New humanities students encouraged to explore all the opportunities available in their first year at Wits, as there won’t be a similar chance.
First-year students told that even at Wits students experience problems to do with finances, accommodation and racism.
By Naledi Mashishi and Onke Ngcuka
First years and parents forced to bake in the sun in long lines as a result of new centralised residence registration system.
WITS’s new centralised residence registration system that was supposed to be “more convenient” has had the opposite effect as first-year residence students and their parents were left distraught after queuing for hours in the sun on Saturday, January 26.
The system, implemented on the day, placed services from the Fees, Financial Aid and Information and Communications Technology offices under one roof, at Flower Hall, West Campus.
The centralised system was also meant to ensure the verification process and the residence registration took place in the same building.
Wits University communications officer Buhle Zuma told Wits Vuvuzela that, “The new registration system sought to ease the challenges encountered by first year res students when registering. Previously, first year students would have to visit various service units to complete their registration. This was frustrating for students unfamiliar with the university.”
A parent, Sithabile Ntombela from Durban, who had waited in line from 12pm until after 4pm told Wits Vuvuzela that she had expected to wait a maximum of an hour.
“If this was [University of] Zululand, Fort Hare or Walter Sisulu University, I would expect this, but not Wits. The other universities are previously disadvantaged. Wits has developed technology, so I wouldn’t expect this from Wits. There was no visibility from the assistants. There are assistants but very few, so you end up in the wrong queue,” Ntombela said.
Zuma said that 28 staff members from Campus Housing and 18 from other service units, as well as 35 assistants were helping with the registration, and Wits Protection Services was also present.
However, there were few visible assistants outside Flower Hall in the morning, and in the afternoon there appeared to be no more than 10 that were ushering parents and students into the different lines.
Medhurst Residence House Committee member, Nobuhle Nkosi, told Wits Vuvuzela that the All Residence Council and Residence House Committees were not consulted in the decision-making process, and that both committees opposed the new centralised system at the Residence Leadership Camp held on January 21-25 where they first heard of it.
“The new system doesn’t take into account the students…It disadvantages the students that come from far by buses and taxis as they usually leave their bags at res but now they have to stand in long lines with their bags,” Nkosi said. “It’s already crowded when people register at their reses, now imagine all those people under one roof.”
Nkosi added that the Medhurst House Committee was expecting to welcome 80 – 90 students on Saturday but only 20 had arrived by 3pm.
“People were hungry when they got here, people were crying and parents were complaining,” Nkosi said.
Zuma said that the registration process didn’t close at 4pm as advertised, but had been extended to 6:45pm.
“Our challenge on the day was the number of students who did not apply for residence and those whose application was still pending and thus contributing to long queues,” Zuma said.
At 9.41pm on Saturday, the university tweeted an apology from its official account.
“Wits University and the Dean of Student Affairs apologises to all parents and students for the inconvenience caused by the new res system for first year students. We acknowledge the delays and the long queues and we will review the process going forward,” the tweet said.
According to Zuma, the university is doing a full review of the registration process and will consider suggestions from the Wits community.
FEATURED IMAGE: Students and their parents waited for long hours to be registered for their residence in the new centralised registration system. Photo: Onke Ngcuka
By Naledi Mashishi
First-year engineering students will now complete the Common First Year course which will teach core subjects equally across the board.
STARTING in 2019, all first-year engineering students, regardless of branch of engineering, will begin their studies with the new Common First Year (CFY) course which will teach core subjects such as science and maths equally across all branches.
Although students are still expected to register for a specific branch from first year, the new CFY course means that students who choose to change branches in second year, will now be able to do so without taking an additional year.
The different engineering branches at Wits include: architecture and planning; civil and environmental engineering; chemical and metallurgical engineering; construction economics and management; electrical and information engineering; mechanical, industrial and aeronautical engineering; and mining.
Executive dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Prof Ian Jandrell, told Wits Vuvuzela that in addition to maths and science, the new course will include communications, problem solving, understanding the engineering profession, and design.
First-years will also be expected to complete a Humanities course. “[This is] speaking to the growing need for engineers to be cognisant of their role in society right from the very start of their university career,” Jandrell said.
The CFY course will be assessed by a team of academics across all the faculty’s schools, under the oversight of the Academic Development Unit. According to Jandrell, there will be continuous assessments, dedicated test weeks after the Autumn and Spring breaks, and the final assessment at the end of the year, will be done through the submission of portfolios.
“Students whose overall result is between 45 and 49% will be invited to an oral exam, but this is the only exam for the course,” he said.
Third-year BSc metallurgic engineering student, Asakundwi Ramurafhi, said that the introduction of the CFY was an improvement on the previous years.
“The differing first year [courses] put people at a disadvantage in second year because of the differing intensities of the courses. I wish we had had a joint first year for the more difficult courses like maths to make second and third year easier,” she said.
Jandrell said that the CFY course aimed to produce a “21st century engineer” who can work across boundaries, is confident in their own abilities, and is willing to learn and serve in society.
FEATURED PHOTO: The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment is introducing a Common First Year course for all first-year engineering student.
The MSA mentorship program will help first years.
CORRECTION: Wits Vuvuzela initially reported that Joshua Ndlangamandla was from Men’s Res, but he is actually from EOH. We regret the error. The error has been corrected in the copy.
DURING O-week the residences plan a highly interactive experience for the wide-eyed young adults in first year to help familiarise them with the university and each other.
Two years ago, Wits Vuvuzela reported on how two female students formally complained to the dean of students at the time, about unsanctioned initiations and how they were “victimised” and experienced sexism from students at a male residence.
“There’s a fine line between what the freshers can take and what they can’t and what they are going to complain to their parents about and what they are going to find fun,” said Priya Thakur, Sunnyside house committee chairperson.
“Right now we are still trying to get them used to the entire res and varsity, get them to mingle with other students because, in as much as they are going to be students who are alone, they are still going to meet with students from other res’s as well in their classes,” said Joshua Ndlangamandla, a BSc third year and the sports administrator at Ernest Oppenheimer Hall of residence (EOH).
Wits Vuvuzela spoke to house committee members at the residences about how first years were being initiated and if the acts were harmless or not.
The “freshmen”, as EOH call their first years, appear to be treated as cadets. Wits Vuvuzela witnessed Men’s res in their blue t-shirts doing a series of drills and push-ups, followed by dancing and singing.
The freshmen only earn their keep after the formal initiation, when the “freshmen” jump into the pool, and “depending on how we feel on the day, it might be fully clothed,” added Ndlangamandla. “They will no longer be called “freshmen” but “Ernest men”.
Sankie Kgatse, a first year staying in Sunnyside residence said it has been “fun”, that they were taught a lot of traditional songs and did some physical exercise. “We gym yoh! We do a lot of physical activities and they are very hard … We wake up around 5.30 every morning,” the first year added. The freshers do morning runs to get them used to waking up early for classes.
According to Sunnyside’s Thakur, one of the traditions they uphold is their pledge night with Ernest Oppenheimer Hall of residence (EOH), where the freshers pledge their allegiance to EOH. The pledge took place earlier this week.
“It’s fun because historically Knockando and Men’s Res hate each other and then Sunnyside and Jubilee are fighting over Men’s Res when EOH is not around, it’s a lot of res rivalry, which is pretty fun during the week.”
The pledge also included a wedding, where house committee chose the person they would marry, Kgatse explained to Wits Vuvuzela. Ndlangamandla regrets that he wasn’t initiated in his first year at EOH and found that he generally struggled in his first two years because he didn’t really know the people around him.
He sees the benefit in initiation because “you’re partnered with someone through initiation and you’ve been through the same struggles you’ve been telling each other, ‘oh that house comm manager is an asshole’, so you have something in common”.
“It builds that brotherhood, that camaraderie between people that if you’re struggling, don’t do it alone … Once you’re alone we can’t help you out because we don’t know where you are in life,” says Ndlangamandla.
“It’s all about building a proper rapport between the students and us so that they can come to because most of us have been there before,” he adds. When asked about any worrisome activities, Thakur said she could not reveal that to the Wits Vuvuzela, and doubts that any other res would.
“A lot of the things we do here are internal and house issues, it’s designed and meant specifically for Sunnysiders. If the university had to read about it, I don’t think they would understand – it’s a different thing living at res and the Vuvuzela has a much wider audience,” said Thakur.
Apart from morning drills, the first year are taken around Johannesburg to the Hector Peterson Museum, Vilakazi street and the South African Breweries to watch how beer is made.
Wits University was the place to be this week as new and first-time students were treated to the best the campus has to offer.
With the choice of attending a number of campus parties like the Sports Party which introduces students to the different sporting options available on campus, the Silly Buggers party for the wild and wonderful or the Fresher’s Bash this evening. There is a place and home for any student who wants to experience the Wits vibe and meet new people.
Wits Welcome Day (last Sunday) was introduced with rivalry, dancing and chanting between the different Wits Residences. A water fight ensued between Mens Res and members of Sunnyside and Wits Junction early on Sunday morning.
One Mens Res resident said they want to “teach” the other residences “who is boss on campus”.
“We are management!” He shouted to his fellow comrades.
This year’s beer garden kept students entertained and excited with a number of DJ’s keeping the music pumping. Students had the opportunity to enjoy a selection of imported craft beers and usual locals favourites. .
Society sign-ups by the Great Hall gave students a taste of the social and cultural opportunities which lie ahead. With the Venda and Zulu societies show-casing their talent as dancers and singers drew onlookers by the dozen.
The Wits Choir even showcased their talents during a number of performances taking place around campus.
Overall, both new and returning students had a great time with a relaxed ban that allowed alcohol to flow, filling the campus with noise and laughter. It’s no wonder Wits O-week is one of the best on South African campuses.
After all the fun, it’s going to be hard for students to get back into the mundane tasks of student life.