Yes, that was a terrible story. I believe the University of Johannesburg has 50000 places and nearly twice as many applicants. Young people are well aware that even with a tertiary qualification, their chances of getting a job are not fantastic, and they are desperate. I believe many end up doing quite inappropriate courses – Mbali shared a room with a girl last year who dropped out because she hated what she was studying. When I asked why she had registered for it then, Mbali said, well, it was the only course in which there was space. The boy whose mother died wants to do medicine, but since there’re no places, he is now doing a diploma course – the very one Mbali was on last year, biotechnology.

There are other mismatches, too – most kids think university is the only option, whereas my neighbour, a soil science professor, told me of two friends’ sons who went and did plumbing and something else practical and artisanal, and are now happily making stacks of money and starting their own businesses.

I would have hated to think that Mbali – who plainly fits science well – had missed out to provide place for some kid who would be better off doing a different course.

 

From: Science for the People Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Phil Gasper
Sent: 25 January 2012 08:53 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: My private moment of joy

 

Mandi,

Congratulations to you and Mbali. On Monday I heard a story on National Public Radio in the US that mentioned the extreme shortage of university openings in S. Africa, and that one woman was killed in a stampede at the University of Johannesburg at the beginning of the year after thousands of people waited overnight to register for a very limited numbers of places (https://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2012/01/23/145645472/stanford-takes-online-schooling-to-the-next-academic-level). Of course the solution that NPR was promoting was enrolling thousands of students in the same online class in which students would have zero personal contact with the instructor, rather than increasing funding to higher education.

Phil

On Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 6:57 AM, Mandi Smallhorne <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Can I share this with you?

I may have mentioned that eight years ago I met and befriended an Aids orphan in one of our shanty towns. Mbali is very bright, and battled her way through a very poor and dysfunctional school to qualify for university. She wanted to do a BSc, but could not get in due to space constraints. She therefore did a diploma course in biotechnology at the University of Johannesburg last year – and did very well, getting three distinctions, one in chemistry.

We applied to transfer her to BSc this year, and the admin botched things – they told her she was accepted subject to space being available, then told her she’d been rejected. I got into a rage and wrote an impassioned – but I hope reasoned – email to the dean, pointing out that this way, South Africa was likely to lose a scientist and gain a technician. She has proved that she is dedicated and hardworking, and will not drop out mid-year, as so many of our deeply unprepared first-years do. I said she should be accepted based solely on her 2011 results, but added that I found it really sad that they were turning down a girl who, on one occasion, turned to me with a glowing face and said, “I really LOVE science!” Someone who has the potential to go way beyond BSc, to really contribute to science nationally and globally. (Plus, I reminded them, she has a sponsor who is paying her fees, and I am sure I can fundraise a little to cover books – so many of our first-years don’t have enough for their fees, and can’t qualify for a bank loan, the Catch-22 being banks won’t loan to first-years who they well know could drop out.)

And guess what? I got a phone call from the faculty. They have decided to accept Mbali. She’s on her way! A kid born in a corrugated iron shack will become a scientist, will, I am sure, one day be Dr Nkabinde. Tears, laughter, and a desire to rush out and polka down the street…. OMG, I am so glad!

Mandi

 

 

 



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