Pretoria - Students who attended the in-person Welcome Day at the University of Pretoria, held for the first time in two years, said while they were anxious they were more than ready to tackle the next phase of their lives.
Among them was 18-year-old Zoe Tobias from Paarl in the Western Cape, who said although she was a bit nervous that her parents would be leaving her to be alone in a different province, she was excited about starting off her university life.
Tobias, who will be studying nursing at the institution, said she was determined to work hard, and was confident she would not get distracted as she had also planned to play netball for the university to ensure she had a healthy varsity experience.
Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, in welcoming the new students on Saturday, said the 2023 intake was a very special group of students, who were selected from over 40 000 prospective students to be part of the 8 500 students welcomed to campus.
Among this cohort, he said, were more than 1 400 students who achieved an average of more than 80% in the 2022 National Senior Certificate, including the top two Gauteng achievers, Emily Jane Hawkes and Christelle Jones.
Kupe said the new group had made the best decision for their future and were well on their way to becoming part of the university’s lineage of successful graduates by choosing to study at the institution, as it was already leading the pack.
He also noted that while other universities were still talking about the industrial revolution, Tuks was already at the cutting edge of technology.
He had introduced the university’s robot staff member, Libby, the first client service robot which works in Library Services and as SmWoef the robotic dog.
Kupe explained to the newbies that the 2023 Academic Orientation Week was due be presented from today through to Friday, in a hybrid fashion, with most activities hosted face-to-face on campus and some online.
He said beyond the classroom, they also offered a wide range of sports and societies, arts and cultural activities, all which contributed to the “all work and no fun made John and Sibongile dull characters”.
He added that the university was highly supportive of student structures and had an integrated leadership approach.
“The world urgently needs good leaders in every sector, those with foresight and wisdom, who are well-educated, well-skilled and well-rounded citizens and see the way forward to creating a better world, something which universities have a critical role in achieving.”
It was for this reason that he said the university was committed to making a difference in society.
“So as you start this wonderfully exciting journey with us, I urge you to remember that with every day lies the potential to change the world, make today matter it is the UP way.”
SRC president Njabulo Sibeko congratulated the new group of students for being the group that persevered and even excelled despite the numerous challenges thrown at them, including the global Covid-19 pandemic and rolling blackouts.
In urging the newbies to make the most of campus life, Sibeko told them that staying at the university would in no way be an easy feat, as they would be faced with an array of difficulties and they would be put in positions to make difficult decisions.
“Your thinking cannot be short-sighted or narrow-minded, it’s time to broaden your horizon and become responsible adults. It sounds simple in theory, but the practice is where the kick is.
“Prepare yourself for the difficulties that life has in store for you, especially life in varsity. Equip yourself with the necessary tools for success, this includes your squad of friends,” he advised.
Sibeko said while old people liked saying “birds of a feather flock together” the saying was true as in varsity one’s squad could literally be their demise.
He encouraged the students to be attentive to the people they associated with and diversify their friend groups to ensure they had a colourful varsity experience.
“Your life is bound to change, and don’t get confused when people say you have changed, it’s nothing bad, the aim is to change and become a better version of yourself. At this institution, we do not tolerate bigots and racists. This is a safe place and if you are not comfortable with that there is the door.
“The SRC are not magicians, but we do fight for students and we have got you.”
He paid tribute to slain rapper Kieran Forbes, popularly known as AKA, in addressing the first years, and said: “Always remember that the world is yours.
“Rest in Peace Supa Mega,” Sibeko added.