Matie Community Service (better known by its Afrikaans acronym, MGD) has lined up two virtual events for students on 29 and 31 July as part of its month-long celebration of Mandela Day. The events kicked off on 17 July – a day before Mandela's birthday – with the successful hosting of a 67-minute virtual discussion on “Staff Wellness during COVID-19 and Beyond".
On 29 July, MGD will host a student wellness panel discussion that will include Ms Monica Du Toit, former Director of the Transformation Office, and current Residential Education Coordinator at the Centre for Student Communities as well as Residence Head of Harmonie and Monica residences; Mr Charl Davis, Deputy Director at the Centre for Student Counselling and Development; Mr Lewis Mboko, the Chair of Stellenbosch University's (SU) SRC, and Ms Unopachido Mubaiwa, House Committee member of the Eendrag men's residence and an Honours Psychology student.
Through this virtual connection, MGD would like to invite the experience and expertise of the panel members to generate discussions on what students experience as critical issues during this time as well as what support is available for the student community in order to prioritise mental health and well-being. The panel will also be invited to share their experiences of life during a pandemic and lockdown.
“Many students have had to swiftly adjust to online learning during this crisis and learn to complete assignments and open book exams online while working in isolation. Students have had to leave the residence environment where they have friends and support structures, often giving up their independence as they move back home," says Ms Renee Hector-Kannemeyer, Head of MGD and the Deputy Director of the Division for Social Impact, in which MGD is based.
“Adjusting to online schooling whilst at home with younger siblings and taking on household responsibilities can be hard. On top this, students have not been able to socialise with friends and classmates and enjoy activities like going to the movies, partying or just hanging out."
“Many students also had difficult decisions to make, such as whether to go back home to their loved ones during lockdown or remain in residence. This decision was fuelled by the anxiety that they might not be able return to university at all to complete their studies if they left."
Mboko echoes the same sentiments.
“This has been a very difficult time for our students. Almost everyone left campus with the hope that they would return in three weeks' time. Some students who stayed behind thought that the lockdown would be over in a matter of weeks as well. A lot of students are in shock with the way things have turned out. Some have lost loved ones and many are gripped by the fear of Covid-19 getting to their families. The adjustment to online learning has gone well for most students, but we can't ignore the struggles of those students who are still trying to adjust to the new system. This is a difficult time and our students need support more than ever now," says Mboko.
The anxiety experienced by students, says Hector-Kannemeyer, is indicative of the worldwide anxiety felt by all people during this pandemic.
“Our news headlines are filled with stories about the increase in infections and deaths globally and in our own country. These realities have been highlighted by our Rector, Prof Wim de Villiers, who has acknowledged that Stellenbosch University, 'like all other academic institutions in the country and worldwide, finds itself in a rapidly changing and unsettling environment' as well as the existing uncertainty, apprehension and concern that exists on an institutional and personal level."
However, this crisis is exacerbated by other factors in South Africa and in the world, she says.
“There has been a continued increase in excessive and brutal violence perpetuated against women and children and a growing number of femicides in South Africa, which is now being referred to as the second pandemic by our President. We have also seen the forced relocation of approximately 2 000 homeless South Africans to what was subsequently discovered to be an uninhabitable camp in a bid to prevent infections, a global economic downturn that has already led to job losses, incidences of police brutality in our communities, and the persistence of structural racism in all spheres of society which has again come into the spotlight through the #BlackLivesMatter movement."
On 31 July, MGD will be hosting a virtual Celebration of our Creativity to celebrate the resilience shown by students and indulging in 67 minutes of arts, music and poetry presented by students. The programme will also include a question and answer segment.
“These virtual engagements are intended to assist us with holding space for each other during this crisis as we draw strength from our values of excellence, compassion, accountability, respect and equity. We wish to enable meaningful connections with others in our university community by sharing experiences, advice, wisdom and support in order to prioritise student wellness and mental health for our Mandela Day celebrations."
Click here to RSVP for the events.
Speakers on 29 July include:
Ms Monica du Toit
Ms Monica du Toit completed a MA in Clinical Psychology at Stellenbosch University (SU). She has worked in the NGO sector and established an HIV prevention, counselling and support office at SU. She coordinated a transformation strategy for SU and served as head of the Transformation Office as well as developed a Human Resources Transformation Skills Development Programme for staff at the university. Currently she works as Residential Education Coordinator and Residential Head of Harmonie and Monica residences at the Division for Student Affairs.
Mr Charl Davis
Mr Charl Davids is a registered psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. He was a former Youth Programme Manager at Selfhelp Manenberg; a Training Department Manager at the Trauma Centre for the Survivors of Violence and Torture in Cape Town, and a Principal Psychologist for the South African Police Services in Cape Town. He started his private practice in 2003. He joined the University of the Western Cape's Psychology Department in 2006, where he lectured at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In 2016 and 2017 he held the position of Head of Department of the Department of Psychology at UWC. He was also Deputy Head of the Department from 2013 - 2015. He is currently the Deputy Director at the Centre for Student Counselling and Development at Stellenbosch University. Since 2018 he also serves as the SADC Regional Coordinator of the International Consortium of Universities for Drug Demand Reduction (ICUDDR).
Mr Lewis Mboko
Mr Lewis Mboko is the Chairperson of the SRC at Stellenbosch University. He is pursuing his postgraduate studies in Economics at SU. Mboko is passionate about being a voice for young people and works in different areas to assist underprivileged young people to reach their full potential.
Ms Unopachido Mubaiwa
Unopachido Mubaiwa is an aspiring mental health professional with the aims of contributing towards the prioritisation of South African student mental health at a secondary and tertiary institutional level. She is currently completing her psychology honours degree at the University of Stellenbosch. Mubaiwa has dedicated her university career to forming a part of student leadership in an attempt to prioritise the deep-rooted transformation required to ensure the flourishment of all SU students. She was the Prim of the Sonop residence in 2018/2019, a Prim mentor for 2019/2020 and is currently a House Committee member of the Eendrag men's residence where she heads the wellness portfolio. Mubaiwa is an innovative, dynamic and passionate individual who believes in the capabilities and strength of South African youth. She is an active citizen and vows to continue to dedicate her life to being the change she wishes to see in the world.
Wednesday (29 July 2020 )
Event: Webinar & showcase of videos of students
Programme opening: Ms Thandi Gamedze
Official welcome: Ms Wamahlubi Ngoma (Vice Chairperson: SRC)
Framing of webinar: Dr Gillian Arendse (Starts with showcase of videos)
Panel discussion: Ms Monica Du Toit, Mr Lewis Mboko, Ms Unopachido Mubaiwa & Mr Charl Davids
Q & A
Closing Remarks: Prof Nico Koopman (Vice Rector: Social Impact,
Transformation & Personnel)
Video Showcase on the Q
Which conversations are currently on the foreground of our student community during this time?
What has been some of the most challenging adjustments students had to make and (are still busy making) to cope with the new way of learning and being?
What is Stellenbosch University institutional response and support being offered to students during COVID-19 and beyond?
How can we honor Mandela's legacy during this global crisis?
- Mr Charl Davids & Mr Lewis Mboko & Ms Unopachido Mubaiwa
Friday (31 July 2020 )
Event: Celebration of our Creativity
12h30 – 12h35 Opening
12:45-12h50 Poem (Social Justice)
12h40- 12h55 African Music performance
12h55-13h05 Danie Du Toit
13h10- 13h20 Closing Remarks
13h20 – 13h30 Jazz Band
Ms Tonia Overmeyer, Director: Centre for Student Leadership and Structures and Dean of Students
Dr Gillian Arendse
Ms Ernestine Meyer-Adams, Director: Division of Social Impact
Ms Thandi Gamedze
Mr Themba Lonzi
Performance by Spoegwolf Band Leader
Ms Renee Hector Kannemeyer, Head: MGD and
Deputy Director: Division of Social Impact