The second quarter of the academic year is often busy with various legal requirements, such as submitting the Southern African Wildlife College annual report to the Department of Higher Education and Training. The end of April remains one of our target months for engagement with many educational regulatory authorities. Our team works to support the Head of Quality Management and Accreditation with the evidence requirements for the report’s completion, as the more hands and eyes on the process of compiling the report, the better. In addition, training our staff to work on strategic activities brings help build their confidence, and vitally, it helps with multiskilling.
As a core College department, the Student and Programme Support department provides a resource backbone to students, staff, and visitors. It is also a place of learning where students and staff can come and improve their reading skills and computer literacy and receive hands-on training on various life-enabling competencies. In addition, our Librarian, Deputy-Registrar and Registrar spend time encouraging informal learning and the growth of staff and students in meaningful, simple steps. Moving forward into the third quarter, we will spend time with the various departmental managers to encourage them to send staff through for short training and guidance sessions.
We have also had small school groups attend reading and library activities under the guidance and care of our librarian, Miss Risuna Mashele. In addition, we are also looking to roll-out our mobile book reading clinics with schools in the area, given that the Covid pandemic put a stop to our popular school literacy programmes. Access to adequate reading materials, such as books and magazines, remains challenging for many of our neighbouring schools in the region.
A second initiative that we are undertaking is building up our student and junior staff support services via our qualified counsellors. Following extensive consultation within our department and external benchmarking at other universities and colleges, we identified that we should formalize our personal counselling and career guidance services. The lag impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, economic malaise and challenges within the conservation sector mean that many students are experiencing various forms of stress, anxiety, and concern. Our departmental strategy is to proactively assist students and junior staff with well-considered counselling and help them become more resilient in the face of adversity. The department applies professional counselling practice, and as such, all services are confidential and meet medical ethical requirements. Our one-on-one sessions often involve a cup of tea and quiet time with individuals who require support and a helping hand. Three staff, Ashwell Glasson (Professional registered Career Development Information Practitioner), Fortunate Mathonsi (Counsellor and Social Worker) and Grace Ndlovu (Trauma Release Counsellor), form the nucleus of our counselling team, in which students and staff can schedule time for an appointment.
Our third initiative is to build a culture of wellness again among staff and students. The College has had some immensely successful wellness challenges, led by our CEO Mrs Theresa Sowry over the years. The College has a well-established running track, a soccer field and other facilities for staff, students and visitors to use. With the Covid pandemic dropping to manageable levels, our Librarian and staff will run health days and encourage staff and student participation in on campus sports, like soccer, jogging and netball.
A big thank you must go to the Operations department for helping us source some critical printing and binding equipment for all the learning materials that we print for the different business units. We have been exploring the use of digital format learning materials, assessments and resources but the ongoing challenge of load-shedding and resultant outage of data connectivity makes digital, or cloud-based learning solutions more challenging. However, we will continue to explore the opportunities that digital platforms provide for our students.
In other news, the Registrar has been a subject-matter expert on the panel reviewing and planning for the new nature, culture and adventure guiding qualifications. In the near future the College will be establishing new qualifications and courses to meet the needs of the conservation sector.