That’s Hermanus Varsity we’re talking about. And it’s requesting your help. So read on…

Selma Ncube receives a letter of congratulation from HVT’s CEO, Delana Finlayson. One of the 31 HV students who successfully completed their courses at the end of last year, Selma achieved distinctions in both of the Coursera courses and has applied to study towards the B.Ed. Degree, starting in 2021. PHOTO: Johann Kruger

Less than two years ago, in March 2019, the Hermanus Varsity Trust (HVT) was launched to the polar extremes of excitement and scepticism amongst the local population. In the rock ‘n roll months that followed, the emotion felt by most changed to pride. It had truly become what it had set out to be, a project ‘by the community, for the community’. A home-grown rose, a sign of hope.

Of course the founding vision, arising out of the violent protests of 2018, was that Hermanus Varsity would provide an affordable opportunity for the young people of this region to obtain a post-matric qualification without leaving home. Furthermore, the intention was that the focus would be on offering qualifications that would equip them for employment or entrepreneurial activities that would enhance local economic growth.

The model chosen was one of partnership with recognised tertiary institutions around the country which would make online courses available to HV students. They would be assisted with tutorial support from retired academics living in and around Hermanus. Course curricula would be the preserve of the partnering institution which would also take responsibility for student evaluation, to maintain quality standards, and certification. The Universities of Stellenbosch and Johannesburg came on board immediately, followed by Nelson Mandela University.

The first course to be introduced in 2019 was UJ’s part-time 10-module LED (Local Economic Development) course, which was expected to take two years to complete. By the end of the year the students had achieved outstanding results for the first two modules. This course was slated to continue in 2020, and another one-year full-time course, the Criminal Law Enforcement Programme – Environment (CLEP) presented by NMU, was added.

But then along came lockdown and everything was thrown into disarray. When students were unable to use the computers at the Hub, many of them had to receive their online course material on their cellphones. At a time when families were struggling to put food on the table, the data this gobbled up was completely unaffordable. HV realised it would not only have to get involved in food distribution for the students and their families, but also the provision of data.

What was even worse for the students was being deprived of contact with their tutors. If nothing had previously demonstrated how important the mentors were to the success of the students, it was this crisis. Although they did their best to remain in touch by phone and video links, nothing could replace face-to-face support, from both an academic and personal point of view. Despite all these disruptions, 31 HV students and their tutors celebrated the successful completion of their courses at the end of the year.

Another wonderful opportunity for HV presented itself in September 2020, when they were approached by Stellenbosch University to make HV available as a case study for 30 post-graduate students from around the world who were participating in the Global MBA Consortium. The report they produced was extremely favourable; their research revealed nothing similar anywhere in the world and with a couple of tweaks, they felt it had an important role to play in bringing about societal change in the community.

This objective feedback led to a decision by Delana and her team to press the Pause button for a while longer while they reimagined the role and future direction of HV, drawing on what was working well and correcting any missteps they might have made during the developmental process. Along with some management and structural changes proposed by the post-graduate MBA students, they decided to change the name of HV, to which the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) had registered objections. And this is where you, dear reader, come in.

Wishing to solicit the participation of all the people of the Overstrand in this significant step, HV is calling for suggestions for a new name (see guidelines on this page). Unfortunately, there is no prize on offer, except bragging rights for the initiator of the successful suggestion. Once a name has been chosen a new Non-Profit Company will be registered which will be accountable to the Trustees of the Hermanus Varsity Trust, the name of which will also change.

Delana is enthusiastic about the year ahead. “We look forward to interacting with the DHET and various SETAs, as well as exploring exciting new partnerships with other organisations, institutions, and investors to improve the focus of our offerings. We also need to take a measured and cautious look at how we cut our coat to suit our cloth, and examine how we select and prioritise initiatives that will have a measurable impact. It may even be necessary to take the difficult decision to limit the scope of our efforts to ensure sustainability. Importantly, though, we intend maintaining and constantly improving the already extraordinary quality of the support we give our students.

“Not every student has that special spark, but we encounter so many that do and are prepared to sacrifice everything to succeed. We believe that it’s our duty to identify and invest in them, so that they in turn can act as role models for others. At the same time, we have a strong desire to help existing businesses be the best they can be by producing young people who have the necessary tools to enhance their enterprise, or indeed to become successful entrepreneurs in their own right.”

HV is gearing up to open on 1 March and has already been overwhelmed by applications for the various courses it will be offering this year: a B Ed (Foundation Phase), ECD Level 5, Digital skills, Aquaculture and Agriculture, as well as the remaining LED modules and, hopefully, a new CLEP course.

And as this remarkable project continues on its journey of re-imagination, we look forward to your suggestions for a new and inspirational name, in the certainty that ‘a rose by any other name will smell as sweet’.


GUIDELINES:  HVT RENAMING PARTICIPATION

HVT (A registered Trust) is evolving into a non-profit company and we need a new identity.  We are inviting the community to participate in helping us find a new name.  Time to get creative!

Here are some guidelines to consider:

  1. Think outside the box!
  2. We would like our name to reflect our creative, innovative, community-orientated, environmentally-friendly value system, where partnerships are key.  
  3. We would like a name that is transportable to other geographic areas, so the name should not include Hermanus or Walker Bay. 
  4. To comply with the requirements of the Department of Higher Education, we are not allowed to use the words university, college, varsity or school in the name of the new non-profit company.
  5. We would like to steer clear of words in our new name that are too traditional, i.e. academy or institute.
  6. Please read the article above carefully to get a sense of who we are and what we aim to achieve.
  7. If you have any questions, please email Johann@hermanusvarsity.co.za

Please submit your suggestions via the email address above to us by 12 February 2021 with a written motivation of approximately 500 words to support your suggestion.

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