The UWC Writing Centre is a student academic enhancement centre located in the Division of Learning, Teaching, and Student Success (DLTSS) at the University of the Western Cape. The UWC is a public institution that is situated in a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa called Bellville. The institution has a great history. At its foundation stage, the UWC was established as university for “coloureds” under apartheid and has grown into a diverse institution with a high quality of research and teaching. The institution has over twenty-two thousand (22,000) students with seven (7) faculties – Economic and Management Sciences, Dentistry, Arts, Law, Education, Community and Health Sciences and Natural Sciences.
The UWC Writing Centre was the first writing centre to be established at a South African university in 1994. While English is the main medium of teaching and learning in the University including the writing centre, the centre acknowledges and welcomes every student due to the fact that the University itself is a multi-ethnic, multilingual institution. Presently, the Writing centre has 19 Tutors. The tutors are recruited through campus email and online channels. The potential tutors can be from any discipline with prior tutoring experience preferably working with student writing and also need to be postgraduate students – Masters, Ph.D., or postdoc. A short role-play of a consultation session is vital in the recruitment process. The ‘new tutors’ go through a training workshop that provides them with an understanding of how the writing centre views the development of students’ writing and what approach the centre takes to assisting students. The centre tries to impart on tutors the culture of the writing centre and a way of tutoring that does not impose the correct way of writing on students but takes a more dialogic approach.
The UWC Writing Centre serves both undergraduate and postgraduate students. In 2019, the centre held 809 consultations (both group and individual) with 551 clients. In addition to this, to reach a larger number of students, the centre in collaboration with several departments also organizes workshops for students as requested by departments.
The tutoring session at the centre runs for one hour officially but, usually, it exceeds the time especially when the tutor observes that the student is still struggling to grasp or understand what is been discussed. Apart from the face-to-face consultation that enables the tutors to provide structured comments and feedback to students, Tutors also attend to students’ academic needs via online. This medium makes it possible for students, who cannot come on to campus, to get assistance from the writing centre. Online feedback intensified during this unprecedented period of Covid-19.
For the centre to keep up with providing academic assistance to students during this period, it immediately moved to online teaching and learning platforms after the lockdown was announced. The modus operandum of the centre changed. Consultations with students were moved online completely via Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, and other online teaching and learning platforms.
About the author:
Alaji Friday is a tutor at the Writing Centre of University of the Western Cape, Cape Town (South Africa). He is a final year doctoral student at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. He is a participatory development expert and gender activist whose work focuses on participatory development (people-centered or inclusive development) in rural Africa. While his work focuses on sub-Sahara Africa countries, his main research interest is the design of participatory projects/institutions that promote the inclusiveness of the rural people, conducting field evaluations of participatory projects for institutions. And he has conducted field evaluations of participatory projects in both South Africa and Nigeria. He is currently working on research projects titled “Investigating Participatory Development in South Africa and Nigeria, a case study of Stellenbosch and Bwari municipalities.” Friday has a Master of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Science in Economics.
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