No “good story” for African languages

More than a decade after Wits agreed to adopt Sesotho as a second language, the university is no closer to implementing this commitment.

In 2003 Wits University drew up a language policy that said the university would use an African language, Sesotho, as a medium for teaching and learning.

“The resources of the university need to be mobilised to enhance the language competencies of staff and students and, in partnership with the government, play a role in the development of one of South Africa’s African languages,” reads the policy.

However, while the policy has remained in effect its implementation has been hampered by a lack of resources.

“Unfortunately, I do not have a good story to tell … I think we must take some responsibility, we say one thing and we do another,” said Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib.

Habib said the current language policy was “all for show” and the university needs to be realistic about its ability to implement an African language for teaching. “We love the policy but where are we going to find the millions of rands? It’s all for show and not for the reality of where we are. It’s a symbolic statement we make [more] than a real statement,” he said.

The 2003 policy outlined the implementation of Sesotho in four phases however, a decade later, not a single phase of implementation has taken place. Phase one, offering Sesotho classes for staff members, was supposed to have been implemented in 2010.

The policy was adopted by Wits because government made it a requirement for all higher educational institutions to further transform. The university signed the policy but took little action to implement it.

THE ISSUE: Adam Habib in conversation about the Language Policy.

THE ISSUE: Vice- chancellor Prof Adam Habib in conversation about the Language Policy. Photo by: Anazi Zote

“The university said ‘let’s go into compliance and let’s tick the boxes’ and we kept quiet and nobody asked,” Habib said.

The university began to look at revising and implementing its policy last year after government said it would conduct a survey of indigenous languages at higher education institutions.

Prof Libby Meintjes, head of the School of Language and Literature Studies, said the first draft of a new language policy would be released in October.

“We are moving back to mother tongue teaching and if we cannot manage it in lectures we will have it in tutorials,” Meintjes said.

According to Meintjes, last year the university sent an email survey asking what was the preferred African language as a medium of learning and teaching. The results showed that isiZulu was in demand more than Sesotho.

“Staff and students put isiZulu ahead of Sesotho because of the language competence and the number of people that speak it but we don’t feel that because isiZulu has replaced Sesotho we will only go for isiZulu,” Meintjes said.

Habib said Wits needed to be honest about what it can do in terms of using African languages with current resources.

“We cannot spend so much time lying to ourselves. I think we should come into terms with it, if we don’t have the resources, the will, and we don’t have the courage, let’s not pretend that we do,” he said.

However, he concluded that Wits can achieve some kind of transformation, but it would be skewed by South Africa’s history.


Delayed bursary payments leave education students hungry

HARD TIMES: Education students on the Funza Lushaka bursary have been struggling to make ends meet this past semester. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

HARD TIMES: Education students on the Funza Lushaka bursary have been struggling to make ends meet this past semester. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Wits students in the education faculty have been going hungry as their allowance for the semester quickly ran out.

The students are recipients of the Funza Lushaka bursary,  but have only been given R7000 for the entire semester, due to delays in discharging the bursary funds.

“It’s bad, I don’t have any food.  I’ve become a nuisance to people, it’s really bad,” said Thando Sibiya, 2nd year BEd. I don’t know what I’m going to eat.  How do they expect you to live?  How am I supposed to write exams?”

Students told Wits Vuvuzela that the problem was not that there was no money; but that the payments were irregular.  Unlike the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Funza Lushaka monies are not made available on a monthly basis.

Delayed payments

Bursary officer at Education Campus, Mfundo Mbatha said payments were delayed because Funza Lushaka funds were not ready at the beginning of the year.

“Funza Lushaka is a government initiative.  We have to wait for monies to be moved from National Treasury to Financial Aid,” she said.  The allowances given to students at the beginning of the year were borrowed from Wits Financial Aid because the government financial year only starts in March.

Mbatha said students received R5000 at the beginning of the year for their books. He added that students were asked by email and posters “to spend the money mindfully.”

Some time after, the bursars were given R2000 for “teaching experience”, where students go out to schools for practical training, under the supervision of a qualified teacher.

Sibiya said he spent his allowance of R2000 buy formal clothing and on transport costs for the teaching experience.  “Coming back here is like coming back to poverty.”

Mbatha said they tried to pay students monthly in the past but it did not work because Funza Lushaka is not like NSFAS.  “Funza Lushaka has been operating this way for years,” she said.  Every year at the end of June or July, students receive the first lump sum and a second one in September.

Bursars overspending

Mbatha said the students experience difficulties when they spend more than the allocated bursary amount of R75000 per year.  “Students are to use money at their own discretion,” she said.  When students spend more than the allocated bursary amount, at the end of the year they end up owing close to R10000.

In response to allegations that students were not given warnings in advance, Mbatha said, “We put up posters and they [students] don’t even bother to read them.”

Nonhlanhla Moholane, 3rd year BEd said, “We were warned well in advance to sort ourselves out, but not everyone has the means to sustain themselves from January to July.”

Ayshah Essop, 1st year BEd said she was awarded the Funza Lushaka bursary but because payments were late she decided to accept  a bursary from  the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) instead.  “I took the SANZAF fund because Funza [Lushaka] pays late, they only pay when the first semester is over.”

Sihle Nsibande, 2nd year BEd said, “I was on Funza Lushaka last year.  Previous people who were on Funza [Lushaka] told me you first get R5000.  Then after two or three months you get R18000.”  The remaining monies are paid out over a number of months, according to Nsibande.

“Coming back here is like coming back to poverty.”

The delayed payments were not a problem for Nsibande because he lives at home and can depend on his parents.

“I was expecting it, but it’s different for people in different circumstances.  I’m at home, I’m provided for.  Other people live at res.  Maybe if I was at res I would also be complaining because I’d have to take care of myself.”  He also said that new students on the bursary do not know how processes work

In the meantime, Wits education lecturer Bheki Zungu, who is involved with student affairs in conjunction with the Transformation Office, has been collecting food donations and distributing them among needy students. Education Students Council (ESC) chairperson Lebang Nong has confirmed that students will receive a lump sum payment by June 30.


African males worst off in higher education: Gauteng EFF

African males suffer the most discrimination in higher education, the Gauteng Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said on Thursday.

The organisation claimed the share of African males in higher education had been stuck at 28 percent since 2000. The party said it planned on writing a report evaluating racial and gender imbalances in higher education institutions in Gauteng.

The EFF made this claim at a press briefing headlined by its candidate for premier, Dali Mpofu, in Braamfontein.

The EFF said that if it won election in Gauteng, it would immediately implement a 100-day plan that includes holding a “youth summit” made up of young people from across the province.

Mpofu said the EFF would launch “Youth Entrepreneur Centres” that would offer free office space and Wifi access to youth business.

Mpofu said Wifi stations would be set up within the 100 days all over Gauteng, “institutions and centres will have to apply and consultations will be held, we will then prioritise it according to where it is needed.”

Premier Candidate Advocate Dali Mpofu addressing the media on  issues relating to the elections and the 100 day plan for Gauteng.

OPTIMISTIC: EFF Gauteng premier candidate Dali Mpofu addressing the media on issues relating to the elections and the 100 day plan for province.


Child abuse on the increase, government says.

Photo:Mujahid Safodien

In Gauteng alone more than 3000 children have been registered under the Child Protection Register (CPR) since the start of the year. In a written reply to a parliamentary question, Social development minister, Bathabile Dlamini said, “The specified categories of abuse in which the names appear in the CPR are sexual abuse, emotional abuse and deliberate neglect.”

The Western Cape had the highest number of children found to be deliberately neglected, at 2522 and had listed 1751 sexual abuse victims in the CPR. The Children’s Act of 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005) sets out principles relating to the care and protection of children and defines parental responsibilities and rights among other things. Despite having such policies in place, the country’s children still fall victim to different kinds of abuse on a daily basis.

This has been confirmed to by Childline, a non-profit organization that works to protect children from all forms of violence. Speaking during the commemoration of child protection week recently, Joan van Niekerk, Childline’s national training and advocacy manager said “Although there are a lot of programmes, some of these programmes end up exploiting the exploited”.

Van Niekerk was adamant that some of these campaigns are used by government as a political platform. Her immediate example was the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. “Often the only benefit to women and children is that they might get a cap or a t-shirt at the event. It begins and ends there. They might be a good platform for politicians to win votes, but all these flag-waving and t-shirt wearing events are not effective – what do they achieve for women and children?” she asked.

Van Niekerk also pointed out that South Africa has been running these campaigns for years, but that levels of violence have in fact risen and that this should be a matter of grave concern. For Joan, campaigns need to move beyond comforting words and soothing slogans – they have to be backed up by some substantial action.

The effects of child abuse