Letters to the editor: October 30 to November 5 2015

Cutting comment: Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande is blamed for the student fees crisis. (Mark Wessels, Reuters)

Cutting comment: Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande is blamed for the student fees crisis. (Mark Wessels, Reuters)

Fees have fallen – so must Blade

The students’ win is a great victory for the forces of democracy. We have forced the ANC to keep their promise, even though they were unwilling to do so.

But where was Blade Nzimande? He was supposed to have acted long ago? He was too busy drinking red wine and driving expensive cars. Behind the problems relating to the increase in students fees sits Nzimande. What has he done to try to increase the revenue that he channels to the universities?

We already have the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). What else he has tried to do to make sure there is more money that can be directed to universities?

  In 2012, as the Mail & Guardian reported (Nzimande withheld ‘free varsity’ report), state funds were used to compile a report and Blade was given sober information. What is the information that we are getting? What is wrong? What are the solutions? What are the remedies and what are the concerns? Until we get those answers, we assume nothing.

  This callous minister is fiddling while the universities burn. He even jokes that “students must fall”! He is not fit to be minister of higher education. What a hypocrite! This Blade is blunt – we need a sharper person to look after us. Blade Must Fall! And the corrupt and scandalous president with him. – Mawethu Kosani, Democratic Alliance Students Organisation, Fort Hare

  ? Your comparison of university costs (A university education comes at a price) does not examine the effect of additional costs that are often charged by universities, such as notes levies, computer lab access fees, transport and fieldwork costs, internet or wi-fi access, laboratory fees and instruments.

These “add-ons” can expand the total cost of getting a degree, yet they are often overlooked.

There are no add-on costs at the University of Cape Town: our published tuition fees pay for everything, including an excellent library service, accident insurance and the use of the Jammie Shuttle transport service.

An accurate comparison of UCT’s cost with that of other universities should take into consideration all the services that are included in the fee.

Another important factor in analysing university fees is the amount that is allocated to an institution’s financial assistance fund to ensure that even students from the most financially deprived households will have university access.

UCT allocates about 12% (R125-million) of all the fees we raise to topping up the NSFAS allocation.

Our undergraduate students received R538-million in total financial support in 2014.

  These monies came from various sources, including corporate and other external bursaries and NSFAS funding. – Pat Lucas, communications and marketing department, University of Cape Town


‘Hostile’ ?book on church is inaccurate

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is aware of a book written by Ilana van Wyk, a researcher at the Institute for Humanities in Africa at the University of Cape Town.

  The first edition was published by the International African Institute in 2014. A second version, titled A Church of Strangers: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa, was published by Wits University Press and reviewed in the Friday section of the Mail & Guardian last week (The sinister inner workings of a charismatic church).

The board of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and its leadership wishes to state in the strongest terms that it was not involved in the research project, did not give permission for the researcher to study the organisation and/or its members, and distances itself completely from the content of the book.

  It does not condone the seemingly one-sided, biased review in the M&G, which is fraught with factually incorrect statements and sweeping generalisations contained in the book, and in Van Wyk’s interviews.

It is apparent from a reading of the book that the study was based on Van Wyk’s alleged experience in only one branch of the church – the Smith Street cathedral in Durban.

This is a very limited sample that is then extrapolated to reflect the entire organisation.

The ethics and reliability of basing such a study on a very limited sample is dubious and cannot be said to be representative of the entire organisation.

It is also apparent that the “fieldwork” on which the book is alleged to be based was, according to the book, done in 2004, yet the information in the book has not been updated to reflect more recent developments. It is questionable whether research should reflect such clear hostility, open bias and judgmental deductions.

  The board of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God objects to the tone of the alleged research and the interviews, a position the author herself admits was also expressed by her team during the publication process. – Nametso Mofokeng, public relations department, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God


Big leap from Homo naledi to the Nubians

  Cassandra Puren’s letter (Ancient Egypt has no relevance to Homo naledi) misses the point. Of course Homo naledi has very little to do with ancient Egypt or, for that matter, any recorded history of our species, Homo sapiens.

Homo naledi lived so long ago that it would be like trying to link the Neanderthals to World War II. My letter simply cleared up some pseudo-history.

On the Nubians, there are some things Puren gets wrong.

First, the Nubian languages are not related to the Semitic languages at all. Ancient Egyptian is an Afro-Asiatic language, a distant relative of Hebrew, Arabic, Akkadian, Aramaic and Amharic, among others. The Nubian languages belong to a completely separate language family, Nilo-Saharan. There is no convincing evidence that the two language families are related at all.

Second, the genetic study of ancient Egyptian remains indicates that their genetic make-up was different from that of Nilo-Saharan populations further south.

The Egyptians had more in common genetically with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern populations.

You would find Nubians buried in Egypt, but they are different from Egyptians. They had quite different bone structures and overall phenotypes.

  The Nubians did conquer Egypt, but Egyptian civilisation had been there for some time already – there were 11 dynasties before Piankhy. – Martin Evans, Johannesburg

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