If you were watching TV in the early 1980s, you'll probably remember the dubbed series Beste Professor. Originally broadcast as The Paper Chase in the United States, the series featured brilliant law student James T. Hart (played by James Stephens) and his tough time under grumpy professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. (John Houseman).
Those were the days before couch potatoes could access a host of programmes at the touch of a button, and the weeks between episodes felt like ages. Of course, Hart was everyone's hero, but the professor was a star in his own right for the authoritative way in which he shared his expertise and knowledge with his students.
Now fans of the series can look forward to a revival of sorts with a number of inserts titled Professor Presenting scheduled to be broadcast on DStv as part of the Toyota SU Woordfees in the first week of October. Although in a completely different format, the inserts retain a key element of the original Paper Chase formula, namely an expert sharing his or her knowledge. (Click here for the Professor Presenting schedule.)
However, this time around, it is fact-based, not fiction. All the experts presenting are leading academics associated with Stellenbosch University (SU), delivering accessible talks on interesting topics. The presentations are made in TED Talk-style and are 10 minutes each.
Economist Prof Johan Fourie, for instance, tells us what we stand to learn from historical data. Cellular biologist Dr Hanél Sadie-van Gijsen explores whether natural products can really aid weight loss, while engineer Prof Thinus Booysen shares some tips to keep the “demanding donkey" on your ceiling (aka your geyser) in check.
Microbiologist Prof Karin Jacobs marvels at the wide variety of fungi in fynbos, and futurist Dr Morne Mostert provides guidance for better crisis management. Prof Stella Viljoen, a Visual Arts lecturer, exposes racism and sexism in the magazine Scope, while botanist Prof Nox Makunga enthuses about the range of South African plants offering health benefits.
We can change the world, provided we put our children first, says public health expert Prof Mark Tomlinson. Data scientist Prof Kanshu Rajaratnam points out pitfalls in the COVID-19 information landscape, and clinician Prof Helmuth Reuter uses actual case studies to explain how our immune system fights off arthritis and viral pneumonia.
So, to attend class without leaving the couch, do tune in. Long live our TV professors!
* The Toyota SU Woordfees 2021 be aired from 1 to 7 October on DStv channel 150 in South Africa, and on GOtv channel 15 in Namibia. Visit www.woordfees.co.za and the Woordfees social media platforms for highlights and information on Fees TV. Click here for the Professor Presenting schedule.