Posted in Semester 2: Text

First-years at risk after tutorial cuts

Budget cuts lead to more tutorials being cancelled

Res-life tutorials, which are used to help first-years avoid failing university, are set to be cancelled at the end of this week due to budget cuts.

All Res Council (ARC) chairperson Xhanti Mshunqane said they were informed via email during the June break of the plans to cancel tutorials at all residences.

Mshunqane said they were told that a series of budget cuts has been put in place because of a tough financial year.

“They said they’ve had to cut budgets due to fees not increasing this year and because of the insourcing issue,” said Mshunqane.

Last year, following #FeesMustFall protests, the government and universities, including Wits, agreed not to increase fees. Wits also agreed to insource all workers at the university.

Mshunqane said the ARC does not believe it is fair on first year students to have to bear the consequences of budget cuts.

“The gap from high school to university is huge and that is the reason tutorials for all first year students living in res were initiated, cancelling them will increase the chances of first year students failing” he said.

Last semester, Wits Vuvuzela reported that tutorials for second-year maths students on campus were cancelled. After they were cancelled some pass rates for math courses were as low as 3%. Maths students then formed a volunteer maths tutoring programme to assist the students.

Mshunqane said the ARC had been trying to arrange a meeting with the director of campus housing and residence life Robert Sharman to discuss the matter further.

Wits Vuvuzela attempted to contact Sharman during the week but had not yet received a response as of the time of print.

Angel Thabela, a first-year physiotherapy student, said she found the tutorials to be very helpful and she is worried that they are being cancelled. “We understood the work better during tutorials than in the lecture room,” said Thabela.

Valencia Nkosi, a tutor at res-life, said the tutorials enabled them to give first-year students individual attention. Now that they are going to be cancelled first years won’t get that much assistance with their courses.

Mshunqane said they’ve proposed that all the major first-year residences use the budget allocated for the student development office as a temporary solution to the problem but because the Office of Res Life has not got back to them, they haven’t been able to put that alternative in place.

“We’ve been trying to get hold of Mr Sharman because the only way we can discuss this is through having a meeting with him but he hasn’t replied to us regarding our meeting,” said Mshunqane.

Thandoluhle Khumalo, ARC vice chairperson and house comm at Sunnyside, said they have called for volunteer tutors meanwhile to assist first-year students.

Originally published on WitsVuvuzela



Posted in Semester 2: Text

Wits Journalism Alumni finalists in CNN Awards

Two Wits Journalism graduates are among the finalists in the prestigious CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards.

The announcement was made this week that 38 journalists from 14 countries had been shortlisted from a record 1 637 entries from 38 countries, including French and Portuguese-speaking Africa.Jay Caboz, a photo journalist at Forbes Africa magazine says when he was informed about the news he thought it was a prank but soon realised that he was actually selected as a finalist. He was told to keep the news to himself for about a month but he says he struggled to keep the secret, he says, laughing.

However, Caboz doesn’t know which of the features he submitted was nominated. These include a ‘Fees Must Fall’ photo essay.

Diana Neille, managing director at Chronicle Production Company, knows exactly what got her shortlisted. It is the feature, ‘Casualties of Cola’, which she co-authored with Richard Poplak, Shaun Swingler and Sumeya Gas, and which was placed third in the Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism earlier this year.

Caboz, who graduated with journalism honours in 2012, says although he loves journalism as a whole, he is passionate about photography. “Every story has a way of being told and we should tell it in its best way,” he says. The photo journalist highlights that one of the things he learnt while doing his journalism honours degree at Wits is that one needs to be able to write, shoot and design in order to be a good storyteller.

Caboz won the Standard Bank Sikuvile Young Journalist Award in 2015.

Neille, a graduate of the class of 2009, says it means a lot to her that her work is being recognised around the continent. “This is a great opportunity to showcase the work that we do on a bigger platform,” says Neille. She adds that on the feature, they focused on presentation of the story in addition to telling the story.

Both journalists say winning the award would be a great deal for them as their work will get recognition across the continent.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Johannesburg on October 15.

Originally published on WitsVuvuzela


Posted in Semester 2: Text

Afrikaans wins in Bloemfontein

AFRIKAANS will remain one of the languages of instruction at the University of the Free State (UFS).


AFRIKAANS will remain one of the languages of instruction at the University of the Free State (UFS). This comes after the Bloemfontein High Court ruled in favour of AfriForm and Solidarity to stop the university’s council from making English the primary medium of instruction. The university had announced in March that the language policy at all its three campuses would change effective from 2017.

According to a report by News24, Afriforum had told the court that the removal of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction was “a violation of the constitution”. Greta Engelbrech, the advocate who represented AfriForum, argued that the removal of Afrikaans would be a constitutional issue as the court needed to consider law, teaching and theology students, who might want to offer their services in Afrikaans.
However, the university’s advocate, Jeremy Gauntlett SC, argued that Afrikaans had become “a surrogate for colour segregation in class”. Alana Bailey, Afriforum executive, told Wits Vuvuzela that AfriForum was relieved by the judgment.
“This is not only a victory for Afrikaans speakers but also other South African indigenous languages. We are very much in favour of mother tongue education, because we feel that if English is stronger, there will be less opportunities for other languages,” she said.
The University of the Free State could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.

Originally published on WitsVuvuzela



Posted in Semester 2: Text

Wits institute pilots mining safety project

The Wits Mining Institute (WMI) is set to launch a new digital project before the end of the year.

The Wits Mining Institute (WMI) is set to launch a two-part project that aims to improve safety in mines.

The first, a mock mine with digital tools, is currently in use but will be officially launched at the end of the year.

The mock mine is situated in the basement of the Chamber of Mines building on the Wits University main campus and features a tunnel and digital systems. It has been installed with sensors that measure the quality of the air in order to detect dangerous gases and to indicate if a person is approaching a dangerous area. It is equipped with smart lamps that communicate messages to miners.

“If mines install the technologies we have in the mock mine, we will never again have Lily mine we will never again have a mine worker who goes to work in the morning and doesn’t come back,” said Professor Frederick Cawood, head of the Wits Mining Institute, referring to the mining disaster earlier this year in which 3 miners were trapped underground after a mine caved in.

Ten fourth-year mining engineering students were selected to take part in the project and have already worked in the mock mine.  Atang Maqelepo, 4th-year mining, said the project had helped him understand the role that can be played by digital technologies in improving safety in the mining industry while maximising production. The students are set to graduate at the end of this year with a certificate in digital mining competency, which is currently exclusive to Wits, according to Cawood.

Through reducing the risks associated with mining, the institute aims to attract more students to the mining discipline. Cawood said they aim to take students from other engineering disciplines to be part of the project next year.

Originally published on WitsVuvuzela