About Candes Keating

Candes is a Communication Officer in the Marketing and Communication Department. She writes stories about general news, research and innovation, and the faculties of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Tel: +27 21 959 6311 Email: keatingc@cput.ac.za

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Reduce, reuse and recycle is the buzz words in the Department of Chemistry.

First years following the extended curriculum programme have launched a recycling programme in a bid to ensure CPUT becomes an environmentally friendly campus. The launch, which took place on the Bellville Campus, coincided with Earth Day celebrations, an international event that supports environmental protection.

Student Sive Maguma says they are excited about the project and hope other departments will soon come on board.

“We want to tell students what they can do to save the earth,” he says.

Sive says apart from recycling, students must also play a role in saving water.

“Currently in the Western Cape we have a water crisis, and we as Chemistry students need to make other students aware of how to save water.”

The department will implement a 3-bin system for the recycling of the paper, plastics, cardboard and cans. Over the next few months they hope to extend the project to the rest of their building and to neigbouring buildings on the Bellville campus.

Luther Muller, a representative from WasteWant, a local social enterprise facilitating recycling in the Western Cape, also encourage students to expand the project.

Operating a waste buy back centre, Muller says organisations can raise thousands of rands from recycling. He says a large number of schools in the Western Cape are participating in recycling projects, with several generating well over R100 000 a year.

“By recycling we are creating sustainable communities.  We are creating employment for people and we are also saving the environment at the same time,” he says.

Muller encouraged the students to grow the recycling project and reminded the class that they are the future generation who must come up with innovative solutions to save the environment.

Lecturer Prof Vernon Somerset who is coordinating the initiative says the project ties in well with the curriculum.

Somerset says the students are being trained to be analytical chemist who will be able to analyze data and provide stakeholders with valuable information on issues such as pollution and waste which is impacting negatively on the environment.


CPUT Rugby Team inspires little ones

The importance of sport and higher education was the focus of a recent visit to a shelter for abused children by CPUT’s Rugby team.

This year the CPUT team participated in the FNB Varsity Shield presented by Steinhoff International tournament for the first time and part of its involvement included a social awareness programme which required the sportsmen to form a long term relationship with a community organisation.

The rugby team partnered with CPUT’s Civic Engagement Unit to ensure that the relationship was formalised and continues in a sustainable way for both parties.

In April the team visited the Nonceba Community Centre in Khayelitsha where they handed over a cheque for R15 000 which had been donated by FNB.

CPUT Rugby team manager Theo Ngqwala says it wasn’t just the children who benefited.

“There were players who have never seen this before, children in a shelter, it touched them,” he says.

Manager: Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Units, Jacqui Scheepers, says the shelter visit will be the first of many for her unit and she looks forward to many more CPUT departments getting involved in changing lives.

“This Civic Engagement project is a collaborative one with the Student Affairs Department and shows that institutional departments and units can work together to make a positive impact in communities,” she says.

Social Worker Supervisor at Nonceba, Nozuko Conjwa, says CPUT’s involvement was about more than just money, it also opened the youngster’s eyes to new possibilities.

“We will be able to motivate them to get them to consider tertiary education and explore their dreams. Linking sport to education is a bizarre concept for us but to be successful you need to link both, to achieve their social life and their education,” she says.

Wellington Trolley Dash

Trolley dashes are not for the fainthearted.

It requires speed and very good maneuvering skills.

A Wellington Campus tradition, the annual trolley dash sees students participate in a quarter-mile race, all the while pushing a fellow student in a decorated trolley. Organised by the Wellington Student Representative Council (SRC), the event is one of the highlights of the first semester at the campus.

And this year was no different, with hundreds of students turning up to support those daring enough to compete in the event.

Treasurer of the SRC, Madry Kraff, who organized the event, says the trolley dash is not just about speed and the ability to maneuver a trolley, but requires students to tap into their creative skills. This year each team was assigned a theme, which included the wild west, alien invasion, glitz and glamour, supersport and movie marathon.

Madry says students did not disappoint, coming up with creative trolley decorations, with teams also dressing up to match their trolleys.

Female students who reside in the House Meiring Residence picked the theme movie marathon and inspired by the popular Despicable Me franchise, opted to convert their trolley into a minion.

Male students from the House Navarre Residence showed off in a trolley that was converted into an army fighter jet, while their counterparts from House Wouter Malan draw inspiration from the glitzy Bentley motor car.

SRC member Pieter Lammert, who is responsible for projects and community development, says the event, which provides students with opportunity to have some fun, was a huge success.

Pieter says various other events are planned for the year, with a number of them aimed at providing students the opportunity to interact with one another as well as participate in projects that will benefit the surrounding community.

From garbage to useful commodity

South Africa’s landfills are fast running out of space and an innovative approach to drastically reduce waste is the only solution.

“We have to come up with strategies to minimize waste, so that we can have a clean and healthy environment,” says Bulelwa April, an MEng Civil Engineering student, who is exploring how to turn garbage into a useful commodity.

Based on the Bellville Campus, Bulelwa’s interest in South Africa’s landfills was sparked during her undergraduate studies, when she focused on urban engineering.

With a lack of landfills in South Africa, Bulelwa grabbed the opportunity to participate in a research project that she hopes will shed some light on alternate solutions to South Africa’s waste disposal woes.

As part of her research, Bulelwa has focused her attention on the edible oil industry and the solid waste that is generated from the production of oils, which is extracted from different types of seeds and fruits such as canola, sunflower, soybean, avocado and olive.

Instead of disposing the solid waste to landfills, she suggests industry turns the waste into biofuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol, a renewable energy source.

“Due to urbanisation in South Africa, there is a lack of solid waste landfill sites, and disposal of solid waste generated from the edible oil industry incurs cost and creates an environmental burden.”

Over the past few months Bulelwa has taken samples of the waste and mixed it with various other components in order to produce bioethanol.

“My research shows that you can create a by-product from waste,” she says.

“This will help eliminate the problem caused by waste water sludge in sewer systems and assist in minimizing the disposal of solid waste to landfills.”

Bulelwa, whose project is funded by the Water Research Commission, and a student bursary provided by Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology, says this is just one of the possible solutions to dealing with waste and South Africa’s landfill problems.

Community change agents

A collaborative initiative between the Faculty of Education on the Wellington Campus and the organisation Help2Read is yielding success.

The initiative sees Education students who specialise in mathematics and English tutor at local schools. Currently in its third year, this tutor programme has resulted in a thriving professional learning community that is benefitting students, learners and teachers.

Key to the collaborative success is the institutions’ shared goal of making a difference in communities. The non-profit organization Help2Read aims to help children to become confident readers as well as self-assured individuals, while CPUT, through its Service Learning programme aims at providing students with opportunities to use their skills to address needs in local communities.

Education lecturer Hanlie Dippenaar says they are pleased with the progress of the initiative, which is benefiting learners at Wellington Primary, Newton Primary, Wagenmakersvallei Ngk Primary and Hillcrest Primary in the Wellington District.

The initiative sees third year students train as volunteers on the Help2Read programme and conduct weekly one-on-one tutoring to the learners.

Dippenaar says due to the programme’s success it has been extended to a children’s home in Wellington, with learners in grades four, five and six set to benefit from the one-on-one tutoring sessions.

For more information on Help2Read see: www.help2read.org

Readers are Leaders

With students battling to cope with the transition from high school to university, a team of lecturers at the Wellington Campus saw the opportunity to intervene.

Education lecturers Hannlie Dippenaar, Mpho Matthews and Cisca de Kock initiated the ‘Readers are Leaders’ programme, an innovative computer-based language learning initiative aimed at improving the reading and writing competency of first year Education students.

Piloted last year, Dippenaar recently presented initial findings of the intervention at the RITAL Conference, themed “Transitioning In and Transitioning Out: The Context of Transforming the HE landscape.”

Dippenaar says reading and comprehension skills are crucial to increasing students’ throughput and success rates.

“Inadequate academic language proficiency is a primary reason for student failure, especially in a multilingual context. Reading instruction is central in the improvement of comprehension and should be explored as part of the additional support provided to first year students,” says Dippenaar.

The intervention targets all first year students who are required to write a diagnostic test, and those who underperform are placed in the year-long tutor programme.  Students access the programme at the computer laboratories on the campus and can work at their own pace during the course of the year. The initiative is a blended approach, and also sees fourth year Education students tutor first years.

Dippenaar says students are positive about the programme.

“Results show that this intervention addresses the academic language gap between secondary and tertiary education and enables at-risk students to experience success,” she says.

Dippenaar says further research will be conducted on the impact of the programme.

*The intervention was made possible, thanks to RITAL funding.

Giving graduates a helping hand

Thanks to a collaboration between the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the international organisations TUV Nord and TNAS, 100 CPUT graduates from across various disciplines have completed a certificate course in ISO 9001:2015.

The ISO 9001:2015 is a global standard that sets out requirements for a quality management system, and is used by manufacturing and service companies to ensure they provide products and services that meet regulatory as well as customers’ requirements.

Lecturer Desiree Jaftha, who is one of the coordinators of the course, says individuals who have completed accredited ISO 9001 training are sought after in industry. Currently, there are more than 1 million companies that are ISO 9001 certified around the globe.

“This course gives our graduates a competitive edge when entering the job market,” she says.

The initiative was launched in 2015 when 64 CPUT graduates received this training and thanks to its success, the course was offered to 100 graduates in December 2016. The course will run again this year.

“This is a generously sponsored initiative. The companies cover the cost of the tuition, meals as well as course material.”

With ISO 9001:2015 used widely in industry, Jaftha says graduates from all CPUT disciplines can participate in the training.

The initiative is spearheaded by Jaftha and her colleague Lucrecia Valentine.




RITAL Conference – exploring multilingual glossaries

Multilingual glossaries can play an important role in addressing transformation and decolonisation of the inherited post-apartheid education system.

This is according to Muhammad Nakhooda, a senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Biotechnology, who conducted a bold language project with the aim of addressing diversity and access in the Biotechnology classroom.

Speaking at the recent RITAL Conference, themed “Transitioning In and Transitioning Out: The Context of Transforming the HE landscape,” Nakhooda says transformation is sought at all levels of education and various measures have been conceived and implemented to provide access to quality education.

However, with English being the language of instruction at the majority of higher education institutions in South Africa, Nakhooda says “an essential aspect of addressing this transformation and decolonisation lies in providing conceptual access to course content for English Second Language learners.”

“Research has shown that non-English speaking students that study in English often struggle to meet their performance capabilities of their first language,” he says.

“This is particularly relevant to the sciences, as many students struggle with conceptual understanding of scientific theory in English.”

In order to gauge the language requirements in the Biotechnology classroom, Nakhooda tasked a group of second year students to complete an assignment in English and then translate it into their home language. The assignment focused on taxonomic classifications, which are basic principles students need to grasp in order to further develop their understanding of Microbiology.

On evaluation of the assignment, Nakhooda found that through group content engagement in their home language, many students benefitted from the exercise, noting that it effectively enhanced communication and helped them to gain a better understanding of the science concepts. Furthermore, the assignment highlighted key challenges, as students struggled to find appropriate words (in their home language) for the English equivalent that describe most science terms and concepts. Nevertheless, it is well known that indigenous languages convey rich imagery to enhance student understanding in a manner that isn’t available in English. Many students rely on this imagery to grasp difficult concepts in science.

Nakhooda used the information from the assignment and, along with students and the Language Unit at CPUT, compiled an Afrikaans and isiXhosa science glossary, and is now looking at a similar French version, to assist the significant cohort of French-speaking students at the institution.

“If we can design multilingual glossaries to address language access and bridge the learning gap, then this can potentially be a powerful tool to assist lecturers and students in improving teaching and learning at Universities.”

Nakhooda is currently exploring how the science glossaries are being used in the classroom and to quantify any impact it will have on teaching and learning.

*The intervention was made possible, thanks to RITAL funding.

How to stop high drop-out rate of first-year students?

The opening up of South Africa’s universities after the end of apartheid has proved to be a double-edged sword. Enrolment figures have doubled from close to 500,000 in 1993 to 938,201 in 2011, which means that far more people have had the chance to earn a university degree.

But universities have been largely unprepared for this astonishing growth. This has contributed to a high drop-out rate. First-year students have borne the brunt of this, with more than 40% of them dropping out in their first year of study.

The best way to create programmes and policies designed to support these students is to understand them: who they are; where they come from; and what the structural stumbling blocks to their success are.

I conducted a case study of first-year education students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, using both a survey and personal interviews to gather data. The purpose was to investigate what factors outside the academy were affecting their fledgling university careers.

Family responsibilities

The approximately 200 students involved in the study are older than the average first-time university entrant. They have a mean age of 21 and 84% are the first in their families to attend university.

Many of the mature students did not enter university out of choice, but more out of desperation to change their circumstances – as this student explains:

“I decided I want to study; I’m gonna quit work because it’s not the life I want for me and I just said to myself, ‘No! you need to change your life, you need to go back to study.’ I wanted to do something better for me and my son to have a better life.

They feel an urgency to succeed and view a university degree as being key to their financial stability. This attitude is part of the reason many chose a teaching degree. Teaching is perceived as a job that offers security to both the students and their extended families.

One student said:

“I want to prove to myself that I can do this, even with all of the challenges that I have, but it’s just that the need to succeed goes into supporting my family and putting them onto the map as well.”

Money troubles

Almost 94% of the students surveyed rely on bursaries or scholarships to study. Many have taken part-time jobs to have some income and don’t spend a lot of time on campus. There is simply no time to spend at a cafeteria chatting with fellow students or to socialise between lectures. They also miss out on the benefits of being full-time students, like visiting the library.

One said:

“I’m working every weekend now to pay for my food. I work on a wine farm in Stellenbosch. So every Friday I take the taxi home and I work the weekend and then my dad brings me back Sunday night because the hours are long and there is no taxi so late into the city. I take my university work with me and then when it’s quiet and when there are no customers I would take my bag and quickly do some work.”

Unlike their younger, less financially constrained peers, these students tend to make friends only with those they think might advance their own academic success:

“I am here to study, not worry about other people’s marks. You need to put yourself with people who know they are doing something positive; people that can help you achieve your goal. You are not here to make friends, friends are a bonus; focus on your marks, you are here for something, focus on that.”

Their family commitments are another reason these students say they can’t socialise or spend a lot of time on campus. They are trying to balance their academic work, family life and part-time jobs. Something has to give, and in this case it is the amount of time they spend physically at university.

Feeling of belonging

These students’ circumstances mean that they don’t feel as though they “belong” to the university. If universities listened to their first-year students’ stories more closely they could design programmes and policies that consider these students’ needs. Once a student “belongs”, feels valued and receives the support they need, they are more likely to stick it out and complete a degree.

Universities should consider extended first-year orientation programmes that enhance both the social and academic life of a student. These should encourage peer-to-peer interaction and support as well as positive engagement between students and staff. The formal curriculum should be blended in parts with co-curricular activities to encourage more meaningful social and academic integration between students and academics.

Finally, universities should stop viewing first-year students as a drop-out risk. These youngsters are often determined, optimistic, enthusiastic and open to learning – qualities that will ultimately benefit themselves and their academic institutions.

By Dr Subethra Pather, a researcher in the Faculty of Education. The article first appeared in The Conversation

Dr Raji comes out tops

Dr Atanda Raji was born to be an educator.

Lecturing for more than two decades across South Africa, for Raji there is no greater elation than unravelling the untapped potential of students and empowering and equipping them to make a success of their lives.

“My aim as an educator is to foster in each student a desire to learn, a desire to improve on weaknesses, and a desire to flourish. These are traditions that not only will make them prosperous students, but will also allow them to succeed throughout their lives,” he says.

A lecturer and leading researcher in the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, Raji was recently awarded the Departmental Excellence Teaching Award by the Faculty of Engineering.

The annual awards honour lecturers who go beyond the call of duty and who are making an immense change in the lives of those who enter their classrooms.

Raji’s success is based on his blended approach to teaching and learning.

“As a teacher, I distinguish the importance of creating a learning environment where students feel safe to contribute, relaxed to criticize, and self-confident enough to ask questions and engage in class discussion,” he says.

Raji’s lectures focus on open questions, prompting students to share impressions, interpretations and relevances to the subject matter. He also places a great emphasis on interactive projects, teamwork, and utilizes visual aids, laboratory demonstrations and multimedia animations. He also believes that teaching and learning cannot be confined to the classroom.

“People say engineering is abstract and complex. As a lecturer you have to take students out of the class and into the environment and show them examples that they can relate to,” he says.

“Excellent teaching captivates and involves the students.”

Raji says he cannot learn for the students, but as an educator must do his utmost to provide guidance and assistance that makes it easy for them to learn within an enabling learning environment and context.

Referring to one of his favourite quotes by Albert Einstein, Raji says: “Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.”