Age and nationality are never obstacles, but rather opportunities for those who chose to study at Unisa. The 47-year-old Mauritian-born Gawtum Rughoonundun, who is one of many who have benefited from Unisa’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme, recently graduated with a Bachelor of Consumer Science.
Rughoonundun was granted access to pursue his degree through RPL (mature learner process) and when he registered for the Bachelor of Consumer Science was also granted RPL credits for a few subjects based on his experience. This resulted in a double RPL benefit for Rughoonundun—gaining access and getting his qualification in a shorter time.
He came to South Africa over 20 years ago and first studied towards a Diploma in Hotel Management with Intec College. However, Rughoonundun wanted to pursue a degree but was not entirely sure how to go about it. A friend then recommended he try the route of RPL at Unisa. This was one of the best recommendations of his life, he said, as he stood on the stairs of Unisa’s Theo van Wijk Building, tall and proud, donning his graduation gown and cap. It’s a moment he will never forget, he said with a huge smile.
Very bright future
Graduating with a Bachelor of Consumer Science from Unisa, and knowing that it all started with RPL still feels surreal for Rughoonundun. “I’m also very excited and grateful to Unisa for the RPL programme because it has opened the door for a very bright future me,” he said.
So what does the future have in store for Rughoonundun? He is confident that his new qualification will enable him to move into a higher managerial position at Transnet, where he currently works as a Lodge Manager. Here he is responsible for the day-to-day management of a lodge and its staff. He is accountable for budgeting and financial management, planning, organising and directing all lodge services, including front-of-house (reception, reservations), food and beverage operations, housekeeping, and health and safety. Whilst this is a lot, he is ready for more and believes his qualification has come at the right time to take his career to the next level. “I could become a Regional Lodge Manager, who is in charge of about four lodges and hostels, and it is possible because I now have the qualifications to back up my experience,” he explained.
Having taken a slightly different route than the traditional student, Rughoonundun values this degree even more so. “Having this Unisa degree now will make it easier for me to move into higher positions and even a different career field if I choose. I’m well aware that most, if not all, senior managerial positions require you to have a degree.”
Dr Marici Snyman, RPL Specialist from Unisa’s Department of Tuition Support, is confident about RPL because students like Rughoonundun prove that it works. She explained that RPL allows opportunities to students with work experience, since RPL is a way of recognising relevant skills, competencies, knowledge and learning that has taken place outside the formal education system. “This is an individualised process where we provide support throughout the process. It values learning from experience, whereby reinforcing the worth of the individual and their experience,” she said.
Unisa has a dedicated RPL academic coordinator in each college. Snyman played a key role in Rughoonundun’s student journey when he did the RPL mature learner programme for access and applied for RPL credits for his Bachelor of Consumer Science through the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
During your lifetime, you will have acquired various skills, competencies and experiences. This learning, which may have taken place outside of formal education and training, is valuable regardless of where or when it was obtained. You may have acquired skills or knowledge from a combination of training conducted while at work, experience you gained in the workplace, short courses or from community work in a relevant field. RPL permits you to gain credits within formal certificate, diploma and degree qualifications offered by Unisa based on the level and extent of your knowledge. Your prior learning will be measured against specified prescribed learning outcomes. Your experience could translate into subject credits within your qualification or direct access into a postgraduate qualification.
*By Kirosha Naicker