Making a mark against all odds

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Putting a cross in a ballot box may seem like the easiest thing for most people, but Shaun* is one of those individuals who need assistance to make his mark. He cannot make a cross in a box owing to his physical disability which sees him confined to a wheelchair with little use of his arms and legs.  At election time, he needs someone else to help him through the process.

Shaun is a 53-year-old white South African man who believes in the power of the ballot box.  He’s been voting religiously since 1994 despite his inability to write on his own or even hold a pen with his hand.  For him voting is a daunting process that involves being pushed around in his wheelchair and waiting in a queue.  He says he hates the process but also feels that he needs to play a role in deciding on the governance of the country.

This past Monday, August 1, Shaun woke up early, as he usually does, to cast his special vote at the Parkhust Primary School in Randburg.  Arriving at the voting station with his helper, Zodwa, Shaun asked one of the IEC officials to make a cross on his behalf but without giving any reason the official refused.

“No IEC representative could make a cross for me”, said Shaun.  Zodwa came to his rescue, making the mark on his behalf.  Shaun says it was the first time he had had someone from IEC decline to assist him which made him feel as if the voting process is not accommodating of people with disabilities.

His says he is not happy with various issues facing the country like the corruption, lack of jobs and the contracting economy.  Shaun says he wants to be part of driving change in South Africa.   “We need change, the corruption and all these other things are becoming impossible to bear now.  Without our collective votes, that change will never come,” Shaun said.

Shaun was among a record 700 000 registered special voters for this year’s municipal elections.  Those are the people who, by law, applied for special voting because they couldn’t travel to the voting station on Election Day for a variety of reasons including disability or pregnancy. Others registered because they couldn’t be in their respective regions on the day and thus voted on predetermined special voting days, August 1 and 2.

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SA aims for 10-medal haul in Rio

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When the Rio Olympics 2016 kick off officially on Friday, August 5, South Africa will be represented by a 137-member squad, 12 more than the team sent to the London Olympics in 2012.

Among the squad, are the likes of 800m star Caster Semenya, swimming sensations Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh and cyclist Daryl Impey.

South Africa also has a new crop of athletes on whom the nation’s hopes rest. These include track and fielders Wayde van Nikerk and Anaso Jobodwana, Juan de Jongh (sevens rugby) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (cycling).

Other codes in which the country will participate include judo, rowing, golf, and men’s and women’s football.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee has set a target of 10 medals for the team. The 2012 team secured six medals, three of which were gold, two silver and one bronze.

Football games got underway on Wednesday, two days before the Olympic games officially opened. In the first round robin games in the women’s tournament, Banyana Banyana took on Sweden, playing to a UPDATE HERE BEFORE PUBLICATION result.

The so-called ‘Day minus 2’ (commencement of football action two days before the official opening) is the result of the number of games that need to be played within the 16-day event.  With 16 men’s and 12 women’s teams, there are 58 matches to get through.

South Africa has two football teams, the under 23s (Amaglug glug) and Banyana.  Amaglug glug are in group A with Brazil, Iraq and Denmark, whereas Banyana feature in Group E with Brazil, China and Sweden.

Wits Varsity match in last minute postponement

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The selection of three Wits FC players for the National University team has led to the postponement of their third round match with North-West University. 

The Varsity Football round three match that was scheduled for this evening was postponed due to the national call-up of three Wits players to the National University team.

The abrupt rescheduling of the encounter between Wits University and North-West University caught a few by surprise including businesses that had arranged to trade at the stadium during the match.

Varsity Sports has told Wits Vuvuzela that the match will now be played on September, 1.  According to the organisation, the decision to postpone the game was made before the commencement of the tournament on July, 18.

NSFAS teams up with Sars to track down defaulters

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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says it will use personal information obtained from the SA Revenue Service (Sars) to chase people who not heed to their call for repayments of their loans when they get jobs.

Last week, SARS last week permits NSFAS to have access to further non-financial information of former students with unpaid student loans.

“NSFAS will make contact with your employer to confirm employment and then contact you (the debtor) to discuss repayments in line with the signed loan agreement,” said NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo.

The information of those former NSFAS scheme beneficiaries registered with Sars will reveal the ID numbers, addresses, contact details and employers’ names. Sars revealed last week that the new provision falls the Tax Administration Act, which allows SARS to provide other non-financial information such as addresses and other contact details.

Mamabolo said defaults in repayments of loans prompted this move.  “Most debtors were not heeding our call for them to inform us as soon as they find jobs, leading to us struggling to confirm if they are working or not.  Sars will be able to assist us with that information, in cases where the concerned individuals are not coming forward,” said Mamabolo.

Students are required to start repaying their loans if they earn R30 000 or more annually.  Payments start at 3% of debtors’ annual salary, increasing to a maximum of 8% when the salary reaches R59 300 or more per year.

NSFAS said action will be taken against former students who fail to repay while employed as the scheme is a registered credit provider.

“The scheme reserves the right to follow the normal debt recovery process which may lead to action taken against those who fail to repay loans even though they can afford to do so,” said Mamabolo.

Two months ago, minister of higher education and training, Blade Nzimande, said in parliament that NSFAS had spent R41.1-billion in loans and R20.4-billion in bursaries between 2000 and 2015.

In the wake of #FeeMustFall protests, the government raised its contribution towards NSFAS from R6.5-billion in 2015/16 to R11.4-billion this year.  Part of the amount aimed at helping the “missing middle” students, whose parents earned over the required maximum to qualify for the loan, still couldn’t afford the fees.

Tax records, however will not be part of the information given to NSFAS.

What are MOOCs?

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MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses are academic or training courses open to an unlimited number of global participants through the internet.  First introduced in 2008 and later developed to its current form in 2012 by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  On this platform, students have access to filmed lectures, readings, problem tests and some provide interactive user forums.  Wits has chosen the edX platform over other popular platforms like Coursera and Udacity.  EdX differs from the other two as it is a non-profit organisation and runs on open-source software which allows copyright holders to share the software with others at no extra cost. Using edX, Wits joined a group of over 40 universities from all over the world including the University of Toronto, Boston University, University of Tokyo and Hong Kong University.

MOOCs are open to anyone with an access to the internet.  “Access to the internet and a computing device and sufficient time to complete the learning activities and course assessments will be required.  Requirements to register for other online courses will vary according to the course”, said Christine Woods, who is the director for the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development (CLTD) at Wits.

To complete a WitsX MOOC, you need to go to WitsX website, onwww.edx.org/school/witsx, choose one out of the three courses that will be on offer this year, click “enrol now” and create their personal account.  Wits has said that students will need to allocate two to four hours per week over six weeks to complete the course.