Q&A with Farai Mubaiwa

Farai Mubaiwa is a leader, activist and African feminist. She is currently pursuing an MSc in the Political Economy of Emerging Markets at King’s College London. Farai has also co-founded the NGO Africa Matters which aims at changing the narrative of Africa in the eyes of the youth. In 2017, Farai was a recipient of the Queens Young Leader Award. 


Wits young leaders on the rise

BRIGHT STAR:  Arthur Motolla, from AIESEC Wits explains that Wits University won the Rising Star Award at the AIESEC June Leadership Summit.  Photo: Lameez Omarjee

BRIGHT STAR: Arthur Motolla from AIESEC Wits with the Rising Star trophy. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

A global student leadership organisation has recognised its Wits chapter through an award that also acknowledges the work of its members.

AIESEC Wits (an acronym in French for the International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences) received the Rising Star Award during the June leadership summit (JLS) held at Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMU).

The award recognised the efforts of Witsies from the society were involved in travel and leadership conferences, during the winter break, which allowed the chapter to fulfill the required number of exchanges and projects within a twelve month period.

AIESEC brings together student leaders from across the world towards the betterment of society as a whole.

Leadership summit

Ten students from Wits attended the five-day JLS which brought together chapters from a number of  different universities.

The summit focused on the relevance of African talent and explored leadership in South Africa within AIESEC, according to Onthatile Nataboge, 4th year BEd and president of AIESEC Wits.

Arthur Motolla, 1st year BA student, attended the JLS for the first time.  He said speakers stressed the importance of embracing Africa’s mosaic of cultures instead of striving for a unique African identity.

“Opportunity lies with the disadvantaged.  That is where opportunities lie for entrepreneurs.  That is where you can expect the most amount of growth,” he said as he reflected on the things he learned at the summit.

“I am still overwhelmed by JLS,” exclaimed Duduetsang Mmeti, 2nd year LLB.  She explained that students were encouraged to contribute African solutions to African problems.


WCCO breaking down the perceptions of volunteerism

SHARING IS CARING:  Students engaging with NGO groups and learning about the different outreach projects at the NGO fair held today.  Photo:  Lameez Omarjee

SHARING IS CARING: Students engaging with NGO groups and learning about the different outreach projects at the NGO fair held today. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Students at Wits University reacted ambivalently to the idea of volunteerism as they passed the many tables of non-government organisations (NGOs), on the library lawns  today. The NGO fair staged by the Wits Citizenship Community Outreach (WCCO) was part of a drive to recruit more volunteers and create awareness of the 50 projects represented.

But attracting students as volunteers as easier said than done, according to Thoriso Moseneke, assistant manager at the WCCO.  “We have a Facebook and Twitter page to engage with students, but they don’t engage with us,” said Moseneke.

Lack of a volunteer spirit?

Sydney Masilele, 1st year BEd, said, “Volunteering in first year is burdensome, because you’re a first year, you’re still trying to adapt to this new environment.  Volunteering adds to the stacks of work you have to do, it adds to pressure. Until I know how to tackle school work and academics, then I’ll be open to volunteering.”

“I like volunteering, I used to do it in high school. I stopped because when you write volunteering on your CV, potential employers will think you are wasting your time, it looks like you have time to waste on volunteering,” believes Mary-Joy Dikgale, 1st year BEd.

“We felt that volunteerism gives people a choice and we felt we needed to instill more of a responsibility in students to do more for their community”

Mkuhul Nhlapo, 1st year Civil Engineering, echoes Masilele’s and Dikgale’s sentiments. “Firstly, I didn’t know about the program.  With the hard work I have I won’t be able to dedicate time off to things that won’t benefit me.  I have so much to do, I can’t put that off to help someone.”

To address the negative perceptions of volunteering, the WCCO, formerly known as the Wits Volunteers Program (WVP), changed its name at the beginning of this year to move away from the “charity model” and develop a more citizenship-centred approach.

“We felt that volunteerism gives people a choice and we felt we needed to instill more of a responsibility in students to do more for their community,” said Karuna Singh, manager of WCCO.

Breaking perceptions

WCCO wants to break the perception that volunteering only involves helping poor people and aims to get students involved in helping the Wits community and their communities at home, according to Moseneke.  People have different perceptions of giving and think it only involves money, added Yolanda Kupa, 3rd year BSc Chemical engineering and volunteer.

“People want to make a difference but are not patient in seeing it through, especially in long term projects,” said Zukiswa White, 3rd year BA Law and volunteer for tutoring project ASSIST.  She says people get discouraged easily when they cannot see the difference they are making. People have an attitude that volunteering is a “favour” and not a citizen “responsibility”.  “Social justice and community work is not just charity or something to put on your CV,” she said.

Other students have had positive experiences with the volunteering programs in which they are involved.  “Volunteering has enriched my life and given me a social conscience.  It has shown me my immense privilege,” said Bandile Ngidi, representative of Young Economists for Africa and Masters in Economics student.

Rukudzo Pamacheche, who tutors accounting, turned down a paid tutoring job to volunteer instead, saying that she is glad she can “deliver some knowledge in a different way students can understand”.

NGOs present at the fair included various tutoring programs, animal-aid, children’s homes and the Diary of Esther project, which collects sanitary towels and toiletries for girls.



Harvard graduates ASSIST kids in Alex

ASSISTANTS: Pergan Naicker (left) and Victor Sithole (right) from the Wits Volunteer Programme tutoring in Alexandra. Photo: Provided by Assist

ASSISTANTS: Pergan Naicker (left) and Victor Sithole (right) from the Wits Volunteer Programme tutoring in Alexandra.
Photo: Provided by Assist


Underprivileged children in Alexandra are scoring with some assistance from a non-governmental organisation, the African Sports and Scholastic Initiative for Students in Townships (Assist).

Harvard graduates started Assist last September to aid underprivileged children in Alexandra.

The name of the initiative is a clever play on a basketball term, which means helping someone score a goal. In this case, the assistance comes in the form of a mentorship system to tutor children in their school subjects. 

Harvard graduates from the class of 2012 Dennis Zheng, Patrick Li and Ian Choe started the initiative in September 2012. This came after Zheng and Li had visited South Africa in 2011 to volunteer as basketball coaches at the Special Olympics South Africa.

On this 2011 visit they had the opportunity to work at different schools in Alexandra township with intellectually disabled children. Zheng said: “We then became connected with Harry Nakeng, a local community leader of the Alexandra Basketball Association (ABA), and began coaching basketball with township youth every afternoon.

“What Patrick and I discovered was a testament to the power of athletics; each day after school, 50 players of varying ages took to dusty courts in bare feet or their school shoes to learn the sport,” said Zheng.

The children made such an impact on Li and Zheng that they could not stop thinking about them. They decided to return to Johannesburg with their classmate Choe to found Assist. Zheng said: “The programme aims to leverage Alexandra township youth’s excitement about the emerging sport of basketball in order to catalyze students’ success in the classroom and ultimately improve their lives.”

The founders believe it is important to have a balance between sports and academics. Assist incorporates basketball to encourage physical, emotional and mental health, Zheng added. Sports also promotes a sense of camaraderie and helps to develop traits like discipline, he said.

                 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LB2M1U2gwk?feature=player_embeddeThe initiative has teamed up with the Wits Volunteer Programme (WVP) to outsource tutors. “Forty five Wits students are tutors for the ASSIST project now,” said Karuna Singh who heads the WVP.

These students tutor on Monday to Thursday afternoons and on Saturdays. Assist provides the tutors with transport to Alexandra. They help with subjects like Maths and English, Singh explained.

Zheng agreed: “Their consistent mentorship leads to not only better marks from term to term but also empowers each child to develop and reach his or her life goals.”

The initiative continues to seek funding, Zheng: “We initially funded the first year of the programme through the generosity of supportive friends and family, but we are currently exploring local options for financial support while preparing for another world-wide fundraising campaign.”

Up until now, by April 2013, close to 60 learners have benefited from the initiative. If you wish to assist, and help children, then  find out more about the initiative and go to:

theassist.org. You can also visit the WVP at Senate House, Ground Floor.