Project to help second-year Maths students

Project assisting second-year Maths students 

08_partnership project assisting 2nd-year maths major students

Photo: Provided                                                                                                          Wits students being tutored




WITS students have started a programme to assist second-year Maths students following poor pass rates in the first quarter and the cancellation of tutorials for the second-years.

The programme is an initiative of the Mathematical Students Council (MSC) and Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO).

MSC chairperson Kefentse Mkhari said the project came as a result of the low pass rate for second year students in the first quarter.

“Basic Analysis results were very bad, the pass rate was about 3% that means only 12 students out of the 400 students passed,” said Mkhari.

School of Mathematics head Prof Bruce Watson said the reason for second-year tutorials being cancelled this year was due to the financial constraints following #FeesMustFall protests last year. He said budgets were put on hold and that meant that they had to put a hold on appointing additional staff, including students who run tutorials and do marking.

“Everyone was told to tighten their belts,” said Watson.

“We looked at the parts of the pay-claimed structure where students made least use of the resources provided, one of those being the second-year maths tutorials,” said Watson.

Watson applauded the WCCO and MSC for their project to help students.

The project offers tutorials and extra lessons for students. Mkhari said with the project they hope students will improve their marks and would have a platform to better understand the tutorial questions they are given. Mkhari said they also have a social worker present at the tutorial sessions for student well-being.

Olebogeng Seribe, 2nd year Maths student, said the new project has helped her and she believes that if they had tutorials earlier, they wouldn’t have “suffered” with the course the way they had

Mkhari said they have only one tutor and are appealing to other final-year and post-graduate Maths students to volunteer for the programme.

The tutorial sessions are held at Wits Umthombo building U10 Saturdays at noon.

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.