First years and
parents forced to bake in the sun in long lines as a result of new centralised
residence registration system.
WITS’s new centralised residence registration system that
was supposed to be “more convenient” has had the opposite effect as first-year
residence students and their parents were left distraught after queuing for
hours in the sun on Saturday, January 26.
The system, implemented on the day, placed services from the
Fees, Financial Aid and Information and Communications Technology offices under
one roof, at Flower Hall, West Campus.
The centralised system was also meant to ensure the
verification process and the residence registration took place in the same
Wits University communications officer Buhle Zuma told Wits Vuvuzela that, “The new registration system sought to ease the challenges encountered by first year res students when registering. Previously, first year students would have to visit various service units to complete their registration. This was frustrating for students unfamiliar with the university.”
A parent, Sithabile Ntombela from Durban, who had waited in
line from 12pm until after 4pm told Wits
Vuvuzela that she had expected to wait a maximum of an hour.
“If this was [University of] Zululand, Fort Hare or Walter
Sisulu University, I would expect this, but not Wits. The other universities
are previously disadvantaged. Wits has developed technology, so I wouldn’t
expect this from Wits. There was no visibility from the assistants. There are
assistants but very few, so you end up in the wrong queue,” Ntombela said.
Zuma said that 28 staff members from Campus Housing and 18
from other service units, as well as 35 assistants were helping with the
registration, and Wits Protection Services was also present.
However, there were few visible assistants outside Flower
Hall in the morning, and in the afternoon there appeared to be no more than 10
that were ushering parents and students into the different lines.
Medhurst Residence House Committee member, Nobuhle Nkosi,
told Wits Vuvuzela that the All
Residence Council and Residence House Committees were not consulted in the
decision-making process, and that both committees opposed the new centralised
system at the Residence Leadership Camp held on January 21-25 where they first
heard of it.
“The new system doesn’t take into account the students…It
disadvantages the students that come from far by buses and taxis as they
usually leave their bags at res but now they have to stand in long lines with
their bags,” Nkosi said. “It’s already crowded when people register at their
reses, now imagine all those people under one roof.”
Nkosi added that the Medhurst House Committee was expecting
to welcome 80 – 90 students on Saturday but only 20 had arrived by 3pm.
“People were hungry when they got here, people were crying and parents were complaining,” Nkosi said.
Zuma said that the registration process didn’t close at 4pm
as advertised, but had been extended to 6:45pm.
“Our challenge on the day was the number of students who did
not apply for residence and those whose application was still pending and thus
contributing to long queues,” Zuma said.
At 9.41pm on Saturday, the university tweeted an apology
from its official account.
“Wits University and the Dean of Student Affairs apologises to all parents and students for the inconvenience caused by the new res system for first year students. We acknowledge the delays and the long queues and we will review the process going forward,” the tweet said.
According to Zuma, the university is doing a full review of the registration process and will consider suggestions from the Wits community.
FEATURED IMAGE: Students and their parents waited for long hours to be registered for their residence in the new centralised registration system. Photo: Onke Ngcuka
Halaal food outlet Jimmy’s Varsity has opened for business on Wits West Campus.
A new halaal eatery has opened on campus. Jimmy’s Varsity, a
subsidiary of the Jimmy’s Group franchise, opened its doors on West Campus for
the first time on Thursday, 24 January.
Jimmy’s is owned by the family of a Wits BCom student, and primarily
serves sandwiches, burgers, and grilled chicken. Tasneem Gani said that her
family had decided to open Jimmy’s Varsity after she had been unhappy with the
halaal food options on campus.
“I noticed the food on campus wasn’t up to standard and used
to go off campus to get food often,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.
The family approached Wits Student Services after a tender
was issued by the university at the end of October 2018 for a new halaal
eatery. Gani said that her family worked throughout November and December to
open the outlet.
“We needed good cheap
food for students and this is a completely redesigned menu. We’ve lowered our
prices and still kept the quality of the food. The average meal here is R42
which is comparable to res meal prices,” she said.
The outlet will also deliver food across Main Campus and is still
working on deliveries to the Education and Medical campuses.
Nicholas Matthes, Wits deputy director of retail and
catering, said that of the six tender proposals that were submitted to the
university, only two adhered to the halaal requirements. Jimmy’s Varsity was
the only one which responded to the price point requirements as well.
Matthes said that the university is continuously working to
improve the quality of the food on campus. “We undertake surveys and ensure
that we continuously improve retail mix offering in line with retail strategy,
students and university community population and industry trends,” he said.
Former BCom Accounting student, Bilal Ismail, said that the
quality of the food was far higher than that of the previous eateries he had
been to on campus.
“The food [at a previous outlet] was stale sometimes, but here, so far so good. The food is good and the chips are fresh and tasty,” he said.
FEATURED IMAGE: Jimmy’s Varsity is a new food outlet which gives the Wits community more halaal options on campus.
First-year engineering students will now complete the Common First Year course which will teach core subjects equally across the board.
STARTING in 2019, all first-year engineering students, regardless of
branch of engineering, will begin their studies with the new Common First Year
(CFY) course which will teach core subjects such as science and maths equally
across all branches.
Although students are still expected to register for a specific branch
from first year, the new CFY course means that students who choose to change
branches in second year, will now be able to do so without taking an additional
The different engineering branches at Wits include: architecture and
planning; civil and environmental engineering; chemical and metallurgical
engineering; construction economics and management; electrical and information
engineering; mechanical, industrial and aeronautical engineering; and mining.
Executive dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built
Environment, Prof Ian Jandrell, told Wits
Vuvuzela that in addition to maths and science, the new course will include
communications, problem solving, understanding the engineering profession, and
First-years will also be expected to complete a Humanities course.
“[This is] speaking to the growing need
for engineers to be cognisant of their role in society right from the very
start of their university career,” Jandrell said.
The CFY course will be assessed by a team of academics across all the faculty’s
schools, under the oversight of the Academic Development Unit. According to
Jandrell, there will be continuous assessments, dedicated test weeks after the
Autumn and Spring breaks, and the final assessment at the end of the year, will
be done through the submission of portfolios.
“Students whose overall result is between 45 and 49% will be invited
to an oral exam, but this is the only exam for the course,” he said.
Third-year BSc metallurgic engineering student, Asakundwi Ramurafhi, said
that the introduction of the CFY was an improvement on the previous years.
“The differing first year [courses] put people at a disadvantage in
second year because of the differing intensities of the courses. I wish we had
had a joint first year for the more difficult courses like maths to make second
and third year easier,” she said.
Jandrell said that the CFY course aimed to produce a “21st century engineer” who can work across boundaries, is confident in their own abilities, and is willing to learn and serve in society.
FEATURED PHOTO: The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment is introducing a Common First Year course for all first-year engineering student.
Students without res accommodation have to look elsewhere.
By Onke Ngcuka
Wits students that did not get into res cannot count on emergency accommodation from the university.
Esselen and Witwaters residence which were made available as emergency accommodation in 2018 are not available in 2019.
Dean of Students Jerome September told Wits Vuvuzela that Esselen was no longer a Wits residence as of 2019.
“In 2018, the repurposing of Esselen was put on hold to assist the university with emergency accommodation on a temporary basis. All students initially allocated to Esselen were moved out in June 2018, and the repurposing project continued,” September said.
The dean said that Esselen now belonged to the Wits Reproductive Health Institute and functioned as a research centre. The Witwaters residence belongs to the Gauteng provincial government and houses nursing students.
Student Representative Council (SRC) president Sisanda Mbolekwa told Wits Vuvuzela that as the SRC, they were told by the university that the opening of the emergency residences in 2018 was a once-off deal.
“Wits does not have infrastructure. A way forward would be to raise funds to pay for a building or pay someone that has beds. Braamfontein is surrounded by so many buildings,” Mbolekwa said.
First-year BEd student, Morongwa Rankoane, who is from Lesifo, Limpopo, told Wits Vuvuzela that she had applied for accommodation in a student residence in June 2018 but was told that there was no space.
“I tried applying for emergency accommodation on Wednesday, January 23. There were people assisting us that took my details and said they would get back to me by Thursday, January 24. I didn’t receive a response so that is why I came in today (January 25),” she said.
Rankoane said that she had tried looking for the accommodation in Braamfontein but was told that she needed to present a letter of approval.
“I applied for the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme and was told by the bursar that I would only receive the letter of approval in February/March. I was able to register by waivering the registration fee,” she said.
September said that the Wits Hardship Fund assisted students with funding towards accommodation. Applications for the Wits Hardship Fund closed on January 24.
FEATURED PHOTO: Esselen Residence will be used as a research centre by the Wits Reproductive Health Institute and will no longer be available as emergency accomodation. Photo: File.
South Africans break world record for most people crocheting in one venue simultaneously for the longest time.
By Phumi Ramalepe
Charity organisation, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, in collaboration with Mozart Music Festival, broke the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people crocheting simultaneously at a single location at the Linder Auditorium at Wits on Sunday, January 27.
The event, called Mozart for Mandela, was in celebration of 67 Blankets for Mandela’s fifth anniversary. The aim of Mozart for Mandela was to have as many people as possible crocheting for 27 consecutive minutes in commemoration of Mandela’s 27 years in prison.
This year’s record breaking attempt, which coincided with Mozart’s birthday, saw young and old come together to contribute their time and efforts in the name of giving back to the community.
Founder of 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, Carolyn Steyn, said, “The event is a celebration of the amazing work that thousands of people are doing in South Africa in the name of Madiba, making blankets for people who don’t have, orphanages, old-age homes and homeless people in informal settlements.”
Groups of participants were provided with colour-coded balls of wool, and each person had to crochet “a square (or squares) measuring 20cm by 20cm”, according to the organisation’s website, which would then make 16-and-a-half blankets if all participants made one complete square.
The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra and the Jeppe Girls’ High Marimba Band performed live on stage and kept the 737 qualifying participants entertained while they crocheted their way into the Guinness World Record.
“Independent witnesses”, Carolynne Waterhouse and Peter Grealy, made the announcement to the gathering that the Mozart for Mandela participants had indeed broken the Guinness World Record for 737 people crocheting for 27 minutes nonstop.
Among the participants were pupils from Jeppe Girls’ High and Norwood Primary School, along with their parents and teachers.
“I think it’s important for young women to understand that there are people less fortunate than themselves and also to get involved,” said Yvette Searle, a Jeppe Girls parent.
Approximately 108 elderly women also participated and donated non-perishable goods for Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach.
Director of Alpha World Ministries Elderly Day Care Centre, Pastor Maureen Sibadela, said, “It’s so important to us to do this crocheting… because we know that [the blankets] are for a good cause and collecting food for the Wits University kids…because we want to see our children being educated. We believe that with one stitch, we can reach someone.”
The organisation is no stranger to record breaking events for change. Last year, 67 Blankets made its way into the Guinness Book of World records after knitting the longest scarf in the world which measured approximately 29 kilometres.
Students say that they were set up to fail auditing supplementary exam.
A group of over 50 third-year BAccSci students who failed
their supplementary auditing exam fear that they will not be able to secure
funding and register for the upcoming academic year.
In a meeting organised by the students with the Head of
School of Accountancy, Professor Nirupa Padia, on Wednesday, January 23, the students
claimed that the ACCN3015 paper which they wrote on November 27, 2018, was
“identical” to that written by the fourth-year class during the same period and
that is the reason for their failure.
Padia told the students that she would consider their
complaints and try and come up with a solution before their next meeting,
scheduled for Thursday, January 31. The students have also written to the
Vice-Chancellor’s office and the South African Institute of Chartered
Sifiso Mduli, who was repeating third year, fears that he
will lose his bursary if these grievances are not resolved soon. The students
are demanding a review of their exam or possibly even a second sitting because
they say these results cast a doubt on their future at the university.
“I’ve communicated with my bursar but it’s difficult to
explain. They’ll believe that I am incompetent especially because of last year.
So it seems like I might be forced to fund myself if I want to continue
The students also alleged at the meeting with Padia that
some of their classmates had been allowed to view their scripts and review
their marks while others were not permitted. Those who had viewed their scripts
were said to have subsequently passed.
The situation has gained national attention with the issue
being discussed on SAfm early last week. The requirements of the course were
highlighted in the radio discussion with Professor Jason Cohen, the deputy dean
of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management. The requirements are that
third-year students have to pass all four of their subjects (management
accounting and finance, taxation, auditing and financial accounting) to
progress to fourth year.
“This is not a qualification requirement to receive the
Bachelors of Accounting Science degree, it is an entry requirement into the
fourth year or, so-called CTA year,” Cohen said. “So a number of students
managed to pass through by obtaining credits in a more piecemeal manner. It is
only in trying to access that fourth year that we require those students to pass
Cohen argued on air that, despite these demands, most
students had performed reasonably well, saying that nearly three quarters of
the student body had passed three of the four courses, while auditing had a
pass rate of 60%.
“I understand the frustrations of the students who were not
able to succeed this time around but nearly 500 students passed that particular
course being referred to,” Cohen added.
Third-year BAccSci student, Rudelle Pillay, said that she
had been left with very few options and hoped the situation would be resolved
before the academic year began.
“I feel that they have been inconsistent; there’s no
transparency in this course. We have been talking to them for weeks so this
could get resolved sooner rather than later.
“I’ve had to convert to a BCom because I wanted to register.
My parents cannot afford to pay for those four subjects again, considering that
I still owe money,” Pillay added.
FEATURED IMAGE: The School of Accountancy is wrapped in controversity as students claim to have disadvantaged in supp exam Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi
Union members have said that they are willing to strike if negotiations with Wits management continue to stall.
Workers have threatened to strike less than two weeks before the academic year is set to begin, following stalled negotiations for salary increases and improved working conditions.
At a joint union members meeting on Tuesday, January 22, at the Great Hall, workers were up in arms after discovering that the concessions made with Wits management were far below their expectations.
In attendance were academics, administrative staff and supporting staffs from the various unions, mainly Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), the Admin Library and Technical Staff Association, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union.
The unions had met with management earlier in the day to discuss the demands of the workers but the negotiations remained deadlocked following a year of discussions between the concerned parties.
Workers were demanding a 9% increase across the board, but the University’s offer was 6.5% to 7% across different payment grades, according to Asawu president Anthony Stacey.
A professor at the Wits Business School, Stacey told Wits Vuvuzela that the concessions made by the university, which included the granting of 20 days paid leave for staff and a minimised taxation rate on staff’s 13th cheque, were not enough to satisfy the unions.
“We’ve got agreements on a few things. We’ve worked very hard in the last two months to get a working relationship.
“I’m afraid the last few days I’m less optimistic though. Now we’re starting to talk hard numbers, hard details and the collaboration from management doesn’t seem to be coming through,” Stacey said.
Several proposals have been made by both the labour unions and representatives of the University’s management in regards to 2019 salary increases, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.
“The parties continue to negotiate in good faith with a view towards reaching amicable resolutions on the outstanding issues. As a result of the ongoing negotiations, salary adjustments for January 2019 will not be implemented, except for employees on Grades 16 and 17 where an agreement was reached in 2018,” read a joint statement released by the Bargaining Forum on Wednesday, January 23.
Altsa president Ricardo Sao Joao says that a strike could happen if there is no agreement with management.
“At this point in time, I would say a strike is very likely based on the mandate we just received. I think that the general consensus is that staff are tired in many ways of being misused and abused and, ultimately, want to share in the wealth of the university,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.
Stacey, who is one of the union negotiators, was sceptical about the progress of the negotiations thus far and affirmed that the workers would be united if the call to strike was made by the majority.
“We are happy about the fact that we got agreement on a few of the issues but they are very minor. They are not substantive. I think there’s a wide variety of opinions amongst the union membership. So I think our job as leadership is to see how much progress we can make. However, if it needs to go to a power struggle, we’ll have to lead them.”
Other worker demands include bursaries for staff to study, increased night shift allowances, a R1200 housing subsidy and medical aid support. Negotiations continue.
FEATURED IMAGE: Union members congregate outside Great Hall to discuss progress of salary negotiations Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi
Wits SRC and management collaborate to assist ‘missing middle’ students with registration fees, accommodation and historical debt.
The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Wits University management have joined hands to launch the new Hardship Fund to help ‘missing middle’ returning students. Applications for the fund closed on Thursday, January 24.
The fund is designed to help students whose annual household income falls under the R600 000 threshold and whose academic average is at least 50%. It was approved by Senate in November 2018 and formally included in the 2019 budget. The university has contributed R10 million to the fund and an additional R1 million was donated by a private donor.
SRC fundraising officer Solomzi Moleketi says that the fund was created to address systemic barriers to education that students encountered. The fund helps returning students pay their registration fees, secure accommodation, and covers up to 50% of a student’s historical debt. However, in cases where the debt exceeds R80 000, the fund will only cover up to R40 000 in order to allow as many students as possible to be assisted by the fund.
“So far we’ve helped 77 students which has cost just under R3 million,” Moleketi told Wits Vuvuzela. “We are also working out a partnership with South Point to assist with accommodation.”
The Hardship Fund is one of a number of funds that have been launched by SRCs over the years to assist students, including the Wits Humanitarian Fund which was started in 2009 and the Emergency Fund which was launched in 2018. Moleketi argues that the over the years there has been a consistent growth in funding, and the university using its funds to assist students has been an ongoing conversation stretching back to 2011.
“We are hoping there will be more sustainability with this fund because of its inclusion in the budget. We hope that it will continue next year,” he said.
However, according to Wits chief financial officer Prakash Desai, the R10 million provided by the university was approved by Senate as a once-off item.
“During 2018, savings from other budget line items were redirected towards student hardship. Only a limited number of students are supported on the review of a substantive case made for hardship and on academic merit,” Desai said.
Beneficiaries of the fund are decided by a discretionary committee made up of the SRC, the Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic, the Dean of Students, the Registrar, and the Finance Executive. According to Moleketi, there are an additional 400 cases to be reviewed.
FEATURED PHOTO: The Wits SRC and management are assisting ‘missing middle’ students with a new Hardship Fund.
The PYA has some very strong words for the Student Governance Office after SRC members were moved to the Once in Joburg hostel in Braamfontein.
The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) has declared the Student Governance Office (SGO) an “enemy of the student revolution on campus” following what it claims was the forced removal of members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) from university accommodation on Sunday, January 20.
In a statement released on Twitter, the PYA, which won 12 of the 13 seats in the SRC election last year, condemned what it called just “one of the many ills” committed by the Student Governance Office against the SRC after members of the student body were moved from Medhurst Hall of Residence and Highfield Cluster in Parktown to the Once in Joburg hostel in Braamfontein rather than a different university residence.
SRC treasurer general Keneuwe Fetai told Wits Vuvuzela that they were informed that they would be removed from these university residences on Saturday, January 19, but were under the impression that the SGO would find them accommodation on campus for Orientation Week.
“Because some residence students would be returning this week, we were told that we’d be moved. But Student Governance claims no one on campus wanted to accommodate us. So we were moved to the Once in Joburg hotel in Braamfontein. They told us we were there by circumstance.
“We want to move out as soon as possible. It is putting us in a bad light. We are supposed to help students with their accommodation plight but we are here in a hotel. How does that look?”
Manager of the SGO, Jabu Mashinini, denied claims that SRC members were forcibly removed from university residences.
“The SRC was not kicked out of the vacation accommodation/residence, but had to vacate to allow the residence personnel to prepare for the first years and returning students.”
Fetai, a fourth-year BEd student, told Wits Vuvuzela that around 30 members of the SRC members and sub-committees were housed at the Braamfontein hostel but fear that they will be removed soon and will have nowhere to stay. She says that they are disappointed at the lack of assistance from the university.
“If the university supported us they would fight for us. It doesn’t make sense, we are the SRC and we are staying at a hotel.”
Chairperson of the South African Student Congress branch at Wits, Mpendulo Mfeka, said that the removal of the SRC was “counterproductive” as the body needed to be in close proximity to students on campus. He said that the PYA’s statement reflected the souring relationship between the SRC and the SGO.
“It is very reckless from Student Governance. They are not doing as much as they are supposed to do for the student body. Student Governance is supposed to assist the SRC so they can continue with their operations. But, according to Governance, no one wants anything to do with the SRC.”
Mashinini has replied to the statement released by the PYA, saying “The PYA is entitled to its opinion, Student Governance has an amiable and professional relationship with the SRC and does not make decisions unilaterally without consulting the SRC.”
Orientation Week is scheduled to begin in a few days, on Monday, January 28.
FEATURED IMAGE: The Once in Joburg hostel in Braamfontein is currently home to SRC members who were “forcibly” moved from university residences at the weekend. Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi
The University of Pretoria has scrapped Afrikaans in favour of using English only in official communications and as a medium of instruction.
As of January, 2019, the University of Pretoria (UP) will be using English as the only language of instruction and communication instead of offering Afrikaans alongside English. This was announced by the new vice-chancellor, Prof Tawana Kupe, on Monday, January 21.
The decision resulted from recommendations made by the university’s transformation committee, student representatives, and various other stakeholdersin early 2016. According to UP spokesperson Rikus Deport, the move was made as an effort to transform the university. It was also made in response to the decline in the number of Afrikaans home language students at the university which dropped from 85% in 1992 to 30% in 2015. Only 18% of students wished to use the language as a medium of instruction in 2016.
Deport further stated that the new language policy would only affect students who are enrolling in programmes offered by the university for the first time in 2019.
“Students who registered for the first time prior to 2019 will continue to receive lectures, tutorials, study guides and assessment material (question papers, assignments and the like) in Afrikaans for those programmes which were offered in Afrikaans at the time of enrolment, provided that the class size remains practically feasible and it is academically justifiable.
“Where assessment and question papers are set in Afrikaans, currently enrolled students will also be allowed to answer in Afrikaans,” Deport told Wits Vuvuzela.
After the university’s Senate approved the new language policy in June 2016, civil liberty groups Afriforum and Solidarity appealed the decision in court.
“This amounts to a gross violation of the language rights of Afrikaans students at UP,” said Afriforum in a statement.
The appeal was turned down by the Gauteng High Court in December 2016 after finding that it was no longer practical to offer classes in both English and Afrikaans, given the changing demographics of the university.
Judge Peter Mabuse, wrote in the judgement, “The language policy choice made by the University of Pretoria is not only consistent and in accord with the provisions of the Constitution, it also signals a deep and sincere commitment to place the university at the forefront of being an agent in advancing social cohesion.”
In a May 2017 statement, Afriforum expressed their disappointment with the ruling. “As access to education in Afrikaans remains a priority for AfriForum and Solidarity, they will continue to have discussions with international forums and experts in order to wage the battle on the protection of this right in the international arena as well.”
The university began phasing out Afrikaans in 2017 and in 2018, informed students that the university would switch to an English medium institution in the new year.
Lecturers who formerly gave lectures in Afrikaans will now be expected to teach only in English.
However, some such as Siseko Kumalo, a UP philosophy masters student and editor of the Journal of Decolonising Disciplines, argue that the new English-only policy is still exclusionary towards black students as it privileges students whose mother tongue is English.
“A lot of scholarship around language policy is indicating that universities should look at where they are situated and offer those languages as multilingualism achieves better results. Students perform better when they are able to learn in their mother tongues,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.
“There’s a lot of excitement about monolingualism now but in five years’ time I foresee us revisiting the question of why African languages are not being used and what knowledge we can produce when we use indigenous languages,” he said.
FEATURED IMAGE: The historically Afrikaans institution, the University of Pretoria, will now use English as its primary means of instruction and communication. Photo: File.