Future fit school

Cape Town, January 16, 2019 – A new school in Cape Town’s CBD is teaching robotics and coding in a unique technologically-driven curriculum. There are no uniforms and no homework either! And as eNCA’s Pheladi Sethusa reports, it’s all designed with the future in mind. Courtesy #DStv403

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Langa High’s Quick Turnaround

Cape Town, January 8, 2019 – Langa High School in Cape Town, is proof that other underperforming schools can be turned around. It took just six months to improve its matric pass rate. All thanks to a partnership between donors and the department of education. And from nearly closing down, the school now boasts a 78 percent matric pass rate. eNCA’s Pheladi Sethusa has the story. Courtesy #DStv403

Turning things around at NSFAS is going to take some doing

Cape Town, December 4, 2018 – Turning things around at NSFAS is going to take some doing. The bursary and loan scheme was placed under administration back in August, in order to address the state of its finances and how it was run. But NSFAS bosses don’t have time on their side. There are already 400-thousand applications in, that they have to deal with. eNCA’s Pheladi Sethusa reports. Courtesy #DStv403

Pupil on teacher attacks are increasing in the Western Cape

Cape Town, September 21, 2018 – Pupil on teacher attacks are increasing in the Western Cape. And worryingly, it’s primary school children who are mostly the culprits. A shocking 60 incidents have been reported since the beginning of the year. There’s a fear of mass resignations if the situation isn’t handled effectively. A warning that some of the visuals you are about to see are graphic. eNCA’s Pheladi Sethusa has more.

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Some people are not allowed to dream. Some people are not granted the space to think beyond their circumstance and no amount of “hard work” in too many people’s cases can fix that. Some people are only given enough space to think to 6pm that evening when they have to pull off another miracle  to feed all five mouths waiting for  them at home. This thing of living just to survive another day is not okay, that’s what I hear the young lions saying and I don’t see how anyone else can hear anything but that obvious truth.

The country has been burning, things have been falling, people have been arrested, charged with treason, many assaulted but thankfully no longer ignored. Placated in some places with some concessions made, abhorred by others, attacked still, but no longer ignored.

#RhodesMustFall #FeesMustFall #OutsourcingMustFall #AccessMustRise #AfrikaansMustFall

Fallists will probably be my people of the decade. They did what those before them dared not to, in fear of shaking things up too much and as a result possibly losing their promised place in relative comfort. They stood up for not only themselves but everyone else too. Which is why it’s so difficult to hear voices of dissent from their peers, their teachers, their parents and (most disappointingly) the people who are tasked with telling their stories to people on the continent and around the world. 

I don’t deserve to write about the fallists, but I think I am allowed to say I am so proud and continue to support them in their efforts. Yes, there have been very unfortunate instances of waywardness, reports about sexual assault and the like along the way – a reflection of the society we live in because academic spaces are mere microcosms of the larger world, not separate special entities where having a degree exempts one from being sexist, homophobic, racist etc –  This doesn’t excuse the messiness at all, rather contextualizes it and mirrors who we all are. 

**Quote: Andile Mthombeni, student at Wits

Born free, but still in chains

Last week I gave an impassioned speech to a group of young, soon to be journalists at my alma mater. I told them that this might possibly be the best time to be a young journalist, the opportunities are endless, and other such brochure stuff.

They believed me. Hell, I believed me. And a part of me still does – there is so much we can do, yes we’ll run into and slog under organisations that are counter-revolutionary but it can be done. We can be authentic to ourselves and each other while running on this side of the tracks.

But a part of me faltered and scoffed at the hypocrisy of that talk we had when I read a report with statistics on everything “born free” and my oh my do the numbers look bleak.

The report, Born Free But Still in Chains: South Africa’s First Post-Apartheid Generation, was released by the South African Institute of Race Relations last week. Luckily their definition of a young person is different from Stats SA (which includes everyone between the ages of 15 and 34), in this report Born Free’s are defined as people under the age of 25.

There were many graphs and numbers broken down and presented in the 39 page report, some of the more jarring (personally), are in this quick infographic I made:

Born free graphic

The statistics aren’t new but I thought about the numbers a lot more personally this time – they are alarming, they are dire, they speak to a crisis even. They speak to the brazen young men we see and speak to at protests, the young girls who want my details so they can get a job (even if it is just carrying my camera bag). They speak to the anger on timelines and the rage that breaks into our homes and smashes windows.

The numbers mattered more now because I see the faces behind those numbers every day and that realisation makes it all so real.

In the report unemployment and education are highlighted as the two biggest concerns we have – unsurprisingly the former is often caused by the latter but not always. The bulk of those unemployed did not complete their secondary (high school) education, and on the other hand almost 400 000 varsity graduates sit without work – so who’s to say having a degree helps these days.

I have no answers at all, but I do know that the columns and warnings about us being a ‘ticking timebomb’ are true. We’re the generation that won’t let the empty promises be the hope we cling on to, we want answers and action and it makes me so happy to know that we are inching ever closer to making ourselves heard. It’s already happening, it’s already here. Like Fanon said we just have to collectively fulfil our mission, I think we have already discovered it.

These statistics cannot continue to rise. That there are people in positions of power who are blase about them (if I’m being polite) is sickening. They should know that their protection now is temporary, if we have to destroy to build they might be collateral – something to think about while they can.

There was a wealth of information in that study that also spoke to how many children are orphans, how many (overwhelmingly black) are child headed households, how HIV/Aids has affected them,  how many have never received any early childhood development, how their living conditions haven’t changed in 21 years (sleeping on the floor, washing and relieving themselves in buckets), their dreams and their hopes.

Read it. Gain some perspective before you run around telling people they are “lazy” – there are millions of children who have to fight every single day just to stay alive, be cognisant of that.

Research for Africa, by Africa

FILE PICTURE: Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
FILE PICTURE: Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on April 25, 2014. 

Pooling resources and working together, instead of competing, are some of the ways research conducted at African universities can help propel the continent to be a global leader, projecting to 2063.

During a public lecture on research in African universities in the Senate Hall at the University of Pretoria yesterday, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, emphasised how research done at universities can help with the overall development of Africa.

“The only way to do so is by getting universities to look 50 years into the past and 50 years in to the future,” said Dlamini-Zuma. Projecting ahead “liberates you – it is not defined and confined by immediate circumstances”.

Research carried out at universities is one of the ways universities could help to “turn all our resources into wealth for our people,” said Dlamini-Zuma. A fundamental way of doing this was to broaden the base from which students are chosen, she said.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Cheryl de la Ray, responded by saying demand was too high to accommodate more students. “We don’t take international students for our undergraduate courses because of huge demand locally,” she said.

“We make plans and expect other people to fund them.”

Dlamini-Zuma said development needed to happen internally, with Africans helping Africans. The AU has found that most African researchers collaborate with researchers from overseas and not one another, something which “surprised and disappointed” her.

She added that African universities and researchers needed to work together towards Pan-African development, mentioning the African Union was in the process of starting a virtual Pan-African university.

Dlamini-Zuma stressed that through research conducted at African universities “vexing questions could be answered”. She cited a cure for malaria and the gradual disappearance of Lake Chad as examples of questions that needed to be investigated.

A day in the shoes of a Witsie

SMILES ALL ROUND: Wits mentors each got some highschool pupils to take under their wing for a day, From left to right: Philile Mashele, Palesa Mokoena, Tanyani Daku and Kedibone Rapoo. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
SMILES ALL ROUND: Wits mentors each got some highschool pupils to take under their wing for a day, From left to right: Philile Mashele, Palesa Mokoena, Tanyani Daku and Kedibone Rapoo. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Sixty uniformed pupils were beaming from ear to ear as they got a chance to walk up the steps, sit in the lecture halls and walk amongst ‘real’ students – things and people they had only ever seen on Wits’ promotional brochures.

A rare opportunity provided by the Wits Rag society made that possible. This year’s Take a Child to Varsity day was bigger and better. Last year only ten kids got to spend a day with a mentor, this year that number more than doubled said Wits Rag Chairperson, Siphe Mkize.

The pupils

“We take kids from underdeveloped area’s… To help them get an idea of what to study when they come to varsity, as well as what they need to do to get there,” said Mkize.

A teacher from Lesebogo Girls High School in Soweto, Humbulani Mavhunga who ordinarily teaches grade 10’s and 11’s maths, accompanied pupils on their visit this past Wednesday.

“I took a range of learners, mostly the highest achievers and some who are sitting in the middle. I also took some low achieving learners, to show them what is possible if they work hard,” said Mavhunga.

Mentees and mentors

The selected pupils were allocated a mentor from Wits, anyone from any faculty could volunteer their services for the day. The mentors who availed themselves this year were “very keen and patient with their kids,” said Mkize.

Tanyani Daku, a Media Studies mentor took three girls under her wing and spent her time giving advice from her personal experiences and answering questions posed by her inquisitive bunch.

Daku said she loved being a mentor and getting a chance to help kids with complicated social situations, focus on their academic lives and improvement thereof.

The pupils she took under her wing could do nothing but sing her praises. Although not all of them wanted a media studies mentor, they were glad they all said what they learnt from their mentor was invaluable.

Stop going to the zoo!

“We must stop going to the zoo for school trips, rather come to varsity,” said an impassioned Daku, making her mentees roar with laughter.

Echoing words in the same vein, Mavhunga said that she hoped Wits Rag would continue with this initiative. “This opportunity helps kids to make informed decisions about their futures,” she said.

She said it was important to break down the legacy of students choosing careers within very narrow confines, Mavhunga wishes she had the chance to be exposed to university beforehand.

“All we knew was teaching, nursing and being a policeman or woman,” said Mavhunga.

Impressions

“Today blew me away. I thought Wits was very serious and just for people who want to pursue maths or physics but it’s not,” said grade 11 pupil, Philile Mashele. She cannot wait to come to varsity now that she has had a taste of what it’s really like.

Another pupil, Palesa Mokoena said that she was impressed with the way people seemed very “focused” on campus, she said it inspired her.

On a slightly different note, fellow classmate, Kedibone Rapoo said that she was by no means prepared for varsity life and the pressures that come with it. However, “I am prepared to try by studying hard,” she said.