The funding struggle is real

My name is Tebogo Langa* I am studying  a bachelor of Accounting and I am in my second year.

What happened was, I have, I had an outstanding fee of R19 433 and because I wrote a deferred exam in January automatically my NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) application for this year was declined, so I was told. I went to the SRC to find out if they can’t help me register because that was my main objective coming back to school this year.

There is a particular gentleman that promised that he would help, he even spoke to my brother last week Wednesday and said that he will meet Fees Office to ensure that by Friday I am registered. So on Thursday, the day after, I think the 4th of February, I call him he doesn’t answer his phone, it goes straight to voicemail.

So I call my brother and tell him that “listen, faculty has given me until the 8th as the last day to register, if not then I’m not gonna be able to come back to school.” So he had to take a loan to pay the outstanding fee, a loan of R20 000, and that’s how I managed to register.

I lost both my parents. I am from a family of five kids. My eldest brother, he is the one who actually takes care of us, he is a Metro Police, he works for JMPD, so that’s how he managed to get the loan coz he has a payslip, he qualified for it. But repaying it means that his family and our family are now having to do some financial adjustments and what seems like basic essential food to a lot of people to us is like luxury. From that we also need to cut down to ensure that he doesn’t go into further debt. I am the only one in the family to go to varsity.

I wasn’t [on Financial Aid] last year. I applied for it but they said my application papers got lost in the system. That’s why I didn’t have funding last year. But the year before I did have NSFAS.

I had to pay registration fee last year by myself, after paying it they said that all the appeal decisions would be out in March. And when they were out, in their system I basically hadn’t applied because they didn’t have my supporting documents. So throughout last year I have been contacting higher departments, I’ve got emails I can send them to you. I’ve got emails stating that I’ve been tryna find funding but when they come back into the school and they find out my financial standing, whether I qualify for NSFAS or not, they say they can’t help me because I’m not a NSFAS student. But they didn’t look into the fact whether I qualify for it or not but the fact that the system says I didn’t apply, they couldn’t help me.

I have appealed the NSFAS decision because they declined my application because I wrote a deferred, but the appeal will only be answered on the 31st of March so I think then will I know which way to go, but if the appeal is unsuccessful I don’t know how

I am going to pay this year’s fees.

I stay in Alexandra so I travel to and from school. I have never stayed at res before because when I had NSFAS I didn’t want to pay a bigger bill, but now that the years are going by and the workload is getting tougher its actually exhausting travelling, spending over an hour on the road and not having to stay on campus longer because of transportation so you are actually limited as to what you can and cannot do on campus.

I think the one thing I have learnt from working with the SRC in particular is, I know they’re working with a lot of people but can they not make promises that they cannot fulfill because had my brother not gone and took out this loan I wouldn’t be a student right now.

I know people who owed up to R60 000 from last year alone, those kinds of people can’t get that sort of money right now. I mean if the bank were to give you a loan of R60 000 they’d need actual property as surety, and say the parents fail to pay [the loan] back they now need to sell the only thing that they have, their only home.”

*As told to Zimasa Mpemnyama

*Names have been changed

Sexual harassment debate leaves a call for support

Wits University’s efforts to preventing sexual harassment, which caused a scandal in 2013 and led to the dismissal of three lecturers, is “not that good,” said Prof Melissa Steyn, director of the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies.

“Commitment to policies of sexual harassment on the universities part and the university community as a whole was not that good,” said Prof Melissa Steyn, director of the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies.

Steyn made her comments to Wits Vuvuzela following a roundtable discussion held last week that was poorly attended.

“We have a lot of commitment from a small group of people”

“The turn out to Friday’s roundtable discussion was not great at all, only about 25 people attended,” Steyn said.

“We have a lot of commitment from a small group of people,” said Steyn. However, wider support from the Wits community had not yet been forthcoming.

“We all have to care about these issues, otherwise these problems will not go away,” said Steyn.

Since its establishment last year in response to recommendations of a formal inquiry into sexual harassment in 2013, the Gender Equity Office has received over 100 cases of sexual and gender-based harassment at Wits.

The inquiry followed a series of reports about sexual harassment published by Wits Vuvuzela in 2013. The reports led to the suspension and disciplinary hearings of four lecturers. Three of the lecturers were ultimately dismissed while a fourth resigned.

“In recent years, the university has revamped relevant policies and has overhauled awareness campaigns, reporting structures and legal processes to deal with any form of abuse, particularly sexual harassment of any form,” Steyn said.

She said that while the university had received over 100 complaints of sexual or gender-based harassment, there were probably more cases going unreported.

“As any institution, or society more generally, we understand that reported incidents do not represent the full picture, and we are working to encourage reporting of incidents as well as to act against perpetrators of gender-based harm,” Steyn said.

The roundtable discussion on Friday was to reflect on sexual harassment at Wits and if there were any changes taking place.

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Hacking is a form of cyber abuse, it’s an invasion of privacy that usually has an element of theft. Whether it be identity theft, stealing access or for financial gain. This infographic is to spread knowledge about this amplified criminal act that has taken over our virtual streets.

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No sign of love for ‘deaf’ play


I’M INNOCENT: the choreographer and lead actress of the play ‘Speak Sign Love’ Amy de Wet says they are being wrongly accused by the deaf community.
Photo: Percy Matshoba

THE Wits deaf community are up in arms over a new play they say ignores their culture and violates their values.The community has accused the producers of Speak Sign Love, a play about the romantic relationship between a deaf woman and a hearing man, of refusing to cast a deaf person in the leading role.

Amy de Wet, the co-creator of the play, said Speak Sign Love aimed to raise awareness about the communication barriers between the deaf and hearing.

She defended the casting of the play and said “circumstances, logistics and deadlines” did not allow for the production to cast a deaf actor.  De Wet herself was ultimately cast in the lead role of a deaf woman.

Chelsea van der Merwe was a co-creator of the play but left the production in protest because she believed the play misrepresented the deaf. She said she proposed deaf actors who could be auditioned for roles but was turned down.

“We had initially cast deaf members and they later cast an all hearing cast,” van der Merwe said.

[pullquote]“Deaf people are capable of speaking for themselves … the deaf community had historically been represented by people who did not understand deaf culture.”[/pullquote]

Dr Michiko Kaneko, head of the Wits South African Sign Language (SASL) department, said the production was inconsiderate to the deaf community as they did not involve deaf people in the play.

“Deaf people are capable of speaking for themselves” she said. Kaneko said that the deaf community had historically been represented by people who did not understand deaf culture. She said hearing people should not portray deaf characters.

“It’s the same thing as a white person representing a black person,” Kaneko said.

Members of the Wits community have been expressing their anger over the production, particularly on social media.

“That is unfair that deaf people never get a chance to perform in theatre. Hearing people always achieve things and we as deaf people are neglected. We feel used for our language,” said Dalene Maasdorp, a member of the Wits deaf community.

“I feel like they are only mocking our language.”

De Wet defended herself from the complaints and said the Wits deaf community was angry because they had wanted a platform for deaf students to participate in. She said that the production made efforts to find a deaf actor but was not successful.

“The accusations on our social networks are false,” de Wet said.

Some members of the deaf community took to defacing posters promoting Speak Sign Love with stickers criticising the production.

“This production is strongly OPPOSED by staff and students at Wits SOUTH AFRICAN SIGN LANGUAGE department as it is in contradiction of the values and principles of the Deaf community,” read the stickers.

Kaneko said that while the claims on the stickers were true—the production is not endorsed by her department—the stickers were not sanctioned by Wits SASL.

De Wet said she had approached the SASL department concerning the stickers on their posters. She said the people who put the stickers on their posters had not yet been found, however, she was not on a “witch hunt” for the perpetrators.

Kaneko said that while Speak Sign Love said it had consulted deaf people, their production accreditation did not support this claim.

De Wet said that she was not an expert on deaf culture but had taken a course in sign language and did research prior to creating the play.

De Wet said she had published on the production’s Facebook page that she was open to discuss the  deaf community’s concerns but had not received a response.  She said it was “ironic” that the deaf community was accusing the production of misrepresenting their culture before the play had even been launched.

“There has been a lot of accusations and a lot of problems but no one has ever seen the show,” de Wet said.

SRC FB hack: Student mis-Representive council

A Wits Students Representative Council (SRC) Facebook account was hacked into recently but the culprit is still at large.

The secretary of the SRC is investigating.

The hacker caused trouble  by using  the Facebook page to post derogatory comments about a former SRC member.

Head of Media and Marketing officer of the SRC Charmaine Pule said there was some confusion because the SRC page did not specifiy what year it was therefore the offensive comments were associated with the present SRC group.

“Tasneem Essop our secretary is investigating the issue,” Pule said. The SRC will only release a statement after the issue has been resolved.

In the meanwhile, in another social media incident, the Twitter profile of the SRC has also received some criticism from some students.  A group of Afrikaans students informed Vuvuzela that they  felt excluded from the SRC twitter platform because  there was no greeting in the Afrikaans language on the daily SRC greeting tweet.

The greeting only reflected eight of the official languages. The Afrikaans students felt that because Afrikaans was the third most spoken language in the country, it should have been included.

However, Pule responded: “We didn’t choose to exclude anyone. It was an honest mistake and it will be rectified,” She informed Vuvuzela that it would be impossible to include all languages in the greeting. This is due to the nature of the character space on Twitter. Twitter allows for only 140 characters.

The SRC will launch a change to the greeting on Twitter to the student body. Each day will have three languages represented in the greeting as hashtags.

This aims to include all official languages excluding sign language in a week. “We also try to encourage students to greet back in their official languages to engage with students in their mother tongues,” Pule said.

Pule shared that the amendments will be implemented as soon as possible.

IFP is no laughing matter, SABC

IPF members march to the SABC stations in Auckland Park in protest of ‘bias and anit-IFP broadcasting’, September 14.

By Jay CabozAround 1500 supporters, mainly from the Inkhatha Freedom Party (IFP), blocked traffic as they made their way to the South African Broadcasting Station (SABC) in a mass protest for fairness from the public broadcaster.

Mungosuthu Buthelezi, head of the IFP, led the large gathering of supporters through Johannesburg CBD to the entrance of the SABC Studios in Auckland Park on Friday September 14.

The IFP leader noted that this was “a matter which goes to the heart of how the citizens of this country can freely make up their own minds as to whom they wish to govern them”.

“South Africans must demand of their public broadcaster that they be treated with respect and not force-fed and manipulated with political propaganda.”

Supporters sported bottles, knobkerries and shields as they made their way along Enoch Sontonga Avenue alongside the University of the Witwatersrand.

One supporter said they were marching to express their outrage that Julius Malema had been banned by the SABC. Another said the media only chose to report their (IFP) actions when they ‘made noise with the ANC’ so they were making some.

Buthelezi addressed the crowd and said that bias within the SABC was not surprising.

“Since 1994, the ANC in Parliament has hand-picked every SABC board member, and the ANC has had the final say in the appointment of all executive officers of the SABC. Thus political interference has been built into the system and ruthlessly exploited by the ANC-alliance.”

“For years, the IFP has continuously engaged the SABC over its anti-IFP coverage and the way in which opposition parties are not fairly represented on all of the public broadcaster’s radio and television channels. This year, for example, two of the IFP’s three major events – its Freedom Day and Women’s Day rally – did not receive TV coverage at all. This is coupled with anti-IFP programmes that have been aired, such as The Bang Bang Club.”

A memorandum was handed over to by the IFP outside the SABC station in Auckland Park without incident.


Witsie attacked by fellow student on campus

A female Wits student was lucky to have escaped unscathed after being attacked by a fellow student and his accomplice on Monday September 3. To add insult to injury the student, Boitumelo Moeketsi alleges that a Hillbrow police officer told the suspect that he should have proposed to her ‘the right way,’ while she was in the same room with them.

Update (September 7 2012): Michael Mahada, Campus Control investigations manager, said: “the involvement of this young man is disappointing as its shows that some of our students might have been involved in the previous muggings on campus.” The student will face disciplinary charges from the university after his release from prison.

Mistaken overdose at David Webster

A Res student representative has accused the Wits counselling unit of failing “students in crisis” following another suicide attempt at David Webster Hall this week.

A David Webster Hall resident overdosed on antidepressant pills in what friends said was an attempted suicide on Sunday evening, August 26.

Hall coordinator Prof Tumai Murombo said he received an alarming message from one of the student’s friends.

The student was transported to Milpark Hospital by Campus Control within an hour, according to investigations manager, Michael Mahada.

“The information recorded in an Occurence Book shows that CB1 made an entry at 19h39 about it and they again made a cross reference at 20h31 to effect that the sick student had been transported to Milpark Hospital.”

Mahada said Campus Control does not have the qualifications or personnel to run an ambulance service, but will call an ambulance if asked to.

Chairperson of David Webster Hall, Godfrey Dlamini, said the student refused to be admitted.

Dlamini, said this was one of about five attempted suicides at David Webster this year. In some cases, the same students have tried to kill themselves more than once.

Dlamini and the hall coordinators have had to chase suicidal students across the car park, trying to calm them down.

“Career Counselling and Development Unit (CCDU) promised to address a tailor-made workshop for the David Webster students last semester but up to now have not delivered. As psychological experts in the university, the CCDU has failed students in crisis,” said Dlamini.

Murombo said the reasons for attempting suicide went beyond academic difficulties and involved social difficulties as well.

Murombo also said the CCDU’s approach of treating students on a voluntary basis was failing because it is impersonal and technical.

“Students don’t want to be treated like patients, they feel alienated. The current counselling system is too formal and technical.

The CCDU needs to initiate therapy that takes the form of a social conversation. It’s a more effective way of picking up student issues before they get out of hand,” he said.

In response to David Webster, Toinette Bradley, therapy team leader of the CCDU, said that David Webster should follow up their request for a therapy workshop before exams arrived.

Bradley said they had received the case of a mistaken overdose and were in the process of addressing it.

“We cannot force anybody to come in and see us but we do try to get their family and friends to convince them to seek treatment with us,” she said.


Co-written with Akinoluwa Oyedele

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 22nd edition, 31st August 2012.


Unions reject management’s final offer: Second strike goes ahead

Photo: Jay Caboz

Two of the three Wits unions will strike tomorrow August 28, after they declined management’s offer in negotiations.

Last-minute talks were held between unions and management on Monday afternoon to try and prevent a second one-day strike. The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU), jointly declared a dispute in May over a range of grievances including salary increases and insufficient parking.

In talks which ended around 5pm on Monday, management proposed (among others): a shift from the July-to-June pay cycle to a January-to-December pay cycle (to create a salary increase in January 2013), negotiations for next year’s salaries to begin next week, a written understanding of the 75th percentile salary benchmark, and a commitment to resolving non-salary issues by year end.

Joint union spokesperson Kezia Lewins said there was “insufficient movement” towards a resolution by 5pm, the time it had been agreed that negotiations would end.

“Given that no agreement could be concluded and management’s disinclination to continue with the negotiation process, the planned strike will go ahead,” Lewins said.

Lewins said management threatened to withdraw all the offers if Tuesday’s strike went ahead.

Dr Kgomotso Kasonkola, senior director of Human Resources, said only ALTSA accepted these proposals.

“It is regrettable that ASAWU and NEHAWU have rejected these offers without explanation or counter-offers, and have announced their intention to continue their strike action tomorrow,” Kasonkola said.

“Upon stating that they would be reporting back to their principals, Professor Ballim (Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic) told the unions “off you go!” Lewins said. According to a tweet from ASAWU (witsjointaction), the vice-Chancellor Loyiso Nongxawas not present during the negotiations.

How Wits stacks up against other academic institutions

The Human Resources department conducted a comparative salary analysis to show how Wits’ range of salaries compares with other research-intensive institutions.

According to the findings, a Wits lecturer earns between R393 900 and R590 850 per annum, while a University of Cape Town (UCT) lecturer earns a maximum of R427 311.

Kasonkola said these values do not show the full salary packages at institutions, but Wits is currently a “market leader” in academic salaries.

Also, the 7.55% and 6.8% increases granted to academic and support staff respectively were above the Consumer Price Index (CPI), pegged at 4.9% in July.

Last-ditch attempt

Management re-invited the three unions to the negotiating table over the weekend, nearly a month since their first strike on August 2.

The Wits Senate (the academic leadership forum) had called on the Wits Council to resolve the dispute “without further delay”.

Union members intend to picket at major entrances to Wits in the morning, and hold a rally on the steps of the Great Hall at noon.


Related articles and multimedia

Wits academic strike (Video)

Teachers in action over wage disputes

Wits strike set to continue until demands are met – Mail and Guardian

PYA dominates SRC again

Incumbent SRC president Tebogo Thothela.
Photo: Jay Caboz

The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) fell one candidate short of a third consecutive clean sweep in this year’s SRC elections.

Wits Registrar Kirti Menon announced the results to over 100 students outside the Great Hall steps on Friday August 24.

Members and supporters of the PYA formed a circle and had been singing for at least an hour before the announcement. Of the 30 403 students on the voter’s roll there was only a 20% voter turnout, a  4% increase from last year.

The 2012/2013 SRC election results

The top 15 candidates will form next year’s SRC.

PYA candidates and members marched to the Matrix after the announcement to celebrate their victory. Torn campaign posters belonging to the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) were seen along the route they took although it is not clear who was responsible for this.

In a related issue, Dominic Khumalo, a PYA candidate, was apparently excluded from the elections, although the chief electoral officer confirmed that he submitted a letter withdrawing his nomination.