded to support users – students and lecturers – with an accessible, effective and user friendly information service.
Future developments might include being linked to other libraries – within the Bible school / theological college sector, South African libraries in general, and also international libraries. As citizens of the information society, digital media resources will gradually become available in Mukhanyo’s library collection.
Though Tienie is working from Mukhanyo’s Pretoria centre, part of her work will be to train the five local librarians to use the new system, as well as introducing them to new developments in this fast developing field.
Tienie has served in libraries all her working life, first as media teacher at a Pretoria primary school, then as metadata librarian at the National Library of South Africa. She has lectured information studies subjects at UNISA’s Department of Information Science, and was involved in projects such as the merging of the huge HSRC and Africa Institute library collections. Her qualifications include a Masters in Information Science (UP), a Higher Education Diploma (North West University, Potchefstroom) and some SETA qualifications.
She is a member of her professional association, LIASA (Library and Information Association of SA), and as a UNISA e-tutor is still engaged with teaching information studies subjects. Being a librarian at heart, she has a wide field of interests, including her and husband Ben’s Scottish terriers, music, films and, of course, reading. And she is looking forward to this new challenge.