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SU’s Extended Degree Programme opens many doors for graduateshttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7023SU’s Extended Degree Programme opens many doors for graduatesCorporate Communication/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie <p>​<br></p><p></p><p>No less than 42 graduates whose academic potential had been unlocked thanks to the Extended Degree Programme (EDP) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU), received their qualifications at the University's December 2019 graduation ceremonies this week.</p><p>Of the 42 EDP graduates, 19 of the students received distinctions during their studies at SU. One of those students, Tammy Jefthas, received 18 distinctions and will be doing a MA (Geography and Environmental Studies) next year. </p><p>“The EDP is a wonderful opportunity to not only gain a degree but offers much more. It sees the potential in students and sometimes even before a student sees it in themselves. My field of study presented to me the opportunity to grapple with current pressing geographical issues and I see myself using my knowledge gained to make a difference in society," says Jefthas.</p><p>SU launched the EDP in 2008 to help deal with systemic obstacles to equity and student success and to assist students with additional academic support. </p><p>According to Alex Zeeman, who managed to obtain no less than 16 distinctions during her studies, the EDP programme was a lifesaver after she received poor matric results. “I thought my life was over, but the lesson that university has taught me is that you're stronger than you think you are."</p><p>For Vuyolwethu Qinela, who obtained nine distinctions during her studies, the programme not only helped her excel academically, but also gave her the opportunity to do an exchange abroad. </p><p>“I was an average student in high school, so I never thought that I could achieve anything greater than just passing. The Extended Degree Programme, I believe, gave me a better advantage over mainstream students in that I was given foundational modules that covered all topics that are covered in most social science modules, while also improving my critical thinking skills," says Qinela. </p><p>Tamaryn Taylor Fourie from Eerste River says one of the highlights of being a student at SU for her is the fact that many doors were opened and that she had many opportunities. “Some amazing highlights would be when I had the opportunity in 2017 to travel to Johannesburg to represent the University at the Cradle of Humankind as part of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. I was able to engage with other like-minded individuals and expand my network. In 2018, I was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society," says Fourie.</p><p>In addition to this, Fourie had the opportunity to travel to Germany as an international student at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, which is one of SU's partner institutions.</p><p>Through the EDP, Fourie was also able to impact many lives by being a mentor and senior mentor for first-year EDP students, class representative on the PSO committee and a member of other campus-wide societies and organisations.</p><p>EDP and mainstream students obtain the same degrees after completion of their undergraduate studies. The only difference is that EDP students do their first year over two years. Over and above their mainstream subjects, EDP students take modules that prepare them better for their graduate studies, such as <em>Texts in the Humanities</em>, <em>Information Skills</em> and <em>Introduction to the Humanities</em>. </p><p>The EDP programme is open to students who are interested in studying towards a Bachelor's degree with an average of 60–64,9% in their National Senior Certificate (NSC). Extensive extra-curricular support is also integrated into the academic offering to enhance student success.​<br></p><p>Prospective students, who want to read more about the EDP, can consult the EDP website at <a href="/english/faculty/arts/edp/home">http://www.sun.ac.za/english/faculty/arts/edp/home</a> <br><br></p><p>In the photo from left, Vuyolwethu Qinela, Tamaryn Taylor Fourie and Alex Zeeman​. ​<br></p><p>Photo by Stefan Els. <br></p><p><br></p>
SU’s Extended Degree Programme provides comprehensive student supporthttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6911SU’s Extended Degree Programme provides comprehensive student supportAsiphe Nombewu /Corporate Communication<p>​​​​​​​​​Thanks to the Extended Degree Programme (EDP), the future is full of possibilities for students such as Axola Dlepu, a BA Social Dynamics student who gained access to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) through the programme.</p><p>This innovative programme was instituted at SU in 2008 to deal with systemic obstacles to equity and student success and to assist students with additional academic support.</p><p>Coordinator of the programme, Dr Anita Jonker, says the EDP's role is to redress past inequalities and transform higher education by responding to new realities and opportunities.</p><p>According to Jonker, the programme is open to students who are interested in studying towards a Bachelor's degree with an average of 60–64,9% in their National Senior Certificate (NSC). She added that the National Benchmark Test (NBT) results, students' socio-economic status, as well as availability of places, are taken into consideration in EDP admissions.</p><p>EDP and mainstream students obtain the same degrees after completion of their undergraduate studies. The only difference is that EDP students do their first year over two years. Over and above their mainstream subjects, EDP students take modules that prepare them better for their graduate studies, such as Texts in the Humanities, Information Skills and Introduction to the Humanities.</p><p>In the first-year Texts in the Humanities, the focus is on academic reading and writing, plagiarism and referencing, , rhetorical structure, , text-linguistic characteristics, critical thinking and argumentation. The lectures are presented in separate Afrikaans and English classes to provide optimal academic support in students' preferred medium of instruction.</p><p>In Introduction to the Humanities EDP students are introduced to four different subject-fields, with a specific focus on multilingual technical concepts that provide a foundation for other subject fields in the Humanities and Social Sciences. All the terminology and lecture notes are available in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa and interpreters give students the opportunity to participate in lectures in their mother-tongues.</p><p>Students who speak Afrikaans, Kaaps and other related language varieties have a tutor, Jocelyn Solomons, who facilitates the tutorial discussions in these language varieties, and those who speak English and, inter alia, isiXhosa, have a tutor, Busiswa Sobahle, who facilitates the tut discussions in English and isiXhosa.</p><p>Extensive extra-curricular support is integrated into the academic offering to enhance student success. This includes the EDP mentor programme, which has received co-curriculum recognition and which is coordinated by Ms Shona Lombard. Here senior EDP students mentor first-year students with similar BA programmes and help them to adjust to the new challenges of university life.</p><p>Expressing his gratitude for being chosen to be part of the programme, Dlepu said, “The EDP programme has helped me a lot with academic support alongside being mentored. It made my life a lot easier than that of a mainstream first-year student."</p><p>The 20-year-old from Saldanah Bay encouraged other students in the EDP to use the programme to shine.</p><p>He said the EDP modules gave students a broader worldview and taught them how to engage with multilingual students from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.</p><p>Bavani Naicker, a 20-year-old BA Social Dynamics student from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) described the EDP as a comprehensive support system. She said they were given foundational knowledge to assist them in their studies.</p><p>“My highlight of the course was when we visited Parliament and interacted with representatives of the different political parties," she said.</p><p>Chloe Krieger, a BA International Studies student from Cape Town, said if it were not for EDP, she would have dropped out in her first year. “The EDP taught us crucial literacy and life skills that the basic education system failed to teach the majority of students."</p><p>Krieger said that the EDP helped her to develop an awareness about critical issues that she would not otherwise have been aware of. “I was also inspired to be an activist and to be an agent for change. I am currently serving on the 2019/2020 SRC and I am learning so much about issues that marginalised groups on campus face that many people overlook," she said.</p><p>Students who have provisionally been admitted to the EDP and their parents/guardians are invited to the first meeting with EDP lecturers and mentors on Friday, 24 January 2020 from 09:30 to 12:00 in Room 3001 of the Wilcocks Building at 52 Ryneveld Street.</p><p>Prospective students who want to read more about the EDP, can consult the EDP website at <a href="/english/faculty/arts/edp/home">http://www.sun.ac.za/english/faculty/arts/edp/home</a><br><br></p>
#WomenofSU – Focus on Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizelahttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5108#WomenofSU – Focus on Prof Pumla Gobodo-MadikizelaCorporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie<p>Award-winning author and eminent scholar, Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Research Chair in Studies in Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University (SU), has conducted ground-breaking research on trauma, memory, reconciliation and forgiveness and established herself as a leading expert on these topics. Not surprisingly, Gobodo-Madikizela has also been rated by the National Research Foundation as a researcher who enjoys considerable international recognition by her peers.<br></p><p>As part of Women's Month celebrations at SU, the Corporate Communication Division spoke to Gobodo-Madikizela about her research.<br></p><p><strong>​You have written quite a lot on trauma, memory and forgiveness. Can you tell us more about your area of research?</strong><br></p><p>After completing my Ph.D., my research was focused on questions around themes of remorse, empathy and forgiveness. This work has led me to exploring the role of dialogue when victims, perpetrators and beneficiaries of gross human rights abuses have to live together in one country, and sometimes as neighbours. Recently I have expanded this work to explore the concept of empathy more deeply by engaging a perspective that takes as its starting point the embodied African phenomenon of inimba <span style="font-size:11pt;line-height:107%;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;"> </span><span style="font-size:11pt;line-height:107%;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;">̶</span><span style="font-size:11pt;line-height:107%;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;">  </span>a Xhosa word that loosely translated means “umbilical cord" <span style="font-size:11pt;line-height:107%;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;"> </span><span style="font-size:11pt;line-height:107%;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;">̶</span><span style="font-size:11pt;line-height:107%;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;">  </span>and integrating it with the relational and psychoanalytic concept of intersubjectivity. The goal is to find a richer, deeper and more complex understanding of empathy that takes into account an African knowledge archive. <br></p><p><strong>Why or how did you become interested in this specific area of research?</strong></p><p>My interest in this work developed when I served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee. My first direct encounter with the trauma of violence was through work with human rights lawyers who were defending young anti-apartheid activists who had committed “necklace murders." I witnessed victims' expression of forgiveness for acts that were considered unforgiveable in established works such as that of German-born American political philosopher Hannah Arendt. In all the studies I read during my stay at Harvard University, there was no discussion of forgiveness, and very little – if anything – on remorse. When the TRC process was proving the experts wrong that the “banality of evil", to use Arendt's words, can be forgiven, I changed the focus of my PhD to do research on the theme of forgiveness. My goal was not so much to “promote" forgiveness as such, but rather to contribute to what seemed to me to be a new canon of knowledge regarding what's possible in the aftermath of the historical trauma of mass violence. <br></p><p><strong>What do you enjoy most about being a researcher?</strong></p><p>I enjoy it to constantly ask the question of relevance about well-established works and to explore new avenues of inquiry. <br></p><p><strong>What does success mean to you?</strong></p><p>I very rarely—if ever—think of myself in terms of “success." I feel challenged every day to do more, to do better. But there have been moments in my career when I have felt a deep sense of appreciation for the recognition that my work has received. Three moments of recognition stand out: Being awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Award in 2007 and receiving the Christopher Award in New York in 2003 for my book <em>A Human Being Died that Night: A Story of Forgiveness</em>. It was wonderful to be honoured at home for this book the following year with the Alan Paton Award. Receiving the Social Change Award from Rhodes University in 2010 was another heart-warming recognition. Of course, one feels some sense of joy, but I always feel these are gifts, I cannot take it for granted, because a lot of works still has to be done, in terms of mentoring young researchers, and continuing being an engaged citizen and scholar in our troubled country.  </p><p><strong>Can you name three people in history whom you admire?</strong></p><p>The three who stand out for me are <strong>Noor Inayat Khan</strong>, <strong>Rosa Parks</strong> and <strong>Beyers Naudé</strong>. I read about<strong> Noor Inayat Khan</strong> for the first time in the private and enclosed section of our school library (at Inanda Seminary, a private school for African girls during the apartheid years) where books banned by the South African government were kept. She was a pacifist sent to Nazi-occupied France as a British spy working with the French Resistance during World War II. She was later captured and sent to the death camp Dachau just before the end of the war. Reportedly, her last words when she was executed were “Liberté!" </p><p>I admire <strong>Rosa Parks</strong> for her courage in the American civil rights movement and<strong> Beyers Naudé</strong> for his indomitable spirit, and disrupting the apartheid bubble. When I wrote my first book, his story was a great inspiration for my reflections on how individual and collective conscience can be silenced – and how it may be awakened.  </p><p><strong>Do you have any message for the next generation of women researchers?</strong></p><p>Do not be afraid to venture into uncharted territory. The long-term value of your research engagement is its capacity to explore new avenues of inquiry. Strive to engage in research that is socially relevant. Work hard, read, engage in debates with your colleagues and keep your grades high.<br></p><p><br></p>
Social workers have become the foot soldiers working to mend broken societieshttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5503Social workers have become the foot soldiers working to mend broken societiesLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">In a country where violent crime has become part of the norm, where rape and sexual assault is reported to be of the highest in the world and where many South Africans live in abject poverty, social workers have become the foot soldiers working on the ground to combat the social issues that arise from these societal problems. For Professor Lambert Engelbrecht, an Associate Professor in social work and chair of the Social Work Department at Stellenbosch University, social workers have become essential in the fight to protect the most vulnerable in society. But, while this is the case, their quest is not an easy one with many having to work in a system that often do not provide them with the resources needed to make the impact they would like to.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">This is something that Engelbrecht has seen in his own research over the years. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“My research during my Masters and doctoral studies focused on the supervision and management within the social work discipline and thanks to the papers that followed from that research, I participated in the Marie Skłodowska Curie International Research and Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) where I became involved in projects where we studied the financial philosophy of business principles applied in social work or what is referred to as neoliberalism and the impact of this in various countries. We also compared results between countries and the impact of this model of management on social work services," explains Engelbrecht. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The research was inspired by the realisation that ironically the individual was often overlooked in the social work environment. A recent example of such a case, still fresh in the memories of many South Africans, led to the death of at least 143 vulnerable patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni, a state-run facility, to a number of NGOs that were ill prepared to accommodate these patients. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“This is an example of how the Minister of Health tried to cut spending on persons with mental health problems but ended up doing so at the expense of the end user. The dehumanisation of vulnerable persons for the sake of financial sustainability showed that what may be considered to be better management principles that would lead to better services is often not what transpires in reality. Saving on costs is not always better for the client. This is also why I empathise with the protest marches by social workers in 2017 against the horrible working conditions they are exposed to because often what is just a political ball game at the top tend to impact extensively on those on the ground. There are many social workers out there with no telephones, computers or cars that are expected to deliver social services to the most vulnerable in our society."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">While Engelbrecht, who received the Stals Prize for Social Work from the South African Academy for Science and Arts in June 2017, no longer practices as a social worker, he has been pouring his expertise into research and educating up-and-coming social workers at the Social Work Department since 2003. Most of his time is spent focusing on the supervision and management of social workers and the training of social work students. This contribution as well as his work on the effects of neo-liberalism on social work service delivery is precisely why Engelbrecht received the Stals Prize. His research has already delivered more than 90 scientific outputs and he is highly regarded both locally and internationally. What makes this achievement even more unique, is the fact that Engelbrecht is only the third academic within the social work discipline to receive the prize, with one other scholar from the SU department, Prof Sulina Green, having received it in 2011. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Like the department's philosophy – “we cultivate thought leaders in social development" – Engelbrecht and his colleagues focus on equipping students to think three dimensional and holistically. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“In order to be prepared for what they will face in the field, we have to teach our students to think beyond assisting the most vulnerable or those with mental health issues, but to start looking at the structures within which they work and this involves understanding the micro and macro levels issues that impact on your industry and being able to engage with government at local and national level to bring about change.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We find that a lot of social workers are caught up in the day-to-day activities and the many crises they have to deal with and that functioning at another level, for example engaging with donors or working on an awareness campaign in communities versus helping a neglected child that need help now, will always come second."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">However, says Engelbrecht, the way that funding is spent within social work structures require that one starts looking at it like a business too. This is the reason that students that enter their lecture halls are taught to also ask questions about conditions within the field and learn how to put pressure on government structures through policy and advocacy groups to ensure they support those in the trenches more effectively.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">At SU, about 100  new students register for a degree in social work each year with about 300 undergraduate and postgraduate students studying at the department at any given time.  In 2017 these students rendered social work services as part of their practice education to 43 welfare organisations where they were supervised by 45 social workers.  The students were involved in 94  community projects and facilitated 197 small groups.  They were also involved in intervention to 579 families and individuals, and mentored 90 vulnerable children. In addition the students completed 57 research projects. </p><p>“So as you can see, social work is an intensive course, because you are expected to do the work as you are learning about it." </p><p>Asked about the high levels of violence and in particular child murders that have become quite prevalent in South Africa, Engelbrecht admits that poverty still has a major impact on the social wellbeing of South Africans in underprivileged communities. It's something the students see on a daily basis too.  </p><p>“When there is poverty it can also lead to turmoil within families because when there is no money, people tend to escape by abusing alcohol and drugs. You also find that children are often without supervision in poor communities and older kids are recruited into gangs because of a lack of supervision. This is the case in many instances because parents can often not afford child care when they work and thus children are left in the care of slightly older siblings, neighbours or older family members like a grandmother or grandfather."</p><p>The students, says Engelbrecht are therefore prepared during their studies to the deal with the realities of South African society as far as possible. “They are confronted with both academic expectations and with emotional challenges that other students  are not necessarily facing."</p><p>“While people often feel sorry for social workers due to the kind of work they do for little compensation and also see it as a course that does not required much academic  capacity,  very few people realise that social work is not an easy programme to follow, that students are often expected to think critically from the first day they arrive in class, and that both the emotional and  academic requirements are extremely high. There is a high demand in the field for social work graduates from Stellenbosch University owing to our student attributes which results in thought leaders, engaged citizens, well-rounded individuals and dynamic professionals. Therefore, our focus of training is not just on social work in local, traditional welfare organisations, but we also prepare students to work in diverse industries, contexts and internationally. We are extremely proud of the fact that 80% of our Masters' students passed their external moderated research theses in 2017  cum laude."</p><p>For Engelbrecht, in spite of the fact that the social problems that social workers deal with can sometimes seem never ending, seeing the rewards of his efforts, be it through his work with students, through his research, or the time he spent in the field, has been the most satisfying aspect of his job. </p><p>One of those moments for Engelbrecht happened in the mid-eighties in his third year of undergraduate studies. While doing community work in Wellington, he set up an informal care group for elderly, disadvantaged  people in the town. A decade later, after he completed his studies,  the group had developed into a fully-fledged service centre with a meals-on-wheels service as well.   </p><p>“I started the club for the elderly with 20  persons from the community. Nella, one of the persons who attended the group, suggested that we call it Gemoedrus back then. Our aim was to look at the type of services that the elderly community needed and to try and get those services provided through Gemoedsrus service centre," says Engelbrecht who assisted the group with finding facilities and also helped them find resources they could access for the group. </p><p>“I look back on that and realise that sometimes one plants a small seed that grows into something enormous and that just being there at the beginning, making a small contribution made a difference in the lives of many people for generations to come."</p><p>The most important lesson he has learnt over the years, he says, is to learn to listen more than one speaks. </p><p>“When I do my research I realise that my achievements in social work is not my own, it is owing to the voices of the unheard that are being heard, and so even the Stals Prize is an award that I received through the contributions of many other people." </p><p><em>Photo: Prof Engelbrecht with the Stals Prize (middle) he received from the South African Academy for Science and Arts in June 2017. With him is (left) </em><em> Prof Wessel Pienaar (Chairperson of the South African Academy of Science and Arts) and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University, Prof Anthony Leysens. (Photo supplied)</em></p>
SU lecturer wins prestigious international literary prize https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7933SU lecturer wins prestigious international literary prize Corporate Communication and Marketing/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking [Rozanne Engel]<p>​​​Dr Alfred Schaffer, a lecturer at Stellenbosch University (SU), recently became the youngest recipient of the PC Hooft prize, the most prestigious Dutch literary award, when he was announced the 2021 laureate.​</p><p>Schaffer, who is known as one of the most talented Dutch poets of his generation, received the prize for his poetry oeuvre.​</p><p>“The prize is a huge, huge honour and recognition, as well as something that feels totally unreal. It is the highest accolade one can receive as a writer, poet, or essayist in the Netherlands," says Schaffer.<br></p><p>The prize, which is named after the 17<sup>th</sup> century Dutch poet Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, is awarded alternately each year to a Dutch writer of narrative prose, contemplative prose and poetry. The PC Hooft Prize is worth 60,000 euros, and will be awarded in May 2021.</p><p>Over the years, Schaffer has published numerous poetry and prose collections. These include <em>Zijn opkomst in de voorstad</em> (His Rise in the Suburbs; 2000); <em>Dwaalgasten</em> (Vagrants; 2002), which was nominated for the prestigious VSB poetry prize; <em>Geen hand voor ogen</em> (No Hands Before Your Eyes), <em>Schuim </em>(Foam; 2006); and <em>Kooi</em> (Cage; 2008). ​ Over the years, his work has also been translated into Afrikaans, English, French, German, Macedonian, Turkish, Indonesian and Swedish.​<br></p><p>He has also received the prestigious Jo Peters poetry prize, Hugues C Pernath prize, the Ida Gerhardt poetry prize and the Jan Campert prize for his work. <br></p><p>According to Schaffer, writing poetry means he has “absolute freedom" to express himself and sees it as a way to “creatively understand the world" around him.<br></p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Alfred%20Schaffer.jpg" alt="Alfred Schaffer.jpg" style="margin:5px;width:300px;" /><br></p><p>“I am triggered by language, like every writer, but what inspires me as well, is the fact that there are so many things that I do not understand until I have creatively written about it. To write a poem is so wonderful because I do not know what the result will be. Poetry has no hypothesis, like life," says Schaffer.</p><p>Schaffer grew up in The Hague, Netherlands - the son of an Aruban mother and a Dutch father. ​​He studied Dutch Language and Literature, as well as Film and Theater Sciences in Leiden, Netherlands. In 1996, he moved to Cape Town to continue his postgraduate studies at the University of Cape Town. </p><p>He returned to the Netherlands in 2005 where he worked as an editor in Dutch publishing before moving back to South Africa in 2011. He currently works as a lecturer in the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at SU.</p><p>Apart from producing his own poetry and prose, Schaffer has also made an important contribution to South African literature over the years by bringing local poetry to a broader audience through the translation into Dutch of, amongst other, Antjie Krog, Ronelda Kamfer and Koleka Putuma's work.</p><p>“Translation is everything. So many South African poets tell urgent stories of an intense life, right in the middle of the big issues of our time: migration, neo-colonialism, racism, guilt. I hope that readers see that there are many different stories, experiences and perspectives out there, formulated in wonderful and confronting poetry," says Schaffer.<br></p><p>Apart from his lecturing duties at SU, Schaffer is also currently working together with fellow academics in Belgium and the Netherlands on a book about lyrical activism and he is busy with the Dutch translation of <span lang="EN-GB" style="font-size:11pt;line-height:107%;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;">Kamfer’s latest volume of poetry<em>, </em></span><em></em><em>Chinatown</em>.<br></p><p>The last time someone with a strong South African connection won the PC Hooft prize was in 1991 when it w​as awarded to Elisabeth Eybers for her oeuvre of Afrikaans poetry. ​<br></p>
Sign language-related courses help teachers of Deaf students with new curriculumhttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4100Sign language-related courses help teachers of Deaf students with new curriculumLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">Last year, the first South African Sign Language (SASL) curriculum was rolled out nationally in South Africa after it had first been piloted as a project at the De la Bat School for the Deaf in Worcester from 2011 to 2013. Now, thanks to three short courses of the Department of General Linguistics that focus on language teachers, including sign language teachers, those who have to implement this curriculum will also have the necessary skills to do so effectively. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to Dr Frenette Southwood of the Department of General Linguistics of Stellenbosch University (SU), the department has been offering shorts courses in the Foundations of Linguistics, Sign Language Linguistics and Literature of SASL to teachers of Deaf learners since the beginning of 2015. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"South African Sign Language is now acknowledged as a first language by the Department of Education, just like Afrikaans and English, and is also taught in schools," says Southwood. SU is one of three academic institutions in South Africa that offers these types of courses.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"The courses are intended for language teachers who do not have a sufficient background in linguistics or literature and helps these teachers to interact optimally with the curriculum they have to teach."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The three courses were created after the department presented the first intensive five-day Foundations of Linguistics course to 31 teachers of Deaf learners and staff of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) in June 2015. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to Ms Minna Steyn of the WCED, who also was the project manager of the pilot project at De la Bat, teachers in the Western Cape were provided with basic training by the WCED to implement the new curriculum. A year later, training was done at the national level. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"During the training at national level we realised that there was not enough training that focused on literature and poetry, although these form part of the new curriculum. The idea therefore was to show teachers and teacher assistants how to teach poetry and literature in sign language. I thus was keen to offer our teachers who teach Deaf learners more in-depth training and then discussed the possibilities with the Department of General Linguistics. The ETDP-SETA was then approached to find funding for 30 students to undertake training at Stellenbosch University," says Steyn. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Steyn has been involved with the education of Deaf people for the past three decades and was head of the Thiboloha School for the Deaf and Blind in Qwaqwa in the Free State before being seconded to De la Bat for the launch of the SASL curriculum. She also completed her MA in the SU Department of General Linguistics in December 2015, focusing specifically on language and literacy acquisition by Deaf Foundation Phase learners in her thesis. In a report of the WCED in 2015, she said the following about the implementation of SASL as a first language: "Deaf children who are born into hearing families do not have the privilege of learning language in a natural manner from birth. It is only when they go to school that a Deaf child is exposed to Deaf adults and friends and that they learn sign language. South African Sign Language is the first language of Deaf people in South Africa and is equivalent to any spoken language. It has been proven scientifically that a child's mother tongue must be established firmly and be in place before an additional first language can be mastered."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">During her time at De la Bat she noticed how Deaf learners in the pre-school classes started participating more in lessons because they now had sufficient Sign Language vocabulary to participate more easily thanks to the pilot project. Previously, sign-supported Afrikaans or sign-supported English (these are spoken languages that are converted into signs word for word, some of which were artificial, non-SASL signs) were used as language of teaching and learning in schools for the Deaf. This deprived learners of exposure to SASL in the classroom. With the rolling out of the SASL curriculum, SASL is also implemented as language of learning and teaching in schools for the Deaf – as early as in the preschool classes. Deaf learners' SASL skills therefore are being improved from early on and they have the opportunity to receive their school training in a natural language.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The courses of the Department of General Linguistics accommodate 30 people at a time, who complete the Foundation and Sign Language Linguistics courses over six weeks, with one week of lectures on campus and the rest being done by way of directed self-study and distance teaching. The course on the Literature of South African Sign Language runs over two days and comprises lectures that are presented on the SU campus. According to Southwood, the purpose of the training is to sharpen teachers' knowledge of language and sign language as a language so that they can be better language teachers. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"This is not a sector that received much attention in the past and the quality of teaching therefore is not up to standard. There also are some teachers who cannot use sign language fluently but who have to teach in sign language. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"So besides for teachers' sign language skills needing to be improved, they also need to have knowledge of this first language of their learners so that a teacher can be better able, for example, to teach their sign language-using learners English or Afrikaans as language of literacy. Through these courses we help our teachers to do the latter by helping them to understand what language is, how it works and how it is learnt. Our courses cover concepts such as the nature, function and structure of human language, how human languages are used and understood, how they are processed and produced, and how these aspects are applicable to sign language."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Steyn believes that the courses will not only lead to better equipped SASL teachers, but also will raise the profile and visibility of sign language. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"South African Sign Language is a stigmatised language, with rules and principles such as any other language. It therefore helps the image of the language if academic institutions such as Stellenbosch University offer courses on it." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Steyn has herself completed three courses to gain a better idea of the type of training that teachers received by way of the courses. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"There is no other way to describe it other than to say that it is really wonderful for me to know that teachers are now empowered to implement this curriculum with the knowledge that they have received from SU."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Thus far, a total of 61 teachers completed the three courses in June to October 2015, with a further 36 who started training in April 2016. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Steyn is now encouraging other provinces to build up similar co-operation with local universities in their environment and to ensure that teachers are empowered in this manner. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">For Southwood and her colleagues, this co-operation with the WCED also offers many other exciting opportunities for the training of students at US. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Our department is very grateful to be part of this. Sign Language Linguistics is now a section of our second-year module in General Linguistics and we will also offer it as a third-year module from next year. We are also planning to offer Sign Language Acquisition to students as a subject in 2017. We therefore are not only busy strengthening the expertise of current teachers, but also preparing a new generation of students to qualify themselves as teachers of Deaf learners." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">For Steyn, the broader impact of the project, which they started in 2011, is the most important result of a longstanding aim of ensuring that SASL is recognised as a fully-fledged language. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"The Deaf child now receives the type of education that prepares him/her academically. My dream is to have SASL as a subject in our mainstream schools and that hearing people are also given an opportunity to learn sign language."</p><p><em>Photo: Nine Deaf students (of whom seven are teachers of Deaf students) completed the courses in Foundations of Linguistics, Sign Language Linguistics and Literature of SASL in March and received a certificate from Stellenbosch University. Mr Christopher Dontsa (fourth from left) completed all three courses. In front, from left, are Prof Johan Oosthuizen, Ms Annette Humphrey-Heyns, Nodumo Same, Christopher Dontsa, Phumla Mosia, Ncumisa Loliwe, Andiswa Fayindlala, Lazya le Roux, and Dr Frenette Southwood. At the back are Christoffer Galada and Simon Ndaba.</em></p>
New study hopes to build caring universitieshttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4870New study hopes to build caring universitiesLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">With rates of psychological distress amongst students on the increase at universities across the globe, Stellenbosch University (SU) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) have launched the <em>Caring Universities</em> project to learn more about the risk factors and trajectory of mental health disorders and document the support needs of students. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">As part of this project, an online World Student Health Survey was launched on Thursday 11 May with first-year university students from SU and UCT invited to participate in the survey.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"The information gathered in this survey will help universities in South Africa plan effective prevention programmes and implement innovative interventions," explains local researcher Dr Jason Bantjes from the Psychology Department at SU. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The rest of the research team includes Prof Christine Lochner, Mr Lian Taljaard and Ms Janine Roos of the Medical Research Council's (MRC) Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders at SU and Prof Dan Stein of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT.  Others involved in the project include Dr Wylene Saal, a post-doctoral fellow appointed by SU, and Mr Franco Gericke and Ms Maria Annandale, both honours students in the Psychology Department at SU. The team will work closely with international experts from more than 10 countries to investigate the prevalence of common mental disorders among undergraduate university students around the world. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Our aim is to quantify how many students are affected by mental health problems, but we also hope to learn more about the risk factors and trajectory of these disorders, and document the support needs of students," explains Bantjes. "Furthermore we want to understand what psychological factors contribute to academic success and university dropout."<br><span style="line-height:1.6;"><br>"This information will be utilised to develop innovative, cost-effective and efficient interventions to promote resilience and reduce psychological distress on university campuses."</span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><span style="line-height:1.6;">Considering the statistics, the research to be conducted may literally help save lives and will certainly help to improve the wellbeing of university students.</span></p><p style="text-align:justify;">"In South Africa as many as 12% of university students suffer from symptoms of depression and 15% report clinically significant symptoms of anxiety. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of university students abuse substances, most commonly alcohol. One study found that 24.5% of South African university students reported having had thoughts of suicide in the previous two weeks. A recent survey of university students in the USA that was conducted by the American College Health Association revealed that 44% of students reported having felt "so depressed it was difficult to function" at some point in the past 12 months. These statistics paint a rather grim picture of the psychological health of university students," adds Bantjes. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Mental health problems have a serious impact on academic attainment and lead to problems such as academic failure and university attrition."  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Some reports suggest that as many as half of students who enrol at South African universities never finish their degrees. Dropout rates are also worse among students from historically disadvantaged communities. </p><p>"The reasons for this high dropout rate are poorly understood which makes it difficult for universities to plan effective interventions. There is however little doubt that untreated and poorly managed psychological problems contribute to high dropout rates," says Bantjes. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Only 1 in 6 students with mental health problems receive minimally adequate mental health treatment. While approximately 24% of students in high income countries receive the mental health care they require, the situation is a lot more dire in most parts of the world. In developing countries, like South Africa, between 8% and 11% of students with mental health problems receive psychological treatment.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to the researchers, it is important to focus on the mental health of university students, especially because this developmental period is associated with major psychological, social, academic and financial challenges. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"We need to remember that university students have to negotiate a number of tricky transitions, including entering young adulthood, changes in family and peer relationships, leaving home, entering a new social context, increased opportunities for substance misuse and an increase in academic pressure. The stress of dealing with these transitions may contribute to poor psychological functioning. Many university students also face financial challenges and other life stressors including exposure to trauma." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">At the same time, young adulthood is also considered a peak period for the onset of several serious psychological problems, including psychotic illnesses, depression, anxiety disorders and substance use problems. Studies have shown that left untreated, these disorders can have a serious impact on students' development, motivation and attainment, leading to university dropout and academic failure. <br><span style="line-height:1.6;"><br>"This research will help us to better understand the mental health needs of our country's university students, but most importantly it will also help us find innovative ways to improve our support of students and address their psychological needs."  </span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The first-year survey data collection for 2017 will end at the end of June, however, the team of researchers will follow up over the next four years with all the students who participate in the survey to monitor them until they complete their undergraduate degrees. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"The project will therefore run for at least another four years. In the meantime we will also start testing interventions so the project may continue long after that time."<br></p><p>​<span style="line-height:1.6;">First-year students at SU who would like to participate in this study can obtain more information by visiting </span><a href="http://mentalhealthsa.org.za/"><span style="line-height:1.6;">http://mentalhealthsa.org.za</span></a><span style="line-height:1.6;"> and by contacting Dr Wylene Saal (</span><a href="mailto:wylene@sun.ac.za" style="line-height:1.6;">wylene@sun.ac.za</a><span style="line-height:1.6;">) or Ms Janine Roos (</span><a href="mailto:jroos@sun.ac.za" style="line-height:1.6;">jroos@sun.ac.za</a><span style="line-height:1.6;">). </span></p>
Vosloo couple invests in Chair in Afrikaans Language Practice at SUhttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6909Vosloo couple invests in Chair in Afrikaans Language Practice at SUDevelopment & Alumni / Ontwikkeling & Alumni<p>​​​Ton Vosloo and Anet Pienaar-Vosloo, a couple with close ties to Stellenbosch University (SU), announced that from 2020 they will be sponsoring the Ton and Anet Vosloo Chair in Afrikaans Language Practice at SU for five years.<br></p><p>In addition to the Chair, funds are made available for bursaries for deserving students studying Afrikaans at postgraduate level at SU.</p><p>According to the Vosloo couple, the Chair is aimed at further developing Afrikaans as an important instrument in the service of the entire South African community.</p><p>Until 2015, Vosloo was in the industry for 59 years as a journalist, editor, CEO and chairperson of Naspers, and for the past three years, professor of journalism at SU. Pienaar-Vosloo, also a former journalist, is filming the third television series <em>Mooi </em>for the VIA TV channel. She is a Matie who studied fine art, and is well known for her role as co-founder and director of the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Aardklop and various other festivals across the country. She is also the first female chair of the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town.</p><p>Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, says the donation not only helps in maintaining Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, but also in promoting Afrikaans as a science and career language in a multilingual community. "As far as we know this is the first and only sponsored Chair in Afrikaans Language Practice at any university," he adds.</p><p>Prof Ilse Feinauer of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch in SU's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, has been appointed incumbent of this Chair. She has been teaching at the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch since 1982, and since 1996 has been involved in the postgraduate programme in translation, which has been expanded under her guidance from a postgraduate diploma in translation to a PhD in translation. She chaired the Department from 2005 to the end of 2008 and held the position of Vice Dean: Research of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from 2015 to 2018. In 2013, Feinauer became the first woman to be promoted to professor of Afrikaans linguistics at SU, and in 2014, the Taiyuan University of Technology in Taiyuan, Shanxi (China), awarded her an honorary professorship in their Faculty of International Language and Culture.</p><p>“It is an incredible honour and privilege for me to be able to hold this Chair in Afrikaans Language Practice. All credit goes to Prof Wim de Villiers for laying the groundwork to make this Chair a reality in the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch."</p><p>According to Prof Feinauer, bursaries have already been awarded to four honours students, three master's students, two PhD students and one postdoctoral fellowship in Afrikaans and Dutch for 2020. “This Chair provides the Department with the opportunity to empower postgraduate students in particular to do research in and about Afrikaans in order to pursue a professional career after completing their studies in and through Afrikaans," she added.</p><p>When Ton Vosloo was asked why he and his wife came forward with the support of Afrikaans, he replied: “In my memoirs <em>Across Boundaries: A life in the media in a time of change</em>, published last year, I wrote a chapter entitled, 'Afrikaans in decline'. I made the point in the chapter that I hope gracious individuals would come forward who were concerned with the A to Z of Afrikaans.</p><p>“Anet and I have the grace that we can help. Afrikaans, as Jan Rabie put it, is our oxygen. Now is the time to step in further to develop this incredible source of knowledge for the sake of our nation's future. "</p><p>The Vosloos have been esteemed SU donors for some time.<br></p>
Researcher's collaboration with Khoisan community recognisedhttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7089Researcher's collaboration with Khoisan community recognisedLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">​A research collaboration between Dr Menán du Plessis, an Associate Professor in the General Linguistics Department at Stellenbosch University, and the Khoisan community, has not only led to the first extensive documentation of the lost Khoisan language, Kora, but has now also seen Du Plessis recognised for this groundbreaking work. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Du Plessis' work, which is contained in the book entitled <em>Kora: A Lost Khoisan Language of the Early Cape and the Gariep</em>, was further recognised recently with her being awarded the prestigious Hiddingh Currie Award by the Senate Publications Committee of UNISA Press. The book is the end result of a collaborative project that was done in close consultation with the Khoisan community in Bloemfontein.</p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Kora, spelled !Ora in the language itself, “was the Khoisan language spoken by the Khoi herders of the early Cape and the Gariep".  Those who spoke the language identified themselves as Korana and considered themselves to be a distinct community from other Khoekhoe speakers. </p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“Kora, which is sometimes also called Korana, is an indigenous South African language which belongs to the Khoekhoe branch of the Khoe family. While it is related to other Khoekhoe varieties such as Nama, Dama and Giri (or Griqua), it differs from these dialects in many respects," explains Du Plessis. </p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">The language was first documented in 1879 and later studied by a number of linguists who engaged with Kora speakers about the language in the 1920s and 1930s. With the last recorded versions of the language made in the 1930s, it was thought to have completely died out. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">However, in 2007, the late Mike Besten, a historian at the University of the Free State, made a remarkable discovery – he found three elderly persons in and around Bloemfontein who still spoke the language. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“Mike's discovery was groundbreaking in both a historical and linguistic context. Kora is the closest language, more so than Nama, to the language that was once spoken by the original Khoi inhabitants of the early Cape," adds Du Plessis. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“Prior to his discovery, there were only two audio recordings of the language made in the 1930s."<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Other documented sources were either out of print or not easily accessible and a lot of the Kora material had been translated only into German and sat in basements in university libraries. </p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">When Besten reached out to linguists to assist in documenting the language, Du Plessis, who was working on a PhD on the southern African Khoisan languages at the University of Cape Town (UCT), connected with him immediately. </p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“We were presented with an almost miraculous last chance to obtain recordings for posterity of the original language of the early Cape and the Gariep."<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Shortly afterwards, Du Plessis joined Besten on a visit to one of the speakers, who lived in the rural outskirts of Bloemfontein. For the next year, she juggled her PhD research with the work she was doing for Besten, while the two searched and applied for funding for the project Besten was driving. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">With only a few elderly speakers left, they knew that if they wished to capture the last remnants of the language, they would have to do something quickly. Du Plessis decided to record the language by interviewing two of the last speakers, Oupa Dawid Cooper and Ouma Jacoba Maclear, in 2011. Sadly both passed away in 2013.These  “rare audio recordings", referred to as a rescue documentation, are accessible as individual audio files – 800 in total – in the final online version of the book, which is also available in print format. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">For Du Plessis, the recognition she has received by being awarded the Hiddingh Currie Award is not hers to claim. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“There was from the outset a degree of social accountability, since the very idea for the project had its origins in the context of the current social movement known as the Khoisan revival, and in the course of meetings with various people from the Griqua and Korana communities of the Free State. This personal connection with individuals keenly driven to reclaim their cultural heritage made it important to me that the book should be written in a relatively accessible manner, and that it should include far more than a straightforward grammatical description. The intention was to deliver as far as possible a complete resource in one volume," she says. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">The end result is a book that includes a collection of more than 40 texts in the original language as well as parallel translations and a consolidated two-way dictionary. It is filled with collective and personal histories as well as social and economic histories, accounts of crafts and manufactures in earlier times and folktales.<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“The dictionary is there to assist readers wishing to work through the texts in the original heritage language, but also includes vocabulary of cultural interest, such as names for stars, or musical instruments, traditional garments, and the names of the months in the old lunar calendar."<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">A free, downloadable version of the book is available on South African History Online, who co-published the electronic copy, while the printed edition is published by Unisa Press under an Open Access agreement. Du Plessis has declined to receive any royalties.<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">When one listens to the passion with which Du Plessis speaks of an academic project that evolved into an act of cultural restitution that was equally driven and shaped by the Korana community as well as herself, it beggars belief that she had never planned to study Khoisan languages. Her road into academia itself was a rather roundabout one.<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“My academic career is quite complicated," she says and laughs.<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“My first novel,  <em>A State of Fear</em>, was published while I was still an undergraduate student in the English Department at the University of Cape Town.  At the same time, I continued on a path of political activism that I had begun while I was still at high school – where I was one of the co-founders of a movement called National Youth Action.  On top of everything else, I struggled with major episodes of depressive illness, and was often hospitalised during those early years."<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“In spite of all this, by 1983 I was able to tutor in the brand new Linguistics Department, then just established at the University of Cape Town. I was also enrolled for a PhD, with a focus on semantic theory. But this was the very time the United Democratic Front emerged – and while I was living in an ivory tower, many South Africans were suffering under the brunt of apartheid and many more were involved in the struggle. We couldn't bury our heads in the sand and not get involved."<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Between 1983 and 1985, Du Plessis, who had by then joined the local branch of the UDF in Observatory, was involved in various activities, helping to write and distribute pamphlets, making home visits to groups of concerned citizens who were not involved but wanted to understand more about the struggle, attending rallies and sadly, more and more often also funerals.  Around her friends were being arrested and incarcerated, while others were harassed. She lived in constant fear of being arrested or jailed for what were considered illegal activities under the apartheid government. Her second novel, <em>Longlive!</em><em> </em>was published in 1986, but by this time the strain of trying to juggle a creative life as well as an academic life —on top of being an activist— was taking a heavy toll on her, and she withdrew from academia.<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">In 1990 she married Renfrew Christie, an anti-apartheid activist and scholar whom she had previously known during her early years in the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), and had met up with again after his release from prison, where he had been held for seven years. Christie's intelligence gathering on behalf of the ANC had led to the bombing of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in South Africa. He was incarcerated numerous times, tortured and sometimes kept in solitary confinement. Du Plessis and Christie had their first daughter at the end of 1990, followed by a second in 1992.  With her health still damaged – and struggling with what was eventually diagnosed as ME –</p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Du Plessis focused for the next decade simply on raising their beloved daughters, while her husband worked as a Research Administrator at the University of the Western Cape.<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Once the girls were both in high school, it became possible for Du Plessis to start thinking about making a late return to her studies. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“I had always studied European languages like Italian and German. But then, as a I started reading and exploring the idea of returning to complete my PhD, my focused switched. I started looking more at African languages, and in the process I discovered that there was a gap in the knowledge we had of the Khoisan languages. This is how my focus shifted to those languages," explains Du Plessis.<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">She returned to UCT, again enrolling for a PhD but this time focusing on the southern African Khoisan languages, taking a comparative approach. She received her PhD in 2009, and only after that was she able to focus more intensively on the Kora work. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“My interest at first was purely in the structures of the languages," she says as she reflects on how that journey led her to connect with Besten, the Korana community and later author a book on the Kora language.  <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“But somehow, it was impossible to stay detached and not get involved with real communities."<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Mike Besten's sudden death in 2011 was a huge blow, but made her even more determined to continue with the project in his honour. Lack of funding was another major setback, says Du Plessis, but she was fortunate enough to finally receive a grant from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (the ELDP) at SOAS in London. This small bit of funding covered only the fieldwork, however. <br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">Luckily, another bit of timely support came when Du Plessis and her husband both received invitations to teach for a semester at the University of Kentucky in the USA.  Once back in South Africa, freed from financial worry, it was a simple task for Du Plessis to sit down and finish the Kora book.<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;">“For me, the over-riding purpose of this work, which is envisaged as an act of cultural restitution, is to retrieve the all but discarded linguistic heritage of the Korana and Griqua people of South Africa – not only for the descendants of these communities, but for the benefit of all South Africans."<br></p><p style="font-size:14px;color:#333333;font-family:calibri, verdana, trebuchet, helvetica, arial, sans-serif, "helvetica neue";text-align:justify;"><em>Photo: </em><em>Dr Menán du Plessis (left), an Associate Professor in the General Linguistics Department at Stellenbosch University, was recently recognised for her work that led to the first extensive documentation of the lost Khoisan language, Kora. She will receive the prestigious Hiddingh Currie Award from the Senate Publications Committee of UNISA Press early in 2020. With her in the picture is Captain Johannes Kraalshoek, an elder</em><em> </em><em>of the Korana community in Bloemfontein, at the Literature Festival held as part of the Vrystaat Kunstefees in July 2019.​ <em style="text-align:justify;">(Charina Bartlett, HeSheDigital) </em>​</em></p>
SU graduate on a mission to help improve social work practice https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=8102SU graduate on a mission to help improve social work practice Corporate Communication and Marketing/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking [Rozanne Engel] <p></p><p><br></p><p>Stellenbosch University (SU) graduate Tirelo Mtombeni never imagined she would pursue a research career in social work. </p><p>Having failed to meet the entry requirements to study medicine or her second choice, accounting, she chose social work. And today, she is on a mission to help improve social workers' practice so that they can better assist and uplift their communities.</p><p>“I always dreamed of becoming a doctor. To be honest, I was neither interested in social work, nor knew what it was about besides listening to people's problems, which was the definition I got from one of the social workers that once visited my high school. I only developed an interest in social work as I embarked on the course, and eventually fell in love with it."</p><p>Born and raised in Limpopo, the 25-year-old graduated with a master's degree in Social Work on Monday 29 March 2021 during an online ceremony of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at SU. She is the first in her family to obtain a master's degree, which was a major motivation for her to keep going.</p><p>“Perseverance has been my biggest life lesson. I wanted to change my adverse circumstances and break the poverty cycle, so my background was also my motivation. Things happened in the course of my studies that could have disturbed my progress, but I continued, sometimes with more or less courage than the previous day. At times, I was not sure if I would complete my master's, but I always pushed myself towards achieving my goal."</p><p>For her master's, Mtombeni researched newly qualified social workers' preparedness for executing management tasks. She focused especially on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which strongly depend on target-based state and private funding. “Acknowledging the changing context of practice for social workers, my research sought to establish the management tasks typically expected of them, and whether the preparation provided by training institutions matched the expected practice in the world of work. I concentrated on NGOs, as they are the ones to suffer should their practices not align with donors' demands or expectations."</p><p>Mtombeni plans to continue her studies and will be enrolling for a PhD in Social Work in the near future. She also hopes that her social work research will help influence legislation and policy development in this field. “Continuing with my postgraduate studies is the only way I can achieve my dream career, which is to become a lecturer or a valuable NGO board member. Learning is my passion because no matter where you come from, you have the potential to change the future. I would like to continue with this life mantra and make a difference in others' lives."<br></p><p>​<br></p>