by Ilanit Chernick | Feb 13, 2015 | Opinion
There is something about walking into university on your first day. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
You’ve finished matric, maybe done a gap year and pretty much think you know everything.
You imagine yourself being part of a corny college flick as you walk through the hallways, imagining that you may just fall in love with the cute guy standing in line next to you (Freddie Prinze Jr.) at the campus food store – trust me, it happens, or so I’ve heard.
On my first day I was ready to take on Wits and better yet – the big bad world. I was so excited on my first day that I missed a step and clumsily tripped, falling flat on my face while ascending the steps of the Great Hall (not my finest hour).
I never attended my first year Welcome Day – my siblings took me around to see the place and helped me get my bearings.
I realised after attending Welcome Day as an alumni that I should have done so. I re-lived it, albeit a little late and even got my Kudu horns. I never attended my first O-week either, or my second or even my third. Embarrassingly I thought it was below me. What do I need to attend that for? It’s a waste.
Missing O-week resulted in me missing out on a big discovery: There are societies on campus. Societies for climbers, swimmers, dancers, singers, debaters, Jewish students, silly students and pretty much anything your heart desires.
I missed out on drunken parties, beer gardens, Nike runs and worst of all: Silly Buggers and Model UN (I mean seriously; how did I miss that?).
I only discovered the beauty of The Origin Centre while on the Red Bus tour around Johannesburg this year.
I didn’t attend O-week until my Honours year. Don’t make the same mistake. There’s a lot to see and a lot to discover. So use the time you have you here wisely.
As you start attending classes you learn quickly that as much as you thought you knew everything – you don’t. There are people who are cleverer, smarter and quicker than you. But as time passes you learn to stop comparing yourself to others.
I learned that it was important to learn things at your own pace and that asking questions is okay – you’re not nerdy or stupid as the stigma goes in high school. And I learned that the hard way.
Meet your lecturers, connect with them – I only realised how important those relationships were once I got to third year. But there is a fine line between networking and kissing butt – nobody likes a “teacher’s pet”.
When it comes to making friends, get out there and make new friends every year. Don’t just keep to the same group. The friends I have made at varsity are the ones I will keep for life.
I haven’t visited the Planetarium yet (not even at school) and with only two months left at Wits, it’s on the agenda together with dropping into a MUN meeting, jamming with my guitar on the library lawns, jumping into the pool with my clothes on and making friends with the VC.
Don’t get me wrong – my years here were far from doom and gloom. The four years I spent at Wits were probably the happiest of my life. I loved varsity. Period. And I hope to get back here soon to do an English masters.
But as all good things come to an end there are always moments you wish you could remember. At the same time you have to remind yourself: There are no regrets, just the things you didn’t do.
by Ilanit Chernick | Sep 19, 2014 | News
DREAM IT: Gwinyai Dube was able to soar to great heights at Wits through
belief in himself. Photo: Ilanit Chernick
Southern Africa’s first black South African Debating Champion, Gwinyai Aubrey Dube, has been successfully elected onto the SRC.
And as a new member, Dube wants “Witsies to realise that we are all a community”.
“Students need to understand their fellow Witsies, not just tolerate them. We can help the larger Wits community if we come together and deal with the issues facing students, staff, cleaners and workers on campus.”
He said he wanted to encourage students to understand the responsibility and weight “we have on our shoulders. We have a huge role to play in the world”.
Dube, Politics and International Relations Honours, believes he can “encourage students to understand transformation at Wits instead of just tolerating it” through his position on the SRC.
Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela about his debating win earlier this year, he said he was “initially focused on winning for Wits, but not winning as a black man”.
“I didn’t realise how important this win was for me was until one of my teammates pointed out that I was the first black male to win such a tournament in South Africa.”
Dube is also the first black Zimbabwean to win such a tournament and this made him a bit of a celebrity in the country.
He decided to run in this year’s SRC election because he wanted to create an “effective SRC”.
Dube made it into the finals of the South African Debating Championship in Botswana, with his speaking partner, Saul Musker (who was part of the international winning team in Thailand). Dube ultimately won the tournament for Wits.
His debating career began in grade seven when his teacher asked him to debate a number of issues.
“From there, I just knew it was something I wanted to pursue. I got into debating in high school but we didn’t take it seriously.”
“Her death shaped me because, before she died, she continuously encouraged me to have faith in my abilities.”
When he got to university, the Wits Debating Union (WDU) was one of the first things he looked into. He immediately joined up and started working his way into competitions.
Dube has overcome many challenges to become a success at Wits. He experienced his parents’ “messy divorce” when he was five, which forced his family to move around a lot.
“Eventually we settled on a family farm just outside of Harare where I lived with my mom’s sister and 12 of my cousins.”
The farm was 30km from his school in Harare and Dube would wake up at 4am to get to school on time.
When Dube was 17 his mother got sick. She realised Dube was going to need his father, even though Dube and his father “had a rocky relationship” at the time. She encouraged them to re-connect.
Just before he left Zimbabwe to come to Wits, Dube’s mother passed away.
“It made me re-evaluate things. I decided to take a gap year. Her death shaped me because, before she died, she continuously encouraged me to have faith in my abilities. We were best friends.”
Dube said both the divorce and his mother’s death forced him to “grow into his own character”. It taught him how to treat women, and he hoped his relationships would never resemble his parent’s marriage.
“Everything else follows success”, a saying his father taught him, has stuck with him throughout his time at university. “My dad’s words inspire [me] every day, together with the faith my mom always had which lives within me.”
He has a message for fellow Witsies: “Success is only limited by how far you can dream.”
by Ilanit Chernick | Sep 19, 2014 | Sport
For the first time in its eight year history, the “Rocktober” Ultimate Frisbee Championship will be held at Wits University.
The competition will take place on 3-5 October.
The Voodoo Kudus, the Wits Ultimate Frisbee team, will host and compete in South Africa’s second biggest Ultimate Frisbee competition. Sixteen teams from all over South Africa will be playing, including some of the top national teams from Cape Town.
This is the second time the Voodoo Kudus will be playing in Rocktober. Their debut was at last year’s championship, which was held in Randburg.
“There’s going to be some tough competition,” said Voodoo Kudu member, Kristen Bishop.
“But we’re just striving for team synergy and to do our best in all the games we play.”
According to Bishop, the team is lucky to host this year’s competition and it was thanks to their chairperson Sally Crompton, who had pushed to bid for Wits to host.
“There’s going to be some tough competition,”
The South African Flying Disk Association (SAFDA) has been actively involved in encouraging university students to participate in Ultimate Frisbee because, they say, it is a prestigious sport, rapidly gaining momentum around the country.
“It’s not just a game,” said Bishop. “It’s a community, and a sport like this could help build connections and communities in South Africa.”
Crompton and Bishop told Wits Vuvuzela that the recent hat tournament sparked interest in the sport and for the first time in Voodoo Kudu history they were able to enter two teams into the competition.
Bishop enthused: “When people see how skilled the game is and how much athletics and knowledge is needed, it entices competition and makes you want to take part.”
Students are encouraged to support the Voodoo Kudus in the tournament, when the games start between 8am and 5pm on Saturday October 4 and between 8am and 3pm on Sunday October 5 on the Bozzoli B field, the Walter Milton Cricket Oval and in the rugby stadium.
The Voodoo Kudus will also host an open party at the Bozzoli Pavilion from 6pm on Saturday night, October 4.
by Nqobile Dludla | Sep 19, 2014 | News
IT’S PYA DAY: Project W’s Jamie Mighti (left) attempts to argue a point to PYA member and former SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa (right) after Project W walked out of the SRC’s first meeting over the selection of portfolios. Mgudlwa attempted to bring Project W back to the meeting. Photo: Nqobile Dludla
by Ilanit Chernick and Nqobile Dludla
The abrupt end of the new SRC’s first meeting, which climaxed with a dramatic walkout by Project W who accused the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) of being “illegitimate and undemocratic”, followed a week of behind-the-scenes battles over positions on the new council.
Project W walked out during the vote for new portfolios, which they said were decided without their input by the PYA—who have a majority of the seats on the new SRC.
The vote carried on with PYA member Mcebo Dlamini being elected as the new SRC president.
However, while the PYA presented a united front at the SRC meeting, the decision to select Dlamini and other SRC executive committee members was far from unanimous.
“There are also older comrades in the PYA who influence the decisions on the presidential candidate and the executive committee. The process is increasingly frustrating,”
Wits Vuvuzela spoke to leaders in the PYA, who confirmed the alliance struggled to make a decision on who should be elected to the important executive positions. All the PYA leaders requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on internal alliance politics.
According to one PYA leader, there was a struggle to decide between three presidential choices, Dlamini, Amogelang Manganyi, and Senzekahle Mbokazi with disagreement over their different levels of experience and ability to carry out their duties.
Some PYA members believed Dlamini was the strongest candidate because of his position as Wits Junction chair despite a controversy earlier this year over his false claim to be a member of the prestigious Sisulu family.
“People want Mcebo despite controversies surrounding him in the Sisulu question,” the PYA leader said.
According to this PYA leader, Mangayani’s suitability as a SRC president was questioned because he is currently a fifth-year medical student and would face time constraints next year that would affect his ability to meet presidential duties.
This process of selecting executive members of the SRC was made more complicated by senior PYA leaders outside the current SRC attempting to influence the selection of positions.
“There are also older comrades in the PYA who influence the decisions on the presidential candidate and the executive committee. The process is increasingly frustrating,” the PYA leader said. He declined to name the senior PYA members involved.
However, a second PYA leader interviewed by Wits Vuvuzela denied that lobby groups within the alliance had been allowed to form.
“The PYA don’t squabble,” the second PYA leader said, “We meet as a collective. Those members with experience try to advise or give opinions when choosing candidates for exec or president but things change all the time.”
However, this PYA leader admitted the alliance had little control groups and friends within the PYA who form “behind closed doors” and who have decided on backing their own candidates.
“But we call all members of the PYA together to decide who should be presidential candidate. We decide and solve these issues together,” the PYA leader said.
The politicking within the PYA ended with Wednesday’s meeting and the walkout by Project W.
Wits Vuvuzela had initially been denied access to the portfolio meeting. However, after a short conference between Project W’s Jamie Mighti and outgoing SRC president Shafee Verachia she was allowed in “as a student” so long as she put away her camera and voice recorder.
The meeting was held in Senate House and chaired by Verachia. It was attended by 14 of the 15 newly elected SRC members. Also in attendance were representatives from other Wits student councils and three members of the current SRC.
The meeting was also attended by former SRC and PYA members Sibulele Mgudlwa, Joyce Phiri and Tshepo Ndlovu, Ntshembo Vuma and Thabang Ntshanana. A Project W member, Zuhayr Tayob, was also in attendance.
The meeting first voted for the executive positions, including president, with PYA members taking the top five slots with little protest from Project W.
“What do they expect me to do, teach yoga?”
However, 20 minutes into the meeting an argument erupted during a debate over portfolios. Both the PYA and Project W had proposed new portfolios for the SRC and motivated for them during the meeting.
Verachia then moved to have a vote on the portfolios, however Mighti objected saying there should be an open debate over the proposed portfolios before the vote.
Verachia responded that both organisations had already motivated for the proposed portfolios and further debate was not needed.
After another brief exchange between the participants, Verachia again moved for a vote resulting in the Project W members gathering their belongings and walking out of the meeting.
“We walked out because it was an illegitimate forum. They are not allowed to dictate positions to us, and this was an unjust abuse of power,” Mighti said.
Verachia adjourned the meeting after the walkout and Mgudlwa successfully attempted to convince the Project W members to return to the meeting. Verachia then cited SRC rules governing meetings and reconvened the meeting with the remaining SRC members.
“The PYA have chosen to dictate positions to us instead. Positions which we will not agree too because they are redundant white elephants which is a betrayal to students’ needs,” Mighti said.
Mighti, who was made the Campus Wellness officer, said his position was redundant because there were already university structures to help student health.
“What do they expect me to do, teach yoga?” he asked.
Mighti said they would lay a complaint about the meeting with university authorities. Failing that, they would seek an interdict at the South Gauteng High Court to overturn the outcome of the meeting.
Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he was “gathering information” about the situation.
Verachia said the PYA were preparing a statement in response to Project W’s walkout and subsequent accusations. However, it had not been sent to Wits Vuvuzela as of our print deadline.
by Ilanit Chernick | Sep 5, 2014 | News
This week, the first student-run literary festival gave Witsies the opportunity to meet and engage with literary icons from around South Africa.
The Fine Lines festival at Wits, which was organised by the student council members of the School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM) “is good news” for literary culture in South Africa. Poet Chris Mann emphasised this point and was also positive that this idea was “coming from students”.
Organisers Priyankha Thakur, Saul Musker and Nelisa Ngcobo said the Fine Lines literary festival aimed to “encourage students and upcoming writers to engage with literary experts” they would not usually have the opportunity to connect with.
Thakur said they hope to “create more interest among students in South African literature” through the festival.
“We wanted to create conversation between students and experts,” said Musker.
Wits English professor Michael Titlestad, who has spent 30 years working in education, thinks people should be encouraged to read genres they enjoy.
“If you really want to understand your own society, you need to read about [it] because that is how you learn.”
“It’s important that students are encouraged to read whatever they like,” he said. “The sense of a high literary culture or the need for people to read things that are improving their intellect, their life and ethics is highly naive. We should simply encourage people to pursue their interests.”
World-renowned author Ivan Vladislavic told Wits Vuvuzela: “It’s hard to get students to engage with fiction and even harder to do so with South African fiction.”
With an estimated 14% of South Africans being active readers of fiction, the Department of Arts and Culture has expressed concern about literary culture amongst young people.
“It’s difficult for South African work to become visible. There is so much competition in literature from everywhere else. Students must keep themselves informed about what is out there,” Vladislavic said.
“If you really want to understand your own society, you need to read about [it] because that is how you learn.”
Writer Steven Boykey Sidley encouraged students to join online South African book clubs like The Good Book Appreciation Society to become familiar with and informed about South African authors, genres and literature.
Former books editor of the Sunday Independent, Maureen Isaacson, said events like the Fine Lines literary festival should become “common practice” among student communities.
“Why can we not have more dialogue, argument and discussion? We need to have events that are less arranged, because we can see that experts are willing to come in and share ideas about their books outside of book launches and festivals. It’s one of the best way to encourage reading.”
The festival, which ends today, coincides with National Book Week, which is still taking place around the country until September 8th.
by Ilanit Chernick | Sep 1, 2014 | News
POETRY READ: World-renowned poet Peter Horn reads an extract of one his poems. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen
The opening of the first ever student run literary festival kicked off at Wits today with a panel on the social life of poetry.
The Fine Lines literary festival was envisioned and organised by the student council members of the School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM).
Students Priyankha Thakur, Saul Musker and Nelisa Ngcobo put the festival together to “create conversation” between students and experts.
Thakur told Wits Vuvuzela that they realised there was “a deficit in opportunity for events in our school”. They wanted “to create a place where students and upcoming authors could interact with experts” which they would not usually have the chance to connect with.
“It started off as this absurd idea while we were sitting on the floor outside an office in Senate House. We still can’t believe it came together.”
Musker said, “The festival is an open space in an intimate setting for interaction to take place.”
“We were a bit nervous initially but the staff within the SLLM were so helpful and willing to give us contacts. The poets and authors were so open to the idea of a student festival, it was really positive.”
World-renowned South African poets Koeropetse Kgositsile, Chris Mann and Peter Horn opened the festival with poetry readings in different forms which even included a lyrical poem sung by Mann.
Mann said, “The fact that this festival is coming from students is good news.”
Following the poetry readings a discussion about the life of poetry in the world was presented.
“There are poems for different times and moments. There is one poetry but hundreds of different types,” said Horn.
Kgositsile told the audience that “one has to get inside a poem to see how it connects with the outside world”.
The festival will be running until Friday, September 5th. Students can expect to see authors and poets like Antony Altbeker, Ivan Vladislavic, Mandla Langa, Shireen Hassim and the Botsotso Poetry group.
by Ilanit Chernick | Aug 20, 2014 | News
FEEL THE BEAT: Marumba band Mr. Affiti entertain attendees at the post-grad fair. Photo: Ilanit Chernick
Encouraging students to study further was no ordinary affair at this year’s Postgraduate Fair hosted outside the Wits Science Stadium. A marimba band, warm soup and fresh focaccia were just some of the side attractions to an event intended to showcase the best of postgraduate options at the university.
The fair which took place over Tuesday and Wednesday this week provided potential postgraduates the opportunity to talk to faculty members from across the university.
Veremia Moloi, who is studying a BA industrial psychology honours, said he was confused about his plans for next year.
LISTEN UP: Students interested in doing a post-grad in accounting hear what’s on offer. Photo: Ilanit Chernick
“I wasn’t sure about my future and after attending today, I have a clearer idea of where I want to go. I found out that just because I studied psych, it doesn’t mean I have to go into it.”
BSc molecular biology student, Anza Thiba said: “I discovered that I’m not limited to molecular biology when furthering my studies. I can even pursue business or education.”
Some Computer Science students said they came to find out their “options for the future” stressing that “knowing and furthering” their future “is an important aspect” for them.
Prof Mary Scholes, director of post graduate affairs emphasised that having a “post-grad qualification is a necessity” in the working world.
“It’s no longer seen as being over qualified,” she said, “we need to close the gap within South African economy where scarce skills are growing.”
by Ilanit Chernick | Aug 20, 2014 | News
STATS: A list of the increase and decrease of stats around the Wits area. Graphic: Campus Control
Crime – including mugging – is on the rise in and around Wits campus, according to the annual crime report released by Campus Control yesterday.
Despite the higher number of arrests made by the South African Police Services (SAPS) together with Campus Control, crime has increased from 279 incidents in 2013 to 310 in 2014. However, this number is still lower than 2012, when 348 incidents occurred. The stats include the area in and around the Wits campus area.
Although theft in general, and the theft of cars, has decreased, thefts outside of cars, pick-pocketing, muggings and the possession of drugs have increased around campus. Cell phone and laptop thefts have also risen.
Campus Control said the rise in cell phone and laptop thefts was as a result of “negligence” by students. Hot-spots across campus were found to be classrooms, parking areas and some residences. Most of the crimes in these areas were petty.
Campus Control’s security and liaison manager Lucky Khumela told Wits Vuvuzela: “Students have been leaving their valuables unattended in these areas and this gives opportunists a chance to take action and steal those valuables.”
Khumela said students must be vigilant, but that Campus Control was working together with the SAPS to arrest “perpetrators of crime”.
“We have been successful so far and we hope to continue. As you can see from the statistics, our arrests have risen from 36 to 42 in the last six months.”
Students have also been warned to be careful in a number of areas outside campus including Enoch Sontonga, De Korte, Jorissen, Ameshof and Melle Streets, as well as Jan Smuts Avenue and Empire Road, where muggings and smash-and-grabs have become more common, as reported by Wits Vuvuzela earlier this year.
Students leaving campus at night, whether walking to their vehicles or walking to residences around Wits or in Braamfontein, are encouraged to call Campus Control to escort them.
Crime can be reported to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444
Wits Vuvuzela: INFOGRAPHIC: Crime spike affects Wits University,May 12, 2014
Wits Vuvuzela: Smash and grabs rife on Empire Road, May 10, 2014
by Ilanit Chernick | Aug 15, 2014 | Opinion
Music is something that strikes a chord in everyone. Whether rock, pop, jazz or classical music, it affects people in different ways.
For someone privileged enough to grow up in a musical family, there is no doubt it has affected the way I think, react or even see things.
As a teenager, I was bullied throughout high school. Yes, the hugs, love and support from my family helped a lot but it was music that gave me strength to get through the day, almost every day. It was my escape (that and video games! Call me a nerd). If things were bad, I would literally switch myself off from the world, plug in my earphones and put on a hard-core Foo Fightersor Red Hot ChiliPeppers song. One of my favourites being Foo Fighters’ The Pretender – a song that, even today, still gets me through difficult days.
“What if I say I’m not like the others,” a line in the song’s chorus, taught me that being different does not mean you are “weird” or a nerd.
You don’t have to be ashamed of who you are or of what makes you, you! Not being part of a popular clique doesn’t mean you are worthless. In fact it means you don’t have to conform to their ideals. You can think freely and openly and do things that you enjoy without feeling ashamed or with the pressure of such cliques.
I wasn’t not facing my reality or in denial about my school difficulties; chatting with therapists, teachers and mentors gave me hope too during many a dark day. But music became my outlet – listening to it, playing guitar and singing helped me to keep going. As long as the lyrics flowed I was able to keep moving forward with things too. A definite life lesson learnt through my love of song because, if you think about it, music is infinite.
Music represents many things. To me, it’s patience – because you have to wait to get to the crux or climax of a song just as “all good things come to those who wait”. Tolerance – because you can’t love every piece of music that is released or played on radio, but at times you have to just go with it – it’s the same with life. You can’t connect with everyone but it’s important to tolerate people for who they are. And finally, acceptance – because lyrics speak to one’s heart and sometimes, through relating to them, we can learn to accept both the good and bad moments in life.
My love of music has not stopped during my time at university. Music can, and almost always does, affect my mood, thought processes or even work ethic. When I’m working or need a burst of energy, a little Benny Goodman goes a long way. Feeling sad, one goes the Ellie Goulding, Anna Nalick and Kate Nash route. For those happier occasions, well Pharell Williams’s Happy, some Coldplayor The Beatlescomes to mind. Music even gets me through the daily stresses of traffic – without it I almost struggle to concentrate on the road.
At times I even associate music with life moments. When reminiscing about old flames or heartbreak, Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash play on an unbreakable loop in my mind (and on my MP3 player).
Music is my life, it’s who I am and it’s what I stand for. I live with music and, better yet, I live for it.
by Ilanit Chernick | Aug 8, 2014 | Featured 1
FIRST WORD: The women from the Wits Debating Union celebrate their triumphs. From left to right: Jabulile Mabuza, Noluthando Yeni, Irene Mpofu, Angelinah Mofokeng and Catherine Seabe. Photo: Ilanit Chernick
FOR THE first time in its 15-year-old-history of competing, there are now eight women in the Wits Debating Union (WDU), or the Lions, as they are called.
The women debaters feel they can celebrate Women’s Day with tangible progress, having broken the traditional patriarchal past. However, another transition towards diversity is the fact that the union was once white dominated but is now fully multi-racial.
Chairperson Noluthando Yeni who feels debating has grown her confidence, quipped: “Men are looking for strong, intelligent women.”
BA student, Catherine Seabe, exclaims: “I feel like I can take over the world!”
All five girls joined their high school debating teams and decided to continue until university level. Angelinah Mofokeng, a first year BA Dramatic Arts student, said: “it was fun to come to Wits and find something other than the Arts to focus on”.
“Debating is a team sport. We don’t do it for individual achievement. We celebrate wins and losses as a team,” explained BSc student Jabulile Mabuza.
Yeni told Wits Vuvuzela that they don’t have any gender issues within the team because they train together and focus on “getting into the spirit” of debating as a “united front”.
“We definitely have a strong sense of pride being the only female members in the team but at the same time we have broken the gender barrier. We blend together like a family, nobody thinks they are better than the other.”
When it comes to relationships within the team, they stressed that the 22 male members are like brothers so they don’t see any “romantics” forming.
Some did say that they “enjoy flirting” with debating members from other universities at inter-university competitions.
Individual backgrounds and famous female figures have influenced some team members to be proud of their femininity and to create equality between genders.
IreneMpofu, a BComm LLB student was deeply influenced by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela who she viewed as “not defined by her gender but rather by her hard work in society”. Mabuza’s own background has inspired her both as a person and in her passion for debating.
“I’ve grown up in the rural areas and seen the wrongs within society, especially the disadvantages women have experienced. This has inspired me to change things. I believe in leaders without titles.”
Talking briefly about the WDU win at the South African Universities Debating Championship, all said they were proud to have seen three female debaters, including WDU’s Athi-Nangamso Nkopo make it to the finals.
It was the first time a win with women in the final had taken place. Yeni said they hope to encourage more young women Witsies to join the WDU through an all-women’s debating tournament happening later this year.
“We want women to be conscious about breaking the stereotypes and gender barriers. It’s all about making us females believe in each other,” she said.
by Ilanit Chernick | Aug 8, 2014 | Lifestyle
MULTI-COPTER: Electrical Engineering student Jarren Hilton Lange explains how his multi-propeller drone is remote controlled and cannot crash because of a stability factor. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen
Doctors will in future be able to operate remotely on patients on different continents using a robotic hand, which was on show during this year’s Wits Science Week.
The exhibition is a part of the National Science Week initiative, which hosts events all over South Africa. The robotic hand was one of the most popular exhibits, along with flaming balloons and flying drones.
The robotic hand, which can be controlled from any location using two cameras, a computer and Wii remotes as sensors, was developed by Health Systems-Dynamics lecturer, Steven Dinger.
“It’s a new field,” he said. “It’s creating the ability for world-class surgeons to operate on patients in a different country.”
Dinger explained that such technological advancements would allow surgeons to operate safely in war zones without going into the field.
“It will also make way for surgeons to operate on patients in third-world countries from South Africa, Europe or America.”
The flaming balloons were filled with hydrogen and then set alight, creating a large boom, which wowed the crowds of Witsies and school children. The drones, built by engineering students, could hover above the ground and fly, when controlled from an iPad.
With over 15 exhibits, students could observe different experiments, look through microscopes at microbiological samples, drink South African herbal teas and even eat instant frozen yogurt formed using nitrogen.
“We want to break the stereotype that science is inaccessible to women or black people.”
Lectures during Science Week ranged from how modern human thought developed by Prof Lyn Wadley to understanding the importance of crystal structures by Chemistry lecturer Dr Manuel Fernandez and also searching for life beyond Earth by Dr Andreas Faltenbacher and Sashin Moonsamy from the Wits School of Physics.
Head of Wits Community University Partnerships, Dr Mahomed Moolla, highlighted the importance of getting all school kids to do science, irrespective of gender or race.
“We want to emphasise that both girls and people of colour can also do science. We want to break the stereotype that science is inaccessible to women or black people.”
Moolla headed up an initiative called “Science Slam”, which is the first part of a bigger project to help the public understand science. Wits PhD students are encouraged to present their work to high school students and members of the public.
“We want to create new knowledge that is accessible to the public.”
Dr Ian McKay, an organiser of the week’s events on campus, told Wits Vuvuzela their aim was to expose schools and Witsies to the science and technology Wits had to offer.
”We want to bring about a concept and display of the scientific and biological facets of Wits as an institution.”
Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he “hopes this exhibition will encourage people to understand the wonders and diversities of science. From the science behind teas to robotics, engineering and the origins of life on Earth and perhaps even in the skies.”
The exhibition will continue until Saturday August 9. It closes at 3.30pm.
by Ilanit Chernick | Aug 7, 2014 | Lifestyle
Ubuntu is a concept often thrown about in discussions about South African society and earlier today, two prominent philosophers unpacked and debated the concept in front of a large audience at Wits University.
As part of The Art of Human Rights workshop, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) hosted a debate with Prof Thad Metz from UJ (University of Johannesburg) and Wits professor Lucy Allais.
Both speakers dedicated part of their presentations to ideas about how to implement the second phase of Ubuntu into urban South Africa.
Ubuntu is broadly considered to be the African concept of “human kindness” and “community”.
According to Metz, it is “difficult to implement in a place like Johannesburg because of urban influences and lack of community”.
“There are little ways to do it … it takes a village to raise a child. Constructing a compound or a society where everyone takes responsibility to raise the children and rear them in the right direction.”
“If we are going to foster any type of Ubuntu in urban South Africa, we have to deal with the main issues that this country faces,” said Allais.
She stressed that “poverty and inequality” are the two biggest problems in South Africa.
“The State needs to enable everybody to participate as citizens. If we have social welfare, why do we have beggars on the street?”
She emphasised that if the state is not dealing with these issues than it’s up to civil society to pressure the state about what they are doing to about the “lack of social welfare and the like”.