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.
Did you know . . . ?
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.
As a growing academic institution, Mukhanyo must continue developing and renewing its programmes. A project to do just that has been ongoing for the past several years and good progress is being made.
New study guides for the two higher certificates (diploma-level) and for the bachelor of theology (degree-level) are now in an advanced phase. Most of the modules – 87 of the 89 – are already in the process of being rewritten and are going through a number of steps such as formatting (twice), editing (twice) and external proofreading.
This upgrade project started in 2018. It is partly financed by international sponsors and is scheduled to run at least until the end of 2022, but most probably will take longer, inter alia because of additional modules being added to strengthen the several programmes and since the Covid-lockdown made it impossible to record lectures.
This project to produce and/or update study material of a high quality involves not only the lecturers, but also the studio videographers, a team of editors, the printers, etc. But the products are something to be proud of and will be used for many years in southern Africa.
Mukhanyo wants to thank book publishers and media distributors for the large number of high quality theological books which have been received during the past few years. The five libraries, one at each campus/advanced learning centre, are now stocked with altogether over 30 000 titles.
All the books are at present catalogued on a newly installed central library computer system. Thus a book can easily be found at one centre and sent to a student or lecturer at another centre, as needed.
This huge job is the responsibility of the newly appointed librarian, Mrs Tienie de Klerk, and her team of assistant librarians at each campus/centre. A new consignment with some 15 000 books is expected to be on its way early next year.
Additionally, increased access to a number of digital resources is being developed to bring Mukhanyo’s libraries up to date with modern media centres.
Mukhanyo trains church leaders for faithful ministry.
Did you know that after completing Mukhanyo’s Bachelor of Theology (BTh) degree, a student will:
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Step-by-step Mukhanyo is coming out of the lock-down, not unscathed, but able to go ahead at full strength. Our Lord has enabled the staff to limit the damage to a minimum.
As a result, the following has become possible:
Also in other ways the work is continuing. As an example, we’ve already started to expand Mukhanyo’s communications and marketing activities. And at long last the container with 15,000 theological books from North America arrived and is being catalogued and distributed across the five centres. In addition, 1,500 quality books have been received from the library of the late Rev. Irving Steggles, a long-time board member and friend of the college.
Our Father in heaven has once again been good to us. We thank Him in our prayers and once again we are strengthened in our commitments to serve Him, regardless of circumstances.
Did you know that Mukhanyo is offering in 2020 no less than six qualifications in theology and facilitating about six teacher’s education qualifications? The Bible education qualifications are the following:
Though Mukhanyo has five centres and many more distance study groups, it does not mean the staff can sit back only to monitor and facilitate it all. It means more work and also more opportunities to continue as a growing academic institution with a missional heart, teaching God’s Word far and wide.
At the recent faculty forum (before the lockdown), attended by most of Mukhanyo’s lecturing staff, the principal, Dr Brian DeVries, gave a picture of the work in the year to come. Here are a few of the areas for growth: