#Trailblazing fund recipients excited to finish their journeys

More than 30 final year students whose hopes of finishing their academic journey were dashed by a lack of funds shared their excitement at being the recipients of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) #Trailblazing campaign funds.

Last year, NMMU vice-chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz and at least 20 other trailblazers climbed Peru’s Machu Picchu to raise funds to help final year students finish their academic journey. More than R2.3-million was raised during the fundraising campaign that saw the trailblazing team spend four days navigating the mountain’s 43km Inca Trail.

A total of 34 final year and BTech students who were identified as needing funding to complete their interrupted studies were announced as recipients of the bursary funding at a function at the Chancellor’s Room, on NMMU’s South Campus today.

Addressing the gathering, Prof Derrick Swartz likened students’ academic journeys to climbing a mountain, where finishing the climb is not easy, but made bearable by the support of others.

He said the campaign particularly targeted final year and BTech students who had completed the bulk of their studies, about 75%, but could not go all the way because of funding constraints.

“There are thousands of students out there, in cities and towns, who have been unable to complete their degrees or dilpomas. The idea, therefore, was to give them what is known in Afrikaans as a hupstoot, a little push up the hill, to finish their journey,” he said.

“At the moment, the quantum of funding is not enough to support the growth in the system and means that there will inevitably be categories of students who do not fit into the requirements for the current funding available in the system.

“It is those students that we are targeting because it makes no sense that you have thousands of students outside the system, who have completed 75% of their studies but cannot get a job or create work – as they cannot access bank capital – because they do not have complete qualification certificates.

“So just as we were helped by previous generations in our time, we are assisting you so that you may one day help others too.”

Some of the recipients told how they had lost hope of completing their studies and were pleasantly surprised to receive a call from the NMMU Trust, which administers bursary funding, that they could continue with their studies.

BA student Lukhanyiso Magwevana took up odd jobs desperately trying to raise enough money to return to University after having to drop out after his second year.

“That was a difficult and dark time for our family. I came across a scripture that said ‘if you ignore the cries of the poor, how can your cry be heard?’ At first, it meant nothing to me as I was just reading the bible looking for some sort of hope. Then in December last year, I got a phone call to say I was a #trailblazing bursary recipient,” he said.

“So it seems to me that the spirit of God had been working, therefore, in you but mysteriously. I didn’t see it as you were working in the background. As a student, all I saw was the turmoil and all that was happening in the University around funds. The phone call gave me hope … so thank you Prof Swartz and your team. I now see the finish line that for a long time seemed quite a distance away.”

Third year Public Relations Management student Zintle Bobelo said it had always been her desire to complete her studies, but circumstances were not in her favour.

“My educational pursuits were brought to a standstill and I could not finish my third year. Four years later, I get a call from the University bringing forth this golden opportunity. Mine alone was to be hopeful for I knew of countless others waiting for this chance,” she said.

“This gathering comes just two days after the commemoration of Human Rights Day. And as we all know, one of our basic constitutional rights is one to education. The initiators of this campaign proved to have kept the legacy of our fallen heroes, who fought tirelessly for such rights to be recognised.”

Public Relations Management student Lwazikazi Petela thanked the University for affording her an opportunity to complete her studies.

“Words could never be enough to express the gratitude that I and my peers have for the opportunity that has been availed to us,” she said.

“This not only means that we can bear our own futures, but it means that we can plant seeds today so that our children and future generations can grow up under the shade that we wish we could have grown up under.”

Surplus funds from the campaign will be used to assist academically deserving final year ad BTech students, using the same criteria as the #trailblazing recipients, who have a few outstanding modules to complete their studies.

By NMMU CSL

Spur Violent Spat

The past weekend saw South Africans enraged at what was clearly a violent attack on a woman at a Spur in Glen (Johannesburg). A man approached a woman whose table was full of children – an evident family and friends outing. He claimed that his child was bullied by one of the children at the table with the woman, and so he was there to tell the woman to ‘do something about it’. However, instead of approaching respectfully, and as a parent – the man barks, ‘f*ck your child, look at your child’s size.’

As a result, the woman takes to him with the same hostility he’s come with. A heated argument ensued, with little help from the managerial stuff at Spur. Instead, for the better part of the argument, bystanders stood idle hoping that Spur workers would eventually intervene.

It is only when the man wanted to physically attack the woman that a man sitting on the next booth jumped over to help. Some Spur workers eventually intervened by politely leading the man away from the woman’s table. This happened in broad daylight with a fully packed Spur sitting idle while a violent argument proceeded.

In the video supplied by Eyewitness News one can hear the woman’s agitated responses to the man who outright swore at her, the kids and threatened to beat her – even shaking the table to invoke fear. With the rate of violence against women and children in South Africa, the country was most shocked at how people could sit and watch as this took place right in front of them.

For the most part, the conversations that have arose since the incident over the weekend, have questioned whether this was also influenced by race relations or whether it is a blatant perpetuation of the abuse of women and children. Those enraged, took special care to mention that when all is considered, children were amidst all the chaos and were even directly involved.

This again speaks to the protection (or lack thereof) of children in South Africa. In response to the many hostile comments from across borders in the country, the Spur managerial team eventually published a press release which was posted on their Facebook page. Although diplomatic, the statement sought to condemn violence of any kind, especially in the presence of young children. The team also added that ‘the man in the video is not welcome at any Spur restaurant nationally.’

To read further, the link is included below:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/spur-steak-ranches/incident-at-texamo-spur-the-glen/1473937682639587

 Nondumiso Tshabalala

Baakens Food Truck Friday

7After a day filled with lectures, best thing before any exciting weekend plans is to kick back and relax with the three F’s: food, friends and fun.

The best thing to happen for the whole Nelson Mandela Bay community is the Baakens Food Truck Friday, a monthly event that offers everyone something.

The event’s concept was initially started and conceptualized by the owner of Design & Build collaborative, WERK_. His name is Jan du Plessis. He had the idea to bring Lower Valley Rd to life on a Friday night with just about 5 or so trucks. Today they have 20 trucks and growing, which is really great, and interesting to see PE catching on this trend and concept event.

With the organizers du Plessis, Grant Foong (owner of Foong’s Asian Street Food) and his daughter Tayla along with few sponsors like Gardmed Ambulances, DKZ Cleaning Services, Redbull, Skip Solutions, ECSD Signage, Strategy Advertising and Eikon Investments, they play an important role in making sure the event run smoothly each month.

The event rounds up in excess of 20 food trucks, trailers and tuk-tuks parked along Brickmakers Kloof Road, offering a unique variety of their signature dishes. All food is priced under R45 so visitors can enjoy an evening out without breaking the bank.
Locals can look forward to a bountiful street feast with everything from Belgian waffles, vegan eats and Asian food to halaal-friendly meals, artisanal pizzas and
pancakes.

The market invites friends and family to gather on the lawn with their picnic blankets and deck chairs, enjoying live music from Eastern Cape bands and djs. Kids of all ages are also catered for and can be entertained with pony and pedel go-kart rides, jumping castles, soft-play for toddlers, arcade games and more. For the thirsty, bar facilities will be available from Fratelli Foods, Benn Koppen and the Richmond Hill Brewing Company.

So this Friday, 10 March 2017 from 4pm to 9pm, head down to Lower Valley Road and experience this amazing, fun-filled event. Also follow them on Facebook at Baakens Food Truck Friday.

#BaakensFoodTruckFriday

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By: Thandokazi Magopheni | Pictures courtesy of: Marc Herve and Kgosi Motsepe

NMMU focuses on alternative ways to complete academic year

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has valiantly tried to resume classes and continue with academic work this week. However, circumstances on the ground made this extremely difficult – with ongoing student protests and subsequent clashes with members of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

This has led to an increasing difficulty to conduct lectures on the South Campus.

We understand that these circumstances have been quite traumatic for most, and perhaps all our staff and students. It is important to hold onto the resolve to complete studies started this year. We remain determined, as we have always been, to do our best to get our academic programmes completed as far as possible in 2016.

We wish to confirm that NMMU remains open. That said, as things stand, we do understand that it will not be possible to conduct classes on South Campus.

However, we will be employing a range of alternative modalities in order to best complete this year’s programmes. We will prioritise getting the modules completed for those students in their final years of study, but will also address all years of study.

At the moment faculties are making assessments taking into consideration year levels, module types, teaching and learning requirements and a range of modalities. These include learning resources such as learning packs, digital resources, and a variety of learning spaces as well as assessment requirements.  We are also making assessments in each faculty of what is required for postgraduate students to complete their work in order to graduate next year.

It is important to note that the majority of universities in South Africa are in a similar position, but each university also has particular circumstances, capacities and contexts to consider. Many of the institutions have undertaken to assist each other where possible by sharing resources where there are overlaps in module outcomes and content. This is a welcome development, and will stand us in good stead for future collaborations in the higher education sector.

Faculties will communicate exact arrangements for each of the modules soon.  We will continue to provide various kinds of support during this period, the details of which will be made known early next week, and on an ongoing basis.

Exam dates will be communicated once the assessment of programmes referred to above has been completed.

In the meantime, lecturers have already been providing materials online and in other forms, and we ask that students be proactive in pursuing their learning through open education resources, textbooks, library materials and information they may be able to source from peers in other institutions.

In respect to on campus residences, which had encountered several difficulties, we need to reiterate that they have to remain safe areas. A number of measures to support our resident students are available and we will do all we can to ensure the residences remain conducive for living and learning.

We request your understanding and patience as we shift from full contact only to a mixture of contact and alternative teaching and learning delivery modes. We urge students to take self-responsibility, and keep determined to complete their studies this year, despite the challenging circumstances we are experiencing as a sector and as a country.

Communication and Stakeholder Liaison

NMMU MANAGEMENT RESPONSE #FeesMustFall PETITIONS

Management at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) acknowledges receipt of petitions submitted by various student formations in Port Elizabeth and George.  After reading the various petitions, we are of the opinion that the cause for quality, affordable higher education for academically-deserving poor and so-called “missing middle” students is noble and just. NMMU will continue to call on all sectors of society to invest more in higher education to ensure that universities can continue to provide quality teaching, research, and holistic support for our students.

Preamble

South Africa is recognised as one of the most unequal countries in the world and the increased provision of quality higher education contributes to greater social justice, transformation and development. Simply stated, the most sustainable manner in which the State can break the cycle of inter-generational poverty, stimulate the economy, create appropriate jobs, redress imbalances in society, and reduce inequality, is by increasing its investment in, and broadening access to, higher education.

A decline in government funding for higher education over the past two decades coupled with a significant increase in student numbers, most of whom are from poor communities, has led to an over-reliance on student fees. NMMU is committed to widening access and acknowledges the burden these funding challenges have placed on our students and their families.

Fee increase for 2017

The announcement of the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, on fees for 2017, identified interim measures to address the plight of poor and needy students by:

  • Fully covering fees for students that qualify under the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS);
  • Subsidising the so-called “missing middle” for the fee increase up to a maximum of 8%.

Government and the Minister, along with the higher education sector, have emphasised that universities need the 8% fee increase to mitigate rising national and international inflationary costs, to broaden access, and to sustain the provision of quality education.  The financial health and sustainability of NMMU is at stake, especially given the costs associated with the debt/down payment relief measures implemented in 2016 and the reintegration of outsourced services.

Our understanding of the Minister’s announcement is that this is an interim measure for 2017. A fee increase will not impact negatively on the poor and “missing middle” students since the government will make up the difference of up to 8%.

A forecast of the impact of a 0% increase for all students at NMMU is that it will result in a deficit of R383 million by 2019. To this end, it will be irresponsible of NMMU not to take advantage of the government’s proposal to raise fees by not more than 8%, since this will ensure the continued provision of quality higher education and sustainability of the university.

Debt relief

This year, NMMU out of its own volition assisted those who qualified for 2015 debt relief – academically deserving and financially needy students – giving these students the opportunity to return to the University to continue their studies. This loan funding included 1531 students to an amount of R21m. For the first time, it also offered assistance with down payment relief for students from the “missing middle”. Altogether, NMMU assisted 5043 students, resulting in a R30m negative cash flow at the end of February.

We further assisted zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC) students with a contribution towards books, food and accommodation. This amounted to R25.4m.  In addition, NMMU absorbed the cost (R34.5m) of ending outsourcing.

To date, the accumulated fees debt for NMMU is R198m (as at 31 August 2016).

The demand for a complete debt write off, including NSFAS loans, is new and requires further engagement by a number of stakeholders. It will be grossly irresponsible for Management to accede to this request, as the present financial position of the University does not make this possible without a significant injection of further funding.

We are committed to engage with the student community and other stakeholders to openly and collectively explore ways of widening access for academically deserving, financially needy students.

Position on free higher education for the poor and joining the campaign

The 2015 #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements brought home the realisation that our national project of creating a non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and democratic South Africa had not achieved its avowed goals. Stalled social and economic transformation, exacerbated by virtually stagnant economic growth, has emphasised the need to address pressing social and economic challenges in a sustainable manner. Widening access to quality higher education offers the only practical mechanism for achieving this.

Experience has shown that broadening access to quality higher education carries additional costs. Opening the doors of learning to the poor needs to be accompanied by a holistic package of interventions to ensure that all students can achieve their full potential.  Among these, NMMU has piloted the following on- and off-campus:

  • Access to IT devices
  • Access to textbooks and other learning materials in libraries
  • Student nutrition
  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Wi-Fi connectivity

Universities must be in financially sound positions to fund these additional support requirements or poor students will remain marginalised.

In highly unequal societies, like South Africa, research has shown that free higher education for all will proportionally benefit the privileged more than the poor. We therefore do not support free higher education for those who can afford to pay fees.

NMMU has been actively involved in advocating for fee-free higher education for the poor. Vice-Chancellor, Professor Derrick Swartz, for example, led the Ministerial Task Team on Fee-Free Higher Education for the poor in 2012. More recently, we made written and oral submissions to the Presidential Fees Commission, wherein we proposed fee-free higher education for the poor, as well as additional financial assistance to the “missing middle”. We will continue to lobby for this.

NSFAS

The current funding model for student financial aid holds several challenges. It is of concern that NSFAS student loan recoveries have basically collapsed, falling by 61% between 2008 and 2014. The cost to NSFAS and the government of this collapse in loan recoveries is estimated to be about R4.3 billion for this period. This loss in recoveries revenue has had a significant negative impact on the ability of NSFAS to extend further.

Government has been responsive to these challenges and has brought in a new chair of NSFAS to rework the financial aid model and ensure that it becomes a viable fund to assist the poor. We need to give this intervention a chance and then actively engage with the recommendations as these emerge.

Private sector assistance with funding for poor students

A greater contribution and role played by the private sector and philanthropists will increase the number of beneficiaries of financial aid, as well as enhance the quality of teaching, learning and research by universities.

Given NMMU’s commitment to widening access to higher education for the poor, it has initiated a number of interventions to increase the amount of funding available to assist these students. This includes the restructuring of resource mobilisation activities at the University, and the increased lobbying of government and the private sector for additional funding.

The University already has a fundraising arm, the NMMU Trust, which is being restructured to improve its resource mobilisation capacities. The Trust raises funds from donors and the private sector for scholarships and bursaries. Thus far in 2016, an amount of just over R42 million in donations has been raised.

Assistance for the “missing middle”

NMMU has been pioneering its approach to assisting the “missing middle”who consist of students who are not poor enough to qualify for NSFAS, but cannot finance their own tuition.As shared, NMMU assisted “missing middle” students with down payment relief in 2016. We appreciate the recent interventions announced by the Minister for the “missing middle” and look forward to the report on further interventions, which will be made by the Ministerial Task Team appointed to develop a model for implementation in 2017.

Widening access for success and APS

NMMU has a strong ethos of “access for success”. We do this through ongoing research into student progress. As a result, seven programmes in the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences (BES) increased their Admissions Point Score (APS) for 2017 after following due process. This process is a lengthy one and includes student representation. The request to change the above APS requirements, for example, began in 2014 and was approved by various committees right up to the NMMU Council, prior to the #FeesMustFall in 2015.

Applicants who do not meet the APS and/or subject requirements could qualify for admission through access testing. There is a testing band linked to the APS for those who do not meet the direct admissions requirements. Those applicants who fall in the testing band are invited to be tested and considered for admission based on their school and admissions test results.

More than half of NMMU’s registered first-time entering students enter via this alternative access route each year. On further reflection, changing both the APS and the testing band could have the unintended consequence of limiting access. Consequently, for the 2017 intake, we have put a process in motion to obtain permission from the relevant University committees to revert back to the 2016 APS testing band for these seven programmes.

If there are other concerns in this regard, or if more information is needed, Management is committed to engaging with students further. Furthermore, appeals from affected individual applicants can be lodged with Admissions for the Admissions Committee to consider.

Improved efficiencies and cost management

The University recognises the need to improve its efficiency and cost management. It has initiated various measures to secure its long-term sustainability, including interventions to:

  • Enhance the strategic and financial viability of our academic programmes.
  • Review organisational structures to ensure fitness-for-purpose.
  • Remodel business operations, including the reintegrated services.

In addition, NMMU innovatively uses funding allocated to it to achieve its strategic priorities to the benefit of students.  For example, we have used the funding allocated by government for student housing to leverage additional loan funding to significantly increase the number of places available in on-campus student accommodation in Port Elizabeth and George.

Sustainability imbizo

Management will shortly be convening a multi-stakeholder sustainability imbizo to openly engage with students and staff regarding the university’s financial position. The overarching aim of this imbizo will be to create shared understanding of the tough choices that will need to be made for the long-term sustainability of NMMU.

Interventions to mitigate the impact of the shutdown on the academic calendar

NMMU recognises that, due to the recent disruptions to academic activities, contingencies need to be put in place to catch up lost teaching time and to accommodate tests that had to be postponed and due dates for assignments. The Executive Deans of each faculty are exploring ways on how best to address this in the interests of all students. This includes engaging faculty management committees to share information and give direction in this regard.There are obviously practical challenges to how much can be caught up this year if the forced closure of campuses and disruption of services continues.

Ending of outsourcing and related issues

The University remains committed to ending outsourcing in accordance with the Council resolution of 21 November 2015.  This commenced with the insourcing of catering (80 staff) and security (270 staff) services in April and July 2016 respectively.

NMMU has been engaging with the issues that have emerged from Council’s decision through a multi-stakeholder task team, with significant student representation, in an effort to co-create workable and sustainable models for ending outsourcing.

Port Elizabeth and George campus-specific operational issues to be addressed via task teams

There are a number of detailed and more specific issues raised in the petitions submitted by students on our campuses in Port Elizabeth and George.

These include matters relating to: service delivery; academic administration (e.g. re-examination fees); cooking facilities; off-campus accommodation; sponsorship for BTech students; internships for students who are in courses with no practical component; improved transparency in residential placement; more security guard houses for residences; and so on.

Management proposes that these be addressed through multi-stakeholder task teams similar to those established in 2016 for outsourcing and financial aid. We appeal to students to assist us by participating actively in these task teams and ensuring continuity of representation so that we can develop joint solutions as a matter of urgency within mutually agreeable deadlines.

 

Way forward

NMMU recognises that protesting students have the right to protest peacefully. Equally, those who do not choose to participate in protests, have the right to continue with their studies. That is the essence of democracy.

However, continued disruptions have wide-ranging implications that impact negatively on the academic activities and operations of the University. A continued shutdown will result in:

  • The academic programme being compromised to the extent that we will reach a point where the academic calendar for the year will have to be significantly adjusted, and possibly extended into 2017.
  • The possible postponement of the summer graduation along with the possibility that some of our final-year students cannot graduate in 2017.
  • The University operations being severely compromised, including processing applications for admission to academic programmes for 2017, as well as the financial support for qualifying students.

As such, Management strongly appeals that we return to normal operations from Tuesday, 27 September 2016. Any outstanding issues in the petitions can be addressed jointly with the aim of concluding them within agreed timeframes, while academic activities continue.

Depending on the students’ response, and based on Management’s assessment of the situation on the ground, the University may be compelled to implement drastic measures going forward, including possibly suspending lectures until we can guarantee the safety of all our students and staff.

Love vs Money: Survival of the Fittest

Love-or-money-love-vs-money-19736811-1000-750.jpg

Dating on Campus has never been easy. Even today, finding the right girl is one of the biggest challenges the guys face. From blessers to ben 10s, smartphones and fancy clothing, it makes it very distressing for some individuals to meet the demands in the love industry.

I’ve always assumed that one loves the other for looks or personality but some girls undoubtedly proved me wrong. These days you don’t stand a chance in competing with the blessers or even rich kids who drive fancy cars. These days, the labels you wear or the size of your wallet determines whether one dates you or not.

Now don’t get me wrong, some girls fancy the idea of being swept off their feet by rich handsome guys, who land them on the best seats in a restaurant and don’t even check a price tag when shopping. I don’t think some of you will disagree that going to a fancy place is better than spending every evening at home.That receiving gifts and having a nice dinner in a romantic place while having a glass of wine is more fun than eating chips on the couch. But in reality, money can’t buy happiness nor love but in the long run you’ll compensate.

Sometimes it’s much better dating an ordinary person without it having to be an expensive life. If you think about it, there is nothing as romantic as staying at home and chilling with your girl and in the middle of a movie, she leans into you, rests her head on your chest and eventually falls asleep in your arms.

Written by: Odwa Sikrweqe

 

 

Make-Up

image.jpegThe face was smeared with foundation, complementing the skin tone. It embraced the cheek bones which resembled two cherries dipped in a drink. The circled eyes stood boldly dressed in colours. The eyes lashes stood firm; each layer hid evidence, the make-up brushes covered the reality and made everything seem flawless. The sharpened eye liner covered the bags from underneath the eyes. The mascara created a fake illusion of happiness.
Self-love.
A veil that is sometimes worn daily sometimes not.
Enhancer of beauty.
Quick fix.
Physical creativity.
An ambiguity and a paradox on its own. On one hand, it is viewed as an art that camouflages and covers our “flaws” or it allows us to play God and to add a few finishing touches to our facial appearances and it makes up a momentary mirror image reflection of ourselves. On the other hand, it enhances the physical features one already has and it makes them stand out even more. It allows them to be showcased differently by adding a dash of blush and shades of colour to the eyes. It also heals and redeems and it covers up our physical wounds before our emotional wounds have healed properly. Hence buying us time to be go through the emotions under cover.
But I don’t think that make-up should be the epitome or the definer of all beauty. It should not make us despise our natural look or make up our souls that we lose touch of who we are and we feel completely incomplete without.

Our dependency upon it shouldn’t upon it shouldn’t make us doubt that we are beautiful. It’s a great façade but a façade can only survive the weather for so long before it melts and the real person is seen.

 

Written by: Celuzuze Gugulethu Mabaso

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