Science programme recieves R44-million

Funds of R44-million have been donated to the Wits Students Equity and Talent Management Unit (SETMU).

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) youth division donated the funds for a five-year term to nurture talented science and mathematics high school pupils.

Talent for Science, Engineering and Technology Careers deputy director, Bersan Lesch, said, “We want to excite people about science and identify and nurture talent which is the aim of this programme. We want to make people follow science because of the shortage in the country of such skills.”

Wits ran a pilot project which attracted the DST. “We selected Wits to run the programme because of the manner they ran the project and the synergy the DST saw within the university’s SETMU,” said Lesch.

GOLDEN HANDSHAKE: Bersan Lesch hands over the partnership agreement to Zena Richards of Setmu Photo: Tshepo Tshabalala

The programme selects 300 top students in the country and it helps them develop science and mathematics skills. It prepares pupils from grades 10 to 12 to study towards university qualifications in science and maths fields.

“Ninety percent of the 300 students should be in the science programme, we don’t want the wrong people to enter the programme. They must already have the interest in science and maths, and the ability. We want to prepare the learners for university,”  Lesch said.

Pupils are chosen from 255 schools nationally selected by the DST that have competed well in the science Olympiads. Eighteen other schools were adopted by the department where they nurture the students they want.

Setmu director Zena Richards said: “Just to reiterate what the vice-chancellor said in 2006 is that investing in talent is a national resource, if we don’t do that, we won’t engage in nation building activities.”

The university hosts three residential camps a year. Pupils will be taught how to design programmes and how to think and develop concepts within the science, maths and language fields. They also spend the week on res to experience campus life and attend workshops.

The camps also cater for pupils who want to study other courses in other faculties.

GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

Waking up to the news that South Africa’s crime intelligence boss is missing, amidst rumours of murder, should not feel like just another ordinary day in Africa. But gauging by the reactions of the general public on internet news sites, this kind of news comes as neither a shock nor a surprise. It is with a sinking feeling that the nation’s faith in its criminal justice system has reached an all-time low.

 Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli, who is widely known as South Africa’s ‘Top Cop’, has been issued a warrant of arrest for a murder he allegedly committed 12 years ago. Corruption is the word of the day. But a subtle reminder to our compatriots that we are neither the judge nor the jury in this case, is certainly in order. When our public figures find themselves in hot water, we tend to almost immediately adopt the attitude of ‘guilty until proven innocent’, unfairly convicting before a fair trial is held.

 Jacob Zuma was labeled a rapist before he had the chance to prove he was innocent. Glen Agliotti was guilty of Brett Kebble’s murder before he even appeared in court. The famous Texas Conviction case in the 1980s when Carlos DeLuna was executed for a murder he may not have committed, should serve as a warning to the South African public, because labelling someone a ‘murderer’ or ‘rapist’ is as hard to retract, as it would be to bring DeLuna back to life.

 No matter how frustrated we become with our justice system, appointing ourselves High Court judges, is not going to solve the problem.

 Without disputing the fact that seemingly guilty people have walked away scot free, some even teeing off on the golf course in KZN, big fishes like Jackie Selebi have found themselves lumped with 15-year sentences behind bars; a reassurance that justice can prevail.

 We can’t call for justice when have made ourselves the judge, jury and executioner, because that way our minds are made up before the system has even had a chance to prove itself capable.

Backstreet abortions are still a popular solution

Backstreet abortion clinics in Braamfontein are used by women because of their 24-hour convenience and lax regulations. Booking a backstreet abortion takes less than five minutes over the phone.

Braamfontein street poles are wrapped with adverts like “Quick and Same day Abortion 100% Guaranteed”. One such advert is by “Dr Williams” who offers  “Safe and pain free” abortions and “free body cleaning and blood detoxification”.

Vuvuzela called “Dr Williams” posing as a young female who was 14 weeks pregnant and wanted an abortion. He said, “Sure, you can come have the abortion, it’s fine even after three months because it’s not a baby yet. You will come here, and I will give you the pills and then you can go home. After three hours the pregnancy will come out in form of a miscarriage. Just meet me at 5pm at Noord taxi rank.”

When asked if there would be pain, he said “No, it will be like period pains”. All of this would cost R500.

The Termination of Pregnancy Act 1996 stipulates that all women in South Africa can choose to terminate a pregnancy within the first 12 weeks and thereafter only under special circumstances upon a medical practitioner’s recommendation.

Tshepo Kgapane, 2nd year BCom law, said: “Guys encourage girls they impregnate to do backstreet abortions because it’s cheap and no paper trail is left, unlike when you use medical aid. It is more confidential and stays between you and the person giving you the illegal abortion.

“But, it’s an unsafe option because who regulates these people? Who makes sure they are using the proper medical tools?”

“I know of two girls who have had illegal abortions and one of them was at university and opted for that option because she had a bursary and was scared to lose it. She was later admitted to hospital because of complications. That’s how we came to find out she had a backstreet abortion,” Kgapane said.

Ipas South Africa is a global organisation that works with youth and community-based organisations to increase knowledge and awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights.

Karen Trueman, the SA manager, said: “Often young women don’t know about the free services they can access at public sector clinics. Sometimes they wait too long to confirm that they are pregnant, ending with them presenting at legitimate public sector clinics beyond 12 weeks. This means they have to be referred to a facility that has a doctor who is prepared to provide second trimester services – sadly these are few and far between. Chris Hani Bara has 4 beds allocated to second trimester services. The lamppost adverts are designed to attract these desperate women.”

Pharmacy students lose out in hospital budget cuts

Wits 4th year pharmacy students now have less spending money and more free time on their hands as Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital has cut down student staff hours.

In the past the hospital’s pharmacy department has hired 4th year students to work and gain experience to alleviate the long queues and wait that patients have to endure. That is about to change because of budget cuts and the hiring of senior pharmacists.

A 4th year pharmacy student who has worked in the pharmacy since last year and did not want to be name , says hospital management are trying to solve the queuing problem by hiring more experienced staff.

“Students work gets double checked and that might reduce displacement time.”

He feels they should hire more students as staff instead of cutting down on student hours and replacing them with “more experienced” pharmacists.

“That way they’d pick up the pace” and students would gain experience in a learning environment.

Students are upset about the cut in hours as it means they won’t get the much-needed practical experience and some rely on the money that they earn.

National Students Pharmacy Council president Hilton Stevens, who worked at the hospital’s pharmacy, says the system has changed and seems to “have gotten worse even though management tries to meet the workload”.

He feels there was a communication breakdown between doctors and pharmacists which added to the pharmacist’s problem of sometimes needing to explain to patients about discontinued medication that had been prescribed.

“Queues are inevitable and displacement of medication takes time as the pharmacist needs to make sure the patient understands how to take the medication,” Stevens says.

The high workload and pressures they work under sometimes results in pharmacists and patients tempers flaring.

Patients like Botha Hermien from Midrand wait outside the pharmacy doors from 4.30am to avoid waiting in queues. Some patients complain about receiving rude service and being shouted at when they ask questions.

The hospital’s chief pharmacist would not comment and the public relations officer could not be reached for comment before Vuvuzela went to print.

Local group aims to make Wikipedia a valid academic research tool

WIKIPEDIA should be seen as a valid resource tool for academic work, according to a local non-profit organisation.

The African Commons Project director, Kerryn Mckay, said the Wikimedia foundation’s chapter committee recently approved a local chapter which aims to improve the website’s reputation among academics. Wikimedia is a non-profit charitable organisation which runs several projects, including Wikipedia.

She said the group would “definitely look at raising awareness [about Wikipedia] this year” on campuses in South Africa.

Mckay said the chapter’s aim of promoting Wikipedia at universities is not about changing the site or how it is moderated, but rather informing tertiary institutions about the “stats and compelling reasons as to why it is a useful resource”.

A document regarding referencing in academic work from the Wits school of education in 2008 says “students are forbidden to use or cite Wikipedia”.

Several other similar documents can be found on the internet from tertiary institutions, such as the University of Pretoria and the University of Cape Town, which also discourage students from using the reference site in academic essays.

Izak Minnaar, SABC editor of digital news, said “Wikipedia can be an incredibly rich source, if the information you are looking at is a result of the best brains reviewing the topic.”

However, Minnaar said only if South African academics use and review information on the site themselves, will Wikipedia become acceptable at tertiary institutions for essays and research.

“South African academics should wake up to the fact that Wikipedia is the people’s access to information,” said Minnaar.

Mckay said the chapter is bidding to host Wikimania 2012 in Stellenbosch. Wikimania is an annual event run by the Wikimedia foundation in which projects and issues surrounding the foundation are discussed. South Africa is currently the only African country with an official bid.

Mckay said Stellenbosch was the preferred location because there is an interest in Wikipedia from the University of Stellenbosch. This would help build the discussion around academia and Wikipedia.