Science Stadium to boost maths and science education

WITS has taken a huge leap towards improving the teaching of science and technology. The Wits Science Stadium has been created to foster excellence in learning, research and teaching.

The facility will also accommodate school pupils as well as professional practitioners such as researchers, teachers and scientists.

“This structure will bring together schools, science and mathematics teachers, lecturers, students and scholars, to make use of the skills that will be brought together by this building and its facilities,” says Prof. Andrew Crouch, dean of the faculty of science.

The stadium is situated on West Campus on the grounds of the old Charles Skeen Stadium. It is part of a programme that incorporates a world-class laboratory and teaching and tutoring facilities.

It is also the new home for mathematical sciences – incorporating the schools of mathematics, computational and applied mathematics, computer science, statistics and actuarial science, as well as the National Centre of Mathematical Science. It will also include the renewal and alteration of existing science facilities to accommodate and encourage the growth of post-graduate research.

Vusi Sikwambane, fourth year mathematics student, says, “This sounds like a brilliant place. I am going to be one of the first people to use it. I hope it does not get too crowded though.”

The stadium will increase the university’s capacity for science, engineering and technology graduates and researchers, by accommodating as many as 3400 students.

“The students will find their way easier because they will have a precinct with large lecture halls and we can group and teach them according to their interests and abilities and have smaller groups for better quality teaching,” says Crouch.

“I like the idea of allowing high school kids to come to the stadium. It means I can bring my brother when it is done. I hope I can do some of my lab practices there,” says Felicity Brauckman, a third year science student.

Text mightier than the sword

Cellphones aren’t just popular for their innovative functions, built-in cameras and pretty looks but also because they make Witsies who are “armed” with them feel safer and more connected to the world.

Aside from offering the function of making and receiving calls, cellphones have many innovative functions such as texting, Bluetooth and internet; mobiles are now also seen as a safety feature.

“I got on the wrong bus once and it dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. If I do get lost I always have a backup because I have my cellphone on me,” says 1st year computer science student Madeeha Laher.

Many university students have had a cellphone since 10 years of age and say they would often turn back to get their cellphone once they realised they had left it behind.

“I do run back to get my cellphone if I forget it,” says Laher.

Second year electrical engineering student Sabelo Thiyane feels carrying a cell phone is “like a tradition”. “My mum was pregnant [in labour] and wanted me to call the ambulance,” Thiyane says.

Many of the students felt the reason they felt safer was that it kept them connected in case there was an emergency. “If you collapse or something and they need to look for your mother’s phone number, at least you’ll have your cell phone with you,” says 2nd year BA student Lerato Mufamadi.

British paramedic Bob Brotchie created the ICE (in case of emergency) programme in 2005 which enables first responders, such as paramedics and police officers, to identify victims and contact their next of kin to learn important medical information.

The programme encourages people to enter emergency contacts in their mobile contact list under the name “ICE”.

Thiyane and friends say that even though they felt safer with their mobiles on them, in “high risk” places such as Bree Street taxi rank and places with lots of people they didn’t feel as safe.

“If someone comes up to me and wanted my cellphone I’d give my cheaper one,” says Thiyane. Carrying a cheaper second cell phone was a common habit among the circle of friends.

Studying Hard vs Playing Hard

Wits students are told to “work hard and play hard” in their first year welcome speeches. They are now taking this literally with regular visits to the newly opened Chialan’s Gaming Lounge in the Matrix.

This raises questions of whether playing console and computer games on campus will be a form of recreation or distraction for students.

“With school I get really stressed, so this is a good place to come relax and release pressure,” said Jonathan Tshiswaka, a 1st year actuarial science student.

Tshiswaka visits the gaming lounge almost every day, and like many other students, views it as “a great place to go ‘chill’ with friends and have a bit of fun”.

Having been a university student himself, Chialan Govindasami, the owner of the gaming lounge, decided to add “colour” into the daily campus routine.

“I know what I wanted as a student. You need a release and some people find that release through [playing] games,” he said.

The gaming lounge houses PCs, Playstation 3 and Xbox games which students can play at 15 minute or hourly intervals for R9 and R30 respectively.

Witsies can be seen playing a wide variety of games daily and regular gamers have already been established.

Govindasami accounts this to “genius on his part in offering games which students enjoy playing. “I assessed what games were popular so there is a broad spectrum of good games.”

Joseph Mongwai, another 1st year student sees value in playing games and said: “When I’m in a lecture I think critically and playing games requires critical thinking as well. It helps me in that way.”

However the BA law student admitted that time is a problem for him. “It really tests on time, management; you could skip classes for games.”

“I think it’s up to the individuals to manage their time,” said Govindasami. The owner believes that the game lounge is a “good thing for this campus. I’m trying to deviate from the norm associated with being at varsity,” he said.

Tshwane TV Station

After two years of getting its broadcasting licence, and two years of failing to launch the station as promised, Tshwane TV is finally being launched on June 1st this year.

Tshwane TV was established in terms of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), it aims at establishing a community station that provides access to channels of communications.

“The channel is a free to air terrestrial platform with footprint of the greater region of Tshwane. This means people in Tshwane can tune their TV receive signal by aerial like SABC1-3 and e-TV,” says Tshwane TV, creative director, David Phume.

Khutjo Malebana, 3rd year BA student said, “I am ecstatic about the launch of the station. I reside in Pretoria and will have something new to watch.”

Another BA students, Eunice Kotsokoane says her hometown is in Pretoria, Tshwane TV will give them choice instead of watching the “sometimes boring” SABC.

A non profit community based TV station is committed to promoting social justice, human rights and community cultural development. It also plans to broadcast educational and documentary shows, educational and children’s shows, local community news and local programmes of relevance.

Phume says their strategy is to create a modern brand that people would want to associate with, they went to great lengths in producing on-air imaging and branding that is impactful, eye-catching and of high quality. They believe their viewers deserve good quality television experience.

Kopano Molefe, Tshwane TV CEO says he learned more about business from Soweto TV station manager, Tshepho Tefeng.

“Tshepo reflected on some the issues and challenges that they have come across and gave me good tips, which I intend using when the going gets tough”, he adds

“Tshwane as the capital city of South Africa, it is our responsibility to create a lasting impression on South Africa as a whole. Though we are inscribed as a community television we do not subscribe to geographical edges and stereotypes”, says Phume.

Phume says the station is in the process of developing auditions and workshops which will take place at the Tshwane events centre.

From Wits to Gaza

An adaptation of The Amazing Race show was held on campus in support of the Palestinian cause on Saturday May 21.

The Amazing Race Palestine was organized by the Muslim Students Association (MSA) together with the Al – Quds Foundation SA. The event was aimed at educating participants about Palestine and showing support to the Cape to Gaza convoy.

MSA executive member Zaakir Mayet, who came up with the idea, said the Palestinian issue is very unique. “The Palestinian cause is a continuous cause. It has continued for 63 years. That is why we thought we needed to raise awareness.”

Humairaa Mahomed, who acted on behalf of Al – Quds, said: “Hopefully, everyone that came will go home knowing more about Palestine.”

Each team (of two) had to complete challenges related to the Palestinian history, culture, people and current situation.

One of the participants Atiya Mosam, an ex Witsie medical doctor, described the event as an “interactive way of learning”.

Said Elnamrouti, a PhD public and development management student who is from the Gaza Strip, came to watch the event and support the cause.

“Our people deserve to be free”, he said, adding he was happy to see such activities happening at Wits.

“The 1994 conciliation [in South Africa] gave the Palestinians motivation. The occupation will be over some day. We can continue to struggle,” he said.

Organizers waited with the clues at each of the 15 stations around Main Campus and JCE, and the race went on for about three hours.

“The occupation of Palestine resonates with the South African experience of apartheid. Palestinians are forced to carry and produce their identity cards to any Israeli official … You must now get your id book signed at the SRC office in the Matrix,” said clue number two.

The winners, who got a laptop each, were Mohamed Moolla, a 2nd year dentistry student, and Nabeelah Madhi, a 2nd year BSc student.

It was “tiring and very fun”, they said, also emphasising the informative aspect. Madhi said she would read the clues again carefully when she got home.

According to the organizers, 19 tickets (R50 per team) were sold. They weren’t expecting that many participants, but Mayet said: “The Palestinian cause doesn’t depend on numbers, it depends on motivation.”

Wits sport secondary to academics

WITS sport undergoes budget cuts at the beginning of each year like every other department and is less important to the university than academics and research.

“Sports has always been a secondary priority [at Wits], the most important priority is research and academics,” says John Baxter, director of Wits Sports Administration.

“We might not all agree [about this] but the reality is that you have to get qualified. It’s where the university’s thrust and responsibility is.”

Every department makes a budget proposal and is allocated a certain amount each year and not every department receives the funds they request.

“Sports, like the SRC and any other departments at Wits, is going to be faced with budget cuts,” Baxter says.

Most clubs feel tight budgets and strict quotation procedures make it difficult to run their clubs effectively. Baxter says they have survived over many years and have never had a situation where clubs are short at the end of the year.

“It’s debatable how much money is required to survive,” says Baxter.

He says the procedures of accessing club budgets were put in place as there needed to be accountability from both club and administrative members. Regular meetings through the year, if attended frequently, give sports club representatives the opportunity to discuss their budgets and raise issues.

Wits Sports Council chairperson, Brendan von Essen says the process is a traditional university practice and is “largely accepted as a workable evil” which “could lead to frustration as it is lengthy and has resulted in suppliers being unwilling to work with Wits”.

Baxter says sport is voluntary and outside the academic arena and students participate because they want to and should know there is a cost implication to it.

“Other universities have a different perspective on sport and what it can achieve for the university. Their emphasis is placed differently and they use the publicity they get differently,” he says.

Wits has almost 10 000 students registered with its various sporting clubs, a competitive sporting code, inter-university and inter-faculty leagues and varsity shield games that generate a large spectatorship. However Von Essen “personally believe[s] this exceptional campus presence is often lost on the university council and senior management”.

After 32 years at Wits, Baxter is retiring at the end of this year and has played a vital role in maintaining and developing Wits sport. He believes sport is valuable to student development and their growth as individuals, giving them a social and administrative advantage when they step into the working world.

“Sport has integrated people at Wits,” he says.

Food For Pretty Faces

Not everyone uses fancy branded products to keep their hair and skin at its best, some, especially students use alternative ingredients which come in handy on a student budget.

Sugar, eggs and honey are great for baking cakes but come in handy for students who find it difficult to purchase fancy branded cosmetics on a student budget.

There are tons of items around your house, in the kitchen, pantry cupboard, vanity and even laundry room waiting to be used in a beauty treatment recipe handed down to you by your great grandmother.

These home-made techniques are also sometimes professionally recommended as they are more cost effective and, in some cases, the natural ingredients are less damaging to your skin and hair.

Popular recipes are brushing your lips with toothpaste before lipstick application to make the colour last longer and the lips soft, lemon juice to lighten the hair and petroleum jelly combed lightly through the tips of eyelashes to get a sexy, subtle sparkle.

Even udder balm – yip, the stuff farmers use on cows – makes the list as a miracle cure for dry and chapped hands and feet. Although Vaseline has the same effect once it is applied, udder balm is less greasy.

If you are wondering whether these remedies work, according to Witsies they do. First year BA student, Monique Roxanne, says, “Toothpaste on pimples dries it out. I’ve tried it out and it works.”

Another recipe she says works is egg white and mayonnaise with a little vanilla essence – to give it a nice smell. “It conditions the hair and makes it shiny and soft.” But remember to rinse out with lukewarm water or else you’re stuck with egg hair.

Her class friend Cloe Murugan exfoliates with a liquid soap and sugar mixture and says it works just as well as the brand products. Her mum also used to use horse shampoo in her hair to make it thicker, stronger and to grow faster and she says that worked too.

“A lot of people put yoghurt on their faces, it cleanses the pores and cools your face,” says 1st year BSc student, Naadhirah, who did not want her last name mentioned.

Recipes other students gave include a ground mustard powder and water paste which when applied to the roots prevents hair loss. Olive oil used in your hair once a month, left wrapped in a warm towel for an hour also makes your hair soft and healthy and 30 plain aspirins applied to a normal bottle of shampoo and used normally helps to relieve dandruff.

Review: The Vagina Monologues

Exploring the idea that women have a voice to claim their vaginas, bodies, relationships, as well as their work and home-spaces, all erupted at the Vagina Monologues last Thursday.

The theatrical production’s theme was “how women can claim their power back in public and private spaces” and took place at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Con Cowan Theatre. It was a one-night splendour of feminism.

The cast comprised of four female students, who captured their characters immaculately. They took us into the private lives of high-profile working woman who doesn’t have enough time to look down there; the thoughts of girl trying to grapple and embrace her sexuality and even the beauty of childbirth through the canal that is the vagina.

Director, Kabomo Vilakazi said he wanted the play to appeal to all humans and not just females, because males are part of the society that females also inhabit.

The discussion session held after the play elevated the production to an event that involved feedback from the audience.

This brought forth the perspective of males who watched the production. One such male said, the play enlightened him to the fact than a woman’s ‘lady parts’ should not be seen as a something to be “conquered”, but rather, e appreciated and respected by men.

I must say though that in my opinion, Vilakazi seems to have overlooked that with appreciation comes the stake of reality – in the violence that women’s vagina’s are subjected through in incidents such as rape.

Since some issues emerging from the theme were around gender-based violence, I think he could have ensured that the feelings women have and the disempowerment a victim of rape feels should have been touched on.

I think this would help in the plight against sexual violence. It would highlight to men and women the trauma of such violence, especially in a country with shameful rates of gender-based crimes.

I hope there is a more focused touch on this relevant issue affecting young women and how they fit into the spaces that encompass their lives.

The play was produced and fully financed by UJ students, Thokozile Mohlomi and Precious Maputle who donated the ticket sales to a non-governmental organisation that works with helping women uplift themselves.

All in all, I hope the play makes it to the National Arts Festival next year because of the clear impact that it left all who watched with a stroke on the’ V-Jayjay’s’ beauty and versatility.

Wits demands freedom for Iran

AMNESTY International Wits has condemned the “unlawful detention of political prisoners” in Iran and have circulated a petition demanding their “immediate and unconditional release”.

Amnesty International Wits President Amir Bagheri said the petition is part of the Free Iran Campaign which aims at creating awareness for the students and general public about human rights violations in Iran.

Bagheri said the petition was targeting up to 2000 signatures from Wits during the week. Once completed, it would be sent to the Iran embassy in Pretoria and the department of foreign affairs.

“The petition will hint to the foreign affairs department that the country [Iran] which they have economic ties with is rated first in terms of human rights violations and has the worst conditions in which political prisoners are detained,” said Bagheri.

Political prisoners have been detained since the disputed 2009 presidential elections in Iran and have been sentenced to “long prison terms” for expressing views which challenge that of the state.

Those detained include human rights activists, teachers, students, film-makers and journalists, all receiving between one and 20 year-long sentences.

Second year BA student Balungile Mbenyane believes the petition can help “change the situation in Iran by informing people”.

“Here in South Africa we are in a lucky position because through democracy we can challenge and change leadership. In Iran they are stuck with a dictator.

“Informing people is helpful because it’s only when you know about a certain issue that you are able to change it,” she said.

Mehdi Bagherioromi, a volunteer in the Free Iran Campaign, was “impressed with the turnout [to sign the petition] from the first day [Monday] and thrilled by the Wits students’ response”.

There were, however, views which saw little effect the petition would have “accounting to the human rights violations encountered in our own backyard [South Africa]”. Such views were shared by 3rd year BA student, Zweli Mdlalose, who said: “The petition has good intentions, hence I signed it. I, however, feel it is strategically futile because it informs people but gives them little in terms of making them active in the fight against injustices.”

May, the month for all of us workers

In light of May being ‘Worker’s month’, I think we are ending it off on a rather victorious note given that the Wits director whose alleged racist remarks led to a multitude of protests by outsourced workers will have a disciplinary hearing on the matter. Cleaners may be thought to be lower in the job market, but they matter and affect our lives through their service for meagre pay, occasional advice and, often, a friendly smile.

I must express, I quiver at the thought that our great institution – Wits University- may regress to the amoral occurrences such as those against the cleaning staff at the University of the Free State a few years back, which is why this victory is not only for those who stood in protest this month but also for every member of our community committed to maintaining and further elevating the world-class reputation our university has.

Violence against women is also touched on this week. We cover allegations of rape and a reported Peeping Tom in the female toilets; and of course the protest against Naked News, which saw women take a stand against what they viewed as undignified work.

Winter is upon us bringing with it mid-year exams, and loads of work to catch up on in preparation. Life is work itself and in every way possible you adjust and keep pushing yourself to ensure all the effort you put in works for you. The Vuvuzela team wish you all great success in your exams as we sign off on the month that celebrates our labours.

We’ve got a special treat for you… a light at the end of the dark tunnel that was the SAMAs. Grab your free coupon on our front page giving you R30 off the entrance fee to SAMA award winner Nomsa Mazwai’s performance at the Baseline this evening.

Till next semester,Adiós!

Students strike over food at Main Dining Hall

Students are refusing to eat at the main dining hall on East Campus, demanding better food and service.

In a joint initiative led by Men’s Res, Sunnyside and South Point residents, students say they will boycott the dining hall and have called on other students to join them.

“The price of our meals has increased but the standard of food has declined,” said Dominic Khumalo, deputy chairperson of Men’s Res.

Students are complaining about the quality of the food they receive, with dry chicken, stale bread, salads that ”aren’t fresh” and juice ”that is sometimes expired” topping the list of complaints.

There is also widespread concern that students are not receiving good value for money, with prices having increased this year to nearly R30 a meal.

“I don’t mind paying the price for the food, but the quality needs to improve with the price. They need to offer us variety. I’m a vegetarian and I am forced to eat veggie schnitzel three times a day,” said Derick Mohlala, a 4th year student.

Students who frequent the main dining hall say the food at residences such as Convocation and Jubilee is of a much higher standard, and that bigger portions are served.

“I only come here because it’s convenient,” said Bandla Mabaso, an accounting student. “They need to be more creative, and explore more options so that food is more tasty. If they are going to make briyani it should taste like briyani,” he adds.

Female students are also complaining that there aren’t enough healthy options.

“It’s just not up to standard, they serve us the same thing every day, it’s so mundane and not at all healthy,” said Thato Imasiku, an honours student who has lived in Res her entire university career.

Bad service also seems to be a talking point among disgruntled Witsies.

“The staff are sometimes very rude,” said fourth year Sibeso Kamanga.

At a mass meeting to be held this week, students who say they are being ”undermined” will call on their peers to book meals at other dining halls until the quality and quantity of food improves.

Not enough Mr Darcys around

They say chivalry is dead and that the days of men opening doors for ladies, standing up when a woman enters the room, or doffing his cap respectfully seem to be firmly fixed in the “good old days”.

While I’d say that these kinds of gestures may be lacking in modern day culture, but chivalry on the other hand is by no means dead. Perhaps It’s place has changed a little as women now strive to be equals in the business world.

There is a common misconception that confuses the concept of chivalry with that of courtesy and human decency, and that’s why Jane Austen with her writings about etiquette, gentlemanliness and decorum now has a lot to answer for – because there just aren’t enough Mr. Darcys to go around. Jane surely couldn’t have known that 200 years later the iPod-toting, mobile-dependent, skinny-jeans-clad generation of the early 21st century would still be hanging on to the sentiments of Pride and Prejudice as if it were some kind of romantic bible, leaving generations of men and women at odds with their expectations.

As I was getting out of a crowded elevator in Rosebank the other day, an elderly woman who was slow in gathering her belongings was standing in front of me. As I waited for her to get out I felt a shove in my back, dropped my bags to the floor and nearly took the poor woman out with me. I turned around to see not an impatient teenager too young to know better, but a well-dressed, middle-aged man glaring back at me. “Is there no chivalry in this world anymore?” I asked myself. “Can you HURRY UP and GET OUT?” was the unknowing answer from Mr. Haughty. This wouldn’t have happened in Jane’s day. Yes, I know there were no elevators back then, but even if Mr. Darcy were alive today, you wouldn’t catch him knocking old Mrs. Bennett to the floor with his briefcase before asking Lizzie to get a move on as they took their afternoon stroll because someone was messaging him on his Blackberry.

There is definitely a balance between manners and “treating us mean” and that is the problem guys seem to have with the concept of chivalry today. They do not understand that, like Mr. Darcy, a man must present himself to be both respectful and good mannered while at the same time being independent and self-assured. Nine times out of 10 we want you to open the door for us. The remaining time we want to be assured that we are able to do it ourselves. Balance, gentlemen, balance.