Internal research conducted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) found that many UJ students were attending classes hungry and this prompted the start of a formal Meal Assistance Programme in 2010. Three years later the programme feeds 2 100 students daily at a cost of R10 million for the 2013 Academic year and is having a positive impact on academic performance.
Godfrey Helani, Director: Student Life and Governance at UJ says the Meal Assistance Programme includes breakfast and supper on weekdays and weekends greatly benefiting both day and residence students across the four UJ campuses. “The aim of the programme is to provide needy students with a modest food allowance that gives them daily access to a balanced meal. “We can already see positive indications that the Meal Assistance Programme is ultimately enabling these students to obtain their higher education qualification.”
Commenting on the benefits of the programme, many of the enrolled students confirmed that the programme has contributed positively not only to their academic performance but also to their general outlook on life and positive integration with other students.
“We have noticed a remarkable improvement in the self esteem of these students,” confirms Helani, “and this has translated into improved academic performance. Since they have been on the programme some of the students are now passing with an average of 65% compared to a previous fail or 50% pass.”
The Programme is widely supported throughout the University and the latest contribution to the programme comes from the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Prof Ihron Rensburg, who has donated R200 000 from his annual remuneration.
In addition, Rensburg has made an additional contribution of R160 000 to nurture and grow postgraduate enrolment. The contribution will go towards the cost of a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Higher Education Policy and Leadership.
“My personal contribution is just a drop in the ocean. I believe it is important to foster ideas that nurture students both academically and holistically and it also supports the guiding principles of the University – to cultivate a rich living and learning community in which students develop a commitment to personal and intellectual growth, leadership and service,” concludes Prof Rensburg.