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.”