Saluting the workers of Wits University

As the warm Wednesday afternoon on the last day of April progressed and lectures came to an end, Witsies around campus could be seen easing into Thursday’s public holiday.

Workers’ Day, as this public holiday is called, is an international celebration of the working class and their labour.

Wits Vuvuzela took a short trip around campus in pursuit of those who work tirelessly – often behind the scenes – to make a living, serving students and making Wits a better and safer place to be.



IMG_4513 Thabiso Disloane – Coffee BaristaOlives & Plates at the Wits Art Museum (WAM) was the first stop-off on thr trip.Born and raised in Johannesburg, Disoloane has worked at Olives & Plates for a year and says his ultimate dream would be to work in Italy because of its great coffee.

An avid fan of soccer, Disoloane is a Kaizer Chiefs supporter who has tried to play on a professional level.

When asked what makes Thabiso Thabiso, he replied, “I’m a generous guy [who] loves smiling”.

IMG_4503 Nthabiseng Masiteng – Baker/Manager Masiteng, who started off at Olives & Plates in 2010 as a baker, now manages the WAM branch.Currently residing in Katlehong, Masiteng lives for her “two beautiful daughters” and aspires to open her own Olives & Plates one day.
IMG_4461 Pakamisa Ngaba – Security GuardA short walk up the road led to the meeting of Pakamisa Ngaba at the Campus Control office in Central Block.Now 55 years old, Ngaba has been working as a security guard at Wits since 1995.

Born in East London and currently living in Soweto with his 4 children (his eldest son is studying auto-electrical engineering), Ngaba supports Orlando Pirates in soccer and the Stormers in rugby.

He says his favourite memory at Wits was the memorial service held for Nelson Mandela at the Great Hall.

IMG_4471 Florence Makhaba – Gardener The next destination was outside Cullen Library where Florence Makhaba was busy at work in the garden.She has been working as a gardener at Wits for two years.

In her spare time, Makhaba loves to dance and listen to gospel music.

She has three children and wants to work harder and get a better salary so she can help put her eldest son through college.

IMG_4478 Robinah Makoni – Shop Assistant A pit-stop at the Matrix led to an encounter with Robinah Makoni, an employee at Delhi Delicious who moved to Johannesburg from Zimbabwe to look for work.She stays with her husband in Berea and has a 10-year-old boy back home whom she loves and misses so much.

Makoni, who speaks Shona, Ndebele and English, says she would like to go back to school and her ultimate dream job would be to work as a nurse.

IMG_4499 Paul Makama – Car Guard The trip around Wits came full circle and ended back at WAM – only this time outside on Jorissen Street where car guard Paul Makama does his job with an ever-present smile and joy in his heart.He has been a car guard on the streets of Jorissen and de Korte for five years and will be celebrating his 53rd birthday on May 11.

Makama has two grandsons and loves soccer, supporting Orlando Pirates when he can.

He also enjoys cooking and says making chicken is his favourite.




























Wits bus drivers driven to exhaustion over long hours

17_bus story

A LONG AND TIRING ROAD: Wits campus bus drivers have recently voiced their concerns about working overtime (often without pay) and feeling extremely tired, which has resulted in two drivers saying this compromises students’ safety. Photo: Tracey Ruff

Wits is losing bus drivers, who are complaining about their long working hours which result in exhaustion compromising students’ safety. At least seven drivers have left the university recently.

Benjamin*, who has been working as a driver at Wits for three years, has often worked from 6am to past 1am: “We, as drivers, are not happy at all”.

James*, a campus bus driver, expressed his concerns about the safety of students transported by Wits buses: “The students, they are not safe the way we are working”, said James.

“The main problem is that students are not safe. If my body is tired, everything is tired,” he added. He had been working for six days without leave, and did the night shift for 11 days without a break.

Long hours with no pay

A total of five campus bus drivers told Wits Vuvuzela that working long shifts and overtime – often without pay – has become a recurring problem.

James said that campus bus drivers are “ not happy” and are “tired”.

One said: “We don’t have time to rest and have no time for family”.

“I stay in Soweto. [After] I finish my shift, sometimes it’s hard to go home because I’m so tired.”

[pullquote]”We love working here, but it is the [working] conditions that can push us away.”[/pullquote]

“We love working here, but it is the [working] conditions that can push us away.”

Both James and Benjamin say they work overtime but do not get paid for it. At least seven drivers have left in the past few months because of these conditions, said James. This alleged shortage in drivers has led to Benjamin having to take on more hours.

“I sometimes have to double the shift because there are no drivers.”

A further three bus drivers were interviewed, with two stating that although they are only required to work 45 hours a week, they work much longer hours because of the shortage of manpower.

Of these two drivers, one said: “We are working by force, we don’t have a choice. You see, this week I’m doing 11 hours, Monday to Friday. Next week, I’m going to do 8 hours, Monday to Saturday”.

Differing perspectives

Only two of the five bus drivers interviewed said that they do get paid for working overtime, with one saying he has been working at Wits “for a long time” and “doesn’t mind” working long shifts because it is “part of his job”.

A supervisor for Luxliner coaches said that overtime was “not forced” and drivers were paid for this.

Meanwhile, Nicki McGee, Deputy Director of Transport Services at Wits University, says she had “discussed the concerns with Luxliner Management” and denied that drivers were working outside of their contract agreement in terms of working hours or working conditions.

McGee emphasised that Wits did “not conduct business with any companies” who did not comply with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

According to McGee, any employee of Luxliner coaches has “adequate grievance procedures which facilitate the management of such issues [as those mentioned in this article]”. In addition, “the engagement between staff, the unions and their management has been confirmed as very interactive and productive”.

Please hear us

The drivers said this was not the case.

Another bus driver, Andreas*, said the drivers are talking with management but are having continual problems with them. “They are not listening [to us],” said Andreas.

*Names have been changed as drivers are fearful of disciplinary action

Bravado for a R100 Skhotado?

father coffee

R100 TO SPARE?: Father Coffee in Braamfontein serves the Skhotado, a mixture of custard, an energy drink and coffee, for a whopping R100. This drink isn’t for the faint-hearted (or broke!). Photo: Tracey Ruff

This drink, called the Skhotado, consists of Ultra Mel custard, Red Bull and Ristretto and is one of Father Coffee’s signature drinks. The Skhotado even has its own Instagram hashtag. Now that’s pretty cool.

 [pullquote]”The idea for the drink is based on the Izikhotane youth culture whereby members burn money, destroy expensive clothes and pour alcohol on the ground – all in the name of being cool.”[/pullquote]

One of the four owners of 73 Juta Street’s Father Coffee, Chad Goddard, said the Skhotado started off as “a bit of a joke”. The idea for the drink is based on the Izikhotane youth culture whereby members burn money, destroy expensive clothes and pour alcohol on the ground – all in the name of being cool.

Goddard says buying the drink is essentially a cheeky way of “showing off how rich you are” – and yes folks, there are those who have bought this drink and wasted it by either pouring it on the table or passing it on to someone else.

A few weeks ago, Wits Vuvuzela ran an article on what you can do with R100 in Braam. Well, here’s another thing to add to your list – if you’re brave enough of course. If you’re looking for a way to stay awake for a long day of lectures, well the Skhotado may just be the answer.

(Cheaper) Drinks with a difference

However, we at Wits Vuvuzela know that a drink for R100 is not everyone’s cup-of-tea (or cup-of-Skhotado) and thankfully, Father Coffee has a menu of other coffees and drinks to choose from – all costing a lot less than R100.

From a Lindt hot chocolate for R25 to cappuccinos (starting at R15) and fresh ice tea (R15), Father Coffee is an ideal place for a quick coffee break, some rest and relaxation or a date-with-a-difference.

Goddard highly recommends the cappuccinos and flat-whites (a cappuccino with less foam). The drinks are served in cute mugs, making your coffee-drinking experience just that extra bit cooler.

According to Goddard, the second most popular drink after the cappuccino is the Cortado, which will set you back around R20. An espresso cut with a small amount of warm milk, this drink is sure to awaken your senses and help you complete those last-minute assignments.

The “Father” of all coffees

Located directly opposite Kitchener’s Carvery and next to the Neighbourgoods Market, Father Coffee is a quaint and cosy spot. With its wood-panelled walls and sociable staff, the atmosphere is welcoming, intimate and homely.

If you’re looking for some down-time, then it’s best to avoid Saturdays when Father Coffee and its surroundings are hustling and bustling with the Neighbourgoods crowds. It is much quieter during the week and you’ll be able to enjoy a selection of gourmet sandwiches and baked treats from the Black Forest Bakery with your coffee.

Father Coffee is open weekdays from 8am to 4pm (perfect for that one-hour lunch-break between lectures) and on Saturdays from 8.30am to 5.30pm.

So whether you have the cash to try a Skhotado or just want a good old fashioned cappuccino, Father Coffee is a definite must.

WITH VIDEO: Celebrated photographer Jodi Bieber brings her work to Johannesburg

by Zelmarie Goosen and Tracey Ruff

Jodi Bieber has travelled the world sharing her photojournalism work but has hardly exhibited in her native country. Tonight she opens an exhibition at the Wits Arts Museum in Johannesburg entitled Between Darkness and Light.

“I’ve hardly exhibited my work in South Africa, so it’s a real treat for me,” says Bieber in an exclusive interview with Wits Vuvuzela.

The photographer is internationally renowned for her photograph of Bibi Aisha – an Afghan woman who had her nose and ears severed off, and left for dead, by her husband and his family. Bieber won the World Press Photo Award in 2010 for that photograph.

VIDEO: Watch as Jodi Bieber speaks about her latest photographic exhibition in the Wits Arts Museum. 


Shedding light on the darkness

Between Darkness and Light is an exhibition of Bieber’s selected works from 1994 to 2011. She describes her collection, which includes 10 projects, as “moving between darkness and light”.

“My first body of works, are much darker than the recent bodies of work.”

She attributes this “psychological” darkness to a time of loss and sorrow in the early 1990s when she started working for The Star newspaper. This difficult period in her life led her to “delving into things that were a little bit dark, like the youth living on the fringes of society”.

Jodi speaks passionately about why she photographs the things she does. “I think the most important thing for me is that photography is something that I can communicate the way I feel about things in society,” she says.

“It’s [photography] a way I can tell you the way (sic) I’m thinking about the world”.

Bieber also has an exhibition on at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg which challenges conventional stereotypes of men linked to power, corruption and violence.

The Between Darkness and Light Exhibition runs from April, 16 to July, 20 at the Wits Arts Museum.

See photos of the opening of the exhibition by clicking on the link below:


Slain photographer Ken Oosterbroek honoured with exhibition

By Zelmarie Goosen and Tracey Ruff


LOOKING ON AT LEGENDS: Ken Oosterbroek’s brother, Connell and a supporter, look on at a portrait of Ken (right) and his colleague, Kevin Carter (left). Carter was also part of the renowned Bang-Bang Club. The portrait is part of an exhibition in honour of Oosterbroek’s legacy in photojournalism. Photo: Tracey Ruff

Ken Oosterbroek was just 31 when he was shot and killed by the people he was trying to photograph just days before South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

20 years later, his friends, family and colleagues gathered at the Wits Origins Centre for the opening of an exhibition honouring the work of this extraordinary photojournalist on Wednesday night. The exhibition curates some of Oosterbroek’s work, and photographs of him practicing his craft, in a celebration of the profession, and art, of photojournalism.

The legacy of Oosterbroek

Oosterbroek is considered one of South Africa’s greatest photojournalists. He is renowned for being a part of a group of four prominent photographers who became known as the Bang-Bang Club, a group which regularly photographed life within the townships of South Africa in the early nineties. João Silva, one of four, along with Greg Maronivich and Kevin Carter, was a also guest speaker at the exhibition.

“Ken was passionate about photography beyond words,” said Silva, who lost his legs in Afghanistan while working as a war-photographer. His (Oosterbroek’s) “obsession with photography”, according to Silva, is part of what made him great. He never let up until he felt like he was one of the best photographers in South Africa.

[pullquote]“Ken was everything I aspired to”.[/pullquote]

“His photos went beyond ego”, said a clearly-passionate Silva. “Ken was everything I aspired to”.

Oosterbroek killed while on assignment for The Star newspaper in Thokoza, a township east of Johannesburg, just days before the 1994 elections.

An emotional exhibition

Deputy Editor of The Star and master of ceremonies, Kevin Ritchie, felt witnessing Oosterbroek’s work and meeting world-class photographers at the exhibition was “a bucket list tick”.

“It really is a goose-bump moment for us [to be here celebrating] the legends of our newspaper” said Ritchie.

The Star editor, Makhudu Sefara, said the exhibition is a small way to say thank you to people like Oosterbroek and others who took a “mammoth risk” in the name of photojournalism.

“We are … acutely aware that the work on display today represents a fraction of the body of work” produced by Oosterbroek, Alf Khumalo (Oosterbroek’s mentor), and many others.

Sefara emphasised the power of the photograph and what photojournalism has done in bringing about transformation and telling the South African story.

“As we look into the future, we need to look into what we are doing. We need to look at the industry now and…have a moment of reflection and ask ourselves whether we’re stepping up” to the “ultimate sacrifices” made by people like Oosterbroek.


The Wits Kudus heading for extinction

18_kudu.eps - front page

HAVE YOU ‘HERD’?: Mr and Miss Kudu are pictured holding “hoofs” at one of last week’s graduation ceremonies. The cute kudu couple are just friends in real-time, but Mr Kudu does admittedly have a little kudu crush. Photo: Tracey Ruff

As the sun rose each morning last week over the concrete jungle of Wits’ main campus, two friendly kudus could be seen trotting hoof-in-hoof towards chattering flocks of an exclusive species: the Witsie graduate.

Bongani and Andy, or Mr and Miss Kudu, Wits’ magnificent mascots, were a common sighting at last week’s graduation festivities, although getting a snapshot with them required some effort from the throngs of eager graduates.

A rare pair

Some graduates were lucky enough to get a photo of the cute kudus holding hoofs. Be sure to hold on to these pictures, graduates, because as of next year, this kudu couple will become extinct.

Alas, Mr Kudu and Miss Kudu will themselves evolve into graduates, leaving the jungle wide-open for a new kudu pairing to rule the roost.

As sad as this may be, Mr and Miss Kudu have had great adventures together, from Mr Kudu’s head falling off at a soccer match (to the horror of those who believed he was a real kudu) to Miss Kudu tripping over her gown at graduation (while Mr Kudu laughed). All in all, this dynamic duo has experienced more than any kudu in the Kruger Park has.

It’s just a little kudu crush

Andy-the-Witsie met Bongani-the-kudu for the first time when she had to “mascot” with him. And was it love at first sight for the two kudus?

Well, come now, we all know kudus don’t really fall in love. And besides, Miss Kudu “doesn’t think Mr Kudu’s [real-time] girlfriend would enjoy the idea of any romance” between the two kudus.

“As cute as he may be…the kudus are siblings, so romance really is a no-no.”

[pullquote]”She’s an amazing human-being [or kudu], fun, never moody and so mature.”[/pullquote]

Asked if Mr and Miss Kudu were a real-life couple, Bongani joked: “I wish. She’s really pretty … She’s an amazing human-being [or kudu], fun, never moody and so mature.”

And does he have a little kudu crush on her? “Yeah I do, I won’t lie.”

Cool companionship

Aw. It seems the kudus make a perfect pair, with Miss Kudu saying they “have a really cool relationship”.

“He’s a really funny guy and I enjoy working with him.”

So, next time you see Mr and Miss Kudu at an event, you won’t need to ask them that I’m-dying-to-know question: are you a real-life couple? I mean, you wouldn’t get an answer anyway. We all know kudus can’t talk …

Architecture grad building a bright future

FAMILY MATTERS: Bachelor of Architectural Studies graduate, Michael Constantinides, with his family at graduation. From left: Constantinides' aunt, Annastella; oldest sister, Catherine; Mother, Georgina; sister, Elaine and Catherine's son.

FAMILY MATTERS: Bachelor of Architectural Studies graduate, Michael Constantinides, with his family at graduation. From left: Constantinides’ aunt, Annastella; oldest sister, Catherine; Mother, Georgina; sister, Elaine and Catherine’s son.

When Michael Constantinides enrolled for his Bachelor of Architectural Studies at Wits at the age of 17, little did he know of all the triumphs and challenges that awaited him.

Now aged 20 and one of the youngest students in his class to graduate, Constantinides said he felt a sense of “relief” at today’s graduation ceremony.

“There were lots of struggles throughout the three years,” said Constantinides. His father suffers from a chronic illness and over the past few years, Constantinides has seen his condition deteriorate, which has “been difficult on the whole family”.

His final year was particularly difficult. Constantinides was dealt another personal blow when his mother suffered a heart attack during his mid-year exams.

Catherine, Constantinides’ oldest sister, had to drop her law studies at Wits due to financial difficulties. She then started her own company and ensured that her younger sister, Elaine, and Constantinides received an education at Wits.

A family of inspiration

“My older sister, Catherine, has been my biggest influence,” said a clearly passionate Constantinides. “She has achieved so much in her life and is still so young. Every year she achieves higher goals and it motivates me to do the same.”

When asked what Constantinides’ graduation means, Elaine replied, “It’s so exciting! Catherine and I were working to make sure I got through [my studies] and now Catherine and I have been working to make sure Michael gets through his”.

[pullquote]“I get a lot of the motivation and inspiration from my family. They’ve motivated me to do big things.”[/pullquote]

“In any family, you’ve got to pull together no matter what the situation, because that’s how you show each other love and respect. I can’t wait [for Michael’s future] because there’s more to come.”

Constantinides echoes his sister’s sentiments. “I get a lot of the motivation and inspiration from my family. They’ve motivated me to do big things. Architecture is a very difficult degree”.

A heart for art

Knowing that he was younger and could get his degree at 20 was a big motivation for him.

“It’s an amazing feeling. A lot of people can’t study or drop out or don’t have the motivation. I’m very humbled to receive a degree. All the hard times, late nights and struggles were worth it,” said Constantinides.

Constantinides said he’d “always been intrigued by architecture and art theory in high school”.

“I absolutely enjoy making an artwork that people can live in and move through”.

Constantinides is currently completing an internship. He is also an entrepreneur with his own accessory business and was the founder of the Wits Generation Earth environmental society in 2011.


From Orlando East township to the stage of the Wits Great Hall


A WONDERFUL AND WELL-DESERVED HONOUR: Joseph Thloloe, a respected South African journalist, received his honourary doctorate from Wits University on April 3, 2014. He is pictured here at a celebratory lunch. Photo: Luke Matthews

Growing up on the dusty streets of Orlando East, Joseph Nong Thloloe never imagined himself standing on the stage of one of South Africa’s most prestigious academic institutions.

Known to many as Joe, Thloloe, one of SA’s most respected journalists, was awarded his honourary doctorate by Wits University earlier today.

Thloloe humbled and honoured 

“It is very humbling being recognised for the small decisions I’ve made throughout my life,” said a clearly-emotional Thloloe.
In his speech at the graduation ceremony in the Wits Great Hall Thloloe said, “Even in my wildest imagination, I never conjured up a moment like this, where the University of the Witwatersrand would honour me”.

“Today’s scene wasn’t in my mind as I was growing up in the dust of Orlando East … it wasn’t there as I languished in police cells and nursed tortured body and soul after police interrogations”.

Thloloe went on to thank Wits for the honour and congratulated the graduands of 2014, inspiring them to “celebrate … and prepare to move on to even greater heights”.

The Wits Journalism department nominated Thloloe for the honourary degree, noting in their nomination that he has “worked tirelessly from his teenage years for the general betterment of his community, for political change and for socially responsible journalism”.

Thloloe absolutely deserving of the recognition

The nomination also hailed Thloloe “for his role in campaigning against apartheid, a principled non-violent stance that he held to staunchly” and his position as a senior editorial member of the Sowetan, where he was “instrumental … in promoting alternative and public forms of citizenship and nation building among black South Africans”.

According to Nita Lawton-Misra, Wits acting registrar, Thloloe was awarded his “Doctor of Literature for his valuable contribution to South African society in the field of journalism”.

[pullquote]”I think he’s a fine role model for the kind of commitment and courage that we hope to cultivate in students”.[/pullquote]

Anton Harber, head of the Wits journalism department, feels Thloloe’s achievement “was wonderful and overdue”.

“Joe absolutely deserves the recognition, but from the point of view of our department, I think he’s a fine role model for the kind of commitment and courage that we hope to cultivate in students”.

Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, project coordinator of Wits Justice Project, believes, “The more we move away from 1994, the more we forget what people like Joe went through”.

“He’s a stalwart and really someone to look up to”, said Erfani-Ghadimi.

Thloloe was also awarded an honourary doctorate in law in 2011 by Rhodes University for his political activism in the fight against apartheid. He is the former South African press ombudsman and now director of the South African press council.




The wheels on the bus (don’t) go round…


Education and medical students were not told about the bus schedule changes and have missed lectures as a result. Photo: Tracey Ruff

It has been a confusing and frustrating start to the week for the many Witsies who use the campus bus services.

Changes have been made to the bus timetable due to the midterm study break, but Wits Education Campus (WEC) and medical school students still have normal classes.

According to Wits Services, there are supposedly four circuit buses running every 15 minute intervals and two buses running every 30 minute intervals. However, direct bus services between Esselen and WEC have been canceled despite education students still being in lectures.

Florence Moloi, 2nd year BEd, said the “services have been really bad”. She said that on Monday there were no buses, especially in the morning and in the afternoon at 4pm.

Moloi said that many students were late for class on Monday morning and “people were pushing each other to get on the [circuit] buses to go home” at the end of the day.

Moloi, who stays on Main campus, feels that there is no consideration for education students.

Makaziwe Tshona, 2nd year BEd, said that although the situation was “a bit better today,” there have been no direct buses to WEC and she “has to wait for circuit buses which are full”.

[pullquote]“A lot of people are sick and tired of this. I’ve been waiting 35 minutes for a bus.”[/pullquote]

On Monday, Tshona had a geography lecture at the Planetarium that she was late for due to the lack of  bus services.

According to a first-year student, who asked to remain anonymous, “A lot of people are sick and tired of this. I’ve been waiting 35 minutes for a bus.” She said she wants to complain but “doesn’t know who to complain to”.

According to a tweet from the account of @moreki_m, “the situation at Amic Deck [on Main campus] and Esselen is so bad. Some students are even walking to Education campus”.

“Funny thing is, we are the ones who use the bus more than any other students since our campus is in Parktown,” tweeted Moreki.

When asked if he knew there were going to be changes to the timetable, Moreki replied, “we knew about the main campus break but weren’t formally notified that it was gonna affect the bus timetable”.

The latest tweet from Wits services on the bus situation, posted at 9:15pm on Monday, read: “We do apologise – there will be a direct @WitsSln [Esselen] and WEC bus  tomorrow [Tuesday].”

However, students have continued to complain on Twitter that no direct bus service has resumed as of Tuesday afternoon.

Not the power hour


A NIGHT WITHOUT LIGHT: Wits Generation Earth members watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth on Thursday night on the dimly-lit Library Lawns in preparation for Earth Hour on Saturday, March 29. Photo: Tracey Ruff

What do Al Gore, candle-lit lanterns, Wits students and the East Campus Library Lawns have in common?

The answer is simple: environmental awareness.

On Thursday evening, Wits Generation Earth society members hosted a screening of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth under the canvas of the night skies on the Library Lawns.

Although the event was essentially about getting members of the society to know each other, it was also an act of support for this Saturday’s global earth hour.

Getting involved

Wits’ Property and Infrastructure Management Division (PIMD) made its contribution to Earth Hour by switching off the Library Lawns’ lights for Thursday evening’s movie screening.

According to Courtney Jones, 2nd year LLB and president of Wits Generation Earth, “it would have cost Generation Earth to switch the Library Lawns’ lights off, so PIMD sponsored it for us in celebration of Earth Hour”.

When asked about what Witsies can do to be more environmentally conscious, Jones replied, “In a country like South Africa, you really have to advocate for small changes.” Jones has her own veggie patch and is being increasingly conscious about recycling at home.

Generation Earth secretary Ritondeni Matamela, 3rd year LLB, echoes Jones’ sentiments. “I try my best to do the small stuff” and “I’ll definitely be switching off for Earth Hour”.

Project Planet

One of Matamela’s projects for this year is to revamp and reintroduce the garden that the Generation Earth team has on West Campus. “We really want to make it big and make it well-known around our members and also the Wits students.”

Witsies are encouraged to switch off for Earth Hour this Saturday from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.

Students struggle with Sakai access

The stress of end of term tests was added to by downtime of the Wits e-learning system Sakai this week.

Problems with access to the Wits-e portal have created added stress for the many Witsies who have been writing end-of-block tests and trying to submit assignments.

Students have been struggling to access notes and haven’t been able to submit their assignments timeously due to problems with the e-learning site.

Ntombi Mkhize, 3rd year MBBCh, has been having “internet problems since Friday”.

[pullquote]It’s a bit of a mess because all our announcements are either on Sakai or on Facebook groups. It’s frustrating.”[/pullquote]

“Sakai seems to be working properly but you need to constantly refresh or enter the URL multiple times. It’s a bit of a mess because all our announcements are either on Sakai or on Facebook groups. It’s frustrating.”

Maggie Lephale tweeted Wits e-learning on Tuesday saying, “Sakai down again, been trying to submit my assignment for the past hour”.

Wits Vuvuzela managed to speak to Lephale on Wednesday. “The only problem is that I missed the deadline [for the submission of the assignment]. I hope it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Slow Internet connections

Nkululeko Nkosi, 3rd year LLB, said he “luckily” didn’t have a test this week, but he does have an assignment due and the “internet from res is slow.”

“I’ve resorted to using Com labs. I can’t access Sakai from res. I have to go to main campus to access it. I’ve asked the SRC to look into it though. I [also] can’t access online resources from my laptop at res. I can only access them using a computer on campus. It also takes time for Sakai to load, it’s very slow.”

Wits Vuvuzela spoke with Mitchell Hughes, lecturer in Information Systems in the School of Economic and Business Sciences about lecturer problems with Sakai.

Although Hughes’ experience of Wits-e “has been good”, he has noticed that “there has been … more downtime in 2014 than in previous years.”

“It has been more of an inconvenience than genuinely prohibitive for me personally though.”

Hughes took to reassuring students who have been having troubles with Sakai. “We will accommodate a known and widespread issues wherever possible,” he said.

(e-) Learning not to rely solely on the system 

However, Hughes also suggested that students learn time management and contingency planning.

“The difficult lies in distinguishing a genuine issue from an excuse for simply leaving things too late and then conveniently blaming the platform.”

On March 25, Wits-e put a warning out to facilitators to be “cautious” about using the platform for the moment because there have been problems and complaints with it.


DOING THEIR BEST: A screen-shot from the Twitter account of Wits Elearning informing students of problems and assuring them that the developers are working on rectifying the issues.

In response to this, Hughes replied, “My reading is that it is [advisable] not to rely solely on the platform … This is worrying as we are being encouraged to make as much use of the platform as possible and … we need to be able to trust it. I would certainly be in favour of increased resource support for eLSI”.

COOL KID: Merelda Wu

Meet 24-year-old MSc Engineering student, Merelda Wu. Last year, she was one of three South African Masters students selected by the Technology Innovation Agency and Siemans AG to participate in an internship programme in Germany.

Wits Vuvuzela caught up with her to hear about her experience in the land of freezing winters and great beer.

Cool kid

COOLER THAN WINTER IN EUROPE: Merelda Wu, Cool Kid of the week, is looking forward to her future as an electrical engineer. Photo by: Tracey Ruff


Where in Germany did you live and what type of work did you for Siemans AG?

I lived and worked in Erlangen… in upper Bavaria (southern Germany).  I was doing research and design in a power electronics research group. My project was software applications… which falls under a wind energy project we are collaborating on with the Denmark Siemans Division.

Was the language barrier a challenge?

No. Most of the Germans I met spoke fairly good English, so there were no day-to-day challenges, although I always got approached by enthusiastic grannies on the bus and had no idea what they were saying!

What do you think of German men compared to South African men?

Oh, I’ll try not to offend anyone. The density of good-looking German men is definitely higher than in SA… [Laughs]. When I went clubbing in Germany, I realised the men [were] very direct and polite. If they take an interest in you, they ask [you] to dance. [If you] reject them, they… leave like grown-up gentlemen. No hard feelings. I can’t say the same about South Africans really.

What was the craziest thing you did in Germany?

I went travelling solo for two weeks. I couch-surfed, hitchhiked, carpooled, and found people to party with for New Year’s Eve in Berlin online.

What was the best thing about coming home to South Africa?

Comfort, family, friends, and my dogs. I want to say weather, but after the past two weeks, I’m not so sure anymore.

Why did you choose to study electrical engineering?

I was good with maths and science, I love solving puzzles, and I have the worst memory ever.  Okay, to be honest, I watched Die Hard and wanted to become a hacker.

Do your lecturers take it easy on you because you are female?

The lecturers, no, but I get help when I need to move heavy machines around in the lab. Also, they do notice that I’m the only one ever… wearing skirts and open shoes!

What are your plans for the future?

Work… I want to live in a different country/ city every two years.

What’s your favourite thing about Wits?

I love my school of Electrical and Information Engineering. We have nice coffee, [an] excellent working environment [and] a bunch of like-minded people geeking away together.