New students attending the annual Wits welcome day today were challenged to donate a hundred rand each to assist students who face exclusion due to a lack of funding. The call came from Student Representative Council (SRC) president Mcebo Dlamini, as part of efforts to assist students who did not receive funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“The target is to raise one million by the end of this month,” said Dlamini, who is aiming to enlist the support of ten thousand people to reach the target before the end of February.
Dlamini was addressing an audience of over 5000 people, including parents and first-year students, who had gathered on the Library Lawns for the start of the official Orientation Week programme.
“It is a sad moment for this university,” said Dlamini who was referring to the 2788 student who were not able to register at Wits due to the lack of funding.
ONE HUNDRED RAND LEADER: SRC President Mcebo Dlamini holds R100 as pledge to support education for all. Photo: Palesa Tshandu
Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube, described the announcement as an “excellent plan” but said this was the first time the academic staff of the institution had heard of it.
“We were not aware of it but we would like people to help … this is what the SRC should be doing,” said Dube.
“The target is to raise one million by the end of this month,”
Former SRC president Shafee Verachia described the pledge as a “proactive initiation” by student leaders saying “if this pledge is a success, it will be a great success for the SRC”.
Dean of the Faculty of Humanities Professor Ruksana Osman commended Dlamini’s efforts in fundraising for the unregistered students.
Osman also said the Faculty of Humanities had pledged R1.5 million to help postgraduate students who are receiving their Bachelor of Arts honours degrees.
Dlamini confirmed the SRC will work with Wits University and Convocation to run the campaign once it gains traction and an account for the funds will be set-up by the office of the Dean of Students.
The ANC’s plans for compulsory community service for all university graduates are “worrying”, a Wits professor has said.
“For the service to benefit students and communities we need careful engagement and well thought out processes that are enabling,” said Dean of Humanities Ruksana Osman.
Osman said several degrees, particularly those in the health sciences, already require time spent on community projects as part of a graduate’s experience.
[pullquote]There were a number of issues with compulsory community service, including whether the policy was affordable[/pullquote]
Osman has done extensive research on the topic of community service and she sees the benefits of making it compulsory.
“Community service is indeed a good way to build civic engagement among young people – It is an ideal way to contribute to society and to strengthen society,” she said. However, she warned there were a number of issues with compulsory community service, including whether the policy was affordable.
“[Whether] the community and economy can in fact absorb the number of graduates coming out.” A major concern is whether there are enough professionals to mentor the volunteers during their year of service. There is also the issue of agreed upon workplaces where young people can do their service.
“Government has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the experience or service is productive for young people and that it is seen as something that young graduates want to give and not have to [give],” Osman explains.
The ANC announced plans to implement a year of compulsory community service for all university graduates last week.
The party has been talking about implementing this policy since 2010. At the time, the minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande, said he would investigate whether the policy could help develop skills and provide work experience.
The policy is also enshrined in the ANC’s 2014 election manifesto. However, there are no details on how the policy would be implemented.
EMBRACING THE CALLING: Albert Khoza speaks candidly about his gift.
Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
WITSIE Puleng Khwezikazi Khuthala Mthethwa had a take-home exam in November last year.
She did her work as required but when the time came to print her assignment something strange kept happening.
She clicked on the “print” icon and her assignment printed but it had someone else’s name at the top instead of hers.
She knew this was strange but assumed it was just a technical fault. She tried again.
Yet again the assignment was printed. This time a different name appeared at the top of the page but it still wasn’t her own.
Mthethwa tried over and over again and the same thing happened, each time a different name.
Mthethwa broke down, right at the computer labs. She didn’t understand what was happening.
She went home and showed the papers to her aunt who told her that each name was an ancestor’s name.
Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza was in his drama class as usual. During rehearsals, he started seeing people.
He saw people who were not there, people who were not part of his class. He also started hearing things that other people couldn’t hear.
“I could snap into a trance and be stuck in that position for a very long time,” explained Khoza.
[pullquote align=”right”]”I could snap into a trance and be stuck in that position for a very long time.”[/pullquote]
He knew all of this meant that he had been called.
Mthethwa and Khoza are two students who are facing a transition in their lives that they feel no one at Wits understands or supports.
They have the calling.
The “traditional calling” is a process of answering one’s ancestors and learning how to use the gift the “called” have been given.
Khoza’s twin sister had the calling first which made it easier for him to come to terms with it.
Both Mthethwa and Khoza explained that people have different callings and that they were guided by their amadlozi (ancestors) to understand what their unique gift was.
“There are different types of callings. You get people that see. You get people that when they speak, their word becomes flesh. You get people that smell and are able to interpret what that smell will lead to,” Mthethwa said.
Khoza, who was dressed in his traditional cloth, and often wears beads and a braided mohawk, said people often judged him for who he is.
“I have a thick skin so what people do or say doesn’t affect me anymore. I am not an outcast but I am a misfit.”
Mthethwa said she had been called many names.
“People will call me ‘dirty’, say ‘I don’t deserve to be loved’. People don’t understand why people who are friends with me are even friends with me because of what I have and who I am.”
Mthethwa describes herself as a hybrid human being, stuck between two worlds – the material and spiritual.
“It’s difficult to explain what you are going through to people when you yourself have not come to grips with what it is,” said a visibly frustrated Mthethwa.
No help at Wits
Khoza and Mthethwa said they were concerned that there are no formal structures at Wits to help with what they are going through.
“What support do they offer for people like me who have the calling? That’s the struggle I face the most,” a disheartened Mthethwa said.
Khoza said the main issue was that they are going through an African phenomenon in an institution governed by western principles.
“They are white and then there are those who are black who have Christian beliefs and therefore this is not in line with their beliefs so they don’t take it seriously,” he said.
Mthethwa said she had been to Dean of Humanities Ruksana Osman who told her that many students had come to her with the issue of the calling and been excluded because of it.
[pullquote]“Traditional healers are registered practitioners. Why can’t we just present notes from them?”[/pullquote]
Khoza said there had been incidents at the drama department where people had psychological breakdowns and no one knew what they were going through.
He said when it was discovered that they had the calling, they simply left their studies.
These students expressed their concern that they had to present doctor notes from western doctors when they had fallen ill or had to consult with a sangoma.
Mthethwa said: “Traditional healers are registered practitioners. Why can’t we just present notes from them?”
They complained that while people who had depression or difficulties studying could go to the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU), students who had the calling had nowhere to go.
Charmy Naidoo of the CCDU told Wits Vuvuzela she was not sure if there were specific people at CCDU students with the calling could come to for support.
“There is no specific counselling. If they come through we can try and help them but if they have a specific calling and are sure of that then they would need to go see a sangoma.”