The Sims come to life

A Wits medical student disagrees with claims in the media that a simulation unit for medical schools will give their students the edge.

The University of Free State opened its doors to its simulation training unit where simulation dolls are used to teach medical students, The New Age reported this week.

Unit head Dr Mathys Labuschagne proudly showed members of the media how the human patient simulators come alive during a tour of the unit.

Caryn Upton, a 6th year MBBch at Wits, said the simulation dolls don’t give UFS medical school an upper hand over other medical schools.

“In first year you don’t know enough about the human body to work with it. The best experience comes from working with people like we do at Wits. Maybe for universities that don’t have enough hospitals and doctors to work with, these dolls can be useful,” she said.

The simulation dolls known as the “Sim man”, “Sim woman” and “Sim baby” are attached to computers that control and monitor them. The simulation dolls breathe, blink and are able to react to resuscitation and medication administered to them.

Labuschagne explained that the Sims give the students an opportunity to interact with real-life situations in their first year. Previously, medical students would have their first encounter with a human body when they worked on cadavers in their second year.

“The purpose is for students to learn in a safe non-threatening environment to manage emergency situations” he said.

The Sim woman doll will be used for simulating birth, natural as well as a Caesarean procedure.

“When the woman gives birth, she makes noises simulating pain and effort. Water and blood come out,” Labuschagne said.

Baby Sim can be treated in an intensive care unit linked to a monitor and computer, can simulate basic heart and lung functions, and will allow medical students to practice resuscitation, a lumbar puncture and how to insert drips with artificial blood in the veins.

The new system gives lecturers the ability to monitor students via computer in another room and add a level of difficulty by changing the condition of the Sim. When the condition of the Sim deteriorates, the student has to act quickly as they would in a real-life situation. The lecturers then assess the student based on how they handle the situation.

The unit will also be open to give refresher courses to doctors and other health professionals who have already qualified.

Disability no excuse for Pistorius: Witsies

Members of the Wits disabled community have expressed dismay over the fall from grace of Oscar Pistorius and say the Paralympian should not get special treatment because of his disability.

Pistorius was arrested on February 14, for the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

His earlier successes on the track have made him an inspiration to people living with disabilities.

Ricardo De Sao Joao, a Wits master’s student living with a disability, said the news is especially shocking because disabled people are seen as meek and subdued when all they want is to be treated equally.

“One of the main issues about Oscar’s situation is whether he should get special treatment because he is disabled or famous. In the eyes of the law he should be treated in the same way as anybody else,” said De Sao Joao.

De Sao Joao, who is an international relations student, said some things are inescapable when you live with a disability.

“You will never be considered normal, if anything this incident shows that disabled people are prone to anger issues just like anybody else,” he said.

Mthokozisi Ndaba, a first year BA student living with a disability, said he felt sorry for Pistorius because his life had been changed forever.

“His disability might have made him feel vulnerable at the time but he shouldn’t use his disability to get special treatment in court now,” said Ndaba.

Ndaba said that for him, as someone living with a disability, special treatment would be “two steps forward and ten steps back”.

Steenkamp was shot in the head, arm, hand and hip. According to City Press, Pistorius’ father received a call from his son just after 3am on Thursday, asking him to come to his house.

When his family arrived, Oscar was carrying Steenkamp’s body down the stairs from his bedroom to the entrance hall. Her head and arms were “dangling”. He allegedly told his sister, Aimee, that something terrible had happened and that he had mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.

Police sources told the paper that Steenkamp was shot through the bathroom door. It is argued by Barry Roux, Pistorius’ defence lawyer,  that the athlete broke down the bathroom door to help Steenkamp after he mistakenly shot her.

According to the state prosecutor Gerry Nel, Steenkamp had arrived at the house between 5pm and 6pm on Wednesday night, February 13. He argued there were no signs of forced entry or evidence to support Pistorius ‘claims that he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar.

Barbarians take Steinhoff cup

The Steinhoff Commerce team, known as Barbarians, took home the Steinhoff Interfaculty Cup at the Wits Rugby stadium on Wednesday evening August 29. The Barbarians worked their way up to win with a final score of 36-24.

The Steinhoff Humanities team, the Titans, dominated the early minutes of the game after kick off at 8pm.  The first try was scored by outside centre, Simon Purchase, after the Titans forced a five metre scrum.

The Barbarians came back with their first try. Full back, Wesley Flannigan, scored after he ran straight for the corner. Flannigan was an asset to the Barbarians with his experience as a Wits first team player.

The rest of the first half was dominated by the Titans making mistakes and the Barbarians taking advantage during the rucks.  The Barbarians escalated the pace when the half was drawing to a close and fly half, Craig Korarik, scored a try and converted with a clean kick.

The second half was very physical and Barbarians number eight, Mousa Sayegh, scored a try which Korarik converted. The game continued with the Barbarians doing all the running and making play happen every time they got the ball.

The Barbarians celebrated wildly when they were handed the Steinhoff trophy. The prize giving saw Flannigan get man of the match and a R300 prize.

ALTSA leaders break ranks

Members from the unions ALTSA, ASAWU and NEHAWU gathered outside the Great Hall Steps at 12pm to protest the break down in wage negotiations with Wits Council. Photo by Jay Caboz

By Lisa Golden and Nandi Ndlazi
Photographs by Jay Caboz

Wits Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) leadership accepted the terms offered by Wits management after last-minute negotiations last night but failed to inform some of their members of this decision. This left the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) to strike by themselves today August 28 against Wits management.

This morning confused ALTSA members arrived at the picketing lines, unaware that their leaders had accepted an agreement with Wits management the night before. Some were confused and frustrated when they found out.

This is the second strike by the academic unions this month. They are demanding an increase in salaries for workers, an agreement to structure salaries around the 75th percentile, resolve issues with parking and provide a childcare facility for workers among other issues.

Ian Walters, and ALTSA member and an administrator in the Wits School of Arts, was unaware that ALTSA had backed out of the strike, and only found out when he arrived at campus in the morning.
“I’m staying on strike because I’m in support of NEHAWU and ASAWU. That was the original idea,” said Walters.

Adele Underhay, the president of ALTSA, was unavailable for comment, and some members of the union also couldn’t reach her.

David Dickinson, president of ASAWU said it was regrettable that ALTSA leaders had chosen to break ranks. “I respect the independence as a union and the decision of their leadership is what they must account for to their membership” Dickinson said.

Negotiations between the Wits Executive Council and ASAWU, ALTSA and NEHAWU was re-opened a day before the strike. Photo by Jay Caboz

The Wits Senate (the academic leadership forum) made a call to halt the striking unions “without further delay”. Photo by Jay Caboz

Fellow ALTSA members expressed their disappointment in their leadership’s acceptance of management’s offers. Barbie Pickering from the finance faculty said she didn’t know about their union pulling out at the eleventh hour and they only received the e-mail this morning.

“We went into this thing to support all the unions. We are not happy with our union leadership on that,” said Pickering.

The rally, which started at noon, had speakers that reiterated the unions’ demands. Carl Beaumont, an ASAWU member, congratulated the ALTSA members who turned up at the rally while fellow strikers applauded the group.

The Student Representation Council and the Wits Workers Solidarity Committee again pledged their support for the striking unions.

The final word from Beaumont was that the unions are prepared to strike again if their demands are not properly discussed and considered during negotiations.

Clinic to put minds at ease

A PRIVATE psychiatric clinic has opened its doors right next to the Wits education campus. Akeso clinic in Parktown completed its second phase in June and can accommodate roughly 100 patients.

Psychiatric problems can lead to suicide and this has also affected the Wits community this year. Wits Vuvuzela reported on three separate suicides involving two students and a lecturer.

Dr Shereen Kajee, an Akeso clinic psychiatrist, said the hospital was established because psychiatric patients have different needs to other patients. It allows for voluntary check-in as well as for patients to be checked in by their families.

A Wits student who is an out-patient at Akeso and wanted to remain anonymous has battled with psychiatric problems for three years. “My experience in normal hospitals has been very unpleasant. People judge you and I’ve even been told to just snap out of it,” she said.

In international headlines this week, Tony Scott, a Hollywood director, committed suicide on August 19. Scott jumped off a bridge at Los Angeles harbour. He is known for directing Top Gun and Beverley Hill Cops II.

Kajee also said most people who commit suicide are suffering from depression but “some do it impulsively as a way of getting attention and unfortunately don’t survive”.

The anonymous student said mental health issues are not widely spoken about and remain taboo. “The clinic is better for me, I’m more comfortable here,” she said.

According to a study by the University of Cape Town (UCT), released last year, young adults between 19 and 24 years of age are more prone to depression and at risk of suicide. Some of the issues that lead to suicide are related to academic problems, high levels of stress and mental health problems.

The UCT study says South Africa has the eighth highest rate of suicide in the world. Each year approximately between 6 000 and 8 000 people commit suicide, making suicide the third highest cause of unnatural death in the country, after murder and “unintentional causes”.

Academics boycott university meetings

THE Academic Staff Union of Wits University (Asawu) has embarked on a boycott of all university meetings in an attempt to bring the university to a halt.

The indefinite boycott started on August 20 and involves 750 Asawu members who will also boycott aspects of the new performance management system.

Asawu President Prof David Dickinson said these meetings make decisions about many important things including the curriculum, marking and examinations. “Without these meetings these core functions of the university cannot proceed,” Dickinson said.

Speaking on behalf of Wits management, Dr. Kgomotso Kasonkola, Director of Human Resources said deans and heads of schools had been asked to make arrangements to ensure that administrative and other activities of the university continue to run. “We believe that our colleagues do not intend to undermine the interests of students or to disrupt the academic programme,” Kasonkola said.

Asawu made their grievances public with a strike earlier this month.  The strike on August 2 was attended by approximately 1 000 support staff and academics according to the union.

The academic union has planned another one-day strike on Tuesday, August 28 supported by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (Altsa). An Asawu statement advised all students to study at home on August 28 and seek guidance from their lecturers on what to study.

The protestors demand competitive salaries and increased research funding, among other things.

Kasonkola said: “Senior management is concerned that the current salary demands by the unions will exert pressure on student fees to ensure institutional sustainability.”

Dickinson also said the union is at the final stage of responding to an article by the Vice Chancellor Loyiso Nongxa in Business Day earlier this month. In the article Nongxa said Wits is one of the best paying universities in the country.

“The wage settlement being contested is a level well above the consumer price index and is comparable with the best settlements at other universities,” wrote the Vice Chancellor.

Wits Vuvuzela reported earlier this year Dickinson had been warned by Nongxa a charge of disrepute could be brought against him. Dickinson said the agreement reached at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) protects him from disciplinary action.




Students give back in style

Photo: Zandi Shabalala


The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) held a fashion show to raise money for children who are in need of hearing aids in Melrose Arch on Tuesday, August 7. The event, called Sight for Sound, was held by SAUJS to raise funds for Eduplex School.

Eduplex School, in Queenswood, Pretoria, is an inclusive school which caters for children with and without disabilities. The school has 50 hearing-impaired children and also offers bursaries to some of them.

The proceeds from the entrance tickets and raffle tickets of the show will go towards buying cochlear implants to aid some of these children.

A cochlear implantcan cost up to R32 000. Cochlear implants have external and internal parts that work together to boost the hearing of the hearing-impaired person. The external microphone captures sound which is filtered though a speech processor and then a transmitter. The internal part sends the sound directly to the brain. The children undergo surgery to implant the internal part of the device under bone and skin.

Diagram of cochlear implant


The fashion show consisted of two parts, the dark and light collection, and the audience bought voting tickets in order to vote for their favourite designer and collection. Female drummers, cabaret dancers and a group of young hip-hop dancers provided the evening’s entertainment. .

As part of the entertainment, MIC .com, a mock designer was included in the line-up. After a staged fight, he spoke to the audience about the damage that cheaper garments made in China cause to the local clothing industry.

One of the professional designers involved in the show was Tzvi Karp, who designs for singer Nandi Mngoma and recently showcased his collection at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Karp said, “It is a cause very close to my heart because I have a cousin who has a cochlear implant”.

The winning designer of the night, Sabrina Kennedy, sells her clothes in boutiques around Johannesburg and online. Her interpretation of the ‘little black dress’ was auctioned for R1 500 at the end of the night.

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’.

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

Academics warn Wits

Wits academics and support staff marched around Braamfontein yesterday to protest against university management not granting their demands for wage and non-wage related matters.

The unions are demanding a 9% salary increase for support staff, 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 and an increase in individual research incentives.

Members of Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) gathered at the Yale road entrance at 12:30 pm, close to Jorrisen Street. David Dickinson, president of ASAWU, addressed the crowd and told them that it was to be a peaceful march.

Sea of colour

The staff members were wearing academic gowns red and blue t-shirts to represent their unions. “The protesters held placards and badges that stated “Do not push us over the edge”. The crowd held up yellow pieces of papers as a gesture of warning to management. Some protesters told Vuvuzela they were giving management a yellow card and should they not listen to their demands they will follow up with a red card. 

Metro police and campus control officers were present throughout the march. Michael Mahada, investigations manager of campus control said, “We have some of our own parking and campus control officers to help with the crowd, but we have called in The SAPS and the JMPD to help us as we are leaving campus because campus control has no jurisdiction out there”.

Some SRC members were also part of the march. Tebogo Thothela, SRC president said, “The SRC is here in solidarity with the protesters, we are behind the principles of free dispute and decent wages that are on the correct level.” Thothela went on to say that the salary increase should not equal to a university fee increase.

Both sides of the story

A worker at the march who did not want to be named said, “They have deposited 6.5% into our accounts but we want 9%. The university says it is world class but can’t give us decent salaries”.

A statement handed out by management at the march stated the university respects the rights of the staff to protest as long as it did not disrupt the services of the institution. It concluded that the university will negotiate salaries as long as they are affordable, sustainable and aligned to performance management.

There will be a one-day protest strike on 2 August in which staff will withdraw their services if these issues are not resolved.

Centenarian comes crashing down

A man was injured when a building collapsed in downtown Johannesburg last week Wednesday.

The street vendor who was outside of the building, which is situated at the corners of Jeppe and End streets, was injured when debris from the structure fell on him. He was taken to Hillbrow hospital for treatment.

City Spokesman Niel Rooi said a fire had ripped through the building in February. The structure was further compromised when people began stealing steel support beams from the structure. Emergency services said that could be the reason for the collapse.

A local resident, Banda Ngomezulu, told authorities that at night people could be heard chipping away at the building to get to the steel.

The building was reportedly uninhabited at the time of the collapse but police conducted a search with the canine unit to establish that no one was trapped in the rubble. Ward councillor Nokuthula Xaba said she visited the building to warn residents to leave three times because of the unstable nature of the building.

In a separate incident, another building collapsed in Melrose, Johnnesburg earlier this year. Local emergency services reported that the building, which was under construction, collapsed in January 2012 leaving three people injured. Three walls collapsed and emergency services rescued injured men under the debris. One of the men was critically injured.

Students smell a rat

Students are competing with rats for space in a Wits residence. According to some Sunnyside residents, the rat problem has escalated and they find the rodents invading their space more often.

Vuvuzela has observed rats running between the shrubs at the Ecological garden opposite the Sunnyside Residence on East campus. Students, who asked to remain anonymous, were forthcoming about the pest problems they have encountered in the residence.

One student described an incident where she left a pear on her bed and came back to find it had small bites. She suspected that it was a rat until it was confirmed when she found rat droppings. The 21 year old 4th year student says her complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

“It may be just a job to them… but to us it is our home”, said the student.

When contacted about the complaints regarding rats in Sunnyside Residence, head of ground facilities management, Andries Norval said he was aware of the problem. Norval said he has “issued a job card” to a company called Strictly Hygiene to deal with the problem.

Another resident said she had seen rats outside the Sunnyside reception area.  “I believe the bins outside Sunnyside entrance to be the main culprit” said the Master’s student

Norval was not aware that the bins outside Sunnyside were overflowing. He said he would follow the matter up and that the rubbish bins were supposed to be on “the south side of the building”.

Vuvuzela has footage of the bins overflowing at 2PM on Tuesday, March 20.

A grounds worker replied that the bins were emptied daily except for weekends but it was hard to imagine that the amount of rubbish filmed had been accumulated in less than 24 hours by 195 students.