Students share their thoughts on the School Council Elections

 

The 2018/2019 Wits School Council Elections for the Education School and the School of Social Sciences took place on April 25 and April 26. We asked some students what they looked for in a candidate and what issues they wanted to see addressed.

Produced for Wits Vuvuzela by Naledi Mashishi

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Movie Review: Five Fingers for Marseilles

Cast: Vuyo Dabula, Kenneth Nkosi, Warren Masemola, Zethu Dlomo

Director: Michael Matthews

Vuvu rating: 6/10

Five Fingers for Marseilles has made history as the first South African western film and is due to premiere in the US later this year. It is the first feature film by South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) acclaimed director, Michael Matthews.

The film, which opened on April 6, follows five young friends who fight against the brutality of the apartheid era police officers in their small rural hometown, Marseilles. One of them, Tau (Vuyo Dabula) kills two police officers and is sentenced to 20 years in prison. After his release he returns to Marseilles to find that the rest of the five have taken up prominent positions in the community.  A new threat has taken control of the town forcing a reluctant Tau to band together with the five friends once again to save Marseilles.

The film explores themes of friendship and betrayal. It provides sharp social commentary on corruption, colonisation, and land, making it particularly relevant given the current land reform debates. It’s also a visually stunning film. Matthews emphasises the natural beauty of the town and rural Eastern Cape where the movie was shot, through sweeping establishing shots used throughout the film.

The movie takes easily recognisable tropes from western films and gives them a South African twist. The classic western saloon is replaced by a shebeen. There are fast draw shootouts, outlaws, and cowboy hats and riding boots which are worn next to Basotho blankets. The effect is a refreshing take on an otherwise outdated genre.

Five Fingers benefits greatly from having a strong cast and there are standout performances from Dabula, the lead, and the talented Warren Masemola, who brings much needed life and energy to the film.

While the movie is a visual feast, the story is lacking. The convoluted plot line is difficult to follow, making the film’s gory climax more confusing than emotive. The film also falls back on the lazy South African convention of pretending that language barriers don’t exist, so white Afrikaans speaking police officers are able to perfectly understand seSotho and isiXhosa that are spoken by other characters.

Perhaps the biggest sin of Five Fingers is its female representation. Lerato (Zethu Dlomo), is given substantially less screen time than her male counterparts, despite being one of the titular five. She is used as a catalyst for the main plot and then not given much else to do until the very end.

Despite its flaws, Five Fingers for Marseilles is a film to see if one wants something local and different.

FEATURED IMAGE: Five Fingers for Marseilles was screened at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank Mall.
Photo by: Naledi Mashishi

Audiences flock to watch first ever hand-painted film

Originally posted on Wits Vuvuzela, 2 March 2018

‘Loving Vincent’ tells the story of Vincent van Gogh by bringing his art to life.

Oscar-nominated film, Loving Vincent, premiered in South Africa to a sold-out opening weekend at The Bioscope cinema in Maboneng, last weekend. The film has made history as the world’s first entirely hand-painted feature film, in which all 65 000 frames are individual oil paintings produced by 125 different artists from around the world.

The movie tells the story of the world-famous Dutch artist, Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), particularly focusing on the circumstances surrounding his death. It is a Polish production written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. It has been nominated for Best Animation Feature at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards this year.

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The Bioscope owner, Russell Grant, told Wits Vuvuzela that the decision to screen Loving Vincent was a no-brainer. “It’s the first feature film of its kind that had my attention when it first came up,” he said. Grant was able to get access to the film through distributors he had built relationships with. According to Grant, it is normal for movies to perform well on their opening night, but for a movie to sell out its entire opening weekend is unusual.
The film uses Van Gogh’s most famous works, such as ‘Starry Night’, as its basis. According to Wits School of Arts, History of Art lecturer, Stacey Vorster, Van Gogh’s style and art is influential because it “broke away from the tradition of realism, arguably sparking a generation of avant garde artists who fundamentally changed the idea of western art”, said Vorster. Lwazi Stofela, 24, who saw the movie, said, “It’s definitely worth the hype. I rate art lovers and school kids need to watch it.

Loving Vincent will screen at The Bioscope until Tuesday, 6 March.

Photo: provided

Wits medical graduate honoured with provincial award

Originally published in Wits Vuvuzela, 13 March 2018.

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Wits health sciences alumnus Dr Sivuyile Madikana was honoured this past Saturday by Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

Former Wits student Dr Sivuyile Madikana was awarded the Health Excellence Special Award at the second Gauteng Premier Youth Excellence and Service Awards in Centurion on Saturday, March 10.

Madikana received the award for his innovative use of social media to spread medical and health information. He uses his social media platforms to promote HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns with organisations such as Brothers For Life. Madikana, who was one of the Mail and Guardian’s 2017 Top 200 Young South Africans, also launched #VarsityConvos, where he hosts discussions with students at tertiary institutions about HIV/AIDS, engaging in risky behaviors, and gender-based violence. Madikana said, “the award itself is great because it’s a recognition of the work I do”.

Madikana graduated from Wits in 2012 with his Bachelor of Medicine degree and then completed a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) at the Wits Business School in 2017. His MBA research topic was on how to use social media to communicate health care and encourage behavioral change.

“As part of my degree I studied brand strategy and communication. [Using] Twitter forced me to find creative ways to thread information in a way that is easily understandable”, said Madikana.

According to Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Prof Lionel Green-Thompson, the faculty is committed to growing doctors applicable to South African situations. “My approach is to stand by our students encouraging them to be the best professionals they can be – graduates who are more than the facts that they accumulate in their studies,” Green-Thompson said.

The Gauteng Youth Awards were created in order to acknowledge the positive impact made by youth and to encourage young people to serve their communities. A project manager of the event, Simon Modise, said the winners are voted for by the public and their contributions are then verified by a committee. “We encourage winners to be mentors to the youth and ambassadors for the program”, he said.

There are over 30 recipients of the awards with the biggest award being a R10 000 prize to undergo training in leadership and management with a local skills development firm.

Photo credit: Naledi Mashishi, Wits Vuvuzela

Our education system is continuing to fail students

 

Last week, when it was announced that the pass mark for maths would be lowered to 20% for pupils in Grades 7-9, there was collective outrage across the country. Already South Africans routinely complain about the matric pass mark of 30% (although it has been refuted) and so the potential lowering of the maths pass mark below any reasonable standard has many horrified.

The department of Basic Education has already come out to refute the claims that you can pass maths with just 20%. It has stated that it is merely amending the previous policy which states that if a pupil fails maths, yet passes every other subject with distinction, they still fail the year. They go on to explain that the 20% pass for maths is only granted to students who have passed every other subject, yet failed maths, and plan to do drop pure maths for maths lit once they enter Grade 10.

In a country with a functional education system, such a policy could theoretically make sense. The reasoning behind it is that an otherwise competent student shouldn’t be held back by a subject they don’t even intend on doing until matric. After all, not everyone has an aptitude for maths and it doesn’t seem fair to hold a student back from continuing in subjects they excel in just because they are unable to do a subject they have no desire to continue with anyway.

The unfortunate reality is that South Africa’s educational system is dismal. Our education system is ranked as being one of the worst in the world and is ranked last in quality of maths and science. When looking at our schools, it’s easy to see why. There is a massive disparity between private and former model C schools and schools in townships and rural areas. The majority of schools that pupils, particularly black working class pupils, are attending have overcrowded classrooms, a lack of adequate resources such as textbooks, libraries, science labs, computer labs, and a lack of qualified teachers. The teachers at these schools are often too exhausted and overwhelmed to provide children with the kind of attention many need to succeed.

I recently had a discussion with a relative of mine who had been teaching for a few years. One of the things that he told me that alarmed me the most was that there is often pressure on teachers to push through students who are failing. This is for a number of reasons. One is due to overcrowding. Parents will do whatever they can to make sure their children get the best possible education, which means that if a school has a reputation for having good teachers or a good headmaster, parents will try to get their children into that school. This can quickly lead to the school becoming overcrowded. Because of this overcrowding, there simply isn’t space for children who fail to stay a grade behind, and so they often get pushed to the next grade. The second is a numbers game. Higher pass numbers mean that the school is doing well and so the school may pressure teachers to find marks where there are none, particularly in cases of students who fail, in order to boost the number of students who pass.

I’ve witnessed the effects of this first hand. When I was still in high school I tutored boys who lived in a shelter for street children. While helping a boy with his homework, I quickly realised that he the main reason he could not do his work was because he could not read the questions in front of him. It turned out he could not read or write anything besides his name and so far he had been surviving in class by copying down (badly) the words that the teacher wrote on the board. This boy was in Grade 6. He was promoted to Grade 7 at the end of the year despite little improvement to his literacy levels. This was particularly worrying when one considers that when calculating the literacy rate, those with an education level equal to or higher than Grade 7 are assumed to be literate.

What this means is that while the proposal put forward by the Department of Basic Education may appear to make sense on paper, in the context of what is happening in our schools it is formally legislating the system of pushing through pupils that already exists. Those who have failed maths can now be justifiably pushed through without even the need to bolster their marks, which allows schools to look good on paper as more students “pass” but in reality means that students pass through school without actually acquiring a substantial education.

Even with the Department’s explanation, the decision to allow students who obtain 20% in maths to pass is incredibly concerning. It also puts a poor bandage on the state of our country’s education system. Students are falling behind for a number of reasons including poor resources and infrastructure among other issues, and pushing them through fails to address any of the reasons students are failing so often in the first place.

Ultimately, our education system is still failing students, particularly those who are poor and black, both literally and figuratively. Given the Department’s explanation behind the policy, it is entirely conceivable that not even they understand how.