The death of degrees…and universities?

Parents save their hard earned cash for years to ensure that their children have the opportunity to attend university. Some scholar’s social lives and fingernails are in tatters from the strain to gain a scholarship or bursary, just to have the chance to study at places like Harvard or MIT.

The cost of a university education rules out millions of people from ever having the advantage of a degree. Should the socio-economic world we are born into dictate our future?

What if a university education was free AND top class?

Today we have massive resources online at our disposal. People across the globe can access this information through their cell phones or computers. With this vehicle, there are new ways to gain a quality education, free of charge.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have given a chance to those less fortunate to gain the skills required for higher learning and special skills.

According to the BBC, at Harvard University, more people signed up with MOOCs in a single year than have graduated from Harvard throughout its 378 year history.

Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t have seemed possible. Today, institutions like Harvard and MIT have set up Edx, an online education platform offering Harvard lectures and short courses, free of charge, to anyone who has an internet connection.

The first online course offered by Harvard drew 155,000 students from 163 countries. That’s more than all the students that have ever graduated from MIT, all within the first week.

Is this the beginning of the end for universities and its ‘passport to life’ idea?

Much like in newspapers, the old school traditional approach has had to change rapidly in order to stay afloat. Many newspapers were casualties of not adapting fast enough.

Khan Academy is a famous non-profit educational organisation practicing online. Their mission statement is “Learn almost anything. Completely free, forever,” and they have already changed the way classrooms operate throughout the United States.

A ‘flipped-classroom’ approach has been adopted in many schools, where children use Khan Academy at home to learn new concepts, such as fractions or equations, through watching fun educational videos and playing math games. During school hours, the teacher will go through the exercises already completed by the students in order to focus on their specific areas of weakness.

Could university lecturers turn into tutors in a similar manner?

The socio-economic bias is somehow still present in the online model, with 80% of enrolled MOOC students already having a degree.

This is changing though. People from around the world are taking part on discussions and online forums, learning and benefiting from Ivy League schools. The chances of gaining a Harvard style education for those less fortunate have never been more exceptional.

Udacity.com have found an exceptional way of profiting from this new trend. Udacity have teamed up with Silicon Valley to offer courses made by Google and Facebook, specifically catering to the people they need in the industry. Completing these courses will dramatically increase ones chance of getting a job in this field.
These unique courses are offered at a fraction of the cost of a university course.

Added to this is the fact that you could do these courses in your own time, anywhere you want. You could gain work experience or get a job that still pays the bills while you are studying. No need to sit in classes or hand in assignments, everything is done online.

Obviously there are degrees and courses that will almost certainly require a University and the need to be physically present in class – Medicine being an obvious example – but the old models of three year degrees in philosophy and psychology for example, seem to be struggling to stay relevant in this new, unlimited world.

Universities are going through this crisis. They are facing some scary possibilities of economy redundant. Some might say that it is unfair towards these institutions of tradition and heritage…but then again, wasn’t it an unfair model in the first place?

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Cape Town’s “DOPE” new skatepark ready for the world

The excitement is growing around the Cape Town skateboarding community as the opening of the award winning skate park in Gardens is set to launch on Saturday. 338 people have already confirmed their attendance of the launch on Facebook.

Tweets of anticipation and excitement for the park blew up today as the Cape Town media were allowed to test out the park. Here is one of the first pictures released of the completed park.

Excitement from the masses began on Facebook and Twitter, saluting the event set to open at 12:00 on Saturday, the 2nd of August.

Skate

With the opening of the brand, spanking new park, we decided to show you the three of the raddest skate parks in the world, according to some.

How do you think the newest addition in Cape Town stacks up?

1) Marseilles Skatepark (Bowl Marseilles)

One of the best skateparks in Europe.

2) Kona Skatepark

A park in Jacksonville in the States is known for its insane snakerun.

Video by Adam Gonzalez

3) Black Pearl Skatepark

Is rated as one of the best and biggest skatepark in the world. Looking at this aerial shot shows you why.

Image on cooler.com

The Mill Park Skatepark won the award from  in an international design competition earlier this year.

The Pit in Bree Street is hosting a invitational skate competition on Saturday evening. Cape Town will be running riot with skaters on Saturday and if you are one of them, be sure to send us a tweet or pic of your sickest trick.

Click here for the awesome Mill Park Skate blog.

All talk and no play makes the AU a dull toy

 

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“Every country, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, the real Muslims who are Salafism, or you are with Obama, Francois Hollande, George Bush, Clinton, Abraham Lincoln and Ban-Ki Moon, and any unbeliever. Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill. This war is against Christians.”

These are Abubakar Shekau’s words in a video released concerning the 276 girls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Shekau, the leader of the militant group, is clad in fatigues and flanked by a group of men clutching AK-47’s, their faces covered by the Islam cloth, keffiyeh.

The abduction of the Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram has soared around the world via social media. International press has lambasted Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, and the African Union (AU) for their tardiness in dealing with the crisis.

Subsequently five West African countries have met with Francois Hollande, the French president, to ask for aid in handling this volatile situation. The United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) have offered support and the United Nations (UN) has just placed sanctions on Boko Haram.

What has the AU done about this fiasco?

In an AU press release regarding the most recent attacks on the 20th of May, the AU Chairperson of the Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, speaks of ‘heartfelt condolences’ to those affected and wishes ‘strength and a speedy recovery’.

Since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, where Africa looked helplessly on as the massacre took place, an initiative was set up to prevent massacres like these from occurring again. This initiative was called The Standby Brigades.

According to The Guardian, “T Standby Brigades would answer to the AU’s peace and security council, the continental equivalent of the UN security council. The aimwas to produce a rapidly deployable force and that by 2012 two units, each 2,500 strong, could be operational within just 14 days.

“The US poured money into the initiative, providing $500m to train up to 50,000 African troops. British involvement was also substantial, with more than £110m a year being invested via the African Conflict Prevention Pool for nearly a decade.”

In Jacob Zuma’s speech in 2014, condemning the Boko Haram, he mentions the problems facing the AU. “Part of the capacity needed by the AU is the establishment of the African Standby Force for rapid deployment in crisis areas without delays.”

Twenty years after The Standing Brigades initiative, there are still no forces.

The AU still has no defense system in place that can adequately handle African conflicts. Boko Haram carries on its insurgency in Nigeria as a consequence.

Boko Haram is not a new problem

The Islamist fundamentalists have been carrying out attacks in earnest since 2009, bombing, killing and raping in Nigeria and Cameroon. The recent kidnapping has been crucial in sparking a universal effort to bring Boko Haram to justice. There are many abroad who doubt whether Jonathan and the AU would have done anything for the kidnapped girls or other attacks if the international media and leaders didn’t jump on the case.

Africans too are taking notice of this lack of response, “According to New Zimbabwe.com, Joseph Chinotimba, a prominent Zimbabwean politician, said in a recent speech to parliament, “This [kidnapping] should be something that as Parliament we must condemn and I kindly appeal to government together with other nations to send soldiers to Nigeria and deal with this Boko Haram.”

South African artist and activist, Ntsiki Mazwai, said on eNCA, “It is unfortunate that it is not an African country that is coming to the aid of Africa.” The ANCYL (Youth league) leader, Bandile Masuku, stated, “… we believe that the African Union must rise to the occasion and Africans must have the necessary capacity to respond to African problems.”

The AU has done a lot of good for Africa too

The AU has assisted in the destruction of colonization in Africa and maintaining peace in countries such as Rwanda. According to The Guardian, “Africa indubitably registered some commendable progress under the AU. This is particularly true with regard to peace and security as well as economic growth and in countries’ economic performance.

“A number of countries that went through a violent conflict in the 1990s, including Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have made remarkable progress.”

The AU is still ill-equipped though to handle the extent of conflict in its own continent. Therefore, Nigeria and other countries attend meetings in Paris and Brussels to ask for aid from the past colonialists.

Dr Simphiwe Sesanti, a journalism lecturer in media ethics in Stellenbosch, believes there is a deeper underlying problem when it comes to African countries seeking international help,

“How do you expect an organization [AU] to function when you have denied the people the type of education that will give them the power to do things for themselves? Those people will be completely dependent on you [colonials] for a long time, if not forever.

“Tie their hands and feet and ask them to run and compete with you. That’s why you can’t have African solutions in Nigeria just yet.”

This may be one of the reasons for the lack of ambition the AU has shown. It has been fifty one years since Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana spoke at the opening of the African Union,

“We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent. We need a common defense system with African high command to ensure the stability and security of Africa … We will be mocking the hopes of our people if we show the slightest hesitation or delay in tackling realistically this question of African unity.”

Boko Haram has cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the AU and their measures for peace keeping. Currently, as The Guardian stated, “From Bamako to Bangui, ordinary African men and women have cowered and waited, hoping that western troops or UN peacekeepers will come to their aid.”

Until the AU finds a way of dealing with conflict on African soil, past colonial ties continue to be the African way of dealing with African problems.

Anthony Molyneaux is a post-graduate journalism student and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

The life and times of now

By Anthony Molyneaux

On the 17th of March 2014, scientists and radio astronomers made a spectacular breakthrough. The big bang made a giant leap toward unquestionable evidence of its existence, lending itself toward our existence. Radio astronomers detected ripples in the fabric of space-time. These ripples are called gravitational waves and show proof of a catastrophic event happening 13.8 billion years ago which created our universe.

Debates over the Earth’s age and how it was formed have undergone many changes over the past 200 years due to scientific discoveries and works by scientists. Questions of how long human beings have been on Earth and how we came about have also been discussed.

On the 24th November 1859, Charles Darwin’s book called “On the Origin of Species” was published. This publication spoke of natural selection and was the one of the biggest players in evolutionary biology.

People’s ideas of time and the universe have grossly changed since the mid-19th century due to findings and scientific studies such as these. With science came change as the proof of something measurable was paramount against the theories and teachings of some churches and leaders. Our perceptions of time and the importance of the Earth in the make-up of the universe have altered immensely.

We now know that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. Our solar system is probably 4-5 billion years old and that Earth is definitely not at the centre of the universe. So how did the concept of time change? And what has it done for our societies?

A simple example given to us as the life span of Earth and humans relative to the big bang exists in University of Rochester’s detailed Department of Physics and Astronomy website.

“If we compress the time since the Big Bang into one year, and make the time of the Big Bang January 1, then the Earth was formed in mid-September. The mammals would arrive just after Christmas (25 December) and all of human prehistory (from the first known stone tools) and current history have occurred in the last 1/2 hour of New Year’s Eve.”

Creationists have fought hard against the big bang theory and evolution – They have taught that the Earth is 6000 years old, that Earth is at the centre of the universe and man was created by the power of God. Throughout time there have been many ideas and beliefs over the creation of the cosmos. Creation stories all have similar backgrounds. The Hebrews, for example, believed the universe was created by God in 6 days, beginning from a formless void.

In the twenty-first century things have changed. The research from ‘Opinions on evolution from ten countries July 2nd, 2009, National Center for Science Education’ and the BBC’s Survey, “On The Origins Of Life” recorded figures in areas such as Canada, India, Norway and the U.K. 48% and above of the population believe in evolution and the big bang theory.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, about 43% of Americans believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

Time, being a human construct, is a difficult thing to define, yet it provides us with a framework to live by. In 2014 we know now that we as a species have been in existence for a frightfully short period of time in the bigger scale of things.

Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”, also made his feelings known about creationists. He stated that he believed the creationist view “threaten science education and innovations in The United States.” Schools have undergone changes due to the discoveries of science. People for the American Way polled 1500 North Americans about the teaching of evolution and creation in 1999. The results showed that 29% believed that creationism can be discussed in class as a belief, not a scientific theory. Twenty percent believed only evolution should be taught in public schools.

Humans were seen as the superior being across the galaxies, a chosen people, just a few hundred years ago. Times are changing; excuse the pun, yet our importance shouldn’t be underestimated due to further knowledge, says the famous astrophysicist Dr Neil Degrasse Tyson. He speaks of our worthiness in our universe,

“When I look up at the night sky, I know that we are a part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps most important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us. Many people look up and feel small as the universe is so big. Yet, I feel big because my atoms came from those stars. There is a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want from life, you want to feel connected. You want to feel relevant. That’s precisely what you are, just by being alive.”

Apartheid in Israel, states Israeli Peace Activist

A two-state solution between Israel and Palestine is impossible says Mike Peled, an Israeli peace activist, at his talk on the Israel-Palestine topic yesterday in Stellenbosch.

PSC Stellenbosch promoted the discussion as part of the Israel Apartheid week. Peled and PSC are striving to gain international support to eradicate the oppression against the Palestinian people and form a humanitarian solution in Israel.

Acclaimed poet, painter and committed opponent of apartheid, Breyton Breytenbach opened the proceedings. Breytenbach spoke of the Apartheid reign in South Africa and the oppression he believes to be occurring against the Palestinian people. “People in that part of the world have developed very brutal ways of disqualifying the discourse of the other.” said Breytenbach

Peled spoke of the injustices committed against the Palestinian people in their homeland. He depicts the Israeli forces as having one of the strongest armies in the world. The way the Israelis are using this power, in his belief, is tyrannical. Peled describes the Palestinian resistance as being an unarmed resistance. “There is no balance in this issue so you cannot present it in a balanced way.” Peled said of his talk.

Peled believes Zionists are responsible for the removal of Palestinians from their homeland. The terrorist government, as Peled calls the Zionists, incites fear in the people by portraying Palestinians as terrorists. He repeatedly refers to the Zionists as colonists and running a racist regime.

The Israeli-Palestinian topic is a highly contentious one and comments were fired at Peled after his presentation. “He doesn’t live in Israel, so he doesn’t even know what’s going on in Israel” states Rebecca Avera, an attendee of the talk who doesn’t buy everything Peled has been saying about the Israeli government’s motives.

Peled lives in San Diego and much of his criticism comes from this displacement from his birthplace, Israel.

The turning point for Peled and his family arrived when Peleds sister’s daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in protest to their treatment by the Zionist government. This ignited a response from Peled, even though he is Israeli, and he blamed the Israeli government as being responsible for the death of the child due to their oppression of the Palestinian people.

Peled believes the Israeli army is the best fed terrorist organization in the world. Peled calls to remove the Zionist regime and create a democracy in Israel thereby living together in shared humanity. “I urge everyone to line up behind the banner of equality and freedom and democracy for everybody in Palestine with equal rights”.

Peled’s book, “The General’s Son; Journey of an Israeli in Palestine” was also promoted and sold on site.