New amaMaties Hub to give day students the ‘taste of success’

“This is what we want to achieve with this facility – to present our day students – those commuting to the University every day – the benefits of life in residence; to give them a taste of success.”

Prof Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Ms Benita van Zyl, Res-Ed Coordinator of the amaMaties Hub, and Mr Pieter Kloppers, Director: Student Communities, unveil the amaMaties plaque (photo: Anton Jordaan)

This is how Prof Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, referred to the new amaMaties Hub.

“It is about flesh and blood – not bricks and mortar. It is about the welfare and success of students that will be using this facility,” he said.  Prof Botman officially opened the unique living and learning centre (video) on Monday (14 May 2012). The centre not only integrates academic and social life on campus, but also brings together students in residences and those making use of private accommodations (PSO students) for a unique university experience.

The Hub, the first of its kind on campus, was built over a 12 month period on top of the existing Tinie Louw Hall in De Waal Street in Stellenbosch at a cost of  nearly R10 million. It serves as a home base for students from the amaMaties cluster, specifically students from the PSO wards  Equité and Libertas (who have offices here), but also for the female residences Erica, Nemesia and Serruria as well as the men’s residence, Helderberg. Indications are that the facility is unique in South Africa with only few centres overseas that can compete with it.

(Photo: Anton Jordaan)

In his speech Prof Botman said that Maties is once again setting the trend when it comes to housing its students and not merely accommodating them. “It is important, because a university is a big place and one can easily feel lost and that is not how Maties should feel. They should feel that the University is a place where they are welcome, where their needs are met and where they can live up to their full potential – with as little stumbling blocks as possible along the way. This is what this building does.”

He also referred to the fact that students who stay in residence do better at university than PSO students and that the aim of the facility is to increase the throughput rate among PSO students. “This is not only to their own advantage, but also to the advantage of our country and its people.”

The facilities include a dining hall, lockers with power points to charge laptops and cell phones, study areas and even six bunk beds where students can sleep over at a minimal fee. But there is also space to socialise and have a braai with friends – and for those who need to get from the top level to the bottom level can make use of a slide! There is also a late night cafeteria to keep the hunger pangs at bay.

Prof Botman also said that the central focus of the University’s HOPE Project is student success.  The HOPE Project is a university-wide initiative through which the institution uses its proven academic and research excellence to the benefit of society. In 2011, the University, as part of the initiatives which stemmed from the HOPE Project, opened the Learning Commons and the Carnegie Research Commons in the JS Gericke Library. The amaMaties Hub ties in with these centres as an example of how the University strives to create spaces where students can thrive and successfully complete their studies.

Careful! Robyn van de Reede tries out the slide with Lourens van der Linde (left) and Prof Russel Botman looking on (photo: Anton Jordaan).

Mr Pieter Kloppers, Director: Centre for Student Communities, explained that the hub is an extension of SU’s unique Res-Ed programme. “The Res-Ed programme strives for a bigger integration between PSO students’ experience of the University with those in residences and a better alignment of all students’ out of class experience with their lives inside the classroom.  At the amaMaties Hub students can be mentored, they can do group work, drink coffee and socialise, they can productively wait for an evening class, tests, sport and cultural opportunities and lift clubs. Here they can study, store their books and electronic equipment, charge their cell phones and go online. The PSO offices are here and they can buy food till late in the night and in cases of emergency, they can sleep over. It is a place where your living and learning spaces become one. In short we want present day students with the benefits that residence life offers and further enrich the experience of current residence students.”

Earlier Mr Kloppers said that the reasons for residence students doing better at university than PSO students are among others that they spend less time commuting between their homes and campus, they are closer to their classes and the library, they can more easily get assistance from other students and they even eat healthy food affordably.

Ms Gerda van der Merwe, convenor of the amaMaties Hub and MC at the function said that she is in a sense saddened by the fact that she didn’t have all the advantages and privileges that first years now enjoy. As part of the programme, three students from Serruria, Anya Beth van Graan, Sasha-Leigh Williams and Janice Theys performed “Someone like you” while while Robyn van de Reede, also from Serruria, gave a short monologue.

SU intends building six hubs over the next few years. The University is also planning to provide a further 2500 beds through extensions to existing accommodation and the construction of a new residence. The development of a ‘student village’ also forms part of these plans.

  • Liaise with Ms Benita van Zyl, Res-Ed Coordinator of the amaMaties Hub, at  021 808 2461 or benitavz@sun.ac.za for more information.