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Noise in learning environments

- Wits University

Noise is increasingly becoming a problem in schools and affects the audibility of speech.The effects of noise hamper learning opportunities for learners.

Dr Victor de Andrade, audiologist and lecturer in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology in the School of Human and Community Development at Wits enlightened the principals of some of the top performing schools in Gauteng on the impact of noise in learning environments.

He spoke at the annual Principals Function hosted by Wits’ Schools Liaison and Marketing Division at the Wits Club on 28 July 2016.

According to De Andrade, noise in classrooms is a barrier to effective learning because of poor acoustics [audibility].

“These classrooms are not necessarily the quietest places.  The learners need good acoustics to be able to learn. The message could be great, the teachers could be incredible, but if the acoustics are shocking, it puts the learners at a disadvantage [because they can’t hear],” says De Andrade.   

Additionally, the noise affects more complex cognitive and learning abilities, as a result of learners’ poorer motivation and higher levels of annoyance.

“The audibility of speech is dramatically reduced in noise, especially for children who do not have the context of certain words and are not able to make up the meaning, and who do not have a solid vocabulary at their disposal. In a classroom where they are learning new information, that word that the child has missed could be crucial to the rest of the conversation. “

De Andrade added that various noise sources, also known as background noise sources, also affect audibility.

“Background noise exceeds the level of the speech. It makes it difficult to hear even familiar words. Sometimes children miss out on certain frequencies of sound and they have difficulties following what is being said in the lesson.”

De Andrade advised the principals and teachers to be aware of the context in which they work such as structures which are not necessarily good for acoustics which include pre-fabricated classrooms with very thin walls and brick buildings.

In addressing the problem of noise in learning environments, he urged teachers to protect their vocal outputs to overcome the effects of classroom noise and encouraged them to look at noise reduction strategies to assist them in reducing vocal strain.

“Unfavourable noise levels in classrooms due to excessive background noise and reverberation can lead to excessive vocal use during teaching, which can be potentially harmful to voices and throats,” he cautioned.

To enhance audibility and improve learning in classes, De Andrade encouraged educators to attend speech and voice therapy and voice training; use voice amplification devices where feasible; use non-verbal sounds to cue attention; and increase daily water intake to hydrate the vocal mechanism.

 

Wits submits report on higher education funding

- Wits University

The University today made its submission to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education Funding.

Professor Hlonipha Mokoena led the delegation, supported by Professors Catherine Albertyn and David Hornsby, who were all part of the eight-member Wits Panel on Funding Model(s) for Higher Education in South Africa, that consulted and heard submissions from the University community. Other panel members included Professors Roger Gibson,Laetitia Rispel, Christopher Malikane and Mtendeweka Mhango, and Dr Nthatisi Khatleli. 

Download a pdf version of the submission or read the full submission below. 

“We are glad to have presented the Wits report to the Commission. The report contains several options for the Commissioners to consider and we hope it will be useful to them in their deliberations about the future of higher education in South Africa,” says Mokoena. 

Hornsby adds: “The models presented by the Panel to the Commission reflect submissions received by the Wits community. All forefront the important role of higher education in rectifying the injustices of the past and carving a future for economic growth and social justice…which is truly inspiring.” 

“It’s early days for the Commission,” says Albertyn. “Hopefully there will be opportunities for members of the Wits community, who made detailed submissions to us, to discuss these with the Commission.”

Wits students proposed to submit their own submission, as did other student bodies, individuals, academics and organisations. Wits’ Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib, will serve as part of the vice-chancellors’ delegation to the Commission later this month via Universities South Africa.

On the underfunding of the sector Habib says: “This is an important moment for the higher education sector and one in which we as a society should fully participate. As a society, we need to ensure that the dramatic underfunding of the higher education sector is reversed and that the quality of the education on offer is not compromised in any way.” 

Should you have any further enquiries regarding Wits’ submission, please contact Professor Hlonipha Mokoena directly on (011) 717-4223 or email Hlonipha.Mokoena@wits.ac.za.

Report: University of the Witwatersrand Panel on Funding Model(s) for Higher Education in South Africa

30 Junie 2016

Executive Summary

The Wits University community appointed an eight-person Panel on Higher Education Funding to receive submissions and examine possible model(s) for funding higher education in South Africa.

This Panel recorded the views expressed by students and academics at four open plenary sessions; and also obtained written submissions. The Panel also reviewed the literature pertaining to the funding of higher education and obtained information on key financial indicators from National Treasury.

While it is possible to reform the current system either through the increased infusion of more state funding into the higher education sector, this report is based on the assumption that to surpass the current crisis a new “hybrid model” is required. This envisages a multi-faceted approach in which Government (as the main custodian of higher education), the Private Sector and university revenues (fees, donor funds and endowments) all contribute in various ways to the general well-being and sustainability of the higher education sector.

Such a model would also include public-private partnerships that source funding from the government as well as from the private sector. Such funding could be a complement to the current system or it could be enhanced through the use of financial instruments and Special Purpose Entities (SPEs).

Introduction

In October 2015, a protest by Wits students against the proposed 10.5% increase in fees for 2016 rapidly spread across the country, morphing into the FeesMustFall (FMF) movement that won important concessions from Government (addressing issues of insufficient NSFAS funding in 2014-2015 and agreement on a 0% fee increase for 2016) as well as establishing a Presidential Commission to examine funding of higher education. In April 2016, Wits University established an eight-person panel to facilitate the collection and synthesis of inputs on higher education funding models from all members of the University community.

The Panel on Higher Education Funding, chaired by Professor Hlonipha Mokoena, recorded the views expressed by students and academics at four open plenary sessions; and also obtained written submissions from interested parties. The objective of these plenary sessions was to solicit the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders within the University. The tone and conduct of these sessions was consultative and the Panel interrogated the assumptions of the submissions by asking questions of clarity rather than aiming for consensus on the “best” proposals.

The Panel also reviewed the literature pertaining to the funding of higher education and obtained information on key financial indicators from National Treasury. During June 2016, the Panel also obtained inputs on its initial report from various stakeholders, including the Community-Based Empowerment Forum and members of the Students Representative Council.

The Panel has engaged in wide-ranging consultation with the Wits community and has determined that across the institution, the demand for Fee-Free Higher Education in South Africa is considered a legitimate request that deserves interrogation. Indeed, numerous jurisdictions are scrapping university tuition fees as a means of providing access to higher education, namely, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and the Province of Ontario (for those from families earning below a particular threshold).

For the most part, this scrapping of tuition fees is being financed by increased taxation collected by provincial or municipal governments. [In the case of Germany, compare for example two articles published by The Guardian newspaper. In 2014, Deborah Hermanns asked the question: Germany is scrapping tuition fees – why can’t England? Two years later, the same newspaper published an article by Philip Oltermann: Germany axed tuition fees – but is it working out?]

On the obverse side, some institutions that had a no fees policy have introduced tuition fees. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York – which was established in 1859 as a no-fee institution – announced in 2013 that it would begin charging tuition fees. Despite protests, sit-ins and legal challenges, the university’s Board of Trustees pushed through the decision to charge fees. [College Ends Free Tuition, and an Era, New York Times.]

The fact that countries and institutions can alternate between these two choices of “no fees” and tuition fees, underscores how contentious the issue is and neither choice seems to be permanent. Part of the reason that tuition fees are contested is that different constituencies place a different value on higher education.

That is, there is often vigorous debate about where the balance – between the private benefits of a university degree (higher salaries and class mobility) versus the social benefits of an educated population (higher tax revenues, an engaged and informed citizenry etc.) – lies.  Thus, as a starting point, this report will highlight some of the benefits of higher education that are particularly relevant to South Africa.

The benefits of a vibrant and thriving higher education system are clear.

Universities and graduates are direct contributors to South African knowledge and innovation and contribute to economic growth. For example, in 2009, South African universities contributed over R87bn to the economy and accounted for approximately 2.1% of GDP. [Pouris A, Inglesi-Lotz R. The contribution of higher education institutions to the South African economy. S Afr J Sci. 2014;110(3/4), Art. #a0059, 5 pages.]

Universities are also major employers – both directly and indirectly resulting in over 150,000 jobs. [Ibid] Graduates are not only more likely to obtain employment, but often enter into well-paying jobs, increasing the number of taxpayers; contribute to a more informed democratic participation; tend to be healthier individuals, and are less likely to engage in criminal activity, and display higher levels of civic engagement.

A vibrant higher education sector is, thus, essential to the creation of a thriving civil society. The project of nation building is also implicated since, without a thriving civil society, such an ideal cannot be realised. When considering the context of South Africa’s legacy of apartheid and the institutionalized system of inequality that has been entrenched, higher education plays an important role in transformation.

Furthermore, from a social justice perspective, university education in South Africa is also a public good. We all benefit from higher education, whether personally or societally. In this sense, we need a system for funding higher education that treats the private and public benefits not as opposing ideas but as complementary in the social justice project of the country.  This is a project for which everyone in South Africa bears responsibility.

The reality of higher education in South Africa is that it is funded below OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and even other African country levels, as a proportion of GDP. Currently, the South African government spends just 4.7% of revenue, or 0.75% of GDP, on the post-school education and training sector. This includes Universities, Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and other training institutions.  The OECD on average spends 1.59% of GDP on higher education, with the UK spending 1.23% and Germany spending 1.31%. [OECD 2014 Education at a Glance.]

Our report is based on the assumption that funding higher education is not just a burden that the public purse must bear, but that Government, universities, the Private Sector and Society at large must all contribute to the mammoth task of creating solutions to the higher education funding crisis. Our report reflects this social justice dimension of our deliberations and conversations with the Wits university community.

Whilst it is not in our ambit to pronounce on the capacity of Government to fund higher education in its entirety, it is important to note that Government plays an important role in redressing some of the historical disadvantages imposed upon the majority of the population. Through the power of taxation, Government can ensure that those disadvantaged through the legacy of apartheid, and who also qualify to attend university, can do so.

That said, government resources are limited and higher education is but one aspect for Government consideration in South Africa.

Figure 1 shows where Government gets much of its tax revenue.  By far, Personal Income Tax (PIT) and Value-Added Tax (VAT) are the largest contributors to government coffers – 63% of all government revenue.

Figure 1: Government Tax Revenue – sources 2016/17. [Source:  National Treasury: 2016]

Figure 1: Wits Panel on Funding Model(s) for higher education report.

Both PIT and VAT largely come from individual residents in South Africa through a tax on their income and their consumptive activities. It is worth noting here that only 22% of the South Africa population actually pays PIT and VAT.

Figure 2 shows that the vast majority of PIT and VAT contributions come from the richest 20% (approximately 11m people).

Figure 2: Portion of population paying PIT & VAT 2016/17 [Source: National Treasury, 2016]

 

Figure 2: Wits Panel on Funding Model(s) for higher education report.

Whilst this pattern is an obvious consequence of South Africa’s legacy of inequality, two things are clear:

  1. Government needs to increase the PIT and VAT contribution base through socio-economic upliftment;
  2. Government remains constrained in what it can do when thinking of adding additional PIT and VAT burdens on individuals. Simply put, Government cannot simply increase PIT and VAT rates every time it seeks to address funding shortfalls, as even the richest 20% in South Africa maintain finite resources. As the presence of the “missing middle” – that is, lower middle class students who fail to qualify for financial aid even when they do not have the financial resources to attend university – attests, increased taxation can make higher education even more unaffordable for those whose families are on the lower rungs of the middle class.

Finally, Government maintains that other priorities have to be balanced against the needs of universities. It is important to recognise that 22% of the population funds a large portion of government expenditure.  [Government expenditure comprises tax revenue and borrowing.]

This poses a different set of challenges regarding how to divide the limited financial resources available to the government, as Figure 3 highlights. Financial support for higher education thus needs to be considered against other social justice projects such as the planned National Health Insurance System, and Reconstruction and Development Housing Programme that have significant social implications and are also political priorities for the government.

Figure 3: Government Expenditure 2016/17 [Source: National Treasury, 2016]

Figure 3: Wits Panel on Funding Model(s) for higher education report. 

 

Among the submissions made to the Panel, several recommended either curbing misuse of government funding (eliminating corruption, inefficiency, misappropriation etc.) or the re-organisation of current budget allocations (more money dedicated to scarce skills such as teaching, medicine, nursing or the elimination of budgetary items such as spending on MPs’ perquisites or the military/security).

We felt that our Panel was not qualified to comment on these budgetary issues since we simply do not have the relevant facts in hand to make judgments about appropriations. That said, we do believe that addressing inefficiencies and graft/corruption in the public sector can help release currently unavailable revenue but we recognise that addressing these issues will take time and effort. The imperative to increase access to higher education cannot, however, be suspended until institutional efficiencies (both those of the state and individual universities) are improved.  

In its deliberations, the Panel repeatedly returned to the question of who maintains an obligation with respect to higher education funding.  We have considered the role of private individuals and of Government. It is a self-evident truth that, in the current context, many cannot afford access to higher education.

Private individuals from the largest PIT and VAT groups are insufficient in number for their resources to subsidise all those who cannot afford the full cost of higher education.  Government, therefore, needs to play an important role in funding higher education and should seek to rectify the steady decline in real subsidy amounts that has been a constant in the sector since 2000 (Figure 4).

However, the Panel does appreciate the need to balance higher education against competing resource priorities and imperatives.  The Panel is unanimous in its belief that government needs to play an important role in higher education funding due to the clear social justice obligations and needs to signal that it views higher education as a priority in South Africa’s social and economic upliftment by, at minimum, reversing the subsidy declines and meeting comparable state funding levels as it relates to percentage of GDP.

Figure 4 [Price Waterhouse Cooper accessed May 25, 2016]: Income sources of public higher education institutions [Sources: Department of Higher Education and Training (2010) and Moving Forward (2012)]

 

Figure 4: Wits Panel on Funding Model(s) for higher education report.

That said, we cannot solely rely on Government to address this fundamental question of access. Given the Panel’s belief that higher education is a question of social justice and that all elements of society should contribute, we need to question how new money can be introduced into the system. Many of the submissions we received connected higher education with the problem of employment. Both the private and public sectors benefit from having a cohort of educated graduates to pick from. As such, many submissions made the point that this benefit should induce both sectors not only to spend more on higher education but also to spend more on guaranteeing that graduates find employment after the completion of their degrees. 

Considering the role of the private sector is therefore the obvious next step.  If we accept that higher education offers both public and private benefits then it is clear that all sectors of society should support the funding of higher education. As it currently stands, outside of general taxes and philanthropy, the private sector supports universities through earmarking funds for specific projects and through supporting mostly students who are potential employees.

What is absent, is a systematic mechanism that channels private sector funds to all universities.

This is despite the fact that the private sector as a whole is a beneficiary of graduates produced from South African universities. Although Wits does not represent all South African universities, it may be useful to take note of the actual breakdown of private sector funding. Statistics provided by the Development and Fundraising Office (DFO) at Wits, show that whereas in 2010, the university received R185 673 386 in total funding, by 2015 that figure had increased to R222 569 962.

The overall increase in funding is however offset by the fact that funding by the “Corporate” sector has actually decreased from R50 995 666 in 2010 to R36 949 144 in 2015 (see Figure 5 below).

Figure 5 [“Report to the Wits Foundation Board of Governors”, Development and Fundraising Office (DFO), 22 March 2016]:

Figure 5: Wits Panel on Funding Model(s) for higher education report.

This seeming decrease in corporate funding is due in part to Wits’ introduction of what it terms “Wits B-BBEE Investment Solutions for Corporates”.

This programme is a consequence of the Revised B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice, under which corporate partners can, by investing across the wide spectrum of Wits offerings, claim scorecard points under the three priority element codes: 100 (Ownership), 300 (Skills Development), 400 (Enterprise and Supplier Development) and code 500 (Socio-Economic Development). [The content of these different codes is explained in a document titled, “Wits B-BBEE Investment Solutions for Corporates”, published by the Development and Fundraising Office (DFO).]

In light of the increasing importance of corporate investments, the Panel received a number of submissions and proposals that tried to find innovative ways through private mechanisms and /or public-private partnerships that utilised bonds, asset management funds, and other financial instruments to create market-based mechanisms that would be controlled jointly by universities and the state through boards of directors. The next section will highlight these proposals more succinctly. 

The Panel considers that it is important for the private sector to explore support for higher education in a more systematic and consistent way as a means of fulfilling the aspiration of improving access to universities. The continued practice of soliciting donations runs the danger of over-emphasising particular areas of study, especially the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to the detriment of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The statistics and figures provided by Wits’ DFO show that when considered by faculty, the Faculty of Humanities currently receives the largest amount of donations. The largest donor to this Faculty is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which donated R18m in 2015, a figure that is nearly double the R9.4m that it donated in 2014.

The second largest donor is the Ford Foundation with R4.2 m. When considered from this perspective, it becomes crucial that one of the underlying principles of engaging the private sector should be that funding higher education should not come at the cost of the university’s intangible heritage, namely, its disciplinary diversity.

A Hybrid Funding Model: Meeting the expanding needs of Higher Education through a multi-faceted approach

As set out in this report’s introduction, the ultimate objective of a revised funding model should be the meaningful widening of access to tertiary education, especially for those students and families who cannot afford fees. The position taken in this report is that such an expansion will require a multi-faceted approach in which Government, the private sector and university revenues (fees, donor funds and endowments) all contribute in various ways to the general well-being and sustainability of the higher education sector.

In a recent article published in University World News, Nico Cloete made the observation that, ‘all fee regimes are a Trilemma of Trade-offs: public (government) investment – enrolment – private costs. And the trade-offs are influenced by a combination of what different political groupings think the role of higher education is in that society and which constituencies’ interests are dominant.’ [Cloete, N. University student fees – A trilemma of trade-offs. University World News, 13 May 2016 Issue No: 413]

In concurring with Cloete’s conclusion, this report aims to emphasise the fact that how these three imperatives are balanced against each other constitutes the policy questions that will determine how the current crisis in funding is resolved.

The models and proposals presented in this section of the report were canvassed through a series of public meetings across the various Wits campuses. Submissions could either be oral or written and could be presented to the Panel at a public meeting or sent in via electronic mail. In general, most of the proposals we received were based on the assumption that we need to fund higher education from a diversity of sources, in a manner that does not hollow out other university needs, such as funding to support university research, faculty development and the hiring of young scholars.

The differences in the proposals tended to revolve around two distinct issues: there were those proposals that focused almost exclusively on the extension or revision of the current funding system of government subsidies, plus NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme), plus university revenue in the form of fees.

On the opposite end were those proposals that presented novel or innovative ways of creating new forms of funding that could supplement the current funding system. Thus, even though there were differences in the assumptions and objectives of the proposals, most presented what we would like to term a “hybrid model” of higher education funding.

Reforming the Current System: How Much to Fund and Who to Fund?

From the first of our public meetings, it became clear that fees were only a small portion of the larger dilemma of how to fund individual students from the beginning of their degree to the day of completion. Given the economic realities of South Africa, it became clear that any reformation of the current system would have to begin with an acknowledgement that only by covering the full costs of a degree can we claim to be supporting or investing in a student’s future.

However, it also became apparent that none of our respondents supported a free-for-all system in which even those who could afford to pay were fully funded. This led to various proposals for means testing and/or a sliding scale based on family income.

There was a range of suggestions of how such a means test can be formulated: it could be based on the fees that families paid for high school education, that is, if parents can afford a +R50 000 private school then the fees they pay for a university education should be in the same ball park. There were also suggestions that SARS (the South African Revenue Service) should be co-opted into providing information about the incomes of parents rather than simply relying on self-declared estimations of affordability.

Alternatively, instead of placing the burden of funding on family incomes, there were suggestions that students should be contracted into a reciprocal or pay-back funding model in which they either paid back all or a portion of their funding once they completed their degree or during their studies in the form of “cash” or a “sweat equity”. What the latter would mean is that students would be compelled to work during university holidays in order to partially fund their education.

The main advantage of these suggested reforms is that they are intended to dissuade “free-riding” in which even the wealthiest South Africans would basically get a free education even while they could afford to pay.

Additionally, the suggestion that students could contribute to the costs of their degree by working during their holidays could give them valuable work experience, which would enhance their curriculum vitae.

The main disadvantage of these proposals is that by still expecting students to pay in cash or labour for their education, the reforms could still burden poor students by bonding them to long-term debt.

Public / Government Investment

By far the most mentioned aspect of the current funding system were the NSFAS loans which currently range from the minimum amount per student of R2 000 and the maximum amount for 2016 of R71 800. The Panel noted the evolving nature of NSFAS and the possibility that support may rise from the current figures.

As with the other components of the current system there were several proposals that augmented the NSFAS system. Thus, there was a proposal for a hybrid model in which NSFAS fully funds (R110 000 – R120 000) a wide pool of qualifying students in the first year of study, followed by a private-sector / companies support scheme from 2nd Year onwards.

This proposal acknowledged that removing funding impediments in the 1st Year provided students with the greatest chance of succeeding in bridging the gap between high school and tertiary education, and that 1st Year success was a far greater indicator of graduation potential than matric results; consequently, companies would receive a better “return on investment” through supporting students from 2nd Year onwards.

The emphasis on completion is because the proposal also includes a 100% “pay back” for those students who graduate. Ensuring completion is therefore tied to the likelihood of payback.

The main advantage of these proposals for the reformation of NSFAS is that they gel with the Scheme’s own renewed commitment to the tightening of the repayment regime. Moreover, since it is already funded by the government, increased funding of individual students via NSFAS could raise government spending on higher education to levels that are compatible with international norms. The main disadvantage of a renewed NSFAS system is that the stress on the state’s revenues is potentially exponential.

More importantly, the costs of administering the system, especially the repayment regimen, could end up increasing the costs of the scheme. Anecdotally, students use the term “black tax” to refer to the social, familial and personal costs of being graduates.

This means that, in addition to being expected to support younger siblings, or their families, university graduates could increasingly feel even more “black taxed” since they could also be expected to contribute a portion of their income to NSFAS.

The Tax System

Some proposals evaluated the idea of expanding higher education funding through increased taxation, or a graduate tax. It was suggested that a dedicated graduate tax is not a sustainable idea as there is no guarantee that the tax will be used for higher education purposes, it is not necessarily a fair way of increasing funding, and it might provide an incentive for people to migrate or hide their educational status.

However, it was suggested that more “courageous public finance policies” could increase the tax purse by increasing taxes for the very rich (personal and corporate). [P Pillay “Financing of Universities – Promoting Equity or Reinforcing Inequality” (2016). Submission to Wits Higher Education Panel.]

Several submissions did suggest, however, that SARS (South African Revenue Service) could be more fruitfully employed in various aspects of the higher education funding system. For example, SARS could implement a system of taxing students who need to repay their student loans once they are earnings exceed a certain amount.

As an example, in the United Kingdom, students pay back 9% on all that they earn above R300 000 a year.  Such a system – linked to SARS – would have the additional advantage of ensuring compliance in the repayment of loans by those who can afford such repayments.

Private Sector and Private-Public Partnerships

The private sector already funds students in higher education, mostly in the form of bursaries and scholarships, but also indirectly through investment in infrastructure and academic posts. This form of funding tends to benefit those students pursuing professional degrees – Health Sciences, Actuarial Science, Engineering, Chartered Accounting, etc. These private sector companies receive some benefit via tax deductions on certain types of donations.

There were some suggestions that these so-called “Section 18A” benefits could be improved and changed to provide more incentives for companies to fund institutions of higher education. Additionally, bursaries from the private sector could be used to shore up NSFAS or as an alternative to NSFAS. Another possible role for the private sector is as the future employer of university graduates.

In this capacity, Business could be encouraged to assist students with debt repayment, especially in order to enable these graduates to pursue postgraduate studies. The private sector can also (and currently does) fund advanced degrees through funding research projects. Such funding could also be increased to the benefit of both universities and postgraduate students.

Fees and Loan Funding

Some proposals looked at the question of a sliding scale of fees based on income. For example, one academic suggested that legislation be introduced to implement a differentiated fee structure in universities based on socio-economic status.

Combined with this, NSFAS could be converted into a grant scheme to cater for poor students, whilst others pay fees. It was also suggested that Wits should support the possibility of putting into place a system of income-contingent repayments for students. Students should only pay back (via their taxes) when they are earning income over a certain threshold.

This would reduce risk for students and ease potential for hardships for students who get into debt. It would mean that students who don’t immediately find employment would not be burdened with debt. 

The banking system is the most obvious beginning for a discussion of private or study loans. At the present moment, a young person requires a loan guarantor in order for them to apply for a student loan. It was suggested that one of the ways in which this system could be reformed is for the state or a future employer to assume the role of loan guarantor.

However, as has been noted, one of the main weaknesses of any loan system is that it places a potentially heavy burden of indebtedness on most students. Thus, some of our respondents even suggested that public or private loans could be used to assist students to avoid or manage indebtedness.

In the latter case, a student or their family would pay a fixed repayment rate over the duration of the student’s degree while a private or public lender / donor would service the interest on the principal. This would mean that, rather than face a continual increase in interest rates, the students could have their loan repayments “fixed”, at least for the duration of their studies.

The main advantage of this suggested new role for the private sector, especially banks, is that students whose families do not have the means to act as loan guarantors would be able to access student or private loans. However, the disadvantage is that at least one of the models presented to the Panel was based on a tuition-only projection.

This means that the other costs of a university degree were not factored into the debt that the student would have to repay.

It should also be remembered, as pointed out by Pillay, citing Stiglitz: ‘“Student debt is not benign and economically insignificant. It affects capital formation – the increase in per capita output, or net additions of capital stock such as equipment, buildings and roads – all of which go to create goods and services and have a direct negative effect on our productivity as a country. People will not start new businesses, invest in capital equipment, manufacture goods and innovate.’ [Pillay (2016)]

Financial Instruments (Shares, Bonds etc.)

These proposals were based on the assumption that even if the current system was reformed (including both the private and public contributions to higher education), there would still be thousands of students unable to access higher education. Thus, the suggestions were about radically changing the relationship between the public and private sector by creating a Special Purpose Entity (SPE) and/or a privately managed nationally-based asset management fund. [See, for example, D Bradlow and E Webster “Concept Note of Financing University Tuition: Creating a Self-Sustaining University Tution Financing Mechanism using Bonds and Public Service” (2016). Submission to the Wits Higher Education Funding Panel.]

In the first instance, the SPE would involve the selling of bonds (and thus a role for government) plus the universities would also purchase shares in the entity. If, for example, 15 universities each contributed R5 million in funding then the SPE would receive R75 million per year and thus able to issue R750 million in bonds to companies, donor agencies and others.

This scheme would not be a substitute for the current system but is envisioned as a complement to it. Moreover, the loans given to students would cover the full cost of a university degree (tuition, books, living expenses). The main advantage of this proposal is that students would only repay the loan once their salary is R150 000 per annum or more. These repayments would also be stretched over a period of 25 years It is also envisaged that students could repay their loans by working for Government, especially local government where there is a need for skills.

The second type of public-private partnership proposed was named “TRAX” (Tax Rebate Access) [The panel would like to insert a special note that this proposal was made by a student who is also writing their Honours dissertation on the topic. The proprietary rights and copyright of the idea rest with the student and the inclusion of the name of this scheme in this report does not constitute appropriation or alienation of these rights.] and, like the SPE proposal, this is envisioned as a public-private partnership to unlock approximately R25 billion per annum in private-sector funding.

The JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange)-listed companies would be eligible for tax rebates in return for investment in the higher education sector. For a net amount of R14.5 billion, the government would have to fund R10.5 billion in rebates per annum.

Different models – gross or net of rebate – could be employed to reduce students’ fees. The proposal would rely on a privately managed asset management/sovereign wealth fund, registered as a subsidiary of the JSE.

The contribution to the fund could be based on annual financial statements of JSE-listed companies, with some flexibility in the decision on the percentage each company would contribute. Tax deductions would be based on contributions, according to a sliding scale – the more a company contributed, the higher its rebate reduction would be.

The main advantage of these proposed private-public partnerships is that both universities and the state would have a say in how these financial instruments, SPEs and asset management funds would be managed.

The boards of directors of these entities would be independent and jointly appointed. More importantly, private sector companies would, in exchange for their contributions, receive generous tax rebates as well as ensuring a stable, functioning, high-calibre, university system from which they could draw future graduates.

The main disadvantage of these instruments is that while they may remove fees from the equation they may introduce many unintended consequences since a “no-fee” education may lead to low pass rates and/or high dropout rates. The potential abuse of this fee-free education is a real possibility but it could be mitigated by performance-based increases / decreases in fees. That is, poorly performing students would end up being charged a nominal fee for their education.

The other danger of these instruments is that if only some of the universities buy into the various schemes, then it could reinforce already existing inequalities between the formerly “white” and formerly “black”, rural versus urban, endowed versus non-endowed universities.

Additional Funding Issues / Ideas

In our deliberations many issues that were not strictly about the funding of higher education were raised. Many of these issues are “oversights” of the system as it exists and they affect the quality and experiences of students.

  1. There needs to be a greater understanding of qualification requirements for 3+1 degrees. Top NSFAS and government scholarship students who get into Honours in Science, Commerce and Humanities disciplines or wish to do the LLB after completing a first degree are falling foul of the “1st degree only” NSFAS clause and the view that Honours is postgraduate, despite Honours being the minimum professional qualification in many disciplines. (In contrast, 4-year Engineering and 6-year Medical students are completing single degrees and are thus eligible for support.) There also needs to be greater support of postgraduate degrees (not only Honours level), as National Research Foundation (NRF) bursaries are inadequate.
  2. Foreign students, who are mainly postgraduates, need to be discussed separately since many of their issues go beyond the ambit of the current commission and Wits task team.
  3. The localisation / regionalisation of funding may also be considered as an alternative to the current system. It might be worth considering whether NSFAS could allocate funding based on local university capacity, and have a differentiated system like in Germany or the USA (local students get full support at their local provincial university, but a lesser amount of support if they move outside their province; this support might vary depending on academic results).
  4. As part of its restructuring, NSFAS is suggesting a centralized national applications processing office and alignment of funding opportunities with “areas of societal need” but these need careful consideration as they open up dangers to freedom of choice and the need for graduates across the full spectrum of programmes.
  5. Request that import licenses on foreign books are reduced (possibly even suggest a special tax incentive for all writers of key books that support learning) so as to reduce the costs of access to reading and learning.

2016 GeoJozi Developer Challenge

- Wits University

Partnering with Wits University, the City of Joburg launches a developer challenge to address issues.

With R300 000 in prizes to be won, the 2016 GeoJozi Developer Challenge is calling on developers with an interest in apps, maps, data, urban development, cities or technology to enter.

Developers, aged 30 or under, can help the City of Johannesburg to improve its systems of identifying streets, buildings, stands and dwellings across the 1,645 km2 municipality.

It is being run for the first time this year by the City in partnership with Wits University’s Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) and mapping software company, Esri.

Developers need to register on www.geojozi.joburg by 31 August 2016.

Real-time data helps to manage cities better

Across the world, street addresses and location are used as fundamental tools for managing cities. But with rapid urbanisation, local governments face increasingly complex and fast-changing urban landscapes that need to be effectively managed and to serve their residents.

Marcelle Hattingh, Director of Corporate Geo-Informatics for the City of Johannesburg explains: “Street addresses specify points of service delivery. They are essential for electricity, water, refuse, sewage, emergency services, land ownership, parcel deliveries, safety and security, being able to vote and countless other critical services and functions.”

Prof Barry Dwolatzky, Director of JCSE at Wits University says: “As the world becomes more digitised, more real-time data about cities is becoming available. This data can help to manage cities better and make them smarter. A street address informs us of location, and that is where Geographic Information System (GIS) comes in. It’s all about a specific position or the coordinates on earth.”

Dwolatzky says that this creates exciting opportunities for creating smart cities, modern urban development and 21st century city management. The GeoJozi Challenge will be hosted in Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein, the City’s newest high-tech address.

“We are calling on young Johannesburg-based software developers to work with the City to help improve the accuracy and visibility of street names and numbers of all properties, stands and informal dwellings throughout the City.”

The winning solution will earn its creator R150 000. Second and third places are worth R100 000 and R50 000 respectively. The winning ideas may also be implemented by the City of Johannesburg.

“Addresses and location are essential for the efficiency of a high functioning city. The City is calling for innovative solutions that will help the citizens realise the vital importance of street addresses and optimise the power of location,” says Hattingh.

Patrick McKivergan, managing director of Esri South Africa, says: “This initiative will encourage young developers to develop their skills in location technology. As the technology partner of the GeoJozi Challenge, Esri will be providing the location platform on which the GeoJozi contestants will develop their solutions. It will consist of toolkits for the development and data on which the contestants can base their solutions for the street addresses and location issues. We are right behind the City’s efforts to create location awareness. Entrants will also receive free training and great learning opportunities.”

Last year, the United Nations estimated that 71.3% of South Africa’s population will live in urban areas by 2030, nearly 80% by 2050. “This puts the need for innovative street address and location solutions into the spotlight,” says Hattingh.

Wits tops global research rankings on the continent

- Wits University

The University has leaped into the top position in Africa in the latest Shanghai rankings.

The latest Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as the Shanghai rankings, was released on 15 August 2016, placing Wits among the top 1% of all universities in the world, and on the threshold of making it into the top 200.

“At Wits our research output has increased substantially in the last few years. Noting though that this achievement is a culmination of work done over many years by our researchers. We are truly appreciative of this recognition, and we are particularly appreciative of our researchers, scientists, students and alumni to whom these accolades really belong,” says Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research at Wits.

Vilakazi commended the Universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and KwaZulu-Natal that have also been ranked among the top 500 universities in the world in the prestigious Shanghai rankings, saying it clearly demonstrates the strength of the South African higher education system.

“Our research output as a country is at one of its highest levels to date, and this bears testament to the high quality of research emanating from South Africa,” he adds.

While rankings are one indicator, it does not solely determine the quality of education at universities. Wits is mindful of the fact that different ranking systems use different methodologies, and that their results must therefore be approached with a level of measured circumspection

“For this reason and others, we believe that as a university we should not be driven by ranking systems. Rather, our focus should be on building a nationally responsive and globally competitive institution. This means concentrating on research and teaching, and embedding the institution in the work that is necessary to South Africa, the continent of Africa, and the rest of the globe,” Vilakazi says.

Background:

Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU): Starting from 2003, ARWU has been presenting the world Top 500 universities annually based on a set of objective indicators and third-party data. ARWU has been recognized as the precursor of global university rankings and the most trustworthy league table. ARWU adopts six objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, the number of Highly Cited Researchers, the number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, the number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index - Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance. More than 1200 universities are actually ranked by ARWU every year and the best 500 universities are published.

ShanghaiRanking Consultancy: ShanghaiRanking Consultancy is a fully independent organization dedicating to research on higher education intelligence and consultation. It has been the official publisher of the Academic Ranking of World Universities since 2009.

Wits Professor to chair Advisory Panel on the National Minimum Wage

- Wits University

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa appoints Professor Imraan Valodia to chair advisory panel on the national minimum wage.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as Chairperson of the Committee of Principals of the National Economic Development Council (Nedlac), has appointed a seven-person panel to advise on an appropriate level at which the national minimum wage could be set.

The Nedlac Committee of Principals comprises representatives of government, labour, business and community charged with, among others, determining the national minimum wage (NMW).

Professor Imraan Valodia, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at the University of the Witwatersrand will chair a panel of seven experts who will assist Nedlac in setting the level of the national minimum wage, taking into account work done thus far by Nedlac technical task-teams.

“We applaud Wits Professor Imraan Valodia who has been appointed to the Advisory Panel on the National Minimum Wage, to explore the important matter of setting this for South Africa. This may address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment that remain two decades after democracy,” says Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University.

Other panel advisors appointed by Deputy President Ramaphosa in consultation with Nedlac social partners include:

  • Mamokete Lijane, Aluwani Capital Partners’ macro strategist responsible for macro-economic and fixed income strategy and asset allocation;
  • Dr Debbie Collier, Associate Professor in the Department of Commercial Law at the University of Cape Town;
  • Professor Murray Leibbrandt, Pro Vice-Chancellor: Poverty and Inequality, University of Cape Town;
  • Ayabonga Cawe, Economic Justice Manager, OXFAM South Africa;
  • Dr Siphokazi Koyana, skills development and training expert with local and international experience; and
  • Dr Patrick Belser (international expert), Senior Economist at the International Labour Organisation.

The appointment of the advisors takes place against the background of consensus among Nedlac social partners to introduce a national minimum wage as part of efforts to restore the dignity of the majority of South Africans; address the triple challenges of poverty, under-development and inequality; and reduce pay differentials while maximising job creation.

The National Minimum Wage Research Initiative at Wits recently launched A National Minimum Wage for South Africa, a year-long study which advances the call for the implementation of the NMW and conclusively shows that the NMW reduces poverty and inequality without negatively affecting employment and economic growth.

About Professor Imraan Valodia

Professor Imraan Valodia is the Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He holds a doctorate in Economics from the University of KwaZulu Natal. His research interests include employment, the informal economy, gender, and industrialisation. He is currently coordinating an international study, in 10 cities, of the informal economy. His most recent book reports on the methodology and research findings of a three-year research project, conducted in eight countries, on the gender impact of taxation. He has published in leading international journals and is one of only a handful of South African economists with an NRF B-rating. He serves on a number of economic policy forums and has worked with leading international development organisations including the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, the United Nations Development Programme, UN Women, the World Bank, and Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising, among others. Professor Valodia is a part-time member of the Competition Tribunal and a Commissioner on the Employment Conditions Commission.

About the National Minimum Wage Research Initiative

The NMW-RI is located in the School of Economic and Business Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand. It is an independent academic research unit focusing on relevant contextual literature, statistical modelling, and policy design. Research is undertaken in collaboration with a range of local and international experts. For more information visit www.nationalminimumwage.co.za.

 

 

 

Wits to lead national e-science consortium

- Department of Science and Technology

DST awards University a project to develop teaching and training platform for postgraduates.

Wits will lead a consortium to establish a national e-science teaching and training platform.

The platform is intended to develop suitable curricula and pedagogic interventions to advance the training of postgraduate students in the rapidly developing cross-discipline of e-science.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) made the announcement this week, saying it has awarded Wits with one of two projects as part of the department and its entity, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), continued investment in growing the country's cyberinfrastructure by furthering the implementation of the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS).

According to the DST statement, the department will invest approximately R60 million over three years to establish the two projects: the national e-science teaching and training platform; and the regional data centre.

Regional data centre

The other consortium, led by the University of Cape Town, involves the establishment of an initial regional data centre (or node) – others could follow – that will eventually form a national network, supporting a wide range of data-intensive scientific activities as part of NICIS.

This data centre will be a shared resource, focused initially on astronomy and bioinformatics, supporting major initiatives such as the MeerKAT/Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the DST's Bio-economy Strategy.

Close cooperation

With the vast Northern Cape being home to mega astronomy initiatives like the MeerKAT/SKA and the Southern African Large Telescope, it is important to note that the province's new Sol Plaatje University will be involved in both consortia.

The university's strategic focus is on information technology skills development, and the province will benefit from these projects. The DST is keen to see the province's young people skilled as a result of such initiatives so that they can take up opportunities offered by the astronomy projects in the area.

“The DST believes cooperation of South African universities and research councils on such strategic matters is important for the country's future. The big data revolution involves a transition in which data becomes a new resource for economic development, and success or failure depends on the capacity to manage and manipulate massive volumes of data in order to extract information,” the DST statement reads.

Full media release. For more information, please contact, Veronica Mohapeloa, DST: 083 400 5750, Veronica.Mohapeloa@dst.gov.za; or Tendani Tsedu, CSIR Media Relations Manager:  082 945 1980, 012 841 3417 or mtsedu@csir.co.za.

Wits and Academic Partnerships agree to educate online

- Wits University

Wits signs a MOU with Academic Partnerships to increase access to education through online learning.

The demand for quality education and access to education in Africa is increasing, with few resources and infrastructure to accommodate qualifying students.

Online learning is important to South Africa because the demand for tertiary education in emerging economies is insatiable but access is a problem. 

The University of the Witwatersrand and Academic Partnerships (AP) in the USA, which partners with universities to increase access and revenue through online courses, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signaling their intention of participating actively in building online programmes.

The MOU was signed at Wits on 8 August 2016.

The introduction of online programmes at Wits aims to address some of the challenges of access to higher education in South Africa.

In June, the University launched its first three massive open online courses (Moocs) on the EdX platform, the first African university to do so.

These Moocs are: System Dynamics for Health Sciences; Research Methods: An Engineering Approach; and Results-Based Project Management: Monitoring and Evaluation.

Professor Andrew Crouch, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic who signed the agreement with AP on behalf of Wits says that the agreement to launch online programmes, rather than online courses is an exciting development for the University.

“Academic Partnerships is very reputable. There are partnerships in many parts of the world, and AP has experience in launching and sustaining online programmes,”says Crouch.  

The introduction of online programmes at Wits will enable the University to serve students across the globe through a highly efficient delivery system.

Randy Best, Chairman and Founder of AP says the partnership will benefit students, professors and the economy whilst making knowledge more accessible.

“The online programmes are going to play a critical role in the students’ life and enhance education. The programmes are also economical; there is no need to deal with infrastructure to support it. It makes the great knowledge of your professors far more available for more people,” says Best.

According to Crouch, the launch of the online programmes at Wits is awaiting final approval from a number of bodies, including the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Council for Higher Education as well as the South African Qualifications Authority.

It will take almost a year before the first online programme can be launched, as the programmes also need to be accredited.

The first online programmes will be in business and administration and these will be postgraduate programmes.

Other programmes which are currently being explored are in the education area and the health sciences. Only a few programmes will be online.

The introduction of online programmes will not replace current contact programmes. Rather, online programmes will increase access to courses where there are too many students and too few lecture halls and lecturers to accommodate all those students, says Crouch.

The quality of education for online students will also be important and has to meet Wits’ standards.

“The same entry requirements for our full- time students will be prescribed for our online students, so that we are ultimately assured of a proud Wits ‘product’.”

 

Discussing particles face-to-face

- Wits University

ATLAS experiment Spokesperson commends “enthusiastic” SA physics students.

ATLAS Collaboration Spokesperson David Charlton visiting the Wits School of Physics.Of the 3 000 people working on the ATLAS experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, 1 000 are students, including postgraduates from the School of Physics at Wits.

“The students are a crucial part of the experiment,” says Professor David Charlton, Spokesperson (scientific head) of the ATLAS Collaboration at the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.

From his engagement with physics students and academics from the School of Physics, Charlton said that most noticeable about South African students at CERN is their enthusiasm. “It is great to have young people coming through who are so enthusiastic to do the science,” he says.

SA-CERN

His visit to Wits and its partner universities (Cape Town and Johannesburg) in the SA-CERN consortium is unique as he has only been able to visit a small fraction of the 182 institutions involved in CERN since he becoming Spokesperson for the ATLAS Collaboration in 2013. His role is to build and enhance better collaboration among the institutions, physicists, students and teams.

“Today, it is much easier for people to collaborate internationally and generally they do not work in ‘national’ teams, but with people from all over the world who share their interests. Thus, location is remarkably unimportant these days. Everything we do at CERN is video-conferenced and people join in from anywhere.”

However, meeting people face-to-face is still the best way to ensure that collaborations work well, he added.

Charlton, professor of particle physics at the University of Birmingham, was hosted at Wits by Professor Bruce Mellado, who leads the University’s involvement in the Atlas experiment at CERN.

Wits-ATLAS

Physicists from the Wits-ATLAS group are at the forefront of experiments on Atlas at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The group was also part of the historic observation three years ago of the Higgs boson, a puzzle piece in the Standard Model of Particle Physics, that opened up possibilities to discover more exotic particles.

Read more about Wits’ various activities and involvement at CERN.

Africa’s top research university encourages postgraduate study

- Deborah Minors

The Postgraduate Recruitment Fair at Wits took place at the Science Stadium on Tuesday, 16 August 2016.

Speakers at the Postgraduate Recruitment Fair at Wits UniversityHundreds of potential postgraduate students browsed pamphlets and posters, and spoke to representatives from schools across faculties about prospects for further study.

Professor Mary Scholes, Director of Postgraduate Affairs said there are currently 12 300 postgraduate students at Wits. “The intention is to grow this number to 15 000 in four years.”

Wits aims to become a research-intensive and postgraduate University. The annual fair provides an opportunity to explore the options available.

Scholes outlined support available to postgraduates at Wits, not least of which are academics who play a major role. “It’s hard to be a postgraduate, because of the expectation of immediate degree work,” she cautioned, but pointed out that the Postgraduate Office offers over 55 workshops, writing retreats, and a symposium to support postgraduate students.

Scholes referred potential postgraduates to Dr Ian Geoffrey Kennedy, a Wits alumnus and independent researcher at the fair, who wrote a book entitled: How to do research: Today’s tools and tips.  Similarly, Dr Layla Cassim, an independent academic consultant, has produced a CD, The Postgraduate Toolkit. Eight students at the fair whose student numbers were randomly selected won copies of the CD.

The Postgraduate Association (PGA) also provides continual support. The PGA represents postgraduates on University governance structures, including Council. LeeAnne Masilela, Chairperson of the PGA said the association provides “intense research support”. It focuses on postgraduate funding; networking and mentorship (via alumni); and represents postgraduates in supervisor/student disputes.

“We strive to ensure an amicable and fruitful postgraduate experience. Take advantage of the support structures in place,” Masilela urged students. “Postgraduate study can be emotionally, financially, and sometimes even physically taxing. You will receive training at Wits that is second-to-none. It will push you over the edge, but you will be a better version of yourself.  Then you can say, ‘pick me to make this world a better place.’”

Dr Puleng LenkaBula, Dean of Students, took the opportunity to introduce herself and encourage the students. She was appointed to the post in March 2016.

Before concluding proceedings, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs, said: “Wits is officially the number one research university in Africa.” He was referring to the “Shanghai” rankings announced days earlier, in which Wits was placed among the top 1% of universities worldwide. This “gratifying performance” is due in no small part to increased research output by academics that pursued Master’s, PhDs and post-doctoral research.

Making economies work for women in the South: What will it take?

- Refilwe Mabula

How do we make economies work for women in the South?

Women are often marginalised in the world economy. There are few opportunities for them to empower themselves economically due to stringent laws which present challenges for them to access funding or acquire assets.

Why is the world economy not working for women? How do we make economies work for women in the South?

UN Women ( the United Nations entity working for gender equality and women’s empowerment), together with Oxfam and the University of the Witwatersrand held a conference at the Wits Club to tackle these questions and the challenges that women in the informal sector face in the Global South.

The event, entitled: Making economies work for women in the South: What will it take? took place on 10-11 August, after Women’s Day, it and sought to address the economic disparities women face in the workplace and the entrepreneurial sector.

The high-level panel discussions at the event brought together development partners, leading academics, women’s rights experts and leaders, including UN Women Executive Director, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Minister for Women in the Presidency of South Africa, Susan Shabangu; the African Development Bank’s Special Envoy for Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi; Wits Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib, and representatives from civil society and the private sector.

Speaking on the progress of gender transformation and equality within the academic sphere, Professor Adam Habib, who delivered the opening address, said that Wits had made substantial progress in the last 20 years.Women represent 58 percent of enrollments at Wits and 45 percent of mining engineering students, a previously male-dominated industry are women. 

Despite this progress, the increased cases of gender-based harm and sexual harassments in the higher education sector are alarming, says Habib.

“Whilst we have this incredible shift of women, we simultaneously have atrocious cases of sexual harassment. How is it that we have such phenomenal progress, but then we have such atrocious cases of sexual abuse?  This is not just a Wits University phenomenon; it is a phenomenon of the higher education sector,” says Habib.

Habib is a #HeforShe Global University IMPACT Champion. Wits is one of 10 universities around the world committing to taking action to achieve gender equality within and beyond their institutions.

Former Deputy President of South Africa and current UN Women Director, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka emphasized the need for women’s economic empowerment in the country, and the role of the sustainable development goals (SDG) in recognising that need and delivering substantial developments for women.

“What will success look like if the SDG goals are met? How will the economy look for women in business? We need to make sure there is no inequality when the SDGs are being implemented. We should not leave anyone behind, especially those women who fall between the cracks. We need to have shared prosperity,” says Mlambo-Ngcuka.

According to Mlambo-Ngcuka, the informal economy is measured unequally, social security for women does not exist, and gender blind micro-economic policies have presented challenges for women and impeded their economic empowerment.

Minister for Women in the Presidency of South Africa, Susan Shabangu, paid tribute to the women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 and expressed pride in SA’s gender inclusive Constitution, which also aims to address gender inequality.

“We are proud that we have a Constitution that recognises gender equality. When women are united and they have a purpose, they are able to contribute to the transformation of SA. We are proud to be beneficiaries of those women who marched for us,” says Shabangu.

Shabangu also expressed concern that, despite gender equality advances in the higher education sector, women still lag behind in the work environment (some study in one field but end up working in a different sector).

Sipho Mthathi, Executive Director at Oxfam South Africa who delivered a talk entitled: The role of civil society in closing the gender gap in the Global South says we need to look at how we are going to shift power to make it work for women.

“We need to fix our politics and many other issues to address challenges women face. We cannot take a short cut thinking that we can make the economy work for women. We need to support organisations such as UN Women. We need to make sure that the social reproduction of women is considered.”

Jozi Book Fair Guest Authors

- Wits University

Award-winning artists Kemang Wa Lehulere and Mohale Mashigo are special guests at the 2016 Jozi Book Fair, co-hosted by Khanya College and Wits University

The pair are fitting ambassadors for the Fair, themed Youth Rising in recognition of the renewed energy from the youth to shape South Africa. Youth Rising also speaks to the core objective of the Jozi Book Fair (JBF), which is to build a reading culture in South Africa with emphasis on the youth and children. The work of Wa Lehulere and Mashigo speaks volumes about their quest to become change agents and the power of youth.

Kemang Wa Lehulere

Wa Lehulere was born in 1984 in Gugulethu, Cape Town. He holds a BA Fine Arts degree from Wits University (2011). 

He is the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art 2015 and the winner of the Deutsche Bank’s new "Artist of the Year"2017. He has steadily built his career holding solo exhibitions in Gasworks, London (2015), at the Lombard Freid Projects, New York (2013), and his work has featured in Chicago, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Berlin. His work has earned him the Inaugural Spier Contemporary Award (2007), MTN New Contemporaries Award (2010), Tollman Award for Visual Arts (2012), 15th Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel in Switzerland (2013), and the First International Tiberius Art Award Dresden (2014).

His self-titled monograph, Kemang Wa Lehulere (2015) was published to coincide with the Standard Bank Young Artist Award and traces his work from 2005 to 2015. The book is interspersed with a collection of his images, drawings, performances, videos and installations, and a collection of his letters with his friend and curator, Khwezi Gule.

Wa Lehulere is the co-founder of the Gugulective, an artist-led collective based in Cape Town, and a founding member of the Centre for Historical Re-enactments in Johannesburg. 

Mohale Mashigo

Mashigo was born in Mapetla, Soweto in 1983. She is a multi-disciplinary storyteller who loves exploring the unknown.

She is a writer and a musician with two SAMRO Wawela awards for her songwriting compositions. She won the Best Creative Album and the Best Female Composer/co-composer.

Mashigo performs under the name Black Porcelain and, with no label or high budget ‘marketing machine’, Black Porcelain’s music was featured on the playlists of radio stations in 36 countries. Mashigo’s career in music began when she was a singing waitress.

Her book, The Yearning, is already making an impact. The novel is about personal strength, courage, pain and love, and traverses both traditional and modern society. Mashigo started writing s in high school. She is passionate about promoting reading and writing at schools.

Both guests are not only talented, but committed to promoting education and the arts to youth. The JBF believes that the guests will inspire many youth and the public to read the word and the world, says Maria van Driel, Director of the Jozi Book Fair.

The Wits Science Stadium, traditionally a venue for statistics and formulas will be transformed into a creative space filled with words, poetry, theatre and the sounds of jazz and heated debates.

The programme offers 150 events ranging from book launches (across SA languages) to poetry, jazz, theatre and films, debates and workshops. More than 30 exhibitors including small and independent publishers will attend the Fair and offer diverse books and locally relevant books.

In 2015 the Fair attracted over 6000 visitors. The Fair is free and open to all.

Innovation ecosystem opens door

- Wits University

New #IBMResearchWITS partnership to focus on big data, cloud computing and mobile tech.

Wits University and IBM Research today opened the IBM Research lab - the second in Africa, at the University's new technology innovation hub in the Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein.

The researchers will focus on collaborations in the areas of data driven healthcare, digital urban ecosystems and astronomy.

Wits' Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, says the Wits-IBM partnership will focus on big data, cloud computing and mobile technology to support South African development priorities.

As part of a 10-year investment program through South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry and working closely with the Department of Science and Technology, the new research lab is based at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

The University was recently ranked amongst the top 10 in emerging economies by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

“The launch of the IBM Research laboratory is an exciting milestone in the move towards a new era of globally competitive research, innovation and entrepreneurship that will be emerging out of the Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein. Wits is delighted to be collaborating with IBM. We look forward to seeing top talent congregate to address the continent’s most intractable problems and work on the world’s next game changing technologies,” said Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand.

The lab is located in the Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein – an inner-city area which is today re-emerging as a vibrant Johannesburg district. The two-level, 900 square meter lab has a DIY maker space with electronic design equipment and a 3D printer.

Data Driven Healthcare

  • In support of the World Health Organization’s End TB (Tuberculosis) Strategy, IBM scientists are designing wearable sensor technology connected to the Watson Internet of Things to trace the spread of highly infectious, communicable diseases. This innovation will help healthcare organizations and health officials develop prevention strategies and respond effectively.
  • IBM scientists are developing cognitive learning approaches to transform cancer reporting, prevention and precision medicine in Africa. In a proof of concept study, IBM scientists have discovered a basic molecular link between cancer causing genes and those associated with metastasis, the cause of 90% of cancer related deaths*. Preliminary results from this work have been presented recently. Using anonymous, unstructured data provided by the National Cancer Registry in South Africa and in collaboration with the University of Witwatersrand Medical School, the team is developing cognitive algorithms to automate the inference of national cancer statistics in South Africa. This technology is expected to reduce a five-year time lag in cancer statistics reporting to real-time.
     
  • With the support of the City of Johannesburg, IBM scientists have collected 65 samples of microbes and bacteria from 19 bus stations across the city as part of the global Metagenomics and Metadesign of the Subways and Urban Biomes (MetaSUB) international consortium. Once the samples are processed the results will be available to city planners, public health officials and scientists who will use the data to help officials predict and prepare for future disease outbreaks and discover new species and biological systems.
  • In early September, scientists from IBM, H3ABioNet and the University of Notre Dame will host a hackathon on anti-malarial drug resistance and drug combination prediction.

Digital Urban Ecosystems

  • Building on IBM’s global Green Horizons initiative, researchers at the new lab are working closely with experts from South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to analyze historical and real-time data from environmental monitoring stations. Using machine learning and cognitive models, the data collected in the City of Johannesburg, the City of Tshwane and the Vaal Industrial Triangle will help provide more insight about air pollution and model the effectiveness of intervention strategies. The project has recently been extended to predict ground level ozone and air quality forecasting.
  • Commuters in the City of Johannesburg currently spend 35 minutes extra travel time per day due to traffic congestion, according to the TomTom Traffic Index. Unreliable traffic light infrastructure provides challenges to traffic light management in the city. Using real time anonymized traffic data from TomTom combined with Twitter, IBM scientists have developed a traffic optimization recommendation tool which can help city officials dispatch traffic volunteers, known locally as pointsmen, to the intersections where they are most urgently needed.
  • The City of Cape Town often battles with devastating wild fires, due to its unique topography and vegetation. Using data from The Weather Company, an IBM business, and the City of Cape Town's Open Data portal, IBM scientists have developed a cognitive dashboard. This can assess fire incidence risk and severity to help officials raise public awareness and prepare for emergency response.
  • The number of people living off-the-grid in Africa has grown by 114 million since 2000**. To help meet the energy needs of communities who are living remotely or would like to make use of renewable energy, IBM scientists have developed a mobile app which uses analytics to determine the solar requirements of users based on their energy needs and location.

Exploring the Universe  

  • In 2018 the, Square Kilometer Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope, will be built in South Africa and Australia. IBM scientists are collaborating with SKA South Africa (SKA-SA) on the development of unsupervised algorithms which can make groundbreaking astronomical discoveries. Scientists expect to eventually apply the cognitive technology to other applications, including the development of new pharmaceuticals and genomics. IBM and SKA-SA have signed an agreement to explore the advancement of this technology and to lead some major developments in data science over the next decade.
     
  • IBM scientists in South Africa are joining NASA, the SETI Institute and Swinburne University to develop an Apache Spark application to analyze the 168 million radio events detected over the past 10 years by the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). The volume and complexity of the data requires advanced machine learning algorithms to separate noise from true signals of interest. These requirements are well suited to the scalable in-memory capabilities offered by Apache Spark when combined with the big data capabilities of the IBM Cloud and IBM Bluemix Spark.

Open Infrastructure, Sustainable Design

The new lab features an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform based on OpenStack connected to IBM Storwize for efficiently provisioning 80TB of storage for research projects.

The lab is located in the Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein – an inner-city area which is today re-emerging as a vibrant Johannesburg district. The two-level, 900 square meter lab has a DIY maker space with electronic design equipment and a 3D printer.

Agile work spaces provide a collaborative environment for IBM scientists to train and mentor Wits students and local start-ups. Developer communities across Africa will also have access, at no charge, to a LinuxONE Community Cloud located in Johannesburg, which acts as a virtual R&D engine for creating, testing and piloting emerging applications via the cloud.

From Small to Extra Large, architecture across scales  

- Wits University

Leading local and international architecture professionals will delve into the challenge of ‘scale’ at this year’s AZA16 conference.

The School of Architecture and Planning and the South African Institute of Architecture will co-host the AZA16 conference, one of the most exciting events on the architecture calendar.

In its sixth year, the AZA16 architecture and design conference and festival brings together leading local and international architecture professionals. This year the conference will showcase six international and 20 local speakers, creative activities, exhibitions and informal presentations.

Themed, SCALE, the 2016 conference, which will be held at the Oppenheimer Life Sciences Building, Braamfontein Campus East from 1-3 September 2016, reflects recent critical thinking on the role of architecture. The conference will include masterclasses, workshops and presentations to address all points of scale. Full Programme.

 “The AZA16 theme, ‘SCALE’, will explore ratio and proportion in design,” says Daniel van der Merwe, past President of the Gauteng Institute for Architecture (GIfA) and architect at PPC.

“The conference will examine how architects and other designers work with both ‘bigness’ and ‘smallness’ across disciplines. We will show how architects can work across all manners of different scales, incorporating both micro and macro scale into design. The Wits Johannesburg campus, as the venue, allows for a fantastic array of SCALE elements to be incorporated into the programme,” he adds.

According to Hannah le Roux, Director of the Architecture Programme at Wits, the concept of scale is not limited to planning, urban design or architecture, as it overcomes these borders

“In the last century of practice, different scales have increasingly fallen into different professional camps, but AZA16 proposes that architects critically contest those divisions in the global 21st century. We are now recognising the interdependence of scales, whether in terms of physics, ecology or transnational cultural manifestations. In reality, scale is collapsing, making the nano to the global, and beyond, more knowable to all,” says Le Roux.

Keynote speakers will include experts from both South Africa and abroad, such as Stanley Saitowitz, Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of California in Berkeley, Baerbel Mueller from the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Taffy Adler from Wits, Joachim Declerck from Architecture Workroom Brussels, Allan Schwarz from Mezimbite Forest Centre in Mozambique amongst many other speakers.

Le Roux, says that Wits is proud to be hosting the AZA16 Conference.

“We are very glad to host this most important event in the calendar of the architects’ community on our campus: in the neo-Classical, modern and contemporary spaces that frame our studies, our relationships and our events. These are spaces with nooks and galleries, with thresholds to the city and with links to global networks. Wits is proud to have taught aspirant architects this simple and profound skill for the last 95 years. Over the AZA16 conference we hope to use these spaces in the best possible ways to learn from other architects and spatial practitioners.”

The First Year Student Traveling Exhibition of the School of Architecture of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University , titled PALLADIO AND THE MODERN, which is also part of the conference opens tonight, Wednesday 31 August 2016 at 18:00 in the foyer of the John Moffat Building, Braamfontein  Campus East.

For more information visit http://architectureza.org. For bookings visit http://booking.architectureza.org/

 

Celebrate the word in all its forms

- Wits University

Discover the magic of words and local books at the 2016 Jozi Book Fair.

Taking place from 1 to 4 September at the Wits Science Stadium, the eighth edition of the JBF is co-hosted by Khanya College and Wits University. 

The programme offers more than 150 activities including talks and readings by authors, roundtable discussions on pertinent socio-political and cultural issues, poetry and creative writing workshops, theatre, films and live jazz. With more than 40 exhibitors, look out for small and independent publishers that deliver locally relevant books in all South African languages.

Themed Youth Rising, the Fair showcases the exceptional talent of South Africa’s youth in all art forms alongside veterans of various literary genres, such as Zakes Mda (author), Ronnie Govender (playwright), Keorapetse Kgositsile (national poet laureate), Kurt Ellis (author), Kemang Wa Lehulere (Deutsche Bank Artist for 2017), James Matthews (poet), Joan Rankin (illustrator) and award-winning young artist, Mohale Mashigo (a.k.a Black Porcelain and author of The Yearning).

Professor Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal says the Fair is one of the key events that advances Wits’ mandate.

There is something for everyone. View the Children's ProgrammeProgramme - 3rd September 2016 Programme - 4th September 2016

Many Witsies are participating in this cultural event sharing their passions and expertise. Wits Press authors, the School of Education, the Wits School of Arts are just some of the departments that are offering free workshops and seminars. 

Do not miss the below and many others: 

Seminar on JAZZ in the East Rand with Brett Piper, Head of the School of Arts

Date: Saturday, 3 September 2016

Time:  11:00 -11:50

Venue: Auditorium 3, Science Stadium, Wits University

For updates follow @Jozibookfair or visit www.jozibookfair.org.za

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