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Amalgamation between HEDSA and FOTIM and establishment of HEDSA


In October 2006, at a FOTIM meeting (FOTIM was the Foundation of Tertiary Institutions of the Northern Metropolis, and provided support to institutions in the Gauteng, Limpopo and North-West provinces) held at Wits in Johannesburg, the decision was taken that Disability Services in Higher Education needed to have a national voice. Up to this date, the Fotim Disability Interest group served as the body that advocated and coordinated services in the Disability field. Because of the lack of a national body, and the great need in Higher Education disability services to have a united voice and with the aim of strengthening support services for students with disabilities in all higher education institutions in South Africa, a national body with representation from all provinces HE institutions was established in 2006.


After much consultation and discussion, the name Higher Education Disability Services Association (HEDSA) was chosen to portray the work that was planned.  As soon as HEDSA was established, FOTIM decided to initiate talks about a possible merger between HEDSA and FOTIM and since HEDSA had no infrastructure or funding whilst FOTIM was already well established, it was decided to follow this route but with a new constitution. Unfortunately it took a long time to work through all the structures and eventually it did not work out in the end when the FOTIM Board, in October 2009 discussed the HEDSA constitution and debated the regional/national issue, it was then decided that the amalgamation would not take place. After a review process in 2010, the FOTIM Board took the decision to close FOTIM as an organisation in its current form. The decision was taken in light of the continuing financial pressures on institutions, the duplication of effort pertaining to activities in the sector and the creation of new national structures. The FOTIM Disability Interest Group was disbanded and it was decided that all activities and collaboration would continue under the auspices of HEDSA.


It was during this time that the national project to assess the status of disability in higher education in South Africa, with funding from the Ford Foundation, was implemented with the culmination in the Disability in Higher Education Project Report. HEDSA constituted itself as an independent national body, and was established as a voluntary, non-profit organization. It is funded through membership subscriptions, donations and fundraising activities. All 23 South African Higher Education Institutions are eligible for membership of HEDSA. The HEDSA General Assembly meets biennially.  Secretariat services for General Assembly and Executive Committee (Exco) are provided by the elected HEDSA secretary. The Exco coordinates the activities and projects of HEDSA, and meets (virtually or face-to-face) three times a year. No formal office exists and all activities are conducted on a voluntary basis by individuals from member institutions. HEDSA members are encouraged to collaborate regionally through groups meeting regularly throughout the year.


Some of the first projects included:


  • Looking for sponsorships to fund the initial set-up of HEDSA (received funding from the Carl & Emily Fuchs Foundation)

  • Drafting of a comprehensive constitution

  • Registering HEDSA as a NPO

  • Accreditation with Universities South Africa (previously known as Higher Education South Africa) as a Community of Practice

  • Opening of a bank account


The initial HEDSA exco consisted of representation from all provinces and distance learning institutions and were duly elected at a meeting in Bellville. The initial exco members were:


  • Anlia Pretorius (Chairperson)

  • Reinette Poppelstone

  • Nafisa Mayat (followed up by Punjee from KZN and later Neville Balakrishna)

  • Diane Bell (Treasurer)

  • Ruth Barends (Secretary)

  • Siva Moodley

  • Emma Coop (Student rep)

  • Hetsie Veitch 

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