Barnato’s academic dinner falls short of expectations

A night of rewarding hard work and academic excellence turned sour, as not all students received their certificates of achievement.  

Current and former residents of Barnato Hall who did exceptionally well in the 2022 academic year, left Convocation dining hall on West Campus empty handed at the residence’s 2023 academic dinner on Friday, August 4. 

The annual event started off well, with guest speaker, Theresa Oakley Smith, regaling the room with the history of the residence and her experience as its first warden in the 1980s.  

“[Barnato] was the first res that was mixed race and mixed gender,” she said, adding that it was foreign at the time because of the racial segregation that existed in the country under Apartheid laws.  

The first round of award giving began shortly after Smith got off stage. At the time, the dinner seemed to have started going well as everyone that got on stage received their certificate and took a picture with the current warden, Millicent Motheogane. 

The second guest speaker and masters in computer sciences student, Phindulo Makhado (24) said Barnato resident helped him socially and academically.  

“I am a living testament to the power of academic diversity and cross-disciplinary exploration [from Barnato],” he said.  

The more happier students – Gontse Maleka (22) and Glet Thwala (22) – who received their certificates of achievement at Barnato’s 2023 academic dinner that was held at Convocation dining hall. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe

It was only after dinner service that the event took a turn. Chairperson of Barnato’s House Committee, Siphesinhle Shiba (22) got up on stage to handout the remaining certificates. However, the certificates she had were less than the students that were still waiting to receive.  

“We are still waiting for some certificates and the names that I will be calling now will not be receiving any tonight, but they can come and take a picture with a [decoy] certificate we have here,’ Shiba eventually announced. 

Some students opted not to go on stage for the picture as they felt it was pointless. A disgruntled theatre and performance arts student, Sanele Radebe (24) told Wits Vuvuzela, “I feel like I have been played [because] I am looking [nice] and the thing that I came here for is not here. Might as well not take a picture with that [fake] thing.” 

When asked about what the cause for this could be, Shiba (22) could not allow anyone in her committee to take the fall as she claimed that this was the printing company’s fault. “[The academic officer] submitted everything on time and the latest information was sent by Wednesday,” she told Wits Vuvuzela

Student of the night and Barnato’s 2022 highest achiever, Katlego Mashiane’s light could not be dimmed by the residence’s poor planning. Having passed last year with an average of 83.43%, Mashiane received a special award for her achievements and said, “I am overjoyed, it has been one hectic year.” Despite the earlier disappointment, most students stayed on until decided to the dinner officially ended. 

FEATURED IMAGE: A copy of the certificates of achievement that were being awarded to the students in attendance of the academic dinner. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe

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SLICE: Conquering ‘The Wits Edge’ from inside

My fourth year of living on campus has allowed me not only to acknowledge and appreciate the privilege I have, but to encourage others to give it a try 

Applications to study at Wits are open and will be closing at the end of September. One of the decisions applicants have to make is where they will live while studying in Braamfontein or Parktown.

While there are factors that are influential for staying off campus, there are factors that are influential for staying on campus, too.

A 2020 academic paper reveals many students prefer to stay off campus because they get to become independent, unrestricted by the rules that come with staying on campus, and get a chance to grow.  

My experience as a resident at West Campus Village – a postgraduate accommodation at Wits – would imply otherwise because living on campus has made my studies and social life easier. Bearing in mind that according to a 2022 Wits report, while the university has approximately 40 000 students, only 2 000 can be accommodated on campus. So, I am not tone-deaf to the student accommodation crisis

I have been living on campus since my first year in 2020 when I lived at Barnato Hall on West Campus for the duration of my undergraduate degree. In my fourth year staying on campus, I have witnessed the introduction of three private off-campus student accommodations. Every year, their advertisements tend to lure in students with basic amenities such as: 24/7 Wi-Fi, increased laundry tokens, 24/7 security and how close they are to main campus.  

Unlike staying off-campus, on campus residences minimise the worry of travelling to class. You get to do your laundry an unlimited number of times and I have found myself coming back from studying during hours that would compromise my safety had I been living off campus. 

During orientation week of my first year, I got a guided opportunity to familiarise myself with the campus space. It was in the tours of libraries, computer labs and study labs that I got to see the lengths Wits goes to make sure we all have an equal opportunity to participate in our academics. For example, campus is never without electricity, students with no laptops have access to computers and the commerce, law and management library is open 24/7 together with access to its printers. 

I had only been living at Barnato Hall for a few weeks when loadshedding hit for the first time. To my surprise, the Wi-Fi remained on. As I was still wondering what I would be doing in the absence of electricity, it came back on in less than five minutes as the university’s generators kicked in.  

Coming from the township of Mabopane in Pretoria, this was all very new to me because we experience unscheduled power cuts on top of the loadshedding. Those living off campus are not as fortunate as they remain in darkness during such episodes. This has become worse this year after Eskom announced in February an indefinite implementation of Stage 6 loadshedding, signalling no end to the national energy crisis

I have not enjoyed everything about living in a university residence, such as when we had to wear our yellow freshmen t-shirts and welcome everyone with the residence’s war cry. However, I am grateful to have met and made so many friends during those team-building events in first year. Some remain my friends to this day. 

My experience has been vindicated by another academic study, published in 2021, which found that living on campus comes with a greater opportunity to feel like you belong, a more welcoming perception of how campus is and a greater ability to cope with studies as compared to living off campus. 

To learn more about applying and living on campus at Wits, visit the Campus Housing and Residence Life website.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Otsile Swaratlhe. Photo: File

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