Wits pedestrian entrances to get facelift

Wits University Campus Planning and Development Unit will begin a Gateways Project intended to upgrade the pedestrian entrances on the main campus. Entrance that will be getting a revamp are the Oppenheimer Life Sciences (OLS) steps, on Jan Smuts Street, and create the Sutton Close entrance on Jorissen Street, between the Richard Ward Building and Solomon Mahlangu House. The construction to refurbish these entrances will commence March 7 and is expect to be completed in the next four months. These entrances will be closed during this period.

The objective is to improve access to the university by creating more welcoming pedestrian entrances for staff, students and visitors.

Re-imagining Wits Properties Programme manager, Yael Horowitz said, “OLS is the most popular and used pedestrian entry point, that is why it was chosen. We had done a movement study the year before for the whole university, how many cars and students enter the institution and gotten all the data from all the entry points. There are over 20 000 card swipes during a day at the OLS steps.”

“We realised that we needed to give a better experience to the students, by treating students with dignity. Wits is based in the city and we need to start being friendly and opening our door to the city in which we are placed. Wits has been very closed and concrete. If you go to the gate, you see a very strong barrier and uninviting entry. So, we relooked at how we make the edge more user friendly,” she added.

Some of the benefits of the upgrade include Wi-Fi connectivity hotspot, charging points, information points and maps, lighting for security purposes, iconic and more visible signage, CCTV surveillance and universal access to accommodate users with mobile and visual impairments.

MAKEOVER LOADING: One of Wits most busiest entrance will be one of the first to get a new look by Block 3 of the academic calendar.     Photo: Nomvelo Chalumbira

Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) spokesperson, Sandla Mtotywa said, “The SRC thinks they are unnecessary because it’s a whole expenditure of money that could be used for other things like accommodation and food security for students. This deal was signed at council by the previous SRC, so it’s useless for us to even try even do a protest of some sort, the deal is signed. However, what we commend is the Disability Rights Unit, which was also involved in the designing the entrances for making ramps for students using wheelchairs.”

Horowitz told Wits Vuvuzela that posters letting students know what is happening had gone up on February 28, inside and outside of the OLS stairs.

Second-year BSc Construction Studies student Won-Hyang Muthimba was not impressed at the timing of the project. “Most of us use that entrance in the morning and to get home. In the mornings, especially in the beginning of the year the line ends at the bottom of the road. Now that they are going to build it for like four-months, they should have done it in the holidays in November, they could have finished in February. Now it’s going to inconvenience a lot of people that stay on this side or the end of Braam to come around Senate House or WAM to enter. It’s gonna (sic) take a lot of time and waking up earlier. For me it’s gonna (sic) be an inconvenience but I guess it will be worth it,” she said.

Another second-year BSc Construction Studies student Thembelihle Nombewu said she is looking forward to the upgrade even though she will be inconvenienced. “I think it’s a good thing. If the end product is gonna (sic) be good then it’s worth it,” she said.

Horowitz encouraged students to use the Station Street entrance, next to the Wits Theatre as an alternative entrance and give themselves an extra 10-15minute walking time to classes.

The art of getting back on your feet

The email I had been dreading was finally in my inbox. A part of me was hoping that I had still made it, as I always had. But no. I blinked and stared at the email in horror. My hands trembled as I tried to make out the final first semester results. My heart was racing wildly and I felt breathless. “How could it be?”, the question screamed in my head. “I knew I couldn’t do it.” With tears pouring down my cheeks, I started to think how I was going to explain this to my parents. Their first-born daughter who had never failed before, had failed her first semester of final year and would not be graduating in March 2016 with the rest of her peers.

“Me Fail? What? Why? I’ve never failed in my life, why now?” These were the questions that continued to ring in my head.
Final year was the most difficult year of university, as I felt the gear went from one to five and I couldn’t clutch balance. The coasting had finally caught up with me. Failing Philosophy was a painfully embarrassing and humbling experience.

When I got to Wits in 2013, I was not entirely sure what subjects I wanted to study for my BA or what I wanted to do after graduating for that matter. All I knew was that I wanted to be in the media space and become one of the greatest writers. After much convincing from my father, I begrudgingly took Philosophy as one of my majors.

For a long time, I thought it was a big mistake to major in Philosophy. But after receiving the results, I realised that I had already failed long before the actual failure. My negative attitude and fear of failure was my biggest downfall and greatly contributed to me failing. I never even gave myself a chance to excel in the subject.

Yes, failure sucks. I’d scroll through my social media feeds and most of my friends and peers were graduating, getting their “dream” jobs and moving on up. However, in 2016 when I registered to repeat my two modules of Philosophy and got a job to keep busy – I had a reenergised drive. I remained focused on my goals and self-improvement. I saw my failure as a new starting point. I re-evaluated my priorities and became more constructive with balancing my studies and all my other responsibilities. I made a structured plan of things I wanted to achieve that year. I began to consult with the lecturers, read more philosophical material beyond the course content and did one thing every day that ensured I would succeed in all my plans.

My family, friends and boyfriend were my number one supporters. They helped and encouraged me to overcome my failure, assisting me to find effective strategies to succeed. They reminded me that everyone fails at some point and I was not defined by it – letting me vent and purge the negativity.

I have learned that success doesn’t have a set path. It’s okay sometimes to be confused. Try new things and find your calling and, once you do, pursue it with your whole heart. The year 2016 was my year to find myself and what I truly wanted from life. I am not a quitter and owed it to myself to make all my dreams happen.

Life will bring many great successes and achievements. You will also experience disappointments and setbacks. Obviously, we would all opt for success over failure, but what matters is not success or failure, but how you deal with both and learn from them. Whatever I do in life, I now always remember to give it my best. Failure is only for a short period, but can be a stepping stone to success.
Dream beyond logic and work for it. It is never too late or early to go out there and get what you want.

In the end, I completed my Honours in Journalism and Media Studies in 2017 and got my dream job as a journalist.

Delayed study permits hinder international students registration

More than 30 international students are still unable to register for the 2018 academic year at Wits University as they have not yet received study permits.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) deputy president, Tshenolo Leshika, told Wits Vuvuzela that students the approached his organisation, the International Students Office and the Wits Zimbabwe Society for assistance.

Leshika said although the Zimbabwean students were the most affected, students from Swaziland had had similar issues earlier in the semester.

“The issues are being handled in the same way. It might just take slightly longer with the Zimbabwean students because of the volume issue,” Leshika said.

“We are liaising with the office of International Students, and they are communicating with Home Affairs and the embassy to speed up the process. We’re pleased with the cooperation we’re getting from the office of International Students and their willingness to go above and beyond for the student body. We are reaching out to faculties to allow these students to register late,” said Leshika.

Tinashe Dzinoreva, a student unable to register for his first-year of BA Law said he had applied for his permit on January 20. “I thought I’d be at school by now. I went to the Visa Facilitation Services Global (VFS) to ask what was the problem and they said they don’t know. I also found lots of other people in the same situation. We are just waiting, sitting at home and there’s not much we can do.”

VFS administers the visa applications so students don’t go directly to the embassy anymore.

Dzinoreva is hopeful that the SRC’s advice to get in touch with his faculty and plead his case will work. “I sent an email to the Faculty of Humanities on Friday [February 23] to ask for permission to register late but I haven’t gotten feedback yet,” he said.

The Faculty of Humanities told Wits Vuvuzela that the official deadline for late registration for their students was February 12.

Wits University’s Senior Communications Officer, Buhle Zuma said, “By law, the University is not permitted to register international students who do not have a valid study visa. The Wits International Students Office has been in contact with officials at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to highlight the challenges faced by applicants. The Office requested intervention from the DHA as they are the custodians of the Immigration Act. The University permitted late registration for students who were experiencing delays; these were also specific faculty requirements. Students should check with their Faculty for the last possible date. It is not in the student’s academic interest to register late as many classes have already commenced with tests and other assessments.”

Zuma told Wits Vuvuzela that this is not an unusual occurrence. “In previous years, there has always been a backlog at the South African Embassy in Zimbabwe; this is mainly due to the high volume of applications submitted. To expedite the process the DHA deploys additional staff in Pretoria to assist. In 2018, the South African High Commission in Swaziland introduced new requirements for study visa applications which were outside of the standard check list,” she said.

International Students Office’s manager, Gita Patel, said, “The returning students should have applied for renewals here in South Africa and always have the correct supporting documents when they apply for new or renewal of visa. The faculties have to agree because you also don’t want to disadvantage the student. It’s already three weeks into the term and some courses may have already covered a lot.”

Tafadzwa Chikanya 20, a student unable to register for her BCom Honours told Wits Vuvuzela that she is also one of many struggling to get her study permit. “I hear that there is a go slow happening with either the South African Embassy and/or the Zimbabwean embassy. I know of people who applied for their visa on the 10/11th of January and already got theirs last week yet I applied for mine on the 9th of January and I am still not sure when I will actually get it.

“The past two weeks I have contacted the SRC and they have tried to help. Previously we had asked for our respective faculties and International Students Office to extend our registration dates. They agreed to extend mostly up until February 28, although some faculties are not allowing this. For my programme I have been given up until March 2, to explain what is going on. My faculty accepted my reasons and they haven’t really expressly allowed me to register late but there has been ongoing communication between us. There is a big Whatsapp group I’m on of 106 participants, where we update each other and some people say that they got offers to get their visas quickly at a hefty charge of $600,” said Chikanya.

Leshika said the SRC had plans to make sure such delays don’t occur in the future. “We intend on reminding international students to apply much earlier for their visas through heavy campaigning, their school councils, faculties, CSO’s and house committees,” said the deputy SRC president.