The day I got to wear my Hogwarts uniform

Photo: Prelene Singh
Photo: Prelene Singh

*self-gratifying sigh*

Here I am. Fifteen years later. This is THE DAY it’s all been about.

The day I get a piece of very expensive paper that says: this girl is smart. This girl knows stuff and she deserves a shot at making that paper (money). This girl is finally a cog in the machine.

Okay, that is not where I was going with this but what the heck I’ll just roll with it. While I am super excited about this so called milestone, it is the beginning of the end isn’t it?
I have been in professional day-care for fifteen years and guess what? I just signed myself up for more. Because a degree isn’t enough anymore – I could very well work in sales for the rest of my life. Bleak prospect.

So I’m bumping myself up a bit, to get that deluxe you-deserve-a-job-ticket. I have decided to do this through the one thing I am good at, writing. Well two things I’m good at – writing and questioning. But I fear that after I have completed my Honours in Journalism degree. It might not be enough, then what do I do?

Many qualified graduates in South Africa are left either jobless or stuck in less than desirable jobs once they have graduated. (This information comes courtesy of a Stats module I did.) I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

This piece is about the day that commemorates how far I have come. Somehow all the naps in lectures, Mike Ross-like skim reading and verbosity in essays have paid off.

Okay, let me stop being self-deprecating (holla to English Literature for that one). I actually did work my way through my undergraduate degree. Probably not as consistently as I would have liked, but I’m here.

I am very thankful for having indulgent parents who let me sign up for things that took my interest. They could have easily forced me to do something more “stable” that would make me a shit load of money. But they didn’t and I will always be thankful for that.

They let me have debates about Biko, the evils of capitalism and the origins of man. They let my young self, already keenly literary, truly bask in a plethora of works I would otherwise have never engaged with.

What I studied is directly proportional to the person I have become.

*drops mike and walks off stage*

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Wits Solar Car team gear up for take off

A GROUP of students are going to enter their very own solar car into the Sasol Solar Challenge in 2014.

Bradley Rautenbach, 4th year Mechanical Engineering, said the new Wits Solar Car will cost about R3 million to build if the team is to stand a chance of winning.
The core team members consist of three engineers and an accountant. They have 25 other people assisting them.
Chase Mitchel, 3rd year Mechanical Engineering, said that it was great that they have so many people on board at the moment but said he was certain that at least half of those people “will bail” along the way.

“We really need other people from different faculties whose different specialities will help the team,” said Kabelo Ngwenya, 3rd year Mechanical Engineering. Those specialists include Nick von Rovetz, 3rd year Accounting, who joined the team to help out with the financial side of things.

WITS SOLAR CAR: Bradley Rautenbach in the driving seat of last year’s solar car.Photo: Provided
WITS SOLAR CAR: Bradley Rautenbach in the driving seat of last year’s solar car.
Photo: Provided

Last year, the team entered the same biannual competition and their solar car came in fourth place in their category.
The team was unanimous in their claim that funding was one of their biggest stumbling blocks. They simply did not have enough money to build a car that could compete with the winning car which had a $20 million budget.

“The new solar car will feature a semi-monocoque carbon fibre chassis bringing the total weight of the car to 150 kg where as the last car weighed 339 kg” said Bradley. Carbon fibre is most commonly used in Formula One racing cars.
“The materials needed this time around cost a lot more but will ultimately make for a better quality car,” said Ngwenya.
The design concept for the solar car drawn by Rautenbach can be seen on their posters all over campus.
The solar car will be named “Parhelion” which is the name of an atmospheric phenomenon, much like the one last year when there was a halo around the sun.

Pheladi Sethusa 

The Newsroom 4.0

This week was very short and therefore a little hectic in the newsroom.

We went on a ten day break, which was just what we all needed. I got to sleep for more than five hours every day, imagine that?! But that was then.

On Tuesday morning things got real again. Our news conference was a hot mess. No one pitched anything that they believed in, or anything that was super newsworthy or even the least bit juicy. This left us with a very “thin diary.”

To be completely honest I pitched nothing. I literally had nothing, save for an old story that kept being taken in and out of the Zion that is our “revised folder.” You have to understand – when your story is finally in the revised folder you are two or three clicks away from being in the paper that week. A place you really want to be.

Luckily I ended up with something to contribute to this week’s issue. I unexpectedly offered to write our Slice of Life segment. Which is exactly what the name implies, an opinion slash diary slash refection piece. I wrote about the only interesting that has happened to me in while – my graduation.

The piece was originally a blog post of mine (I say this with great confidence now that the paper has already been sent off and there is nothing that the powers that be can do to stop me – mwuhahahahaha). Obviously I edited to be fit enough for the paper (but not so much that it lost its flavour). Not because I was lazy or couldn’t find a new angle but simply because the blog post captured the way I felt and still feel about my graduation. My colleagues seemed to like it, I just hope everyone else does.

I actually haven’t been nervous about anything I have written in the paper. Now I am. My picture accompanies the article and my unbridled thoughts will be right there for everyone to see. Oh well, they best get aquainted 😉

ps – I totally dominated with design today, I really enjoy it and suspect I will be quite legendary at it soon enough.

Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews

[*disclaimer: my book reviews are not really book reviews, just my thoughts after I have read something particularly moving]

This novel has been one of the most interesting and riveting I have ever read. I know I have said the same about other novels – excuse me for having great taste 😛 I even feel bad that I bought it for a mere R3. Well that’s what hospice bookshops are for right?

Shucks I don’t even know were to start. I finished reading about an hour ago and I’m still reeling. The novel did come full circle but I still can’t get over the things that happened to us (the characters and I). I really did feel like I went through the things they did, goodness knows I cried just as much as they did.

From page one I was hooked. Andrews wrote a  prologue that told me that her and I were on the same wavelength. It’s one of the most honest and earnest one I’ve read. My favourite part reads “…in this work of ‘fiction’ I will hide myself away behind a false name, and live in fake places, and I will pray to God that those who should will hurt when they read what I have to say.” She said fiction like that because this book is based on a true story, which made me all the more sad.

I don’t know how to talk about what lay between the covers of this novel without giving the story away. It really is what the front cover said it would be: “the compelling story of a family’s betrayal and heartbreak, love and revenge.” That is quite literally what happens from chapter to chapter.

What I can say that isn’t a spoiler is that the novel is magnificently written. It transported me to the attic, made me feel every blow that these children were dealt, made me fall in love with yet another man and made me see the lengths that we as a species will go to to ‘survive’.

To touch on the latter – there is a theme in the story that focuses on avarice and the love of money. It is disgusting to see how money and the pursuit thereof can change a person, even a loving mother. I don’t think it’s fair to pin all the blame on her, but it is a huge catalyst that leads to the unraveling of a family.

I suppose I can’t ignore the ‘big’, overarching theme in the novel – incest.  I don’t want to dwell on it because then people form their opinion on the matter immediately and it could affect how you receive the rest of the novel. I didn’t let my so called morals colour my thinking – I gave myself to the love story that was presented to me.?

I was actually left traumatised by this read, to think that this actually did happen will make me shudder for some time to come.

The Newsroom 3.0

This week was a very short one. We had a three day week thanks to Human Rights Day on Thursday.

It was quite a relief to have the news conference pressure taken off our shoulders on Monday morning. Instead we went on a little field trip. This trip was a few streets down from varsity, corner Sauer and President street,

The Star.

THE STAR: "Telling it like it is and beyond" Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
THE STAR: “Telling it like it is and beyond” Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

I had been waiting for this trip for a while. I was excited to how things were run at a ‘real’ newspaper. Not to say that our paper isn’t real, but you get my drift. Upon entering the building we were handed visitors passes, some of which never made it back to reception.

I’ve only ever seen the building from the outside. I imagined that the inside would be ten times more impressive than the ginormous gold sign outside. I guess all that glitters isn’t gold.

Anyway our tour guide, Vusi,pumped us full of stats  and history as we walked through different departments in the building. The space I most enjoyed seeing was their photography room (I don’t know if they actually call it that but anyway).

We were meant to attend their news conference but that never happened. instead we had tea and biscuits then that was it. Disappointing trip really.

The highlight of the week in the newsroom came on Wednesday. Mondli Makhanya came to speak to us. He told us some of the most entertaining anecdotes from his career and offered the most inspiring pearls of wisdom.

The most memorable thing he said was that we should all retain the idealism we came into the profession with. That we shouldn’t give up on our dream to change the world with our writing, no matter how improbable it seems. I liked that.

The Newsroom 2.0

This week was a lot less exciting than last week (content wise).

My pitch at Monday’s news conference was boring to say the least (the very least). I might have been too tired to care at the time. Luckily a semi-interesting story fell right into my lap the very next day.

I was tasked with doing the follow up article to one of the sexual harassment stories we covered last week. There was an ethical issue that we had to deal with, which led to me taking over the story (full details here).  I don’t want to comment on the reasons for and the reasoning behind the decision made but I will say I was grateful to get the opportunity to dip my toes in this particular issue.

I was not an integral part of the sexual harassment exposé’s last week, which I mentioned made me feel a little left out. But then again I didn’t go out of my way to be on that train. All I did in that vein was sit in on one of the interviews with an alleged harasser. I went along with a colleague to “hold the recorder” as she conducted the interview. Despite my brief I ended up butting in to ask a few questions. That’s all I did last week to add to the teams efforts.

Anyway I digress. I went off and interviewed the head of school to ask a few questions about what the school was doing to deal with the allegations. I was impressed to find that over the weekend they had come together to figure out ways that the school could begin to mediate the situation. There is nothing the school can do to deal with the allegations, for example they don’t have the authority to launch a formal investigation.

I then went on to speak to the alleged victims to get their comments on how things were progressing and to find out what their next move would be. It was a fairly standard piece to write – or so I thought. There was a bit of an issue with the way I phrased things and small words I overlooked when paraphrasing. Things so tiny to me that they bordered on nonsensical, but in the grand scheme of things, actually made a huge difference when I corrected them. This taught me to think beyond my own understanding of things. I assumed that people would read it in the way I intended them to and that is rarely ever the case.  Lesson learned.

A much cooler thing I learned this week was how to design a page. I had never considered this component of production. I suppose I imagined – let me not lie I have never ever thought about how and why a newspaper page looks the way it does. It has never occurred to me that ad’s need to be placed and locked in a boarderd box, that bylines and headlines need their own custom styles and that it is not a simple process of copy and paste.

We had a design workshop on Tuesday. A workshop I couldn’t afford to be productive in because I had an assignment to finish and an article to pen. Luckily I catch on quite quick, which saw me designing a whole page by myself the next day. I did need help here and there but I did do a lot by myself. That was my proud moment of the week 🙂

Witsies help to feed fellow students

The Student  Affairs division at Senate House has started a drive to collect food and toiletries for students who are most in need of these items.

Ashina Sarawan, Projects Officer for Student Affairs said their mandate was to offer “social support” to students. This support  cannot be monetary but they do aim to meet some of their  immediate needs.

Some of the things students need support with are things like food, clothes and toiletries. There are a number of drives and campaigns that are run by the division and also through student initiatives through the Wits Volunteer Programme which supply the above-mentioned items for students.

At present a toiletry drive has been launched. The drive works on a donation basis whereby students and staff donate whatever toiletries they can and these are then distributed to students in need. The toiletry packs are gender specific, said Sarawan.

The food drive is a new project that the division started running towards the end of February. They are looking for small quantities of food and items like rice, beans, tinned food and maize meal.

DONATIONS: This is what has been donated thus far.Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
DONATIONS: This is what has been donated thus far.
Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

When all the food is collected, the division will put together food packs. Sarawan said this block would be the collection phase of the groceries. During second block the groceries would be handed out.

To get access to some of the donated packs students need to go to the Student Affairs offices to explain their situation. It is a very transparent system that doesn’t discriminate against any student who comes forward.

“We understand that it is very hard for students to approach us, so we trust that no one would claim packs if they don’t need them,” stated Sarawan.

Pheladi Sethusa 

Media Studies tackles sexual harassment allegations

DR LAST Moyo has stepped down as head of the Media Studies department pending an official investigation following allegations of sexual harassment published in the Wits Vuvuzela.

The paper reported that several former students are accusing Moyo of improper conduct and said ordinary encounters with him took on “sexual” overtones.School of Literature, Language and Media head Libby Meintjes said the first she heard of these allegations was in the newspaper.

Meintjes said that she encourages those with allegations to make formal complaints for the official investigation. As Wits Vuvuzela went to press, two of the alleged victims contacted the paper and said they had laid formal complaints against Moyo.

Separate from the official investigation, Meintjes said a sexual harassment committee is being put in place by the School to assist their students with sexual harassment issues. The committee is made up of staff who volunteered and others chosen by Meintjes. It is different than the campus-wide inquiry currently taking place.

Wits Vuvuzela contacted some of Moyo’s alleged victims for comment on the recent developments.They said they were pleased with the direction things were headed. They think the measures that are being taken will help them if they decide to formalise their complaints but weren’t sure if they would in take the matter further.

“I’m not sure I want to go any further than I have, I just want to move on. I do hope the investigation is taken seriously and deals with the matter,” said one of the accusers who asked for anonymity.

While an official investigation has been launched, Meintjies took issue with the way Wits Vuvuzela reported the story. She said journalist Dineo Bendile should not have reported the story as she too had complained of Moyo’s behaviour. Meintjes believes Bendile might be viewed as biased.

In addition to leaving his position as head of department, Moyo has also stepped down as assistant dean of Internationalisation and Partnerships.

The sexual harassment committee’s first order of business will be to hold a public meeting on March 18 at 1.15pm at SH6.
Its purpose is to inform students on what constitutes sexual harassment, how to deal with it and where they should go to report any incidences. Meintjes said that they hoped to facilitate discussion through their meeting.

Pheladi Sethusa