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SU appoints three new Deanshttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5002SU appoints three new DeansCorporate Communications / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie<p>​​Stellenbosch University (SU) has appointed three new Deans. Prof Daniël Brink is the new Dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences, Prof Anthony Leysens will become the new Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, while Prof Reginald Nel has been appointed as the Dean of the Faculty of Theology.</p><p>Brink (57) has been the Acting Dean of AgriSciences since 2014, and has a long history with the University. In 1983, he was awarded the degree BSc Agric in Genetics and Animal Physiology <em>cum laude</em>, thereafter also completing his honours, Master's and doctoral degrees at SU.</p><p>In 1984, Brink was appointed as a technical assistant in the Department of Genetics, thereafter becoming a lecturer, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2006. He became Vice-Dean of AgriSciences in 2013.</p><p>Among Brink's academic recognitions are a THRIP Excellence Award in 1998, as well as the Rector's Award for Social Impact in 2008. He will take up his new position as Dean of AgriSciences on 1 July.</p><p>Leysens (57) also has a long history with SU. He was awarded a BA degree in Political Science in 1986, and also completed his postgraduate studies at US, which culminated in a DPhil degree in 2001.</p><p>In 1988, he began teaching in the Department of Political Science and was Chair of this department from 2009 to 2016. In January 2015, he was appointed as Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.</p><p>Leysen's research fields include the political economy of Southern Africa and the politics of historical trauma. He starts on 1 January 2018 as the new Dean.</p><p>Nel (50), an alumnus of SU, is currently a professor in Missiology at the University of South Africa (Unisa), and was previously a lecturer at the Technicon of South Africa. In 1992, he completed his theological studies at SU – the first black student to obtain a degree from the SU's Faculty of Theology.</p><p>Before he entered the academia in 2001, Nel was a minister in the Uniting Reformed Church (URC). He joins SU as Dean of Theology on 1 November.​<br></p><p>​<br></p><p><br><br></p><p><br> </p>
Wordless picturebooks help parents and children read https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4846Wordless picturebooks help parents and children read Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie<p>​​In South Africa we largely overlook the potential of wordless picturebooks to help promote a culture of reading and to improve literacy, especially among parents and their pre-school children in poor communities.</p><p>"This is despite international studies which have shown that wordless picturebooks are an ideal tool to nurture a fondness for reading in adults and children and to promote literacy development at an early age," says Dr Adrie le Roux an illustrator from Pretoria.</p><p>Le Roux recently obtained her doctorate in Visual Arts at Stellenbosch University focusing on the production of culturally relevant, economically viable wordless picturebooks to encourage a love of reading in the home, regardless of literacy levels of the parent.</p><p>She says her research highlighted the potential of wordless picturebooks to improve the reading relationship between parents and children in poor communities and to help children read and  understand what they read.</p><p>As part of her study, Le Roux ran a four to six weeks reading and book creation project for 42 parents/primary caregivers and their children (3-6 years) at three crèches in Mamelodi, Shoshanguve and the Melutsi Township in Gauteng. Many people in these areas don't have money to buy books and many children are not exposed to books before they go to school. <img class="ms-rtePosition-2" alt="Adrie_1.jpg" src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Adrie_1.jpg" style="margin:5px;width:361px;height:460px;" /></p><p>Prior to the project, Le Roux held a workshop at the first two crèches where she and two facilitators from <em>Nali'Bali, </em>a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, collected the stories participants told about their everyday lives. At these crèches, she used existing wordless picturebooks for reading.</p><p>She says participants were asked to document their stories through drawing and writing. </p><p>"While the children were busy creating illustrations, their parents or primary caregivers would ask them questions and document these stories. The parents would then elaborate on what their child was saying and sometimes also added to the drawings to help describe the story." </p><p>Le Roux, the parents and their children, as wells as five illustrators co-authored 18 prototype wordless picturebooks at the two workshops and parents could take copies home to read with their children. She mentions that these books were pilot tested at the third crèche to see how they would work in a different setting. Here Le Roux used these books for reading and not existing wordless picturebooks as was the case at the first two crèches.</p><p>By allowing them to take the books home, Le Roux says she was able to determine the perceptions of the parents or primary caregivers and children regarding the value of using these books. </p><p>Le Roux says that because of the visual nature of wordless picture books there was a transformation in the reading relationship between parents and children and in the way parents viewed reading with their child. </p><p>"Parents who participated in the study consistently reported that they read more with their children than was the case prior to the project because it was easier for them to use wordless picturebooks at home."</p><p>"In some instances reading increased from three times a week to as much as three times a day over a five-week period. In some cases, reading became a family activity, with the older children in the family joining participants for storytelling."</p><p>"Many parents reported that after they had read the book to their child once or twice that their child would start reading to them. Both parent and child became active participants in the reading process." </p><p>Le Roux adds that parents highlighted the education value of the books and felt their children were developing skills – including vocabulary and visual literacy skills – or simply increasing their knowledge. </p><p>"They also noticed that their children concentrated better when using the wordless picturebooks as opposed to reading the Bible, magazines, schoolbooks or, in some cases, other picturebooks that contained text."</p><p>"With wordless picturebooks the children understood the book and story better and thus actively engaged in the 'reading', making the activity more meaningful." </p><p>Parents/primary caregivers also mentioned that they felt the books increased their own knowledge and confidence in reading, says Le Roux.</p><p>She says her research corroborates other studies which have shown that the absence of printed text means a story can be created by 'reading' the illustrations, using a language of the reader's choice. Also, the text does not become a barrier to reading for individuals who have not yet mastered reading texts. </p><p>Le Roux adds that wordless picturebooks can be enjoyed by readers from all backgrounds regardless of their literacy levels.  </p><ul><li><strong>Photo 1</strong>: Pixabay</li><li><strong>Photo 2</strong>: Dr Adrie le Roux</li></ul><p><strong>FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES ONLY</strong></p><p>Dr Adrie le Roux</p><p>Self-employed</p><p>Cell: 082 496 6122</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:adrie.leroux@gmail.com"><span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;">adrie.leroux@gmail.com</span></a> </p><p>Website: <a href="http://www.adrieleroux.com/"><span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;">www.adrieleroux.com</span></a> </p>
Leading the way in algorithm improvements in softwarehttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4970Leading the way in algorithm improvements in softwareLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">At the Information Science Department in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU), a group consisting of computing and information scientists and engineers are leading the way in algorithm improvements in software as they search for the correct construction techniques to use when designing new algorithms in future.  According to the researchers, the project's findings will help reduce the amount of software bugs that so many consumers have learned to live with in everyday items over the years.  </p><p>An algorithm is a set of steps designed to allow a computer programme to perform a task such as a calculation, the processing of data or even reason. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"People seem to have a high tolerance for software bugs in things like computers and even in navigation systems like those on airplanes. However, through our research we are aiming to find ways to build software that functions correctly from the start especially where there is a life and death component, as is the case with software used in cars and airplanes today," says Prof Bruce Watson, the Head of the Information Science Department and a Professor of Informatics specialising in cyber and information security, algorithms, artificial intelligence, computing and data science. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The project, called <em>Correctness-based taxonomies and toolkits for algorithms</em>, aims to "use correctness-by-construction techniques for the design of new algorithms, while at the same time creating classifications of existing algorithms". Watson is working on the project together with Prof David Pearce, a computer scientist from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, Prof Ina Schaefer, an automotive software engineer from the Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany, and two research associates, Prof Loek Cleophas, who specialises in computer science and engineering at the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and Prof Derrick Kourie, who specialises in artificial intelligence, information systems (business informatics), and programming languages at the SU department.</p><p>As part of their research, the academics are also exposing undergraduate students to their work by teaching them how to "build systems that work correctly the first time around".</p><p>"We are doing this by borrowing tried and tested ideas from other fields of engineering. If you look at mechanical and civil engineers, they took centuries to analyse and understand how physical structures are built. They did this by taking existing structures, scaling them and then looking at how different supports used in these structures linked together to work effectively and how different components in these same structures worked to make the whole structure function. They were basically looking at the mathematics of these structures," explains Watson.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"This is exactly what we mean when we talk of the correctness for programming. While we know what a program must do, we are now breaking it into small pieces and testing each piece to see if the parts work. The reality is that if you build correctly in the first place then you don't have to create software updates to fix these bugs later and the end user is guaranteed a much better user experience."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">While a lot of what they are doing in this project is based on mathematics principles, Watson's says they have taken the "sting out of it" by figuring out how to make the mathematics component fun, but still rich enough for effective learning.</p><p>"We've gone to a lot of effort to make the math intuitive and fun so that students with a basic understanding of mathematics can "get it" easily even if they're not a mathematician," adds Watson. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">First-year students completing a BA in Socio-Informatics are already being taught about algorithms through the Whiley programming language and tools developed by Pearce. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"While there may be scepticism that we are trying to do something in the information sciences which seems to belong in engineering or computer science, we have seen that information, computation and maths literacy are actually important no matter what career students decide to pursue in future. We are living in a digital age where our ability to absorb and process knowledge accurately in a work environment is vital. At the same time, information systems – examples include computers that store data on customers' in-store and online purchases at large retailers like Edgars, Woolworths or Takealot, as well as at banks like Capitec and medical aid schemes like Discovery Health – have become an indisputable part of our world and play a vital role in helping us understand for example customer preference, in modern organisations," explains Watson.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"As a society, we recognise the value of literacy and the importance of reading and writing skills. There is also a universal acceptance that these skills are important to master irrespective of whether we intend using those skills in pursuit of a career as a poet or author. Over the years, people have also started recognising the value of math literacy for everyday life, even if you don't intend becoming a mathematician in future. South Africa still needs to go quite a distance in this regard, but at the same time, there is a worldwide need for the new generation to recognise the value of information and computation literacy to be able to function in a digital society. In future, you won't even be able to function without these skills and it is one of the reasons that the research we do is also directly linked to the skills and knowledge we share with our students."</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>Photo: Discussing computational equations: Prof Derrick Kourie (left) and Prof Bruce Watson, both from the Information Science Department at Stellenbosch University, discuss computational equations for a research project investigating algorithm improvements in software. (Richard Barnett)</em></p>
Primate conservation in Africa could draw the short straw in oil palm cultivation https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5926Primate conservation in Africa could draw the short straw in oil palm cultivation Lynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">A study conducted by international scholars, including Stellenbosch University's Dr Zoltan Szantoi, has found that while profits “derived from oil palm cultivation represents an important source of income" for many tropical countries, including on the African continent, the future expansion of the industry will have a devastating effect on the African primate population. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The researchers are from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (EU-JRC), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), Liverpool John Moores University, and ETH Zurich. Their study findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) journal.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to PNAS, the researchers were investigating “areas of compromise combining high oil palm suitability with low primate vulnerability, as possible locations where to accommodate new oil palm plantations while reducing detrimental effects on primate populations".<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">However, says Szantoi, a Research Associate from the Geography and Environmental Studies Department at SU and at the EU-JRC, the research has found that “potential areas of compromise are rare across the whole African continent, covering a total extent of 0.13 Mha of land highly suited to oil palm cultivation – basically an area less than the size of Addo Elephant Park in South Africa –  where primate vulnerability is low, rising to just 3.3 Mha if all land with at least minimum suitability to grow oil palm is taken into account".<br></p><p>“The demand for palm oil is expected to double by 2050," explains Szantoi “which means that  about 53 Mha of additional land will have to be converted to oil palm plantations. However, according to our findings, Africa could host only 3.3Mha with low impact on primates and such an area compared to the African land mass (3037Mha) is extremely small."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The study noted that “populations of many primate species are declining due to human activities such as agriculture, including oil palm cultivation, logging and mining".<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“African primates are already under threat, with 37% of species in mainland and 87% of species in Madagascar threatened with extinction. Second, primates are a good proxy for overall biodiversity. They play an important role as seed dispersers in maintaining the composition of forest ecosystems, and thus changes in their population reflects as well as predicts another species wellbeing too."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">There is also no indication that the demand for oil palm will reduce in future with the oil used for about 30% of the world's vegetable oil production and growing in importance as a biofuel source. It is also a major contribution to economic growth in the countries in which it is extracted. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The researchers made their findings by first combining available information on the distribution of 193 African primate species and their threat status to produce a map of cumulative primate vulnerability. This map was compared to a recent oil palm suitability map. The two maps revealed striking similarities across sub-Saharan Africa, with areas of high primate vulnerability and oil palm suitability overlapping. This indicates that the extent of areas to grow oil palm at minimum suitability levels without impacting primate habitat is extremely small, accounting for only 6.2% of the land that would be required to cope with oil palm demand by 2050 (53Mha). This percentage is reduced to 0.2% if the analysis is limited to high suitable land only.   <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to Ghislain Vieilledent, a Research Ecologist from CIRAD/EU-JRC and co-author of the study, a potential mitigation strategy would be to identify “alternative trajectories for agricultural expansion, using 'SMART' criteria [a plan with goals, objectives and strategies that are <span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;">s</span>pecific, <span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;">m</span>easurable, <span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;">a</span>ttainable,<span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;">r</span>esults-oriented, and <span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;">t</span>imebound] and delaying the loss of primate range as much as possible".<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">In their study, the scholars found that the scenario maximising suitability led to the highest cumulative loss of primate habitat, while in the primate vulnerability scenario the number of primate species significantly affected by oil palm expansion could be kept relatively low". <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Nevertheless, even in this 'optimal' scenario, more than five species, on average, will lose 1,000 ha of range land for every 1,000 ha of land conversion. An increase in demand for palm oil for biodiesel would still further ratchet up the demand for land conversion, highlighting the importance of future transport emissions policies," they say. <br></p><p>Adds Szantoi: “Of course there are options which producers and governments as well as the general public can take to curb or mitigate the effects of oil palm plantations. Better management practices of existing plantations, which includedeveloping higher yield capable varieties, proper spacing, the use of organic fertilisers, improved harvesting tools and post-harvest techniques, are the starting point."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Additionally, governments could support the enhancement (preparation – i.e. improving soil quality) of areas with low producibility indicators and support products from existing areas rather than from new ones through offering tax credits to locals. It would also help if the general population could be better educated in terms of cooking oil use, especially in developing countries, where the main source of cooking oil is palm oil-based. Thus general public education is the must."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Lead author Giovanni Strona from the EU-JRC stresses Szantoi's point: “It is important that all segments of society are aware of the impact that our consumption has on vulnerable ecosystems. We hope that our findings will add to this awareness and will lead to better practices with less impact on primates and other biodiversity".<br></p><p><em>Photos supplied by Serge Wich, Henry Camara</em><em>, Tatyana Humle, Ghislain Vieilledent and Andreas Brink </em></p>
'You have to play the cards you're dealt'https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6028'You have to play the cards you're dealt'Development & Alumni / Ontwikkeling & Alumni<p style="text-align:justify;">​​“You have to play the cards you're dealt." <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">This was just one of the tips that Matie Alumnus and Technical Team Manager at Amazon Web Services, Philip Parrock, shared with the 350 strong student crowd at the second Careers Café hosted by the Alumni Relations Office at Stellenbosch University (SU). <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Philip, who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (cancer that develops in one's lymphatic system) in February 2018, talked not only about how he had turned what would be devastating news to anyone into a learning opportunity, but shared other important advice with the students too.<br></p><p>“Be honest about your skills and abilities. Set and manage your deadlines and be clear about how much work you can do. Try to think of success in the long term, not in the short term. If you have to work ludicrous hours to get a project completed, you might end up sacrificing quality and that will reflect poorly on you. In most cases, a well-executed project, completed in a reasonable amount of time is worth a lot more than a rushed, low quality project," he said. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The Careers Café series was launched in 2016 by the office to provide a platform for alumni to engage with the university by offering their time and skills to help current students prepare for their future careers. Through this interaction, current students are able to learn from the real-life experiences of Matie graduates in the corporate world and benefit from advice and tips from them as well. Other career development opportunities on campus are also promoted through this event, encouraging students to further improve their work preparedness.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Philip's journey at SU started in 2010 after he returned from England, where he had worked in the hospitality industry. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">After travelling more than 13 000 kilometres from South Africa to England to see the world, discomfort with where he found himself pushed him to return to Cape Town six months later. Back in Cape Town, he took up a full-time job working as a care assistant for a local retirement home. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“I spent a lot of time in Stellenbosch over weekends, because a few of my friends from Pretoria were studying there. That's when I first started thinking about studying at Stellenbosch University."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“I actually applied very late, on 28 August, with only two days left before applications for degree programmes closed on 30 August," he adds and laughs. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Philip enrolled for a BA in International Studies in 2010 and upon completion of that degree, finished an Honours and Masters in Political Science at the university as well. As a student who lived off-campus in private accommodation, Philip joined the private student organisation (PSO), Pieke, in his first-year at varsity. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">PSO's are student house committee structures that are formed for private students. They are similar to the house committee's (well-known as HKs at Maties) of residences and usually grouped with residences and other PSOs to form clusters that work together to coordinate student social, cultural and academic activities, represent students in matters on campus and provide a united voice for those who fall outside of the more traditional university structures. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">As a student, he played both rugby and soccer in his second year. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“I was not as focused on getting involved in student governing structures on campus," he says. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">But, by his second year, his interaction with male students from Pieke piqued his interest in these structures. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">At the end of his first year, he volunteered for Pieke's Second Years Committee and in 2012 became a member of Pieke's HK focused on social activities for students. A year later he was elected as Pieke's Primarius. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Working within university structures and being exposed to different people of different backgrounds, I had my first taste of bureaucracy, which would stand me in good stead as I went on to work in a massive multi-national company."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“By the end of 2014, I was working on the last draft of my Masters and getting ready to start looking for permanent work. I sent out 60 CVs to a number of companies in South Africa, but received no response from any of them. It's at that point that you realise you don't have the experience to compete with other applicants and that you need to gain that somehow."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">When he spotted a seasonal job advertised by Amazon Web Services, which is owned by Amazon, he submitted a CV, not sure where it would lead. AWS is the single largest cloud computing company in the world, with a 41% market share in public cloud computing and is larger than its next 10 competitors combined.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“After being told about seasonal jobs at Amazon Web Services, I applied and was called in for an interview. But during the interview they offered me a permanent job as a Technical Customer Service Associate in their global customer service department training new staff recruited to the company." <br></p><p>At the time Amazon Web Services was also expanding its customer service base in Cape Town. When Philip started at the company in 2015, there were around 50 people in the department. This would grow by 169 in 2016, and on to over 300 people today.<br></p><p>A year and a half later, he was appointed as a Team Lead for new Customer Service Associates where he oversaw a team of 15 people. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Suddenly there were additional responsibilities, beyond the overall performance management and administrative duties I was responsible for. Now I had HR matters to attend to, was expected to understand how to implement labour law practices, oversee staff welfare and various benefits."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Life was good. However, in February 2018, what had started as pain in his hip in late 2017 and had led to a full hip replacement, was diagnosed as cancer.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“An MRI scan showed that there where lesions on my femur moving right up into my back and that those lesions were coming from the inside of my body. The cancer had started eating away at my femur." <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Two weeks later, Philip was sitting in the oncology ward at the Kuilsriver Netcare, getting his first round of chemotherapy.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“I was out of commission for seven months and received chemo five days at a time." <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">It's been less than a month since he was told that he is in remission, but already he is back at work. In September, he received a promotion and is now a Technical Team Manager. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“This demonstrates my third tip – prepare yourself for the job you want so that when the opportunity comes, you are ready for it. So, while it may not seem like the right thing to do, if there is a promotion you would like to work towards or a different position that you would like to fill, do not think of it as an opportunity to prove yourself, think of it as a reward for proving yourself. In the business world it is very difficult to be given a chance, rather go out and make your own luck, prove that you can do the job so that when it comes to the promotion or job interview, the interviewer is so convinced by your ability that the interview is just a formality."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“In the time that I've been with Amazon Web Services I've learnt that the base of knowledge and experience you accrue at university is useful, but to be truly successful, you have to go above and beyond what is expected of you to be successful in the long term."<br></p><ul style="text-align:justify;"><li><em>​​Photo: Matie alumnus and Careers Café speaker, Philip Parrock (second from the right), with the students who won an opportunity to interact with him and learn about the soft skills one needs t0 develop a career. From the left are </em><em>Phathiswa Hohlo</em><em>, Marvin Koopman, Alumni Relations Coordinator at the Alumni Relations Office, Thandeka Mwakipesile, Olona Ndzuzo, Philip and his wife Lisa, who is also a Matie alumnus. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)</em><br></li></ul><p><br><br></p>
Students write about youth issueshttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7435Students write about youth issuesCorporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie <p>In celebration of Youth Day (16 June) and Youth Month, students Connor Bam (Humanities) and Tian Alberts (Law) write for <em>Mail & Guardian </em>and <em>News24 </em>respectively about some of the challenges young people face today. Click on the links below to read the articles.<br></p><ul><li>​Connor Bam (<a href="https://mg.co.za/opinion/2020-06-17-youth-day-is-just-as-much-for-the-present-as-it-is-for-the-past/"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Mail & Guardian</strong></a>)</li><li>Tian Alberts (<a href="https://www.news24.com/news24/columnists/guestcolumn/opinion-on-youth-day-we-need-to-leave-anti-social-media-behind-20200615"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">News24</strong></a>)</li></ul><p><strong> </strong></p><p><br></p>
What will the future workplace, workforce look like?https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=8206What will the future workplace, workforce look like?Natasha Winkler-Titus & Daniel le Roux<p>Saturday 1 May was Workers' Day. In opinion pieces for the media, Drs Natasha Winkler-Titus (Stellenbosch University Business School) and Daniel le Roux (Department of Information Science) highlight important issues that could shape the workplace and the workforce of the future. Click on the links below to read the articles.<br></p><ul><li>​Dr Natasha Winkler-Titus (<a href="https://theconversation.com/will-the-pandemic-really-shape-the-future-workplace-155237"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">The Conversation</strong></a>)</li><li>Dr Daniel le Roux (<a href="https://mg.co.za/opinion/2021-04-30-lets-race-with-not-against-the-machine/"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">Mail & Guardian</strong></a>)</li></ul><p>​<br></p>
Music students win top prizes at ATKV-Muziqhttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5054Music students win top prizes at ATKV-MuziqLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p>Two music students from the Music Department in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences have walked away with the top prizes at the national instrumental classical music competition, ATKV-Muziq, which was held on 29 July in Parow, Cape Town. <br></p><p>Twenty-four year old pianist and Masters degree student Sulayman Human (photo) was named the overall winner of the competition and received a prize R65 000 while Cameron Williams (saxophone), a second-year BMus student,  received the overall second prize of R32 000. Both students also received additional prizes of R8 500 each with Human receiving the prize for the <em>Best Interpretation of a</em> <em>Baroque or Classical Work </em>for his rendition of Mozart's  Sonata no. 10 in C major, K330; III. Allegretto and Williams receiving it for the <em>Best Interpretation of a South African Composition during the Second Round </em>for his rendition of A. Stephenson's <em>Introduction and Allegro.</em> The overall third prize of R16 000 was awarded to Jeffrey Armstrong (violin).</p><p>ATKV-Muziq is the biggest and most prestigious annual classical music competition in South Africa, with previous winners including international award-winning pianists Ben Schoeman and Megan-Geoffrey Prins. Through the competition ATKV makes a contribution to classical music in South Africa. The competition is open to young musicians between the ages of 15 and 27 with a total of R180 000 in prize money awarded to the winners. </p><p><em>Photo: Pianist and Masters degree student Sulayman Human was the overall winner of the ATKV-Muziq competition this year. (Supplied)</em><br><br></p>
TRU to establish a democracy research nodehttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4957TRU to establish a democracy research nodeLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">Over the past few years the state of democracy in South Africa has been increasingly threatened by large scale corruption, mismanagement of state funds<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>and improper governance practices under President Jacob Zuma's leadership. This is evident from media reports and public commentary by a range of political analysts. Globally, democracy is also not faring well with rising populism undermining liberal values.</p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">Tracking democracy since the heady days of its global spread in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Bloc in the 1990s,<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>the<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>Transformation Research Unit (TRU): Democracy Globally<span class="Apple-converted-space"> at </span>Stellenbosch University (SU) has taken the lead with a number of other research organisations across the world to interrogate the reasons behind this apparent unravelling of democracy.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>The<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>TRU, which is based in the Political Science Department in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>focuses on examining South African democracy comparatively in the regional southern African and global contexts from a political, economic and social perspective.</p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">"The<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>proposed data centre is not meant to become yet another data archive. What we envisage instead is the creation of an "Intelligent Node" to help us locate data needed for analyses and teaching in the general area of democracy research by searching the repositories of already existing<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>international archive networks.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>This<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>will allow us to contribute to the creation of new knowledge in the field of democracy studies, with a specific contextualisation for South Africa, and at the same time we will help integrate South African social research into global networks via the Research Data Alliance (RDA),"<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>says Prof Ursula van Beek, the Head of TRU.</p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">The RDA was launched in 2013 by the European Commission, the United States National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Australian Government's Department of Innovation. The RDA<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>aims to build bridges to enable the global research community to openly share data across technologies, disciplines, and countries to address the grand challenges of society.</p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">Since its inception, TRU has taken a mixed-method approach in its research by combining in-depth qualitative country studies with quantitative analyses. Its heavy reliance on empirical data over the years led TRU's local and international partners to the idea of establishing a data centre.</p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">"During a recent TRU workshop the participants also discussed the growing need for postgraduate students to improve their research methodology skills in quantitative research, which is regarded as a 'rare skills' area in South Africa," explains Van Beek.</p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">To this end, a concurrent training programme has been proposed to expand the pool of young African scholars.</p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">"Postgraduate<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>students will therefore also be instructed by international experts on the data selection process to support their research hypotheses, and they will learn where to look for this data and how to do the analyses by utilising our Intelligent Node."  </p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">TRU<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>also recently completed one of two comparative projects, which was focused on democracy in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana.</p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">"I am happy to report that the findings of the all-African team will be published in a dedicated edition of the international journal of politics, the<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span><em>Taiwan Journal of Democracy,<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></em>on 1 July 2017."<br><span style="line-height:1.6;"><br>"T</span><span style="line-height:1.6;">he second project that TRU is working on is nearing completion and focuses on democracy in South Africa from a global perspective. The research has established a decline in the legitimacy of democracies over the last 20 years in countries like Turkey, where the recent referendum has effectively killed democracy; Poland, where a populist government has come to power; and South Africa, where poor quality of governance has given rise to radicalism and polarisation that are threatening democracy."</span><br></p><p style="margin:0px 0px 10px;line-height:1.6;color:#444444;font-family:"segoe ui",segoe,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:13px;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;font-weight:normal;letter-spacing:normal;text-indent:0px;text-transform:none;white-space:normal;word-spacing:0px;text-align:justify;">"The discouraging findings," says van Beek, "convinced us that further research into the state of democracy in South Africa was imperative and that the investigation ought to be supported by solid empirical evidence. We want to focus on social cohesion, which we consider to be the bedrock of democracy.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span> We believe that the problem of social cohesion can no longer be meaningfully investigated in isolation from regional and global trends as the globalisation of capital and the mass flows of refugees and immigrants bring additional pressures on efforts directed at attaining social cohesion at the nation-state level. At the same time, one particular research methodology is not likely to add much new knowledge and practical advice on the subject. For these reasons we<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>  decided to create the Intelligent Node and thus integrate into global networks."<br><em style="line-height:1.6;"><br>PHOTO: A group of national and international academics recently participated in a workshop by the<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></em><em style="line-height:1.6;">Transformation Research Unit (TRU): Democracy Globally at Stellenbosch University. From the<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></em><em style="line-height:1.6;">left in the first row are Dr Catherine Musuva (AU: Electoral Commission), Dr Cindy Steenekamp (SU), Prof Ursula van Beek (SU), Dr Nicola de Jager (SU), PhD candidate, Annemie Parkin (SU), and Ms Jordan Fredericks (Honours student, SU). In the second row are Prof Dieter Fuchs (Stuttgart University, Germany), Prof Dirk Berg-Schlosser (Philipps University in Marburg, Germany), Dr Webster Zambara (Institute for Justice and Reconciliation), Prof Hans-Dieter Klingemann (Research Centre, Berlin), and Prof Ursula Hoffmann-Lange (Bamberg University, Germany). In the third row are Dr Krige Sieberts (SU), Prof Laurence Whitehead (Oxford University), Prof David Sebudubudu (University of Botswana), and Ms Helen Kores (MA student, SU). <br></em></p>
KAS donates SU book on democracy to nine SA public universitieshttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6170KAS donates SU book on democracy to nine SA public universitiesLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">A book edited and co-authored by Prof Ursula van Beek, the founder and Director of Transformation Research Unit (TRU) at the Political Science Department at Stellenbosch University, will now be made available to nine public universities in South Africa thanks to the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS). <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“By their generous donation KAS helps us to convey to a wider body of students and staff the necessity to combine theoretical and empirical approaches when dealing with complex political, social and economic issues. The book reports on a project based on comparative methodology, where in-depth cases studies refer to empirical findings thus illustrating the vital importance of building theory in reference to data, and vice versa," said Van Beek.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>Democracy under Threat: A Crisis of Legitimacy? </em>is the latest addition to a series of four books on democracy produced by TRU. TRU focuses on examining South African democracy comparatively in the regional southern African and global contexts from a political, economic and social perspective. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to Ms Christina Teichmann, Project Manager at KAS' office in Cape Town, the aim of this donation is to continue KAS' work to “promote democracy, good governance and the rule of law through political education and training not only in Germany but worldwide".   </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“This book makes an important contribution in this regard by providing valuable insights into the current state and quality of democracy in various countries around the globe. By donating this book to universities in South Africa, KAS hopes to assist in making the important research findings of Prof van Beek and the other contributing authors better accessible to students and university staff."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">KAS was established after the Second World War and the end of Nazi rule in Germany to provide the country's population with a better understanding of democracy, their role as active citizens as well as their rights and responsibilities. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“It was decided that this kind of education should be done by political foundations, each of them affiliated to a different political party thus providing a broad spectrum of political views," explains Teichmann.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Our Foundation was named after Konrad Adenauer, who was the first democratically elected Chancellor of post-war Germany. Besides providing political education and training in Germany, KAS started its international work in the 1960s and today has over 100 offices and runs more than 200 programmes worldwide. We have worked in South Africa since the 1980s and provide a platform for informed debate on topical political as well as socio-economic issues by hosting seminars, workshops, conferences and roundtables for selected target groups while working with local partners, such as political parties, universities, think tanks, business, the media and civil society. "</p><p style="text-align:justify;">As before the Second World War, democracy across the world is again under threat today.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">In South Africa, the latest Afrobarometer Survey indicates that while the “majority of South Africans still prefer democracy to any other form of governance" a growing number of individuals are willing to “trade off democracy for an authoritarian regime if the latter can provide jobs, housing and better education".<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Many South Africans feel that democracy has not delivered because their lives have not significantly changed for the better since the end of Apartheid. Additionally, state capture and corruption on the highest political level have eroded peoples' trust in government institutions and democratic processes. This has led to a widespread receptiveness to radical and non-democratic messages, often voiced with strong racial undertones," said Teichmann.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">However, it is not only South Africa experiencing a decline in support for democracy as a governing system. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to Van Beek “many of the problems – whether connected to globalisation or not – that South Africa faces today are not unique to our country but also affect other younger democracies around the world, and even those that are well established". The United States under President Donald Trump's rule is just one such example. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“In other words, we are not alone grappling with problems but as members of a global community we can – and should - learn from each other's failures and successes.  Our book serves as a warning by throwing  light on how unscrupulous charismatic leaders exploit their own people with promises of a better life for all, when in fact all they seek is to gain power and hold on to it. The method is invariably based on creating or deepening divisions between “us" and “them", where the others are differentiated from “us" by race, ethnicity, religion, or a class status and are portrayed as being responsible for all our troubles," said Van Beek.    </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Teichmann hopes that by sharing the book with staff and students at South Africa's public higher education institutions, academic readers will gain a “better understanding of the multiple threats democracies, whether young or old, are experiencing at present." </p><p>“We are witnessing a rise of charismatic leaders and populist right wing parties that promise to provide easy answers to complex questions and focus solely on national interests. The book bears clear testimony to the fact that irrespective of its level of maturity democracy cannot be taken for granted but that citizens have to actively protect and safeguard it against elements that aim to undermine it," added Teichmann.<br></p>