Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Helderberg Students are Blogging

I experienced a very interesting coincidence today:

Over the week-end a distant relative visited our dormitory. He is a fire-safety engineer who specialises in installing electronic equipment to detect and warn of fires. He gave me some very good advice. He also left his e-mail for me to contact him. His name is Adrian Erasumus, and I must have taken his e-mail address down incorrectly. aerasmus@XXXX.XX

So I started e-mailing him. He never responded. Until this afternoon when Andre Erasmus responded. He tells me that I've been e-mailing the wrong person, but that he also studies at Helderberg. That is quite a co-incidence.

And in his e-mail signature I found the following address. http://aerasmus.blogspot.com .

It is exciting to know that our college students are also blogging. It is a pity he is not a resident in our dormitory. He does not know how much he is missing. He still needs to be truly converted. The fact that he does not live in dorms make it a bit difficult to take his blog very seriously.

But it is still nice to know that he is blogging. I'll be checking up on him every once in a while.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Vodacom Rant: Poor coverage at Helderberg

If you are a prospective student who plan to come to study at Helderberg College, I want to make one very practical suggestion to you.

Try by all means to use MTN as your cellphone service provider. MTN recently installed a transmitter/transponder/antennae? (whatever) on top of one of the buildings on our campus and you can have hours of leisurely conversation.

I have the misfortune of being bound to a contract by Vodacom and since I have arrived at this College cellphone communication has been a real nightmare. You might even have noticed it if you tried to call me or send me an urgent SMS. I frequently have my cellphone with me, and it is switched on, but I just cannot receive a signal. If I move about 200 metres up or down the hill, the signal is perfect, but in Salisbury House, there is almost no signal.

To the best of my knowledge, CellC, and the new Virgin service providers also make use of the Vodacom network. The signal for these service providers is equally bad.

Switch to MTN. I plan to do so, and with the latest regulations, I will be able to do so without changing my telephone number.

I might change my mind, however if Vodacom improves the signal on our campus.

I just discovered a tool that might help speed this up:

Vodacom allows a person to make requests about network coverage on their website in order to improve their service.
If you are a resident at Helderberg College, I want to encourage you to send your request for better Vodacom Coverage to this website. I would love to see them improve their service in this area.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 28 November

It turns out that Vodacom's customer care people have been very friendly. I received an e-mail asking for more information. I provided this to them and this morning I received a phone call asking for even more information. They said that they would try to send out a technician to assess the situation. The requested me to provide them with the names of a few other people who experience the same problem. I was at a staff function, so I managed to get 12 names in 4 or 5 minutes. I am sure that with a bit of effort I would be able to push this number up to 100.

I am hopeful that I will be able to give an excellent report of Vodacom Customer Service when the problem is solved.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I am not really a sentimental person. I am therefore surprised that I am actually a bit sad about some of the students who are leaving.

Last night I had two phone calls within a short time of each other from two Matric Students who have finished school and are leaving. Musa, called and told me that he arrived safely in Durban. Joshua SMS'd to say that he just crossed the border into Zimbabwe. He apologised for being such a pain. That is interesting because we did have some fights, but both of these guys were also some of my best friends and I would describe myself as one of their biggest fans.

This evening I heard a great noise in a room below me and found the Argentinian and Brazilian students having a party with Alcohol Free Champagne made in the western cape and chocolate biscuits made in South America. They were saying good-bye to Carlos, who is leaving tomorrow after two semesters of studying English at the college.

Again I am going to be missing these guys. They came with such an open spirit and a sense of adventure. I really enjoyed their fun-loving natures.
This is the party in room 14 as Carlos gets ready to leave tomorrow. All five of these guys are leaving in the next week. They all come from South-America. Not one of them ever regrets coming to South Africa.

These are all the graduating English Language Institute students at the informal graduation ceremony held last week Thursday.
And this is TJ. He is only leaving for a few weeks. When he returns he will be the Assistant Dean. We won't miss him too much. We know he will be back full of ideas and energy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Outing to Beach

Well, there is not much to be said about an outing to the beach. All the usual apply: wind, sunsets, food, volleyball, and some more wind ...

We advertised this outing by appealing to the romantic side of beach outings. The pictures below tries to capture some of that. It was our last official college outing for the year. Next week is graduation, and then everybody will hopefully go home for the summer-break.

This is what TJ and Matodzi, two of my Resident assistants must look like to a Grade 8 boy who comes to the dormitory. VERY BIG!

Aldo and Stacey further away from each other than they normally are.

Luvuyo Veli, one of our graduating students for 2006. He was particularly romantic this evening. (I have another photo of him that I promised I would not put on the blog, unless he misbehaves in the next week or so.)

Lukhanyo is going to be in Grade 12 next year. Here he is wishing that he had a girlfriend that looked like this.

Refilwe is in a contemplative mode. Usually he is incredibly active.

Did I mention that the wind was blowing? This is the most sheltered spot we could find for Sabbath closing worship. And yes, that is TJ in the pink shirt telling us to live life to its fullest (or something like that).

A typical feature of high school romance is that there is a lot of bullying, bumping, chasing, and pinching going on. I'm not quite sure who went into the sea over here. The problem is that both got wet.

And in every group there are the guys who are just pre-ordained to be alone. So they develop different strategies. These three formed their own group and decided to become street musicians.

This one (Otto) became involved with all the technicalities of the evening: setting up Volleyball nets. It came right down again because the wind was too strong.

The Angolan guys decided to use ultimate stylishness to try to attract the girls:

My name is Darcy. I'm from Angola and I'm trying to attract the girls.

"We are Mirless and Eshmael. We wear cool sunglasses and Nike shirts. We hope the girls will fall for us."
And if the girls aren't interested, there is always food from Nando's!

The evening was very successful and by the time that we were on the way back home on the bus, several eyes were drooping. Thanks guys for coming with us!

(Sleep well, Mirless, Bulumko and Zwakhele)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Near Tragedy


Today was one of those wild days, made even wilder when I received a phone call from a member of the Helderberg community that one of my dorm students went through the windscreen of a car. I rushed down to the 4-way stop at the Spar, at the intersection of Helderberg College road and the Steynsrust road.

And there I found three police vans, a tow-truck, a badly dented Toyota Tazz, and a smiling, but shaken up Musa Wilken Khumalo sporting a huge gash in his eye-brow (at least 3 cm's long and open right to the bone).

Musa had just written his last Matric exam on Friday. He was on his way to Pick & Pay to buy some things. He was on a bicycle. He must have picked up a lot of speed down the steep Helderberg College road and somehow he misjudged the strength of his brakes. He found himself in the middle of the intersection at the same time as the Toyota Tazz. He rammed into the driver's door. His arms went through the driver's window and he bumped his head into the metal part of the door.

It seems as though the driver was also injured. She went to the doctor to have her injuries tended to while Musa had to make police statements and while we waited for an ambulance. The driver's husband came to manage the situation on her behalf. Their side of the story is particularly tragic because the car was in the process of being sold. Apparently the new owner was going to collect the car on the next day. I am feeling very sorry for the owner of the vehicle.

I am however grateful that Musa was not hurt more badly, and that he lives to tell the tale. He almost died when the doctor injected him with the anesthetic to administer 6 or 7 stitches.

Musa was not wearing a safety helmet. This incident re-iterates the importance of taking the proper safety precautions when riding on bicycles or any other vehicle for that matter.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Oral History Wednesday

Salisbury House received a most interesting visit yesterday from Dr. Gerladine T. Hess. She is the Vice President of the Adventist Heritage Ministry and a Marriage and Family Therapist. She lives in Florida.

Her father, was Frank E. Thompson. And he was the person responsible for building the structure that we now live in. He built it in 1927.

In some ways the structure remain the same. The beautiful high ceilings and extremely thick brick walls (go have a look how thick the wall is at the entrance to the bathrooms!) The wooden floors etc. But in the early years the dormitory did not have 58 rooms as it has today. It had several large sleeping halls.

Dr. Hess told an interesting story about Ps. C.C Marais, who was the first dormitory dean to ever work in the dormitory (1928, 1931, 1933-38, and 1940-45). He had a very big nose (In fact, there is a rock outside Maluti Hospital that has earned itself the name: Henry's Nose).

Ps. Marais was very strict about the kind of music that students listened to and he was able to exert full control. He would watch the students as they listened to music. If they were tapping their feet to the beat of the music he would tell them to switch it off. The students quickly learned that they could listen to almost any music as long as they did not tap their feet.

I was an honor to be visited by Dr. Hess. It would be nice to get some more of these anecdotes from the past.

Dr. Geraldine Hess and her son (who works as Business Manager at Maluti Hospital in Lesotho)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Student Career and Money Matters

One of my favorite blogs that I regularly read is: Get Rich Slowly. It provides practical advice on personal money matters and finance. In my own life I have made a few very silly financial choices and I am still trying to recover from them. I wish I had known better at the time that I graduated. What I like about Get Rich Slowly is that the author emphasises the fact that students can determine a lot of their financial future during their time as students.

Here is one interesting article about student work and the opportunities that it provides: How to Get the Most out of a College Job.

Here is another interesting article on how to handle your money matters as a student: 27 Money Tips for College Students.

I often get to sort students' mail and I realise that many students have several credit accounts at clothing stores. Students also tend to fall behind in payment of doctors' bills and credit accounts. Such accounts are incredibly damaging to a person's financial health. In South Africa they usually cause a person to pay more than 20% interest. If you have fallen into the trap of opening these accounts it might be worth reading about the Debt Snowball Method of getting rid of them.

Let me know if you need some support and advice on your money matters. Maybe we can find creative ways to tackle the problems that you experience. It also helps to sometimes have more than one person think about the problems that a person face.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

We came, we saw, we were thrown into the pool!

Katleho is the Assistant Dean for 2006.

Katleho is one of the biggest and strongest students in the dormitory. You do not want to be in his way when he loses his temper (although this does not happen all that frequently).

Katleho is actually quite fun loving. Sometimes he tends to get involved with some questionable activities, like throwing an unsuspecting student into the swimmingpool (This sometimes happens when the person has a birthday).

In fact, earlier in the year Katleho was involved with a spate of these activities and several students got really wet. I eventually had to put a stop to this behaviour because it is potentially dangerous and it infringes on people's human rights.

The interesting thing is that in the four years that Katleho studies at Helderberg, nobody has ever put him into the pool. HE MADE THE MISTAKE TO TELL SOMEBODY ABOUT THIS! And last night I chose to just turn a blind eye when a few of the strongest students of Helderberg College decided to work together to put him into the pool.

This was very entertaining and almost the whole dormitory was involved (another indication of Katleho's formidable strength.)

A very brave high school student (whose identity I will rather not reveal) took some photos:

This photo depicts the effort involved. At this point Katleho is thinking, "Why, o Why did I ever brag about the fact that nobody has ever taken me to the pool in 4 years!"

I count twelve people who are actively involved in the actual process of getting him into the pool. There were about 50 people watching from the stairs.

He Swims!

Disclaimer: This activity is potentially very dangerous. We do not encourage it. In fact it is strongly discouraged. As dean I am strongly of the opinion that it can do more harm than good and I am committed to protect all students from this kind of behaviour. (But secretly I must admit, that Katleho deserved it! )

The A-team for 2007

Well, the suspense is over and I am more than happy to announce a really interesting team that will help with the management of the dormitory for 2007.

The Assistant Dean:

Theodore-John Knipe:

TJ worked as RA for this year and it was felt that his service was of such a nature that he could be promoted to AD.

Resident Assistant:

Peter Webster:

Peter is quiet, but he has a passion for the dormitory and a vision. He gets along well with the High School guys and he is very excited to be part of the team who organise worships on campus. We are happy to welcome him to our team.

Resident Assistant:

Zandisile Ntshiza:

Zandisile was so surprised when I asked him if he would do this job that I could not get a final answer out of him for about 4 hours! When he applied he never thought that he would get it. He has been unable to stay in the dormitory, but his leadership and contribution in other areas of the campus was noticed by almost all the members of the Deans' Council. We are very happy to welcome him into the dormitory and we trust that he will continue to be of a good example and leader to us.

I hope to post some photos very soon.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Setting up a management team

It is the time of the year where we say good-bye to a number of our students. I hope to spend some time in the next two weeks developing profiles of the students that are leaving. We are going to be sorry to lose them.

This year I am losing two of my resident assistants. (If you don't know, the College appoints three students to assist the dean with the management of the men's residence.)

These resident assistant positions are some of the most responsible student leadership positions in the College. They come with some status, but they are also accompanied by a lot of very hard work. Work hours are irregular, responsibilities are quite large, and most RA's remark that other people do not really appreciate how hard they work. (In the last 10 years the College awarded two rewards to students who have made an exceptional contribution to life at the College. In both occasions these students were Assistant Deans - Sinneh Koroma, and Andile Masuku. This is another indication of the possibilities that the positions give for leadership)

Interestingly enough there is always great interest in this position! I like this. It means we are succeeding in one of the goals in the College. We are inspiring people with a passion for service and a vision to become leaders.

Because of the responsibilities that the College place on these students, the College management (Dean's council) generally does not appoint these positions on the basis of popular vote. We don't even follow the normal application process. We nominate names based on previous involvement and interest in the dormitory and then we decide. (In the social climate that we live in, this is not always accepted, and sometimes students feel that the process is unfair. It would be nice to have some debate on this.)

Anyway: Tomorrow the Dean's council will be meeting to discuss the following names. Some of them were suggested by the Dean, others were nominated by various students and leaders in the College. Some even came to me and expressed interest. In my mind each one of the following names will make excellent assistants. It is going to be interesting to see who eventually gets the position.

We will in all likelihood ask TJ Knipe to become the Assistant dean as he is the only one of the assistants who are not leaving, and because he has proven himself to be an involved and reliable leader.

The other two positions will be filled by one of the following people:

Thulane Mkhize
Sduduzo Blose
Nkosinathi Maneli
Mpho Mtombeni
Peter Webster
Loyiso Manga
Zandisile (Not a dormitory student)

The fact that these students names are on the short list is already an indication that we see them as having great potential. Hey! You can even point your prospective employer in a year or two's time to this blog and show them that somebody thought highly about you.

It is going to be interesting to see who will make part of the team. To those who don't make it: take comfort in the fact that we appreciate you and that there will be further opportunities for leadership in the future.

(I'd love to hear your comments on these guys.)