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This hawk is soaring through RPL

Lt-Col. Joe Mokoena (SAPS) was granted direct access to a BTech Forensic degree by Unisa through RPL after he struggled to complete his qualification.

Thuto gae golelwe, says Lieutenant-Colonel Joe Mokoena from the South African Police Service, emphasising that one is never too old for education. Mokoena, who is a member of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, was granted direct access to a BTech Forensic degree by Unisa after he struggled to complete his qualification.

In the university’s Directorate of Instructional Support and Services (DISS), the division of Tuition Support offers recognition of prior learning (RPL) to broaden access and open new ways into formal education by recognising knowledge and skills gained by students through life and work experience.

RPL acknowledges that students have acquired various skills, competencies, and experiences. This learning—which may have taken place outside of formal education and training—is valuable, irrespective of where or when it was obtained. It provides a way for the university to recognise knowledge and skills gained through experience for the purposes of admission to or for credit towards a qualification.

Delays are not denials

Mokoena cannot contain his excitement as he confesses how RPL changed his life and made his dreams come true. “I could not be happier with my decision to register with Unisa, especially when a friend referred me to Muhle Lewis, the RPL coordinator who patiently helped me when I was on the verge of dropping out as I was in the process of divorce and because the qualification phased out multiple times after I registered and I had to switch to new modules, and that took forever,” he explained.

Born and bred at a village called Dikebu near Hammanskraal, Mokoena is the last child in a family of eight. The 47-year-old describes his childhood as a humbling one that shaped his interest in policing. “I was raised by both my unemployed parents and that was motivation enough for me to better my life so as to break the circle of poverty. At some point in my life, I was a street vendor, selling ice-cream, juice, and fruit at Mabopane Station,” he said.

Muhle Lewis (RPL coordinator, DISS) and Lt-Col. Joe Mokoena (SAPS)

Caring is an art

“Through the assistance of Lewis,” Mokoena continues, “I got good supervision and learned a lot about academic writing skills, as well as how to put together a portfolio. Her caring and patience in the work to help students never ceases to amaze me,” he concludes.

Lewis says that passion, commitment, and courage drive her to be there for the students who want to gain access to higher learning through RPL. “It gives me such pleasure and fulfilment to wake up every morning knowing that we are going to change someone’s life for the better and fulfil his or her dreams.”

Dr Marici Snyman, RPL specialist in DISS, says that RPL follows a student-centred approach and aims to provide an enabling and empowering context for students. “We look after them by providing a comprehensive RPL application brochure and a supportive and comprehensive website with full details of the process,” she explains.

The RPL staff work in close collaboration with the academic staff who are responsible for the assessment of RPL applications. Snyman says they are committed to assist students to bridge the gap between the world and the academic context.

Full details of the RPL process are available on the Unisa website at or students or staff may contact them by sending an e-mail to

*By Lesego Ravhudzulo

Publish date: 2018/10/09