Welcome Day 2020: ‘You’ve made the right choice’ – VC
Professor Adam Habib highlighted the achievements of Wits University and the impact of its alumni on the world.
Professor Adam Habib highlighted the achievements of Wits University and the impact of its alumni on the world.
Wits vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib will once again be holding a town hall meeting with Witsies. The announcement poster was received via email just a few minutes ago.
Earlier today Wits University and the Ministry of Basic of Education (DBE) introduced six of the ten matriculants who were awarded the university’s freshly minted Equality Scholarship ahead of the academic year which commences next week.
The learners were chosen from quintiles 1 and 2 schools, classified as “no-fee schools and situated in the most disadvantaged communities in the country”.
Vice-Chancellor (VC) Professor Adam Habib and Minister Angie Motshekga sat side by side in front of the media and the student themselves in the plush Council Chambers in Senate House. They both spoke enthusiastically of the bright futures that these students represented.
“This is the basis of addressing inequality,” Habib enjoined, as he explained the reasoning behind the formation of the scholarship, which aims to bankroll, in its entirety, the tertiary education of talented learners from poor and marginalised communities.[pullquote align=”right”]”An anonymous R10 million donation was central in getting the scholarship off the ground”[/pullquote]
Habib, however, was quick to emphasise that it was “academic excellence” that formed the basis on which these students were chosen. “We recognise circumstances but you have to recognise merit,” Habib said.
The scholarship will be renewed annually provided the students continue to maintain impressive results.
Minister Motshekga described the scholarships as a way to catalyse “social migration from marginalised communities into high levels of the economy”.
Each student was awarded close to R100 000 per annum, dependent on their academic performance.
Habib revealed that an anonymous R10 million donation was central in getting the scholarship off the ground.
Conceding that even R100 000 was only just enough to cover each students tuition, accommodation and a small number of “incidentals”, and not other costs such as supporting extended families back in the students underprivileged communities, the VC bemoaned the difficulty caused by the fact that the “our inflation of higher education runs ahead of normal inflation”.
He described this as a “big challenge” which in part would have to be addressed through social support structures such as grants.
“We can’t have their education compromised,” Habib stressed, pointing out that some students qualified for other bursaries which could be used to cover additional costs.
Even R100 000 is not enough
The story of one of the scholarship recipients, Thembinkosi Qwabe from Osizweni in Newcastle, KwaZulu Natal, partly illustrates how even a sum as generous R100 000 may not be enough.
Qwabe is one of five children, the first to go to university in his family after scoring 97 per cent in Physical Science and 96 per cent in Maths. He was raised by a single parent, his mother.
He explained that she was on the verge of retiring from a job as a receptionist at an auto-repair store. His two elder brothers had finished matric but are unemployed. Qwabe’s two younger sisters are still in school.
He said he did not remember the exact moment he received the news of the scholarship, but he did recall that his family was very happy. His father, whom he had last seen in 2006, knew of his achievements but had not yet contacted Qwabe to congratulate him.[pullquote align=”right”]“My only wish now is to pass and do well for my family.”[/pullquote]
Dressed immaculately in all red and still reeling, by his own confession, from the gravity of the moment and of being in this large city, Qwabe hinted that it was now up to him to be that “bridge” into a better life for his family.
“My only wish now is to pass and do well for my family,” he said.
Wits plans to offer ten new scholarships to talented first year students.
The ‘Vice chancellor Equality Scholarships’ is the brainchild of Professor Adam Habib and will be presented to 10 students from the most marginalised schools.
The scholarship will be similar to the current merit scholarships that the university offers.
Habib said each the qualifying student would receive about R 100 000 in funding.
The students’ study fees and residence fees will be paid in full throughout their degree, as long as they attain a certain level of performance.
If the students pass their first year at the university, their second year will be paid as well. Habib said the rationale of the scholarship is that any university must be a home for talented students, whatever their degree.
“That’s a bloody good student”
“Our thing is, if you’re going to be a nationally responsible university, a university of this country, you must be able to make sure you have a home for poor people as much as you are a home for rich people. And that means you are taking talented students.”
Habib said it can’t be expected of a marginalised student or someone who comes from a marginalised school to compete on an equal footing with somebody from a private school, so Wits wants to equalise the playing field.
[pullquote align=”right”]You must be able to make sure you have a home for poor people as much as you are a home for rich people[/pullquote]
“If you have got five A’s or four A’s from a student who is in a school that does not even have laboratories, that’s a bloody good student. And so they must be given a shot.” The scholarships will be an attempt on Wits’s part as a public institution to address inequality in society. Funds for the scholarships will come from Wits and donors.
Although 10 new scholarships are planned for future first years, Wits is also driving a new scholarship fund for postgraduate students. Habib said the idea for the postgraduate funds was similar to the idea for the equality scholarship funds, “to address the needs as a society”.
Wits currently has 9 800 postgraduate students, which is about 30% of the total student population.
THE ELEVEN charged Wits students have raised concerns about the chairperson presiding over their disciplinary hearing.
Advocate Jennifer Woodward was appointed by Vice Chancellor Adam Habib.
“The chairperson was appointed by the same vice chancellor who is prosecuting us,” said SRC secretary Tasneem Essop.
“The vice chancellor is a player and a referee. It doesn’t make sense. How can you charge students then decide who the judge is,” said SRC international student affairs officer Pearl Pillay.
Habib defended the appointment of Woodward and called her a “senior and well-respected” advocate. He said the Wits Legal Office recommended the appointment of an independent person which was supported by management.
He said the recommendation was made because of the case’s “potential reputational risks and the need to ensure a fair, transparent process.”
Habib said the committee holding the hearing was independent and its decision could be reviewed and appealed by a committee appointed by University Council.
The students were charged with contravening the university’s code of conduct after they disrupted a concert by an Israeli pianist during a protest for Israel Apartheid Week in March.
The 11 charged students have resigned to losing the case. They said the hearing process was biased and fraught with double standards and inconsistencies.
SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa said: “The judge was frustrated and disallowed our lawyer from getting instruction from us. Our lawyer was scolded and shouted at but when the same behaviour was showed by the prosecutor, it was ok.”
Essop told Wits Vuvuzela the venue of the disciplinary hearing was moved without the charged 11 students’ knowledge. She said they were scolded by Woodward when they arrived late at the new venue and were not allowed to explain why they were late.
Habib confirmed the inquiry venue was changed but said the SRC’s legal representative team was made aware of the change.
Essop and Pillay said the judge was “extremely patronising” and treated the charged 11 students “like children”.
“We got a gag order for tweeting. The university threatened to charge us with more misconduct charges. What is the university scared of?” said Essop.
Pillay said the charged students were ordered not to tweet during the trial after Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Yunus Ballim was offended by something he saw on twitter.
“The next day, the prosecutor printed 68 pages of our tweets. The judge asked us not to tweet. We wanted the media to know,” said Pillay.
Habib told Wits Vuvuzela Woodward decided a “trial by media” was not best for the circumstances “given the manifold and diverse interests in the case”.
He said while the media wasn’t allowed to attend the inquiry, “there were no objections should the student wish to comment to the media outside.”
SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa disputes this and said the accused students wanted the media to be present.
“We made calls for the media to be there and for the trial to be public. The university and the disciplinary hearing presiding officer [Woodward] has rejected our calls.”
Mgludlwa said they [the students] haven’t laid a formal complaint against the university but “we might be writing a letter of complaint to the vice chancellor” depending on what their lawyer advises.
The trial of the 11 Wits students will resume August 13.
Wits Vuvuzela. Wits 11 cry foul July 19, 2013
Wits Vuvuzela. Israel vs SRC May 31, 2013
Incoming Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib has acknowledged the university needs “a new paradigm” for pursuing perpetrators of sexual harassment, he said in an interview with the Vuvuzela.
“The difficulty has therefore been sustaining the case against these individuals. I understand the difficulties of doing so. But this has been a challenge,” said Habib.
“Clearly we need a new paradigm for addressing these violations.”
Referring to students’ reluctance of coming forward, Habib said he understands the difficulties of doing so, but that this has been a challenge for the university.
Habib, who will be taking over as acting vice chancellor in May, shared his thoughts on the sexual harassment scandal that has invaded the Wits campus.
He told Vuvuzela via email on Wednesday that, “The University definitely has to throw the full force of the law at anyone who has been found to be guilty of sexual harassment.”
When asked about the difficulties in addressing sexual harassment within Wits, Habib said it was crucial for the university to create an environment where students feel safe to report and charge anyone who has violated their rights.
“If we cannot create a safe and enabling learning environment, then we have failed in our primary function at the university” he said.
“Clearly we need a new paradigm for addressing these violations,” he said.
Habib added that he hopes the new sexual harassment policy will be able to address this.
He is currently away in the United States with incumbent Vice Chancellor Loyiso Nongxa.
Habib said that while they were in being away in the US with the current VC, Prof Loyisa Nongxa. IN their absence, he has asked senior female university officials to meet with students.
“The VCO [vice-chancellor’s office] has asked its senior women executives to host a meeting with students to hear their challenges in this regard, and what else we can do as an institution.”
He also said that if needed he and Nongxa will host another meeting with women students and staff, upon their return.
“In the meantime, the senate is in the process of making a statement condemning lecturers who have been involved in this.
“What is imperative is that the safety of our learning environment must be enhanced, as must the trust relationships between our academics and our students,” Habib concluded.