Not sleeping my way to the top

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I could use 10 minutes of “me time”.

It’s no walk in the park being mother to a hyperactive three-year-old boy obsessed with karate chops, fiancée to an equally busy man, full-time post-graduate student and freelance journalist – while planning a wedding. Taking a bubble bath in silence is something that used to happen to me in another life.

I recently had a conversation with a classmate, who asked what I was passionate about. I didn’t have to think long. “Sleep,” I answered promptly and she laughed.  I don’t think she knows the value of a good night’s rest. This is serious business.

I began to realise just how serious it is when I had a health scare at the end of last term. I spent a few days in hospital undergoing tests. The neurologist asked if I was under any extra stress. I didn’t know what to say: seriously, I was stumped. Up to that point, the word “stress” had been banned from my vocabulary. I was the quintessential martyr – the ultimate ‘mother’.

In my mother’s day, things went a little bit differently. My aunts were my second moms; in fact to this day I still get a little confused at family gatherings. Referring to every woman as ‘mom’ can get a little complicated. In my mother’s generation, she could just drop us off at one of her sisters’ houses for the holidays, which could have lasted anything up to a whole month. My son goes for day visits to see his cousins and I’m present at all of them, no one wants to take my child on when they have their own to deal with. These are just the normal everyday things we ‘modern’ moms are expected to do.

Getting on with things without truly assessing our load is something we tend to do. We just soldier on. I used to think this was the stuff that made people tough – until my health stopped me in my tracks and made me realise there was nothing tough about depleting one’s resources to zero.

I realised the importance of taking care of one’s self and having enough rest. Jokes aside, trying to do too much, neglecting to eat a balanced diet, exercise or get enough rest can be life-threatening.

These days I try my best to put some “me time” into my schedule. At times I manage five minutes without someone asking for final decisions about wedding dress designs, vox pop questions or being harassed for juice while I duck a karate chop. I’m on my way – I call it my ‘baby steps’.

A Game of Tries

Ten tries helped FNB Wits win their game against a very physical Randfontein Rugby Club at the Greenhills Stadium in Randfontein on Saturday.

This was Wits’ ninth victory in the Predator’s League. They won the match 73-28 and earned five points.

Wing and man of the match, Joshua Durbach, opened up the scoring with Wits’ first try early in the first half. Cracks in the Randfontein’s defence saw Wits flank Thato Mavundla and wing Riaan Arends race to the try line for the last two tries of the first half.

A weak counter-attack by Wits’ back-line and a knock-on by Durbach late in the first half resulted in Randfontein’ s centre Errard Ernsting scoring the side’s first try.

Wits made five changes in the second half, which included in-form lock Rinus Bothma and flank Thato Mavundla coming off the field.

The second half kicked off with a flurry of tries. A total of nine tries were scored by both teams in the remaining forty minutes of the match. Wits scrumhalf Dave Turnball and centre Bronson Langa scored two tries each in the second half.

Arends ended the second half of what seemed like a one-sided match with an uncontested tenth try for Wits – his second try of the match. Randfontein managed to score a bonus point before the final whistle was blown.

A win next week against Roodepoort will help Wits secure their second place in log. Wits first team coach Kyle Condon described the match as their test match as Roodepoort were a tough team to beat.

Stand-in captain Paulo Ferreira said: “Roodepoort is going to be a tough match but we are positive we have played to our structures.”

This Saturday, Wits will host Roodepoort , who are placed sixth, at the Wits stadium and they will take on log leaders UJ next week Saturday August, 11.

Photo: Vuvuzela Archives

Rape victims turned away from police stations

When Steven* took his girlfriend Sue to a Johannesburg police station after being raped at a party this month, he expected the police to help them. Instead, the police turned them away. He was told to “take her home” until she had “calmed down”.

The experience of these Johannesburg students is not unusual, according to People Opposing Women Abuse’s (POWA). The organisation’s legal adviser, Priscilla Matsapola, says it is a “common occurrence” for rape victims to struggle to get police to open a case against their rapists.

“When victims try to open a case they aren’t given a J-88, they aren’t advised on taking PEPs [anti-retrovirals].” A J-88 form details the victim’s injuries and is needed for collecting forensic evidence. The form must be filled out by a doctor.

Matsapola said the only way to combat this was for victims to insist on their rights and demand to open a docket, even if that meant lodging a complaint against the officer who refused to do so.

Going to a doctor to fill out a J-88 form is a vital part of the process, according to government guidelines. The form guides the doctor through a detailed examination of all injuries, and a collection of any forensic evidence such as sperm or skin cells from under the victim’s finger nails.

This forensic evidence needs to be collected a quickly as possible after the rape, as this evidence is lost through normal human movement. It is important for trying to prosecute a rapist. If police officers do not advise victims to take the J-88 form, any legal action that follows could suffer greatly.

Doctors are legally obliged to provide free anti-retrovirals, known as PEPs (post-exposure prophylaxis), which greatly reduces the chances if HIV transmission. Police officers often fail to mention PEPs, according to the Treatment Action Campaign website. PEPs lose their effectiveness after 72 hours, leaving the victim vulnerable to contracting HIV AIDS if their rapist was HIV positive.

This is the correct procedure when a rape has occurred: the victim opens a docket and is allowed to ask that a female officer take a statement. The statement does not need to give the details of the rape, but must give as many details of the rapist as possible so that they police can begin their search for him.

After this, the victim must go to a hospital for a medical examination, during which the doctor will fill in the J-88 form, collect evidence like skin cells, hair or sperm of the attacker, and administer PEPs.

It is important to note that police are not allowed to write on the J-88 form, even though they are obliged to provide it to the victim to take with her to hospital.

Fighting with the police is a traumatic experience after a woman has come to them for help. “I encourage the girls to enforce their rights. They must lodge a complaint against the officer and demand to open a docket. If it is taking too long, go to a doctor first. You can always open the docket at a later stage”, says Matsapola.

*False names have been used to protect the victim.

Published in Vuvuzela 17th edition, 27 July 2012

Witsie abandons Olympic hopes

Wits’ Olympic hopeful, Nicholas Ho, failed to qualify for the London games, but still remains optimistic about representing South Africa in archery.

The first year BSc student said the demands of starting university had prevented him from competing in the African Archery Championships in Morocco in March. He needed to be ranked in the top 32 in that competition in order to qualify. He was writing exams at the time.

Ho had previously taken part in the qualifiers for the Singapore 2010 Summer Youth Olympics, but failed to qualify because he did not rank high enough.

“We competed in a series of head-to-head competitions, where two archers competed against each until one loses. I got eliminated in the first round though.”

Ho, who is currently ranked 57th in the national division, has represented South Africa three times: in Poland, Turkey and America. He still has a chance to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics as he is part of South Africa’s junior archery training team.

Ho told Vuvuzela the training process for archers was quite intense. “An average shooting exercise consists of anywhere from 100 to 110 shots, but in a competitive environment I would shoot about 144 arrows for six to seven hours standing.”

Ho has competed in all sorts of weather conditions: “heat with temperatures of 40 degrees, rain and wind”.

Archery was a costly sport, he said. His bow cost R30 000, with individual arrows costing R300 each. “I am funded by my mom, but I do receive some funding from Archery South Africa and Wits Sports.”

Although archery was not a paying sport, he said he did it because he had a passion for it. “I have been playing since I was nine.”

Co-written with Jay Caboz

Published in Vuvuzela 17th edition, 27 July 2012

Wits men seal the deal

A hotly contested match ended with the Wits hockey men beating Crusaders 2-1 last Sunday.

The win pushes Wits into fourth position in the premier league. This places them above Crusaders by just one point. At this stage Wits have three more matches left in the season, only one more than Crusaders.

From the start, Wits applied heavy pressure on the Crusaders’ defence.  The strategy has proven to be effective throughout the season. On Sunday, Wits forced the Crusaders’ defence and midfield line to make crucial errors, giving Wits a number of shooting opportunities.

Five minutes into the half, Wits goalkeeper Carl Zontag was judged to have been fouled deliberately in his own defensive area. Crusaders striker Jonathan Martin was shown a yellow card with a ten-minute suspension off the field.

Wits took immediate advantage of the 10-man side. With an impressive display of individual skill, striker Max Cobbett put in the first goal of the game from a tight angle with a reverse stick shot.

Crusaders appeared switched off for the rest of the half. They conceded another field goal thanks to a good base line run from Witsie Jarryd Povall, who set up fellow team mate Devon Campbell.

Wits went into the halftime break with the two-goal lead.

The second half saw a revival from Crusaders.  Wits’ defence, which had seen little action in the first half, was put under considerable pressure and Crusaders managed to pull off a single goal courtesy of a deflection by Brendan Hayes. Despite the added pressure, Wits remained calm and managed to hang on to their slim goal lead.

At the other end, Wits produced a number of chances to increase their score but failed to take their opportunities, which included six penalty corners.

“I was happy with the win,” said Geoffrey Scott, Wits Captain. “We went there and got the points we needed. It wasn’t our best game but it’s a positive sign when we don’t play our best, yet still walk away with 3 points.”

If Wits keep their fourth place position, it would be the best result the Wits Men’s A-side has had in a number of years – especially since they played for relegation at the end of last year’s season.

Wits faces one more tough game, against Jeppe A on August 11.


Published in Vuvuzela 17th edition, 27 July 2012

Educators kill creativity and collaboration


EXPLORING CREATIVITY: First year student Kyra Pape produces a painting at the Wits School of Arts. Wits scholar O’Toole held a public lecture highlighting the necessity of arts in education.
PHOTO: Tanyaradzwa Nyamajiyah

A renowned Australian academic has drawn on the magic of a famous story, Alice in Wonderland, to call on schools to let students play and dream. Curriculum developer Prof John O’Toole said the arts improve learning and boost numeracy and literacy.O’Toole, a Wits Distinguished Scholar, delivered a public lecture entitled A(li)CE in the Hole – the necessity of arts education in the twenty-first century, at Wits on Monday evening.

He said some teachers stifle creativity and collaboration. Instead of encouraging learning through play, movement and social interaction, they tell learners to “Stop laughing. Stop fidgeting. Stop talking”.

O’Toole also said many curricula prevent exploring and replace trial and error with “right answers and penalties for failure”.

He blamed the marginalisation of arts and culture education (ACE) on the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century and the need for an efficient and obedient workforce. He also suggested politicians may fear the arts and the power they have to inspire people to question the status quo. O’Toole alluded to the backlash and legal action against artist Brett Murray and cartoonist Zapiro, following their controversial depictions of President Jacob Zuma.

He also highlighted what he called “the alarming proportion of school failures”, saying schools fail to cater for the needs of some children, who eventually “fall out of the game”.

“We still don’t know what to do about them, other than maybe blame the victims or more and more desperately try Band-Aids,” O’Toole said.

He said ACE is often starved of resources, with governments preferring to pour money into literacy and numeracy classes.

O’Toole, who used to teach in working-class inner-city schools in Australia before becoming an academic, said studies have shown that arts education – especially drama – boosts literacy by 25%, while music and visual arts increase numeracy.

He said his arguments could be applied not only to schools but to universities as well.

Fittingly, O’Toole’s lecture was very interactive, with audience members pairing up to analyse artworks and role play classroom situations. It was also full of humour and word plays. The title of the lecture, A(li)CE in the Hole, was a reference to Lewis Carroll’s story Alice in Wonderland.

O’Toole said he still believed it was possible to change the world of education.

“The White Queen [a character in the story] believed six impossible things before breakfast every day!” he said.

The title of the lecture was also a reference to card games and a play on the abbreviation for arts and culture education, ACE.

“The arts are the real trump in education, the real ACE in the hole,” he concluded.

Published in Vuvuzela 17th edition, 27 July 2012

School’s out: Wits lecturers on strike

The list of demands

– a 9% salary increase for support staff, to be paid at a higher scale at the 75th percentile of the tertiary education sector benchmark
– decent salaries to be given before performance regulations were initiated;
– a resolution of the dispute on shift allowances
– an agreement on sliding scales to advance equity
– the establishment of a childcare facility for Wits employees
– an end to overselling of parking permits in non-designated parking areas;
– an increase in individual research incentives

by Jay Caboz
Published in the Vuvuzela Edition 17, 27 July 2012

Lecturers and staff members are expected to “shut down” the university on August 2, following what they have called a break down in wage negotiations with the university. Editorial: Council, are you listening?

Academics and support staff have called for an end to what they say has become a deadlock in annual negotiations. The university has rejected their demands on pay, governance and conditions of service.

Vuvuzela has reported on increased hostility in the negotiations between the Academic Staff Association (ASAWU) and vice chancellor Loyiso Nongxa. Academics warn Wits

The academics are demanding a 9% salary increase for support staff, the establishment of a childcare facility for Wits employees and an end to overselling parking permits in non-designated parking areas, among other things.

In a statement released on July 10, Nongxa said he recognised the unions’ right to protest, as long as it did not interfere with the rights of students and other members of the Wits community to access services on campus.

Last month roughly 150 academics and staff picketed outside the entrance of the basement parking in Senate House. Some staff members told Vuvuzela they earn as little as R20 000 a year, despite working at Wits for more than 20 years.Teachers in action over wage disputes

During the negotiations in June, the university said it would cost around R60-million to implement the increase demanded.

The unions are expected to march again on August 2.

The protest action is supported by the Members of the Administration, the Library and Technical Staff Association, the Academic Staff Association of Wits University and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union.

Follow more of the strike action on our online segment, or Jay Caboz for more.

Related Articles

Editorial: Council, are you listening?

Academics warn Wits

Teachers in action over wage disputes

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Jay’s photos of the week

Photo Essay: Teachers in action over wage disputes

Blade takes a stab at engineers

AN ANC plan to enlist engineering graduates in compulsory community service could flounder if not properly thought through, according to a Wits engineering professor.

Dr Stephen Ekolu, a lecturer at the Wits school of civil and environmental engineering, said students will not gain experience recognised by the engineering fraternities if community work is not a thought-out process. “Graduates won’t get recognised experience if the community service is based on cosmetic projects,” said Ekolu.

The plan to compel engineering graduates into community service for at least one year was discussed during the ANC’s policy conference in Midrand last month and will be voted on in Mangaung in December.

The Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, was reported at the time to have said the plan would help students who cannot find jobs and it will give them experience before entering the formal job sector.

Ekolu said community-based projects have to be done in two stages in order to be considered experience which a graduate can put towards being a recognised engineer registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).

Ekolu said there should be a design process, a construction process and professionals who will oversee the work in order to fulfil experience requirements.

Ekolu said: “I doubt that the community work has all these components but if it is planned with the involvement of engineering professionals at every stage, from an engineering perspective it can be a success.”

Engineering students see their skills as being in high demand in the country and think the prospect of not finding a job, as pointed out by Nzimande, is minimal.

Zunaid Areff, 4th year BSc civil engineering, said: “It’s a good idea but we are in demand because the private sector gives us bursaries. They want us to work as soon as we graduate. The government will need to work together with the private sector to avoid complications.”

Tshepo Lethea, 4th year BSc civil engineering, said the lack of government involvement in producing engineers. Lethea said: “There is a shortage in the first place because people drop out as a result of financial issues. The state should get people through school and to the point where they can be involved in community work. It’s a good initiative but they must pay to get us to this point.”

Ekolu spoke about similar community projects that have involved engineers on the African continent and said those that succeeded were structured as community-based projects instead of community work. “In Uganda, women’s groups make construction materials, provide labour and involve professionals through the building project. If we can identify similar projects in South Africa and then retain professionals to make sure it adheres to municipal requirements it can work.”

Published in 17th edition of Vuvuzela

High first year commerce maths failure rate

About 40 percent first-year commerce students have to de-register from their second semester maths component because they failed the first semester component.

The computational maths failure rate has been relatively high over the past few years. Last year, 370 students failed the same course according to course co-ordinator, Karin Hunt.

Out of the 361 students who failed computational maths in first semester this year, 105 did not qualify even to write the June exam because they did not meet the “satisfactory requirements” for the course.

In February, 839 were registered for the course. By May, eight had deregistered. At the end of the first semester, 708 students wrote the exam and 478 passed.

A student who fails computational maths cannot do business statistics in the same year. That student has to do statistics the following year although which should not lengthen the duration of their degree unless they fail other courses.

Hunt said a first year commerce student usually has three other majors to concentrate on that require a lot of attention.

Accounting student Nothando Kunene failed economics and maths and has de-registered from second semester components of both courses.

Kunene said when she realised she failed, she felt disheartened and disappointed especially because she matriculated from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy with six distinctions.

“When I came to Wits with six As I was sure I’d do fairly okay here at Wits. I did not expect to fail the way that I’m failing right now,” Kunene said. She said she knew it would be a challenge but did not expect to be “set back”.

Although she worries about the consequences of her academic progress on her bursary, she hopes to improve her performance.

Hunt said it is difficult to blame the high failure rate on isolated factors because each case is specific. Nonetheless, in general, many students are overwhelmed by the transition from high school to university. “It’s just so different from school,” said Hunt.

An academic paper Hunt co-authored with Wits colleagues showed that maths is an important indicator of students’ university academic success especially in commerce-related courses like accounting.

But even though more students are passing matric maths and qualifying for university, the current maths the university failure rate is generally higher than that of former higher grade students.

Hunt said a matriculant can get an A for maths exam but not have answered all its sections making maths an unreliable indicator of their university competence. Because they qualify for university, lecturers get the impression that they are prepared for university maths and know how to cope in first year.

Faculty registrar, Marike Bosman, said the faculty was dealing with many cases of mid-year de-registrations which she could attribute to factors such as financial problems.

The faculty provides enough academic support for students mainly in the form of additional tutorials according to Bosman.

Kunene however said that these “drop-in” tutorials at lunch were not helpful because there were only two or three tutors assisting many students.

“Often the rooms are full and not all of us can fit into the two rooms.”

Published in 17th edition of Vuvuzela


Language Policy stalled at Wits

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 17th Edition 27 July

Wits’ language policy to introduce Sesotho as the university’s second language has been a failure, says Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Yunus Ballim.

The policy, implemented in 2003, aimed to have Sesotho spoken by all lecturers and provided for academically. “I think it’s fair to say the document failed. In its intention it was noble, but in its practical implementation sense it was ill-conceived. It is in serious, serious need of a rewrite,” Ballim says.

The person responsible for that rewrite is Dean of Humanities Prof Tawana Kupe, who wants to move back to the basics by “beefing up” the African Languages department. This additional “academic scaffolding” would provide the structure for the department to lead the university forward with an updated policy.

The policy is almost ten years old. The aim was for Wits to join the University of the Free State and the University of Lesotho in advancing the Sesotho language in the academic arena.

Ballim explains that a fundamental error in the policy is its attempt to carve up the language geography of the country. “We were mistaken in the way we conceived of the language policy … in part what we had responded to was an apartheid conception of the geography of African languages.”

While the policy itself has not led to any direct developments, it is not all doom and gloom for the advancement of African languages at the historically English-dominated university.

Ballim implemented a compulsory Zulu course in the Health Sciences, which is now an examinable subject in 2nd year. This was a departure from the Sesotho-based policy, and isiZulu was chosen as a more accessible language for interaction, most importantly for communication with patients.

Ballim used the influence of creative writing as a more effective tool for challenging academic discourse, rather than trying to learn from a textbook. “Universities have not responded to the dynamism in language. We need to modernise our conception of the teaching of African languages.”

Kupe agrees, pointing to the diversity of languages used in local soapies and the changing way we perceive language. “We need to teach language in a way that people understand.”

On the policy’s lack of success, Ballim concedes: “I’m embarrassed to say it is an area we should have picked up and we didn’t, and it is something we should have done better at.”Students chatting on the Great Hall steps