SLICE: Honouring the struggles of the past while looking ahead

The true meaning of Worker’s Day goes beyond the public holiday.

As the sun rises over Johannesburg, the morning rush hour begins in earnest. Cars, taxis, and buses fill the roads, and pedestrians hurry to get to work on time. In the chaos, drivers often forget about the rules of the road.

Amidst this hustle and bustle, it is easy to overlook the privilege and ability an individual has to go to work based on their skills and qualifications, not their skin colour or gender.

On Worker’s Day, May 1, we remember the struggles of those who fought for us as South Africans, and others across the world, to work in inclusive, merit-based spaces,

As a student pursuing a career in journalism, I find it important to remember the tireless struggles of workers who fought for fair labour practices, equal rights, and social justice in the workplace.

I am filled with gratitude for pioneers like Emma Mashinini, former trade unionist and political activist, who became active within the African National Congress in 1956 and later founded the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union. Or Jay Naidoo, the founding general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade unions, who spearheaded the 1950s worker’s strikes, demanding fair wages, better working conditions, and an end to discrimination.

While Worker’s Day commemorates the struggles and celebrated triumphs of the labour movement, it is a sad irony that many South Africans find themselves outside of the formal workforce. According to the latest data from Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, approximately 1 in every 3 people in South Africa are unemployed, as the unemployment rate stands at 32,1%.

A sketch showing that skills and qualifications know no race or gender. Drawing: Katlego Mtshali

Despite the progress made in securing fair labour and equal opportunities, the reality is that South Africans face significant barriers to entering the workforce, including the lack of education, skills, and access to resources and networks.

As someone who hopes to enter the journalism workforce soon, I fear that my qualifications and skills may not be compensated with a fair salary, that my voice may not be heard, and ultimately, that my contributions may not matter.

Moreover, the journalism field comes with its own set of hurdles such as intimidation, lack of resources and the pursuit of truth in a rapidly changing media landscape.

That is why I have also started a side hustle as a makeup artist- because jobs are not guaranteed, and I want to be prepared. This also means I have to juggle both my schoolwork and longer hours of work if I have more than one client in a day, on weekends.

However, I am also excited about the future of work in South Africa. Our generation has the power to push boundaries, challenge the status quo, and advocate for a better tomorrow. During the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall protests, our generation proved to be like the generations that fought our collective freedom before democracy, they stood up against injustices and fought for equal rights, access to education and economic opportunities.

This Worker’s Day, I honour the past, celebrate the present, and eagerly anticipate the future-a future built on the foundations of solidarity, equality, and justice for all. I am proud to be part of a generation that will continue to shape the future of work in South Africa, and I am committed to using my skills and experience to make a positive impact.

FEATURED IMAGE: Katlego Mtshali/File


Wits 2024 law career fair spells out the ABC’s of landing a job in the profession

Law students explore diverse career options at the 2024 law career fair.

The Wits Law Student Council hosted over 31 law firms and organisations on campus to grant students an opportunity to forge relationships with prospective employers; and learn more about what is expected of them in the legal profession.

Students surrounding the career fair organiser, Milkias Gebremichael as he explained the rules of a game they participated in. Photo: Katlego Mtshali

The career fair was hosted on the April 9, 2024 at the Old Mutual Sports hall.

One of the organisers of the fair, Milkias Gebremichael said the purpose of the expo was to make students familiar with the profession by allowing them to ask questions related to vacation-work, articles and the daily realities of the career.

The fair consisted of lawyers working for NGOs, engaging in pro bono work, handling commercial cases, and those that work for smaller firms.

Bronywn Quin, HR manager at Poswa Incorporated law firm said it was her first time attending the fair, and she was excited as students who have graduated from Wits law school are employees at the firm.

Quin emphasised the importance of considering both academic achievements and extracurricular involvement when evaluating candidates for employment at the firm.

“The firm has maintained a long-standing, deep relationship with the Law faculty at the University of Witswatersrand, that is why we keep coming back to the annual career fair,” said Kasheer Singh, the graduate recruitment manager at the Bowmans law firm.

When hiring graduates for internships, permanent posts, and articles, the MacRobert Attorney law firm said they vet students according to the “EISH factor”. The E stands for energetic, the I for intelligent, the S for self-motivating and the H for hard-working.

Saneliso Ngubane, who works in the personal injury department within the firm, said what sets the firm apart is that they specialise in different forms of law.

Takalani Netshiavaha, a third-year LLB candidate said to Wits Vuvuzela that even though the career expo happens annually, each year students are introduced to new firms and information.

“The expo helps broaden our options, the human contact assists students to remain inspired knowing that the people who facilitate the expos are candidate attorneys, shows me my dreams are not far-fetched,” said Netshiavaha.

“I do not know any lawyers, I do not have any lawyers in my family, so this expo makes it feel more real, I get to network with people working for the biggest firms such as Bowmans, it helps me get in the door,” said LLB student, Matthew Robertson.

The Wits Students Law Council has announced that the next career expo will be held in the second semester in case students missed this one.

A roaring 120 years at Joburg Zoo

Approximately 20 000 men, women, and children flocked to the Johannesburg Zoo for birthday celebrations.

It was a sheer coincidence that Joburg Zoo’s birthday celebration fell on Human Right’s Day, March 21, giving them the chance to create awareness around everyone’s “right to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations” (Section 24b of the South African Constitution).

Executive Director, Louise Gordon, stated their priority has and always will be conservation and education. The zoo is involved in rehabilitation and exchange programmes on and off site to broaden their reach and ability in the environmental sphere.

She said “if people don’t know, they won’t conserve,”: therefore, the zoo has slashed their entrance fee from R120 per adult to just R20 during their birthday month to encourage affordable access.

Elephants enjoying all the attention at Joburg Zoo.
Photo: Victoria Hill
A lazy tiger enjoying the view at Johannesburg Zoo.
Photo: Victoria Hill

The concrete jungle, namely Johannesburg, has long said goodbye to preconceived ideas about animal treatment in zoos. Instead, they have evolved and revolutionised themselves into being one of a few zoos in an urban setting that homes the Big Five. As part of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Johannesburg Zoo has a high standard to uphold, putting animal welfare first.

Whilst strolling around the enclosures, the many animals seemed to be having the time of their lives, with many sleeping under the sunny skies. Local artists were blaring tunes on the main stage, but Jenny Moodley, spokesperson for Joburg Zoo, assured the animals were protected from any harmful decibels by a buffering system actively established.

Johannesburg Zoo plays an integral role in the Wits community, because of the educational opportunities it affords to environmental and medical students. Moodley said the ongoing exchange programme between the university and zoo, allows the youth of South Africa to learn from all angles.

“For example, if we are doing an autopsy on one of our big species […] we invite the students to observe,” said Moodley. The zoo, therefore, offers Wits students a privileged opportunity to learn amongst South Africa’s natural heritage.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Nathi Mvula, a senior environmental education specialist, shared his views on why he believes Johannesburg Zoo reaching their latest milestone is important:

An interview with Joburg Zoo’s senior educational environmental specialist, Nathi Mvula. Video creds: Victoria Hill

To have opened in 1904, and to still be open today, Joburg Zoo has proved itself a national icon and beacon for wildlife conservation.

PROFILE: Jakes Gerwel Fellowship helps to improve the quality of Education in SA 

Through introducing projects that promote teaching as an aspirational career, the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship aims to improve the quality of education in South Africa.  

The Jakes Gerwel Fellowship (JGF) is focusing on improving the poor conditions in public schools across South Africa by introducing uplifting leadership programs and investing in students who have a passion for teaching and education. 

Jakes Gerwel is a fellowship that has been mandated by the then Allan Gray Orbis Foundation since 2017, aiming to improve the education system. JGF hopes to position teaching as an aspirational career for young students to promote an increase in employment of quality teachers in public schools. 

South Africa’s education system has been declining, with young people struggling to read for comprehension. Only 20% of public schools function adequately with a large gap between the final matric results they achieve compared to those of the other 80% of public schools.  

Many of these schools fail due to poor infrastructure, teacher shortages, and a lack of educational progress, resulting in high unemployment rates. “Unemployment amongst the youth in our country is the highest [and] amongst graduates, teachers have the highest unemployment, especially Bed [bachelor of education] graduates,” says JGF fellow Samora Menze. 

JGF hopes to bridge this gap with strategic communications specialist Sarah Koopman telling Wits Vuvuzela that, “The quality of the education system is dependent on the quality of its teachers.” JGF has identified the teacher shortage in South Africa as one of utmost importance for our economy to thrive. 

JGF program participants are selected based off their “expert teacher profile, educational leadership, and educational entrepreneurial skills,” says acting CEO Carla Watson. Wits University is a partner institution of JGF, offering scholarships and bursaries to strong student candidates who are completing their postgraduate certificates of education (PGCE).  

One of the initiatives JGF has chosen to take on is the employment support and work readiness program which began at the end of 2022 and will continue throughout the 2023 year. This project aims to support teachers who are qualified but are not equipped with enough information on how to find employment after graduating. 

This involves helping candidates with their CV, setting up mock interviews to equip them with valuable interview skills, hosting South African Council of Educators (SACE) registration information sessions, and sharing employment opportunities with candidates so they can access teaching positions easier. This program aims to help teachers find employment, taking preference over government school positions by placing teachers in these schools, hoping to “make resources available to maximise JGF’s impact, connecting with organisations that are contributing to address unemployment in the country,” Menze said.  

JGF is also working on other projects such as using theatre to improve reading literacy. A Wits master’s student and JGF fellow, Luna August, co-founded the AK Arts and Leadership program (AKALA) which is a non-profit organization focused on increasing art education throughout South Africa. August’s research focuses on the importance of the arts in education. 

August is hoping to improve literacy rates in the country with over 80% of children in the country struggling to read. August’s research focuses on how drama can help improve student’s reading and listening abilities and vocal acquisition. She goes on to explain how drama in education holds value because it has been recognised as a decolonising pedagogy through embodied drama strategies in classrooms

August explains that by implementing certain drama-education strategies such as role-playing and improvisation, students can benefit from enhanced reading abilities but can also develop their creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. AKALA’s goal is to launch an art centre that is registered with the education department that allows for dialogic theoretical engagement, critical reflexivity, and artistic development through increased learning in the arts disciplines. 

JGF hopes to recruit more fellows from universities throughout South Africa who have a strong passion and love for education and invites the “very best” to teach South Africa’s future generations because all students deserve a “switched-on, compassionate and excellent teacher to help unlock their own potential,” says Watson.  

Students who are choosing to complete their postgraduate certificate of education can apply for the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship online by completing an eligibility quiz and filling in an application form. 

FEATURED IMAGE: The Jakes Gerwel team at a #BeATeacher event in South Africa, promoting teaching as an aspirational career. Photo: Supplied.


Success can be engineered through holistic education

Individualised learning, teacher development, educational resources, infrastructure and parental involvement are all needed if students are to excel.

Parental involvement is key in achieving academic success – this was one of the takeaways from a seminar on holistic education hosted by Mookodi Mokoatl, an engineering student at Wits University.

The seminar, titled ‘Holistic Investment in Education’ was facilitated by Mokoatle at Wits main campus on April 21, 2023.

“We cannot expect, especially black parents, who were never exposed to the same education system to support their children education-wise. That is why Lehae Arcadia is there to bridge that gap, to support parents and show them different ways to involve them in their children’s educational lives,” Mokoatle said.

He added that that lack of adequate resources and infrastructure are among the disadvantages that prohibit quality education, and actively distress and derail teachers and lecturers in the facilitation of classes.

“The goal is to promote a more sustainable and equitable future for all through comprehensive learning,” he said.

Guest speaker, Dr. Ben Mahadu, associate lecturer at Wits said, “Education needs financial resources because ultimately, it needs to produce marketable graduates who will know how to communicate, who will understand leadership skills and know how to do presentations.”

Another guest speaker, Dr. Bernard Langton, college principal at CBC Mount Edmund said, “We need to probate the private sector, which is the business sector, to get involved in education.”

Langton emphasised collaboration across sectors and reminded attendees that while “the legacy of apartheid is present, we can’t always blame the apartheid regime”.

David Saleh, one of the attendees and Mokoatle’s colleague said, “The seminar has helped me understand my purpose, that I am here to innovate and to impact change, and simply not be a workforce.” Bachelor of Education student, Kamogelo Chauke said, “I attended the seminar with intention. Hopefully, we can start our own Holistic Education Institution that will break beyond the boundary of the current curriculum.”

Mookodi hopes to use his engineering expertise to further develop his educational consulting company, Lehae Acadia and hopes that one day he could become a teacher because of his great passion for education.

FEATURED IMAGE: From the left: guest speaker Dr Ben Mahadu, Dr Bernard Langton, host and CEO of Lehae Arcadia Mookodi Mokoatle, CEO of AnalyticsX Talifhani Banks and David Saleh at the far right are listening to Dr Irene Kamar as she renders her presentation at the seminar. Photo: Mojela Mahlatsi /Supplied