So you think you can sign?

I CAN SIGN: Wits Language School are hosting  “So you think you can sign” a song-sign translation competition as part of  Deaf Awareness Month ending September 30th. Lecturer Lucas Magongwa demonstrates good sign technique at the deaf awareness display on Tuesday afternoon at Education campus.  Photo: Palesa Radebe

I CAN SIGN: Wits Language School are hosting “So you think you can sign” a song-sign translation competition as part of Deaf Awareness Month ending September 30th. Lecturer Lucas Magongwa demonstrates good sign technique at the deaf awareness display on Tuesday afternoon at Education campus. Photo: Palesa Radebe

Less than two weeks remain to enter the second season of So You Think You Can Sign, the South Africa Sign Language (SASL) song translation competition.

This year’s theme for Deaf Awareness Month is “equality for deaf people”. The competition is part of a campaign to raise awareness of deafness and to encourage deaf and hearing people to work together.

The closing date for the competition is Monday, September 23 at 12pm.

The competition involves translating any song performed in English to SASL and recording yourself. You then submit your video for judging by a panel of hearing and deaf judges who can sign.

Entrants can choose any song they want as long as it is in English and doesn’t have any vulgar or discriminatory lyrics.

Lucas Magongwa, lecturer and coordinator of deaf education programmes at the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies, said: “Entrants will be judged on the use of facial expressions and emotions as well as their choreography and movement.”

Other judging criteria include the quality of the signing, the use of SASL as opposed to signed English, and including subtitles in your video.

Anyone in the country, whether they’re hearing or deaf, can enter So You Think You Can Sign and entries are open to individual and group performances.

Winners of the competition will receive R5 000 and a feature on SABC3’s Deaf TV, as well as a trophy and a Wits Language School certificate of recognition. The first and second runners up as well as the winner of the public vote will receive R1 000 and certificates.

“This is a great way to make our students aware,” Magongwa said, adding that many people don’t know how difficult it is for deaf students to get into university. Wits has only four deaf students at the moment.

“Wits has really good interpreters but no one to teach,”Magongwa  said.  [pullquote align=”right”]”Wits has really good interpreters but no one to teach”[/pullquote]

The Wits Language School and the Centre for Deaf Studies have set up an information stand outside the library on education campus to get the message about equality for deaf people out this year.

Students can go there to get information on the history of deaf movements around the world, the sign language course and activities around Deaf Awareness Month. There is also the opportunity for students to learn a few words in SASL at the stands.

The Wits Language School is hosting the competition and it started in August. This is the second year running for So You Think You Can Sign.


Wits Vuvuzela: Hearing the deaf September 12, 2013.


SLICE: Skinny versus Fit

Liesl Slice

Liesl Frankson

IT’S THE time of the year when the reality of all the bad, unhealthy decisions we’ve made through winter start to weigh heavily on our shoulders…not to mention our waistlines and buttocks.

As the weather changes and we shed layers of clothing, we are struck by a sudden urge to shed a few extra kilos in the process.  With one month to go before spring, the Wits Vuvuzela newsroom, like the rest of South Africa, has been hit by a workout wave.

Fitness challenge

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve also taken up the fitness challenge. Thanks to one of our journalists, there’s now a scale at the front of the newsroom and I think everyone is looking for a quiet moment to weigh themselves so they can assess the damage when no one’s looking.

Even though we’re calling it the fitness challenge, most of us seem to be obsessed with losing weight. Most people automatically assume skinny people are fit, but that is definitely a factoid. I’ve met people who weigh far more than me, but are able to do physical activities I’ve only dreamed about in my wildest fitness fantasies.

I look at these people and admire them because they’ve got it right. They are healthy and fit. That should be the ultimate goal. It shouldn’t be eating once a day so you can look like a reed in your shorts after you’ve been pigging out all winter. Because no one can tell what you look like under all that clothing.

 Hollywood has okayed the big booty

Even though things have changed and Hollywood has okayed the big booty, we’re still trapped in a place where we think the hollow-cheeked look is sexy and – stranger still – we continue to resort to extreme means to achieve it. Extreme diets dominate our lives even though we know how bad they are for us. The solution is simple: exercise!

Instead of taking the lift to get your doughnut, how about using the stairs? If you aren’t willing to exercise, then face facts and start eating more healthily. So stop complaining and take action. If you don’t like what you see, change it. You can eat anything you want in moderation, so watch those portions. Get active every little bit counts.

If good old-fashioned exercise and healthy living isn’t your thing there are plenty of other fun ways to get the job done. Dancing is one way. Turn on your favourite song and shake it up for a good hour, you could burn anything between 300 and 700 calories without even noticing.

If you forget about being skinny for a second and chase after a healthier, fitter you

If you forget about being skinny for a second and chase after a healthier, fitter you, I’m almost certain your new dream body won’t be too far behind. And remember your dream body doesn’t have to be the slim and slender physique of Keira Knightley or Nicole Kidman if its not in your genes and, if it is, lucky you. We’re all different and we need to embrace and work with what we have been given.

Whatever you choose to do, start now and do it all year round. Then you can be the one laughing at those of us in a tailspin over how we’re going to look in our shorts when summer arrives, asking us  to show her what we’re working with.

SRC Surveys students

Palesa Radebe and Liesl Frankson

FOLLOWING recent complaints, the SRC Academic Office is conducting a survey to find out if students are happy with the way exams are conducted at Wits.

The exam survey has been circulated to students following the recent June exams. The main focus of the survey is to establish if students are happy with the current starting times for exams, as well as the way in which they receive their results.

The survey stems from student complaints about not having enough time to finish their exams because traffic congestion and unreliable public transport cause them to arrive.

Shafee Verachia of the SRC Academic Office said it was important for students to be in the right frame of mind when they write. Arriving at 8.45 for an 8.30 exam did not help.

“It’s been very difficult for our students to be here at 8.30. During the June exams quite a few were complaining, or rather, saying they only had 30 minutes to write a two hour exam.”

Peak hour traffic on Empire Road made it difficult to get exam venues on time, both for students who commuted and those who drove themselves, he said.

“Eight to 8.30 is usually peak of traffic. If you look at Braamfontein, you have your companies like Liberty and KPMG just across the road, so all these people are trying to get here at that time. It’s very difficult for our students to get here at 8.30.”

The SRC is not only focusing its survey on day students, but is also seeking the opinion of students in residences, on and off campus.  “As the SRC, we recognise that we represent all students,” said Verachia.

To include all students, the SRC started conducting their surveys at residences. Last week they handed out surveys on the lawns and in tutorial venues. School councils have also agreed to distribute surveys at lecture venues.

One of the other important questions the survey asks is: “Are you satisfied with the availability of exam results at Wits University?” If students answer no, they need to elaborate on how they would prefer to get their results.

Bilal Cassim, 1st year Urban Planning, said: “The notice board system doesn’t work, because a lot of people come to the notice board and it becomes chaotic.  Getting your marks can be an emotional experience …”

Other issues that have emerged from the survey include clocks not being visible in the venues and disruptive invigilators.

The SRC has received close to 2000 surveys, but they are hoping to reach 6000 to have an adequate representation of what students want. The results of the survey will be presented to management to let them know if they have been doing a good job or if changes need to be implemented.

Disregard for the disabled


PARKED IN: Students in wheelchairs would not be able to access this ramp outside the School of the Arts as a driver decided to turn into a parking bay. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

By Liesl Frankson and Pheladi Sethusa

It’s easy for able-bodied students to forget that navigating the world without sight or the ability to walk can be very tough.

Students in wheelchairs and students who cannot see have to carefully map out their routes to classes, residences and the like.

If they are met by even one obstacle on that route on a certain day, they have to think on their feet.

Cuthbert Ramatlo of the Disability Unit on campus said blind students with guide dogs would be stranded in such an instance, as their dogs only know one specific route.

The Disability Interest Group meets two to three times a year to discuss issues which constantly comes up is  access to campus for disabled students.

One of the major issues around this is often a lack of clear signage indicating suitable entrances, parking areas and toilets.


Wits Vuvuzela walked around to investigate access and wheelchair friendly routes on campus.

Some signs were vandalised while others were not clearly marked or visible.

Along with this a wheelchair lift at the School of Arts had been vandalised,  forcing students who use this entrance to go through the after hour’s back door.

One of the backdoor entrances that students in wheelchairs have to use. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

One of the backdoor entrances that students in wheelchairs have to use. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

“Often we think of back door access for people with disabilities and that’s really wrong because it’s basically going back to discrimination when there were different doors for different races,” said Duncan Yates secretary of the Disability Interest Group.

Yusuf Talia, BSc final year, a student who uses a wheelchair said: “There are some limitations at older buildings, like elevators that make certain places inaccessible”.

Along with this he said weathered paving made for tricky navigation and this problem was intensified when going uphill.

Easy access

To tackle access issues the unit has started developing interactive maps which will show easy access areas around campus for disabled students.

Yates said the map would be a living map that grows as the university changes.

The access map system aims to make online and printed maps available for disabled students, staff and visitors to make their experience at Wits more pleasant.

Students and staff will be able to flag areas on the maps online that are not easily accessible or where they may be experiencing problems.

In addition to the new mapping system the disability unit also provides training for staff and bus drivers. One of the achievements they are proud of is the dedicated Wits bus with access for disabled students.

The unit aims to respond to all student suggestions and complaints.

Talia confirmed this and said most buildings and areas are accommodating, if one lives at res the disability unit generally makes a plan for students to be comfortable.


NSFAS Central Application System launches next year

Director General of Higher Education and Training Gwebs Qonde told a workshop in Pretoria this year that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) planned to follow through with their plans for a Central Application system in 2014.

What this means is that institutions of higher learning, like Wits, will lose their power to decide on student loans. The new system will allow students to apply for financial aid either directly to NSFAS or a central body created for this purpose.

The system aims to create and maintain effective admin to improve student’s access to NSFAS through direct forms of communication like cellphones, the internet and social media. Money will be paid directly into the accounts of students for transport, accommodation, tuition and food, and by so doing NSFAS will be keeping a close watch on expenditure.

Qonde said that NSFAS was inefficient because its systems were outdated and they needed to be adapted as a result of corrupt and inefficient officials in some institutions. The programme will ultimately reposition the whole of NSFAS to provide more effective financial aid that is able to cover more students and improve the recovery rate for the loans thus allowing NSFAS to fulfill its mandate.

However some officials doubt the proposed new system because thousands of beneficiaries do not complete their courses. NSFAS plans to counter this situation with supporting programmes in collaboration with universities and other stakeholders to give students the best chance of graduating.

Wits Vuvuzela asked the Manager of Financial aid and Scholarships at Wits, Busisiwe Sithole, for comment on the new system. She declined to comment stating, “I do not have answers or comments on the New Centralized system as we have not started to use it.”

Additional Resources

Wits Vuvuzela March 28 2011: Financial Aid Funding late again

Wits Vuvuzela March 26 2012: No money, no food


Caution: Flu season up ahead

The cold winter months are fast approaching and as temperatures drop, the numbers for people caught in the icy grip of colds and flu’s go up.

Flu season in the Southern Hemisphere begins from May and lasts until October every year according to the World Health Organisation’s Global Influenza Surveillance network.

A possible explanation for the relationship between the influenza virus and winter is humidity. Researchers have found that the virus survives best at extremely high and low humidity, the type you would find indoors during the winter.

One way to combat the survival of the flu virus in the air and on the surfaces in your home this winter is with the help of a humidifier. When it comes to preventing and treating cold and flu symptoms there is a lot that can be done.

Flu vaccinations are one of the most popular preventative measures and most pharmacies and doctors’ surgeries offer this service in the run up to the flu season. The Campus Health and Wellness Clinic offers flu vaccinations to students at a cost of R55. According to Campus Health the vaccinations are already out of stock because many students flock to get their seasonal jab before winter kicks in.

If you have not been able to get your flu vaccination, you can still try and ward off colds and flu’s by following home remedies like increasing your intake of vitamin C. This can be done with a vitamin C supplement or eating foods that are high in vitamin C like red bell peppers, oranges or strawberries.

One of the most important things to remember during this season is practicing good cold & flu etiquette if you really want to keep the flu at bay. Washing your hands regularly, coughing into a tissue or your sleeve and not into your bare hands can help prevent the spread of colds and flu’s.

Additional Resources

Wits Vuvuzela April 15 2011: Influenza can be prevented this Winter February 2013: Flu-Proof your home May 2013: Flu Season Etiquette- What you need to know about flu and the office


The Indian Memory Project comes to Wits


Anusha Yadav creator of the Inidan Memory Project interacting with attendees of the presentation on Wednesday. Photo: Liesl Frankson

Anusha Yadav creator of the Inidan Memory Project interacting with attendees of the presentation on Wednesday. Photo: Liesl Frankson


Wits hosted a presentation on the Indian Memory Project on Wednesday as part of the 2013 Indiafrica Festival that took place this week.

The project is an online, curated, visual and oral history archive that traces the personal history of the Indian subcontinent, its people, cultures, developments and much more. This is done with the help of contributors who send images and letters from family archives.

The event was an interactive session with the creator of the Indian Memory Project Anusha Yadav and members from the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa. Yadav presented a selection from the project, along with the narratives as an example of what the project has been able to bring to light.

The Indian Memory Project and Indian History

Yadav believes this initiative is able to offer a more precise history of the subcontinent, because these stories are the missing links in the history that has been taught. Many things have been left out of the history books or added in and looking at ordinary pictures offers a comprehensive insight into people’s lives.

“It traces the history of the country, by tracing the history of families,” said Yadav. According to Yadav this project can help people resolve their past and live with a little more pride.

“I believe India suffers from very low self esteem about itself and when I started Indian Memory Project I worked to show pride.”

The Indian Memory Project and Africa

The section of the project presented was made up of many stories of people who had ties not only to India but also to Africa. The organizers of the event and the entire Indiafrica initiative felt that India and Africa share similar histories and they are connected by similar hopes and aspirations.

With this in mind “The Indian Memory Project helps us to understand this past and the better we know the past the faster the future can develop” said Yadav.

The project is not only made up of pictures of people’s family lives, but contributors have also sent in pictures of their college lives, work lives, the start of businesses and pictures of other things they feel has a place in history or a story to tell.

Wits Vuvuzela May 16 2013: Celebrating 100 years of Bollywood

Esselen grinds Girton

Esselen Trumps: Esselen goes for gold against Girton House

Esselen Trumps: Esselen goes for gold against Girton House

THE ESSELEN netball team’s fast-placed play proved too much for rivals Girton House, leaving them victorious 20-12 after their Tuesday match at Dig Field. The fast paced match left Girton struggling to keep up as Esselen dominated the first three quarters with a solid goal shooting team.Esselen members Palesa Choma and Nomfundo Koloi worked well together and used every opportunity to score goals. Their defence was also solid and managed to keep the Girton shooters at bay.

Goalkeeper Mpho Mokoena was a force to be reckoned with in the Girton shooting circle, often retrieving the ball before Girton could score.

Girton felt the pressure and were sloppy with their passes, often losing balls they should have used to their advantage. After a stern talking to from the coach, Girton’s defence appeared stronger in the third quarter. This kept Esselen on their toes with Girton goalkeeper Kwezi Katamzi becoming a formidable foe for Esselen goalshooter Nomfundo Koloi. While their defence was on point, Girton still had difficulty driving the game forward towards their goals.

The last quarter of the game intensified as both teams made efforts to win the match. Girton gave it their all and matched the Esselen pace. They made solid advances to their goal posts, scoring a couple of goals and giving Esselen a run for their money.As the pressure mounted Esselen started to panic and become careless with their passes. However, this they found their feet again, kept their defence strong and eventually came out victorious.

The Esselen and Girton match wereone of several played this week in the Wits internal netball league. Other teams that came out on top include Wits Junction with a 20-12 victory over Reith and Jubilee with a 27-8 victory over Barnato.

Mavoda suffered a crushing 2-43 defeat against Medics, the 2012 champions.

Braamfontein Centre and David Webster played a smooth game that left David Webster victorious 19-12. The match between Sunnyside and Medhurst was postponed.

The next round of the league continues on April 14 at 6pm on West Campus at the Dig Field.


The face of climate change: Earth day 2013

Wits University participated in the first ever global screening of a new climate change documentary Thin Ice on Monday night.

The documentary was released on Earth day in line with the 2013 theme “the face of climate change.”  The selected theme aims to tell the world the stories of people, animals, and places affected by climate change.

Thin Ice addresses the other side of the climate change coin by looking at the great lengths scientists go to, in order to understand our planets changing climates. The purpose of the documentary, amongst other things,  is to show how far reaching human activity can be on the environment. .

The makers of the documentary felt that the topic of climate change has come under fire in recent years. The making of the film would not only document but also put a face to climate change science. “A group of us have produced another film about climate science but in this one, scientists do the talking” said Peter Barret, team leader for the film project.

The 40 researchers and scientists in the film can be seen discussing and studying changes in the atmosphere, oceans and ice sheets. They made use of  measurements and computer modelling, which took place across four continents and the ocean.

This year over one billion people in 192 countries participated in Earth day, including South Africa. South African National Parks (SANParks) was one of many organisations that hosted an Earth day event.

They promoted and reinforced the popular reduce, reuse, recycle concept with tips and advice as well as climate change and global warming facts. This week many offices around the country also celebrated green office week in commemoration of  Earth day.

Earth day was first celebrated on April 22 1970 making this year the 43rd anniversary. The first Earth day took place in the USA when 20 million people took to the streets to protest against the damage that was being done with oil spills and carbon emissions and their right to a clean sustainable environment.

Social work students take an oath

The Department of Social Development held an oath taking ceremony for first-year social work students at Wits yesterday.

The event was attended by the South African Social Service Professions (SASSP), the Faculty of Humanities, The Department of Social Work and The Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini who delivered the keynote address.

The ceremony is an annual event and involves students taking a solemn declaration before their peers, parents and lecturers to honour the social work profession and always adhere to the ethical code of the profession as contained in the Social Service Professions Act.

This year Dlamini underlined issues of importance in the social work industry. She emphasized one aspect in particular that is important if students are to call themselves complete professionals one day “students must treat their clients regardless of social standing with respect and dignity.”

She congratulated and thanked the students for their choice of profession and explained the importance of the role of the social work profession in society. “The public expects high quality, responsive services delivered by well trained and competent social workers and rightly so.”

Dlamini also used the occasion to highlight the South African Veteran Social Workers Forum that was launched last year. The forum will serve as a support structure to newly qualified social work professionals, who can use the expertise of retired social workers offering mentoring through the forum.

Music staff practice what they teach

The deep dramatic melodies of the piano reverberated around the room and I felt this uncomfortable feeling in my chest as if my heart was fluttering. My eyes began to water and I felt as if I had a giant marble in my throat as I looked into her eyes and saw, glistening in the light, what looked like the glaze of tears.

I always tell people to listen to all kinds of music as I do but this was my first experience at a classical music concert. WitsMusic hosted a classical music concert in the Atrium on Tuesday night showcasing the talent of classical musicians from around the country.

It was an hour long event that took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and imagery in my mind. I always imagined that my first live encounter with classical music would involve a big theatre and an orchestra numbering near the hundreds, but this concert was exactly the opposite.

The Atrium is a small cosy venue, with a lowered stage no more than 10 feet away allowing the audience of 102 to look straight at the performers. The soft, warm glow of the orange lighting against the wood of the stage added to the intimate feel of the evening as if we were in a room lit with hundreds of candles.

It was the second act of the evening with Michele Corbin, a Soprano, and, pianist from Tri Hemany, Malcolm Nay that almost brought me to tears last night. Corbin evoked emotion around the room with the powerful range of her voice and expressions on her face as she bellowed out a song or, “chanson” as it’s called in the opera world that recalled past memories of love.

As I looked around the room I couldn’t help but notice the small audience had very few young people who weren’t arts and music students there to support their teachers and family members. It got me thinking about why more young people aren’t open to the experience of classical music.

Deejaying and creating beats on computer programmes with synthesizers and other music creating gadgets is more the choice of the younger generation today, and perhaps taking things back to basics with real instruments is the best place to start on the path to rue musical appreciation. Even my partner who doesn’t consider himself much of a classical music kind of guy was visibly moved to a point where he declared the evening “cool”.

It’s one thing to listen to classical music on the radio or a CD but to have a live classical experience is quite different, with nothing but instruments classical artists paint pictures in your mind, and if you surrender to the melodies and allow the music to engulf you, you may just discover a deeply emotional or creative part of you, you never knew existed.

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