OPINION: Battle for acceptance of homosexuality in universities

By Brian Tebogo Mashego, third year BA student

Last week Thursday I was chilling with a group of friends at the Matrix building at Wits University, and hell broke loose when one of my friends made a reckless statement about a fellow gay student.

Within a wink of an eye we then interrogated his thinking around the issue of homosexuality, and as we were having this conversation I realised that although our South African Constitution theoretically ensure equality for all, social acceptance of homosexuality and homosexuals is generally lacking especially by those of us who grew up in traditional and religious families.

The discussion reminded me of a heart breaking event that happened to a fellow student, Thabiso; who was a colleague of mine when I was studying at the Vaal University of Technology.

Thabiso was contesting the student elections when his opponents found out that he was gay. The entire election campaign then became focused around his sexuality, throwing his campaign into chaos. By the time voting began students didn’t want anything to do with him. My heart was broken because students didn’t judge him on the basis of his competent leadership skills, but on his sexuality.

That event robbed us of a having a potentially talented student leader. As I began the discussion of the unfair treatment of Thabiso at my old campus I was met with criticism, losing some of my friends along the way.

Many talented students who are capable of leading the student community are denied that opportunity based on their sexuality.

Our discussion at the matrix continued to raise questions about the prejudices that prevail today, especially amongst the student community.

Chunks of the student population on our campuses still embrace hostile attitudes and unfair treatment towards gay students.

Of greater concern than the utterance of my friends’ homophobic remarks, is the fact that – like Thabiso – many talented students who are capable of leading the student community are denied that opportunity based on their sexuality. Our broader society has not only influenced this negative thinking, but have also lead us as students to belittle and disqualify them based on their sexual orientation. We are told that it is “immoral” and “unafrican” to be gay or lesbian. Our selective morality is revealing.

I think we are facing a challenge of creating a supportive society that is inclusive and respectful of gays and lesbians.

Homosexuality is a topic around which our culture still gets awfully skittish. This became visible to me when I was talking to a few homosexual students. Most of them feel that greater hostility is shown to them by ‘traditional’ and religious people.

Thabiso’s case teaches us that there is a great need for our student communities to begin embracing sexual diveristy on our campuses. This must start with our student leadership.

They must breakthrough barriers and speak out against this unjust treatment on behalf of gay and lesbian students. They must do this because it’s their obligation as student leaders and are supposed to represent the entire student body.

Q&A with Aspasia Karras

Aspasia Karras, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire South Africa.

Aspasia Karras, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire South Africa. Photo: Facebook

Aspasia Karras is the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire. Wits Vuvuzela spoke to Karras about this months “Naked Edition” of Marie Claire which is a yearly publication whose proceeds are donated to charity.

What are some of the difficulties that come with being an editor for a monthly women’s publication?
I wouldn’t say difficulties. Because it’s a monthly publication, what you put in the magazine has to be carefully considered, edited and curated. As media we are very fortunate because when you curate a brand like Marie Claire you have a website and Twitter that allow us to communicate things all the time for our readers which gives them a 24/7 experience of what’s happening and that can keep us very busy.

What are the origins behind the “Naked Issue” of Marie Claire?
The “Naked Issue” was started nine years ago. At the time doing a naked edition of a magazine was pretty dramatic stuff. I mean now you see celebrities like Helena Bonham Carter naked with a fish. This shows that naked has become a popular means of drawing attention to a particular cause. And that was the idea with the naked edition then and it still is the focus now.

What charity was used for this year’s edition and why?
This year’s campaign was for Blow the Whistle and it draws attention to, essentially, the terrible plague of violence that affects women and children in this country. So we felt that working with Blow the Whistle and getting amazing celebrities with real calibre and integrity to pose in the most vulnerable way really associated themselves with the victims. When you pose naked you are exposed and exposed to the entire nation. You become vulnerable like the victims.

Were you aiming for the same kind of response as last year’s #BoityReaction?
We haven’t had the Boity affect this year. The reason behind this is the seriousness of the campaign. I feel this year people have actually just understood what it was for and so we’re also celebrating this edition as well. The other thing that was moving about this year’s edition is the men who participated. They really exposed themselves and it’s a very brave act. They’ve really embraced the campaign.

SLICE OF LIFE: Does it always have to be about sex?

SLICE OF LIFE: Does it always have to be about sex?

Riante Naidoo

Riante Naidoo

by Riante Naidoo

It seems to me that for most young couples today, sex has become an integral part of relationships.

Although I believe it is entirely up to each individual as to when they start having sex, the general trend has certainly picked up in recent years, leaving our generation with the attitude that it is a relationship norm or requirement.

I beg to differ. I only discovered the general view of most students on campus when a friend assumed I had been sleeping with my boyfriend of four years. Dumbfounded by her assumption I sat and gave the notion serious thought. ‘Did they not see me as normal’ and ‘how can people just assume that’ were the questions that raced through my mind.

I wondered why girls complained endlessly about their ‘bae’ not being romantic or thoughtful enough, when they were all too excited to respond to his ‘booty call’.

On the flip side however, I find it is not only guys who centre their relationships around sex, but girls too.

Although, in some instances, it may be peer pressure or the need to feel desired that may push one to have sex, I feel it is directed more at a lack of self-respect or ignorance.

Sex is certainly not a need. As educated people, we have the ability to empower ourselves by whatever means necessary.

No matter your gender, whether your partner threatens to leave or pulls the ‘do it to show me you love me’ line, leave. Leave with your dignity still intact and your morale a little stronger.

After all, if you are the kind of lady who expects your husband to be pure enough for you, you do not want to be walking into that relationship with a hideous reputation or trail of ‘baby daddies’.

For those who are mature enough to maintain relationships which exclude the ‘sexual requirement’, there are so many perks of being young and in love. It is the time to enjoy the sillier side of life with your partner.

When I was 18, holding his hand, hanging out with friends together, sneaking into his lectures and waking up to his texts every morning was what made it exciting.

Our generation needs to re-discover what it is like to be embarrassed over being called out in his lecture and being teased by friends instead of falling pregnant after a drunken hook-up.

The idea of sex bogs me down with seriousness. Call me old-fashioned, but yes, it does carry a sacred value and level of intimacy I can wait for. Let it be something special you experience, one day with the most important one.

Despite all the aspiring Christian Grey’s or Anastasia Steele’s out there, who believe they are in their sexual prime, I assure you, there will be enough time for handcuffs and rose petals in between the sheets.

It is completely normal for young couples to be in relationships without sex. It is possible to be together where the other is not ‘getting it someplace else’ just because the two of you are not sleeping together.

This is the time to make memories. To go on road trips with friends, join campus societies and hike a mountain or invent something crazy. After all, Facebook was invented by a group of university students.

Make the real moments matter and just imagine what a legend you will be at graduation!

Wits boys shield their position on top

Tendai Dube and Lutho Mtongana

The Wits Varsity Shield team is back with a competitive bang, sitting top of the log with three wins and a draw in their first four matches of the season.
FNB Wits has been unstoppable since the season kicked off a month ago and this week was no different when the boys drew 37-all against the University of the Western Cape (UWC) at home.
Wits captain and flank Richard Crossman said the team has been fortunate in getting this far in the Cup.
“It’s been a huge transformation, we have a whole bunch of new guys, new management, and they are all fresh from matric. We only have two or three senior guys,” said Crossman.
Although they are currently leading the log, the team still have to work hard to stay ahead of the game and, according to Crossman, are training intensely.
“Our weaknesses is that we are young and inexperienced but that could also be our strength because our guys are young and are willing to learn,” Crossman said.
In their first game of the year the Wits boys went head-to-head against a normally challenging Fort Hare, and defeated them with a solid 39-24 win.
They then proceeded to squash the TUT Vikings with 71-36 in their next match on February 19.

CROSSING THE LINE: Richard Crossman, Wits Rugby Captain, flank  Photo: Tendai Dube

CROSSING THE LINE: Richard Crossman, Wits Rugby Captain, flank Photo: Tendai Dube

On March 9 Wits will be playing against Fort Hare on the Wits Rugby Field and Crossman is determine that they will come out on top once again with their home ground advantage.
There are five teams in the Varsity Shield this year: UWC, Wits, Fort Hare, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). Wits needs to finish at the top of the log at the end of the season to secure a chance to move back into the Varsity Cup.

NSFAS repayment for what?

NSFAS repayment for what?

Tendai NSFAS

FILL IN: A student fills in a NSFAS form to apply for university funding from the government. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

LERATO Morake* lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Pretoria. She drives a sleek, silver Audi to her job, where she earns R440 000 per annum.
She also has no plans to pay back the almost R200 000 she owes to NSFAS because no one has been around to collect.

Frustrated students across the country have protested a lack of funding provided for needy students by the National Student Financial Aids Scheme (NSFAS).

NSFAS is suffering a shortfall due in part to students not repaying their loans and replenishing the fund’s coffers.

But former students who are now successful say there is no reason to repay NSFAS because the scheme does not try to collect.

Morake started working in 2008 and said NSFAS has not attempted to reclaim any funds from her.

“They are not even trying to do anything, they aren’t even trying our phones, my number is the same number I used when I applied and they never even tried to call me,” Morake said.

They could’ve just used my ID number and the details of the people that owe them, then through that they can get us to pay back.

According to the NSFAS website, once a student starts working and earns more than R30 000 a year, they must pay back part of the loan. Meaning you would only pay back R900 a year on a salary of R30 000 a year, or R84 per month. A small price to pay considering the interest charged on the loan is subsidised at 80% of the rate that commercial banks would charge.

Students sign a legal contract to repay their loans and the scheme promises to “contact all students who graduate or stop studying to give consent for repayments to be deducted from their bank account every month,” according to the NSFAS website.

But this hasn’t been the experience of Morake: “I don’t think they tried to find me, I read somewhere in the papers that they were trying to find people but, because they are a government financial institution, if they wanted to catch us out, they could’ve gone to SARS, [SA Revenue Service]” she said.

“They could’ve just used my ID number and the details of the people that owe them, then through that they can get us to pay back,” she said.

Morake only knows how much she owes because of a statement she once saw at her cousin’s house in Croydon a few years ago. Her cousin has moved three times since then.

“My aunt also went through this programme, I think about seven years ago and she still hasn’t finished paying for it, so it’s just like donating money and no one sees where it’s going,” Morake said.
NSFAS receives a budget from government, which it then uses to provide a scholar with funds to pay for tuition, accommodation and books.

NSFAS was introduced by government in 1996 to provide poor matric-holders access to a university education. Students have their annual tuition paid and receive the rest of the amount for books and other course material as credit, not as cash, to avoid misuse.

NSFAS offers an income-dependent loan, meaning the student only begins to repay the loan once they start earning an income.

Morake received her undergraduate degree in corporate communications and development studies at the University of Johannesburg in 2008 and since then has worked at three different companies.

Her studies have resulted in her getting a job as a corporate communications consultant for a popular fast food franchise.

At the time she applied for NSFAS, Morake’s mother was unemployed and looked after their home in Alexandra township. Her dad could not afford to pay for her schooling as he did not earn much as a handyman and electrician.

I told them to send the banking details and stuff but they didn’t bother so I didn’t pay.

The cost of paying back a loan is burdensome, especially for an individual just entering the workforce and trying to start out their lives.

“When I first started working I worried, I said to myself, ‘okay, this is your first job, they said you have to pay them back or else they’ll find you’, so I called the call centre, they proofed my details then they told me I had to pay 10 percent of my salary and it was a ridiculous amount for me at the time,” Morake said.

Still, Morake told NSFAS to send her the relevant details to begin repaying her loan. However, the scheme never followed up with her.

“I told them to send the banking details and stuff but they didn’t bother so I didn’t pay,” she said.

“I just didn’t want to be the only one paying.”

Lerato is planning on studying further. She wants to do her honours in management but does not plan on using NSFAS again.

“This time I’ll pay for it myself, it would just be greedy otherwise,” she said.

*not her real name

 

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