In 2010, the Onderstepoort Para-Veterinary and Veterinary Student Committee (OPVSC) began the “I want to be a vet” initiative to encourage previously disadvantaged school learners to have an interest in veterinary science and to assist them with their applications to our veterinary faculty. The 2011 OPVSC wanted to continue these efforts by holding the second “I want to be a vet” initiative. On the weekend of 15 to 17 April, the OPVSC hosted 32 school learners from all over the country at Onderstepoort. Learners were selected from schools in disadvantaged communities in all nine provinces. Those studying biological sciences were invited to spend the weekend with us at the Onderstepoort Campus of the University of Pretoria learning about veterinary science.
The learners travelled from all over the country, many on their first journey away from home, and attended the opening evening of the weekend with the OPVSC, members of the SRC, faculty staff and the event sponsors. Learners were addressed by the Dean of the Veterinary Faculty, Prof. Swan; the South African Veterinary Association Vice-President, Dr Riaan Du Preez; and The South African Veterinary Council Vice-President, Dr Anne de Vos who showed the students the different aspects of veterinary science and how veterinarians play an important role in society. Sponsors of the event also present on the night were Hill’s Pet South Africa, represented by Sr Dalene Jansen Van Vuuren; Dr Cliff Meyer of the Honeydew Animal Clinic, Quintin Botha; and Helgard Cornje representing the SRC. Without the generous contributions of these sponsors, this event would not have been possible.
On Saturday morning the learners donned their ‘greens and gumboots’ for the first time to embark on a busy Onderstepoort day, starting with a tour of the Academic Hospital. The students were then introduced to the Anatomy department, where they watched and participated in a dissection and got to see some interesting comparative specimens including Cheetah, Lion, Rhino and various animal skeletons. After tea, the learners had their first animal handling practical where they got to participate in cattle casting which was followed by a sheep-handling practical. Unfortunately, due to rain, the learners were denied their horse riding adventure but were still introduced to some of Onderstepoort’s nooitgedacht horses and taught how to approach, groom, and care for them. The Onderstepoort pigs also made a name for themselves by hunting for food in the learners’ gumboots while the learners were taught more animal husbandry skills and the practical implications of pig farming. On Saturday afternoon, Dr Quixi Sonntag led the dog handling and behaviour session with the learners and some of our cutest Onderstepoort Teaching Animal Unit beagle puppies. They had them sitting and leopard crawling in no time.
The learners thoroughly enjoyed their time at Onderstepoort, learning about and handling animals that some of them had never seen before. Thank you too all the staff, students and sponsors that made this event possible. It is our hope that these learners will become tomorrow’s young vets.