WITS University has a shortage of black women academics despite efforts of transformation by the National Research Foundation (NRF).
According to statistics released by the Academic Information and Systems Unit black female academics make up one third out of a total of 322 academic staff at the university, with seven out of 33 of its temporary staff being black women.
“As black women we do not necessarily have the support of people who have walked the journey and can tell us how to fight or hold our hand as we walk the journey,” said Mamokgethi Phakeng professor of Mathematics Education at the University of South Africa and the president of Wits Convocation.
DOCTORS ORDERS: Dean of Students Dr Pamela Dube discussing the importance of female academics. Photo: Tendai Dube
Phakeng is the first black African female recipient of a PhD in Mathematics Education and said part of the transformation process of any university is having black women academics, suggesting they offer a different voice to academia
“Our experience of oppression is different from that of black men and of white women and so not having more of us in academia means that one important voice is missing,” Phakeng said.
She suggests there is difficulty associated with maintaining traditional gender roles when pursuing an academic career as “academia can be unsympathetic to women.”
According to Dean of Students Dr Pamela Dube there is a dire shortage of female academics, especially people with qualifications in the PhD level.
“We have a less than a 1% research output in the country,” said Dube. She added there was a lack of participation of female researchers in the PhD level. “We have a huge shortage and we need more.”
“As black women we do not necessarily have the support of people who have walked the journey and can tell us how to fight or hold our hand as we walk the journey”,
Other projects to help women academics include The Project Developing Young Research Leadership where undergraduate students observe and participate in research projects.
Pursuing a PhD can take up to seven or eight years to finish, but associate professor of the School of Human and Community Development Dr Mzikazi Nduna confirms that with the intervention of such projects, it can take even less time to complete.
Nduna, who is the only black African female professor in her department out of 12 professors, said it takes a lot of commitment to become an academic and that “many young people are just not willing to commit.”
Phakeng maintains, however, that despite the challenges faced when pursuing an academic career “we need a narrative of excellence, one that says we should all work towards being excellent irrespective of our background.”
New students attending the annual Wits welcome day today were challenged to donate a hundred rand each to assist students who face exclusion due to a lack of funding. The call came from Student Representative Council (SRC) president Mcebo Dlamini, as part of efforts to assist students who did not receive funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“The target is to raise one million by the end of this month,” said Dlamini, who is aiming to enlist the support of ten thousand people to reach the target before the end of February.
Dlamini was addressing an audience of over 5000 people, including parents and first-year students, who had gathered on the Library Lawns for the start of the official Orientation Week programme.
“It is a sad moment for this university,” said Dlamini who was referring to the 2788 student who were not able to register at Wits due to the lack of funding.
ONE HUNDRED RAND LEADER: SRC President Mcebo Dlamini holds R100 as pledge to support education for all. Photo: Palesa Tshandu
Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube, described the announcement as an “excellent plan” but said this was the first time the academic staff of the institution had heard of it.
“We were not aware of it but we would like people to help … this is what the SRC should be doing,” said Dube.
“The target is to raise one million by the end of this month,”
Former SRC president Shafee Verachia described the pledge as a “proactive initiation” by student leaders saying “if this pledge is a success, it will be a great success for the SRC”.
Dean of the Faculty of Humanities Professor Ruksana Osman commended Dlamini’s efforts in fundraising for the unregistered students.
Osman also said the Faculty of Humanities had pledged R1.5 million to help postgraduate students who are receiving their Bachelor of Arts honours degrees.
Dlamini confirmed the SRC will work with Wits University and Convocation to run the campaign once it gains traction and an account for the funds will be set-up by the office of the Dean of Students.
VIVA: Wits students and staff march together in solidarity with students who were denied NSFAS funding. Photo: Ilanit Chernick
Wits University has been given twenty four hours to allow students without funding to register or face the prospect of disruptions.
Members of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), South African Student Organisation (SASCO) and the Young Communist League (YCL) today handed a memorandum over to the dean of students, Dr Pamela Dube in the Senate House concourse. The group is demanding that Wits management “admit students now and solve the issues later”.
[READ MORE: Witsies face uncertain future without NSFAS]
Justice Mokotedi, chair of the Young Communist League at Wits, said protesting students would make the university “ungovernable” if their demands were not met on time.
“There will be no Sunday,” he said referring to the start of the Orientation Week programme starting this weekend.
“We have been sitting in meeting after meeting drinking coffee, our caffeine levels are high but we are tired. Sick and tired! We want answers!”
HAND IT OVER: Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube acknowledges receit of the PYA’s memorandum. Photo: Ilanit Chernick
He also accused management and vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib of being on a retreat while the protest was taking place.
“As this is happening and we are protesting for student rights, our VC is enjoying wine and whiskey on a retreat! We give Pamela this memorandum unapologetically.”
SRC (Student Representative Council), secretary general, Senzekahle Mbokazi, said students are protesting because “we cannot understand why there is so much confusion” between Wits and the Department of Higher Education.
Mbokazi said the SRC had been to speak to both the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and Wits.
“NSFAS claims that Wits is mismanaging funds and Wits is saying they were not allocated enough money. In the meantime 2788 students are being held to ransom. More pressure needs to be put on the university,” she said.
As the march progressed throughout the day, protestors blocked the university’s central Yale Road to vent their frustrations.
“We will block campus roads,” said SASCO chairperson Nthabiseng Molefe as she addressed the crowd. “We will show management that we are in control!”
I AM SRC: The SRC for 2014/2015 are made up of candidates from the Progressive Youth Alliance and Project W. No one candidates were elected from the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters. Photo: Tendai Dube
CORRECTION: The article initially and incorrectly stated that 31 000 votes had been cast during SRC elections, when only 7024 valid ballots were cast. 31 905 is the total voters roll, or number of students eligible to vote. Wits Vuvuzela regrets the error which has been corrected below.
Two weeks of Student Representative Council (SRC) electoral campaigning ended on Thursday with the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) edging out Project W, nine seats to six.
Current SRC member, Jamie Mighti, who was running for re-election to the SRC, received the most votes, with 2 929 out of the total 7024 valid votes being cast.
“I’m very happy,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.
Political newcomers Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were completely shut out, with their members sitting at rock bottom on the candidate list. Despite this, they continued to sing and dance outside the Great Hall, after election results had been announced by dean of students Dr Pamela Dube, earlier today. They were joined by a mass of PYA supporters, kitted out in their yellow and black t-shirts.
Current SRC president and PYA member Shafee Verachia called Witsies “intelligent” for not voting for the EFF. “There was obviously stuff in the party’s manifesto that they clearly don’t like,” he said.
EFF candidate, Anele Nzimande said the party was “different” from the other organisations and said they would be continue to be active outside of the SRC. “Even though we didn’t win, we will still continue to work from the outside with the students,” Nzimande said.
Also notably absent from the winner’s row was PYA candidate Michlene Mongae, who is a member of the current SRC and was campaigning for re-election.
PYA candidate Mcebo Dlamini put the PYA’s win down to “loyalty”, saying that students voted for what they know.
7 192 students voted out of the approximately 30 000 at Wits, amounting to only 23% of the student population.
The SRC president will be announced later this month and will most likely be someone from the PYA, as they had the most candidates elected onto the SRC.
Mighti said that while Project W had hoped to be the dominant party, they were committed to working in partnership with the PYA.
The new SRC will take office on November 1 this year.
The SRC, in order of the number of votes received are as follows:
Jamie Mighti (Project W) – 2929 votes
Thamsanqa Pooe (Project W)- 2894 votes
Blaise Koetsie (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2812 votes
Senzekahle Mbokazi (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2789 votes
Mthuthuzel Mahlangu (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2715 votes
Mcebo Dlamini (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2606 votes
Shaeera Kalla (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2584 votes
Fasiha Hassan (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2554 votes
Gwinyai Dube (Project W)- 2417 votes
Omhle Ntshingila (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2349 votes
Kabelo Murray (Project W)- 2317 votes
Waseem Talia (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2308 votes
Amogelang Manganyi (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2307 votes
Tanya Otto (Project W)- 2287 votes
Enhle Khumalo (Project W)- 2279 votes
The Wits Food Bank is appealing to Witsies to assist students in need through donations. Photo: Wits Communications.
Seven percent of undergraduate students go to lectures without food each day, according to Wits Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube.
This figure is based on a study conducted in 2012 by Wits medical school students and on research by the Wits Student Affairs Office and campus security after students were found to be sleeping in university buildings.
The study, conducted by the Siyakhana Initiative for Ecological Health and Food Security, based its research on 387 undergraduate students and looked at 22 campus food points. Its aim was to “assess the food environment on campus, establish the food security status of undergraduate students and investigate the relationship between these two issues.”
“Usually, students who don’t have accommodation and sleep on campus also don’t have something to eat,” said Dube.
According to Dube, the numbers that they got were not as high as initially anticipated, but this was just “one intervention.”
“Some people will take away their blankets where they’re sleeping in the bathroom … or in the seminar rooms … or sometimes only blankets will be found and the person will never be tracked. People tend to also be watchful,” she said.
Seven percent of the students were either “severely or moderately vulnerable to food insecurity”
Seven percent of the students were either “severely or moderately vulnerable to food insecurity” and in some groups, a number of students experienced hunger.
27% of them knew of a fellow student who experienced hunger and more than half had personally experienced some impact on their academic performance, due to hunger.
Initiatives to assist hungry Wits students
The Wits Food Bank, started just over a year ago, is a campaign of the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach centre (WCCO) and is aimed at curbing food insecurity among students.
It provides students in need with toiletries, clothes, food and if need be, a place to sleep, according to WCCO manager, Karuna Singh.
This year, the WCCO is using Mandela Day (18 July) as a way to encourage larger donations from the Wits community, with the theme: “charity begins at home.”
“We are asking staff members and students to donate food, toiletries and clothes to the Food Bank,” said Singh.
The division of Students Affairs, a partner in the Food Bank project, also works closely with a number of departments, schools and faculties to support students in need. “People do actually come, as much as they fear the stigma,” Dube said. “Our interest is that people perform well and are supported, which means providing them with balanced, nutritious meals.”
As part of a solution, there have been changes in meals catered for at residences, “as this is not just an issue for students in need.”
Students can receive food cards for the Matrix and the university has plans to create a day house where meals can be provided and healthy, mobile food stands around campus.
The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) is also assisting hungry students as it recognises the impact on student performance.
The SRC are continously helping students with food security issues
“[We are] committed to ensuring that all our students are given the best possible environment to perform academically. For some students their poor performance is due to a lack of food and the SRC has interventions available to assist these students,” said SRC president, Shafee Verachia.
According to Verachia, the problem is so prevalent because of the sacrifice students make to come to Wits.
“Some are faced with horrendous circumstances which they try and deal with to make a success of life.” He also feels there is a lack of understanding by some students, who think everything will be provided for them when they get to university. “Nonetheless, the SRC is committed to assisting all of our students.”
The SRC has two ongoing processes available to students. The first is catering for students who have not had a meal in two or more days. The SRC uploads money onto their student card so that they can go to res and get a meal, just like any other student. The second is through the provision of food packs for students who can prepare meals for themselves.
STUDENT AFFAIRS: Dr Pamela Dube discusses the changes in store for Students at Wits.
The new Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube would like the student affairs office to become “the place to go” for all student and academic issues.
She spoke with Wits Vuvuzela to discuss her new position and her aspirations for the future of Wits Student Affairs.
Dube said her priorities were solely “focused on student issues” and her aspirations for student affairs “are in alignment with the Vice Chancellors visions for transformation of 2022. I hope by 2022 students will be the centre of all decisions made at the University.”
The student affairs sector of Wits was originally part of Senate, but was later moved to its own office and finally to the operations section of the university in Senate House.
Asked about this apparent downgrading, Dube was shocked. She said she would do everything in her power to change this. “I want to professionalise this department. I want us to go beyond babysitting students.”
Dube said her plan was to elevate the student affairs office and to make it a place where “all students from undergrad to beyond post-grad are able come to us with problems and moreover professional advice”.
She encouraged students to approach them and use the facilities on offer, such as Campus Health, CCDU and the like. “We want students to trust us. We want to be visible and market ourselves to all students as a full package.”
Dube is part of the university-wide initiative to move away from race and gender as central issues among students. She wants student affairs also to contribute and support the academic side of the university. She plans to encourage diversity and ethics in teaching and among students.
“I also want to help students from different backgrounds to relate to each other and work in partnership.”
Dube, who is originally from KwaMakutu Township in Kwazulu-Natal, said her parents taught her the “values of focusing on the bigger picture,” and it was these values she hoped to instil within all students during her time at Wits.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way. We are trying to prepare the students for the bigger world out there.”
The SRC has agreed to review the decision to refuse recognition to Project W but the new organisation is already complaining the process is a “fruitless” exercise.
Project W’s Jamie Mighti complained that the process, which began with a meeting on Wednesday, will be unlikely to reverse the initial decision, made by the Progressive Youth Alliance-led SRC.
Earlier this month, Wits Vuvuzela reported that Project W and Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had been refused official recognition as clubs and societies by the SRC. Both organisations said their exclusion was politically motivated.
[pullquote]“So what is the point of having a review, if you are not going to review and if you are not actually going to follow the letter of the rules,”[/pullquote]
The decision to exclude them is now being reviewed by the SRC.Dean of Students Pamela Dube told Wits Vuvuzela the SRC had “committed themselves to providing an opportunity for the relevant CSO’s[clubs and societies] to present themselves following the dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Initial process,” she said.
A pre determined outcome?
But Project W SRC member Jamie Mighti, claimed the process will be a “fruitless”exercise because SRC clubs and societies officer Sarah Mokwebo declared at the Wednesday meeting about appeal process that “I’ve already made my rulings and I’m going to stand by them” “So what is the point of having a review, if you are not going to review and if you are not actually going to follow the letter of the rules,”Mighti said.
“We’re going to make presentations before three or four SRC members, but only one [Mokwebo] decides what happens and makes recommendations. The one person who makes recommendations is the very same person who declined the societies in the first place,” said Mighti.
Mokwebo told Wits Vuvuzela that she could not respond to allegations made against her since it was an “internal matter”. She referred questions to SRC president Shafee Verachia and SRC secretary Michlene Mongae. Verachia said he was in meetings and could not comment. Mongae did not reply to requests for comment.
Even if Project W is refused recognition, they may still have a reprieve Dube said the final endorsement of the SRC’s decision on clubs and societies would come from her office with some input from the vice-chancellor’s office.
[pullquote align=”right”]“We were told that if we didn’t reach quorum, we would just make recommendations to the SRC, but how can we make a recommendation to ourselves?”[/pullquote]
Wits EFF member Tokelo Nhlapo said they were not aware of the review process and would not participate in it since they were not invited to by the SRC. Instead, they would be appeal directly to the dean of students.
Project W SRC member Jabulile Mabuza told Wits Vuvuzela that the meeting the SRC held on Wednesday to review applications was problematic. She said the meetings did not have a quorum and so could not take decisions, only make recommendation.“We were told that if we didn’t reach quorum, we would just make recommendations to the SRC, but how can we make a recommendation to ourselves?”she asked.
Ghost form 6
She added that new forms needed to apply and not been provided to Project W. The form in question “Form 6” was not given to Project W at their initial application.
Mabuza added that the form does not exist, “Nobody knows where it is, or who has it,” she said. Mighti said that Project W would still make their presentation despite their complaints with the process. “We will follow their broken system, but we will point out that their system is broken,” he said.
[pullquote]”Some of these people have political ambitions to lead ANC provincial structures, so they want to be seen to be shutting down the ANC’s opponents,” Nhlapo said.[/pullquote]
APPLICATION DENIED: Vuyani Pambo, chairperson of Wits EFF, was upset by the SRC overplaying their hand. Photo: Nomatter Ndebele
ACCUSATIONS that the SRC is abusing its powers against political opponents have resulted in a review by the vice chancellor’s office.
The SRC, which is led by the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), is responsible for officially recognizing Wits clubs and societies, including political organizations.
Two political organizations, Project W and Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), have been refused recognition.
Both organizations have appealed their rejections and accuse the PYA of playing dirty politics.
Dean of Students Pamela Dube confirmed the SRC would hear the appeal and the vice-chancellor’s office “is looking into reviewing the process by which [clubs and societies] are approved.”
SRC secretary Michlene Mongae declined to comment to Wits Vuvuzela on the accusations.
Jamie Mighti, a Project W SRC member, said the PYA did not follow correct procedure during the application process.
“The SRC must give applicants a model constitution to fill it, but they didn’t do that,” said Mighti. He said Project W’s constitution was later rejected by the SRC because it was not in line with the model.
According to Mighti, new clubs and societies must appear at an SRC general meeting as a final step before being officially recognized or rejected.
But he said this was not done for new clubs.[pullquote]”Some of these people have political ambitions to lead ANC provincial structures, so they want to be seen to be shutting down the ANC’s opponents,” Nhlapo said.[/pullquote]
Mighti accused SRC president Shafee Verachia and Club and Society portfolio holder Sarah Mokwebo of making the decision to reject new clubs without consultations.
The SRC is made up of eight PYA members and six Project W members.
Project W accused the PYA members of the SRC of “banning” them to stop it from interacting with students during O-week.
Chairperson of Wits EFF, Vuyani Pambo, said their organisation applied two days before the application closing date but they did not even appear on the list of clubs and societies who had applied.
“It was as if we never applied,” Pambo said.
He said that when Wits EFF inquired about why they were not on the list, they were given contradictory explanations.
SRC internal vice president internal Paul Ndiweni said they applied late while Mokwebo said they had not applied at all.
Former SRC vice president Tokelo Nhlapo, who defected from the PYA to Wits EFF last year, also agreed that proper procedure had not been followed.
“The SRC is simply a ceremonial structure. It does not follow constitutional obligations,” he said.
“Some of these people have political ambitions to lead ANC provincial structures, so they want to be seen to be shutting down the ANC’s opponents,” Nhlapo said.
The PYA is an alliance between the ANC Youth League, Muslim Students Association and South African Students Congress.
PYA-EFF spat leaves disabled students out in the cold, February 7, 2014
SRC to divvy up the spoils, September 13, 2013