Building on Tinto’s model of engagement and persistence: Experiences from the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation Scholarship Scheme

Andrew Ross


Background. Major inequalities in staffing levels at rural and urban hospitals contribute to poorer health outcomes in rural areas. Local and international studies have shown that healthcare professionals (HCPs) of rural origin are more likely than those of urban origin to work in and contribute to improved health outcomes in rural areas. However, absent role models, dysfunctional families, schools that perform poorly and inadequate funding make it almost impossible for rural-origin students to gain access to institutions of higher learning (IHLs) to train as HCPs. 

Objective. To present the experiences of graduates from the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation Scholarship Scheme, build on Tinto’s model of persistence and engagement, and contribute towards the success rates of rural-origin HCPs. 

Methods. This qualitative study used a life-history methodology. Unstructured interviews, photomemory, artefacts and collage development were used to explore the educational experiences of six rural-origin HCPs. Data were coded and categorised and themes identified. 

Results. Compulsory academic and peer mentoring promoted academic and social engagement, helped students to recognise their pre-university experiences as generative, and contributed to their success. The generative potential of pre-university experiences and compulsory work-based experiential learning were identified as initiatives that could strengthen Tinto’s model of persistence and engagement. 

Conclusion. A number of targeted interventions, if introduced at South African IHLs, could contribute to improved success rates of rural-origin health science students.


Author's affiliations

Andrew Ross, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Full Text



Rural scholars; Success at university

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2014;6(2):119. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.404

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-03-12
Date published: 2014-07-30

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