The Importance of Mathematics

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The importance of mathematics proficiency

One hundred critical and scarce skills are identified as being necessary for the South African economy to grow. Ninety-three of these skills include passing mathematics by at least 50%. However, there was a steady decline in the number of Grade 12 students taking mathematics as a subject since 2012.

In 2014, only 12% of 2014 matric students achieved more than 50% in the maths exams. The Minister of Education confirmed that 327 public and some low-cost private schools offer maths literacy only, instead of pure mathematics. The reason may be that these schools do not have the required qualified staff for teaching maths. It is, therefore, easier to teach mathematical literacy instead.

The current number of qualified mathematics teachers is unknown and projections of the number of suitably qualified teachers needed to teach at this level is not available.

What are the socio-economic implications for South Africa if this situation continues?

  • A declining economy because the need for technical skills where maths proficiency is key is not met
  • Rising unemployment
  • Unemployable young people are released annually from high schools and further education institutions
  • The labour market cannot accommodate them with their current level of skills.
  • Xenophobia and social unrest
  • Increased poverty
  • Health deterioration
  • Increased dependence on state resources

Suggestions to address the shortage of mathematically proficient citizens:

  • Develop and include mathematical concepts in indigenous languages. Universities should focus on developing syllabuses to this effect.
  • Gather data and do projections for the number of teachers needed for teaching mathematics up to Grade 12
  • Supplying teachers capable of teaching maths in their mother tongue should be the focus of universities and teaching colleges
  • Include indigenous languages in the teaching syllabus from Grade 1 to 12. Every child or student should be taught in his mother tongue.

The education system’s inability to deliver tutoring in the mother tongue of the pupils is at the root of the problem. Universities and colleges should take urgent action to address this shortcoming.

Teachers should have the ability to teach, but who should teach the teacher?



The Health Benefits of Laughter

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The Countless Health Benefits of Laughter

Milton Berle once said that “laughter is an instant vacation” and there are many who would agree with him and say that laughter can relieve stress. Steve Wilson, a psychologist, stated that he believes “that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off… they might be healthier too.” And many studies about laughter and its affect on the body have been undertaken.

Each of us can attest that laughing – even if it is just at a silly joke – makes us feel better. Doctor Scott Weems said in an interview that “comedy is like a mental exercise” and Charlie Chaplin once said that “a day without laughter is a day wasted”. But what are the affects of laughter on our bodies and why does it make us feel better?

Well, laughter reduces stress hormone levels and triggers the release of endorphines. This means that laughter does have a physical influence in making you feel better and happier. Just think of the last time you had a really good laugh – didn’t you feel less stressed and happier afterwards? But it’s not just your stress hormone levels which are reduced. Laughter can also lower your blood pressure as it improves the flow of blood.

Your immune system may also get a boost from laughter, as it may boost the T cells in your immune system. Another health benefit is that laughter may relieve pain. Although it may not get rid of all types of pain or get rid of it completely, a 2011 study by researchers from Oxford University did find that laughing may relieve pain.

As a cherry on top, laughter is also good for your mind. Doctor Scott Weems, a cognitive neuroscientist, found in his research that people who were exposed to comedy are better able to answer semantic associates tasks.

These are just a few ways in which laughter can help you in your everyday life. Why not try to bring more laughter into your life through comedic films or books? There is even laughter therapy available, should you want to take that route.


Author: Carin Marais

Carin Marais writes web articles, guest and blog posts, and fiction. To contact Carin for articles and guest posts, or to read her work, go to her website, her blog Hersenskim or follow her on @CarinMarais.

HOMO NALEDI – More Answers or More Questions?

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HOMO NALEDI – The Missing Link?

With the revealing of new found Homo naledi fossil in September 2015, in the Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng, one might wonder if it will finally provide the answer to the missing link for evolutionists as some might believe, between man and ape (if there was any) or does it now rise even more questions? Some of these questions will remain hanging, especially while the fossils could not be dated yet and might not be for years to come, as two dating methods already failed. According to Wikipedia, the lineage to which the Homo naledi belonged suggests it could have lived 2.5 to 2.8 million years ago. Nonetheless, this marked super exciting times, especially for paleoanthropologist and also National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Professor Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS).

Triumph for Berger – at last!

After Berger started working for the WITS University in the early 1990’s, he battled to prove others in his field wrong believing that the roots of our species lies in East Africa. He believed that South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind holds the answers. Almost 20 years with minor findings would seem to strengthen the ideas of his counterparts, until he and his son found primitive hominin fossils sticking out of rocks about 16 kilometres from the Rising Star caves in 2008. After he called on recreational cavers to be on the lookout for any fossils, Steve Tucker and Rick Hunter finally discovered the chamber in 2013 in the cave explored by many others before, including themselves.

Underground Astronauts

Within a few days, Berger was snowed under with applications after his requests on social media for a specific kind of scientists to do caving work, some two years before the big announcement. They would remove the Homo naledi fossils from the Dinaledi chamber deep inside the Rising Star cave system. This followed the accidental discovery of this chamber by the two cavers (Tucker and Hunter) while looking for new discoveries. The two men are both of slender build, however one of them dislocated a shoulder while pushing through the narrow area on his way out. Apart from the obvious criteria of certain qualifications and skills, the cavers had to be of petite built to fit through a very narrow (18 centimetres) part followed by a 12 metre vertical shaft, the only entrance to the cave. Six women from all over the world, comically referred by Berger as his underground astronauts, were chosen for this delicate but extremely dangerous and difficult work.

Most Peculiar Graveyard

Although the ritual of burying the dead in a common place was always solely a human trait, all evidence point to the Homo naledi disposing of their dead into the complete isolated and almost inaccessible Dinaledi chamber. A large amount of skeletons from all ages being dumped over a vast period of time were found. The bodies were supposedly placed through the narrow opening into the chamber around the time of their death. It would be impossible for the fossils being carried into the chamber by water or predators, or by any other means for that matter. No other type of fossil was found amongst those of the Homo naledi.

Interesting, no doubt!

  • This species has both human (hands for tool usage, feet and their burial rituals) as well as ape like characteristics (shoulders for climbing and a small brain). Biology found enough features to categorise it into the hominin species. When aged, it could change what was known about human development before, says Professor Berger.

  • The average H. naledi was about 1.5 metres in height and 45 kilograms in weight with a small brain similar to earlier Homo species.

  • The bones of fifteen individuals were found to date (1 550 fossil pieces), but according to Berger, this is just the tip of the iceberg and many more is still to be found.

  • It is still unclear how they could move around within in the deep dark passages. Could they have used some kind of fire torch?

The Evolution Debacle

The famous saying goes: Desperate times call for desperate measures. As far as it goes for the evolution of our world and it’s habitants, a saying of Modern times call for modern measures might apply. Everything is ever evolving forever more. The one constant in life we can count on is change. Different types of evolution take place every single day in all areas of life, which doesn’t necessarily provide proof for any Darwin theories or question Moses’ creation theories in the Holy Bible. It is just as it is, thanks to our ever-changing modern life and technological inventions. We all have our own theories and whether we believe in the Bible or the big bang is up to every individual to decide for themselves. As long as we never stop learning, questioning and seize to change for the better.

Deforestation – the end of human life on the planet?


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Time to get real about sustainable life on earth

The World Forestry Congress in Durban has finally reached a place where experts are no longer beating about the bush: We are all going to die if we do not pay attention to what we (the human species) are doing to our planet. The truth can no longer sustain the awkward dance to the tunes played by greed and politics. The message is short and not-very-sweet: Preserve forests or the end is in sight.

Environmental activists, long relegated to the ranks of the criminally insane, have been right all along. But there is no satisfaction in the vindication. How sad it is when something so devastating is true. The world has lost forests the size of our country in very recent times. Communities from South America to Africa, from Nepal to Canada via Norway, depend on the forests for their livelihood. Some of these communities are desperately poor, in spite of the fact that their trees provide products to the design snobs of the wealthiest groups in the world. Those that shout green values the loudest are often the same people that insist on natural wood products from ancient trees.

Goran Person, president of Think Forest, suggests that a bold push for bio economy is the answer. Of course, but is it not too late already? Although the rate at which the world is cutting down its forests has slowed down in the past twenty years, the consequences of what went before cannot be reversed, and the process continues albeit slightly slower. United Nations Development representative, Martinez-Soliman, points out that some parts of the world are heading for disaster still. The world population continues to grow, in spite of the loss of life due to war and famine, flood and fire, earthquake and the biggest population migration (in the form of refugees) in the history of the world. That means more food will be required. Everybody knows commercial farming, and cutting down forests to create the space for it, is a short term solution.


  • More creative ways of producing food remain cumbersome and do not make the rich richer, so will they bother?
  • Most Africans to this day rely on biomass for fuel.
  • The global damage is irreversible. Forests give protection against climate change (trees absorb carbon dioxide). Deforestation worsens soil erosion, landslides and flood damage.
  • 2-billion people rely on forests for their livelihood of which an estimated 60-million indigenous people are entirely dependent on them.
  • The biggest losses of forested areas are in the tropical zones of Africa and South America.

The political will and the power of a vibrant social conscience lag behind science in this field. There are solutions, but humankind is too busy with more pressing challenges to address the biggest problem of them all. Join social initiatives and watch your own addiction to comforts that do harm. If we do not wake up our children’s children will have to flee to another planet. You’d better believe it!

Ref: BDlive

Deregulation and the Petrol Price

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Will deregulation lead to a lower petrol price?

Every month we all wait with bated breath for the announcement on the petrol price for the next month. Will it go up again? Will be we be lucky for a while? It is not only vehicle owners that are affected by the petrol price. Everybody is affected. A higher petrol price means a rise in food prices, a rise in transport prices; in fact, a rise in everything.

It is interesting to note that the petrol industry is the only industry in South Africa that is still regulated. Many analysts believe that deregulation of the petrol industry will immediately result in a sharp drop in the petrol price. “Not a chance!” says Peter Morgan, director of the Fuel Retailers Association. Morgan points out the following interesting facts about the petrol price to support his belief.

  • It is not the petrol price that causes a rise in prices; it is the diesel price! Consumer goods are transported with diesel, not petrol. And guess what? The diesel industry has been deregulated for some time! And what happened? The price of diesel immediately went up. The same thing will happen with the petrol price, says Morgan.

  • Why will the petrol price not drop after deregulation? Morgan says the answer is very simple. A very large percentage of the petrol price is made up of the price of crude oil and an astonishing variety of taxes and levies. The retail margin on the petrol price is a mere 7.24% while the wholesale margin is only 4.79%. So it comes down to this simple fact: retailers can scarcely afford to offer a lower petrol price because they already earn a pitiful profit margin.

This may indeed be the case, argue proponents of deregulation, but industry analysts forget about the very nature of a capitalist environment where competition is fierce. Why, for example, will a large retail group not offer a lower petrol price at their own petrol stations simply to attract customers to do their shopping at their shops? Think about it for a second: if you have to spend a certain amount at a certain retailer in order to qualify for a much reduced petrol price at the petrol station of that retailer, will you not rather shop there?

Perhaps deregulation should be put back on the agenda. I think the petrol price will drop, at least at some petrol stations.

Municipalities: Western Cape the Best

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Publication of Non-Financial Census of Municipalities

Western Cape provides best basic services

Statistics South Africa has just released their non-financial census of municipalities. This publication is published yearly and monitors the provision of free basic services and poverty alleviation programmes by municipalities. It provides baseline non-financial information from all 278 municipalities in the country. This information is used by policymakers and other interested parties for analysis, planning and monitoring purposes when it comes to delivering basic services such as water, electricity, sewerage and sanitation as well as solid waste management.

Stats SA kindly provides the following summary of the P9115 – Non-Financial Census of Municipalities for the year ended June 2014-report on their website: “The number of consumer units receiving services from municipalities increased between 2013 and 2014. The highest percentage increase from 2013 to 2014 in the provision of services was recorded in sewerage and sanitation (5,9%), followed by solid waste management (5,6%), electricity (4,6%) and water (3,9%).”

DA-lead Western Cape offers top free basic services to the poor

It is interesting to note that the official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) that runs the Western Cape Province, leads in all categories depicted in the latest non-financial census of municipalities. The Western Cape demonstrates the highest proportion of residents and/or consumers that benefited from:

  • Free basic water services (75.7%)

  • Free basic electricity services (44.9%)

  • Free basic sewerage and sanitation services (69%)

  • Free basic solid waste management services (52.8%)

Government should walk the talk and improve basic service delivery

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan launched the “Back to Basics”-strategy a year ago, promising that government will see to it that municipalities get basic services right, and heed concerns from the public.

The DA reckons ANC-lead municipalities are “lagging far behind” when it comes to delivering improved basic services. The DA wants all South Africans to live with dignity — the proof is in the pudding: the “DA-run Western Cape delivers the best free basic services to the poor”. Read the DA’s Service Delivery Policy here.


Quality venison production

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WS² positioned for quality venison production

Wildlife Stud Services (Pty) Ltd, also known as WS², is an independent wildlife registering authority that delivers up-to-the-minute genetic advisory services.

Genetic experts address challenges in wildlife breeding industry

WS² utilizes the revolutionary ILR2 (International Livestock Registry) software by ABRI, the Agricultural Business Research Institution.

The software takes into account the specific needs and challenges experienced by the South African Wildlife Industry. The registering, recording and genetic evaluation system has an enormous international user base involving 45 countries. Jointly the global databases depict more than 40 million farm and game animals!

Highly-trained genetic experts and front-running SA wildlife breeders also assisted in developing and adapting the highly-effective WS²-system to address the local state of affairs pertaining to the wildlife industry.

The quest for lucrative outlets for venison products

The SA game industry was severely affected when the European Union announced an immediate ban on beef and game meat exports in February 2011 due to SA losing its free from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) status.

In February 2014 the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) lifted the export ban and declared South Africa FMD-free. Since then meat export to certain EU countries was allowed to resume on a limited scale until the organisation is satisfied SA has the necessary bio-safety protocols in place to prevent new cases of foot-and-mouth developing.

According to Agriculture Minister, Senzeni Zokwana, the ban had cost SA an estimated R4bn. The challenge now is to negotiate SA’s re-entry into the profitable EU market and to find lucrative outlets. In an article by Gerhard Uys in Farmer’s Weekly, Charl de Villiers, head of game marketing at Mosstrich, remarked: “We’ll try to export to our previous clients, but in Europe, wholesalers plan ahead and if something has not been on a European menu for a long period, people forget.”

Genetics to play a significant role in venison production

Dr Paul Lubout, head genetic advisor and managing director of Wildlife Stud Services, reckons WS² is perfectly positioned to assist game breeders in bringing a more competitive product to the local and international markets. Genetic selection will boost game meat production and assure a sustainable and high-quality product.

Wildlife Breeders’ Journal 2016

WS² has just announced that they have started planning their Wildlife Breeders’ Journal for 2016. Members are welcome to book advertising space in this authoritative publication. Please contact WS² at for more information.


Uys, G. (2015). Farmer’s Weekly | Game exports after FMD. [online]

How to write a novel

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Want to write a novel?

Writing a novel is extremely hard work. The words don’t just jump on the pages as some would believe. Very few writers can write books off the top of their heads, in one go. Writing, more often than not, is a case of trial and error, and tiresome rewrite after rewrite. You spend hours in solitude, slaving to arrange and rearrange words and paragraphs so they hopefully make sense and tell a convincing story.

Ask writers how they write and you get a myriad of answers. Some swear they sit down and start typing whatever pops up in their heads. They don’t plan ahead and are just as surprised as the reader as to what their characters get up to and where the story takes them. Others insist on laboriously scheming and plotting preliminary outlines and character sketches before they even pen one word to paper.

Many aspiring writers search for articles on how to write a novel. They read all about planning and structuring their first draft. They learn about setting and plot, conflict, and how to keep up the suspense. In the end, they spend so much time reading about how to write a novel that they never actually get to the point where they start writing their novel.

There is no magic formula when it comes to novel-writing. George Orwell, author of Animal Farm (1945), had the following to say: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible (1998), advised: “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”

The best recommendation I could find on how to write a novel is stop procrastinating and to start writing. Keep at it no matter what and finish sentence after sentence, page after page, and chapter after chapter. Get the story out of your head and onto paper — that is the first and most important step in novel-writing.


Petit, Z. (2012, June 22). 72 of the Best Quotes about Writing. Retrieved Aug 9, 2015,

Quotes about writing. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2015, from is heaven

The South African Drought

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Why the nationwide drought should concern every South African

Drought is once more in the news, especially the punishing and disastrous drought conditions in the North West Province. The maize crop is in ruins and cattle are dying like flies. Many farmers are facing an extremely uncertain future; they are in debt and this terrible drought has persisted since 2010. But it is not only the North West Province that is suffering from drought. All over Kwa-Zulu Natal water restrictions are now in place. The Limpopo Province is in trouble, the Northern Cape Province had much less rain than what is deemed normal. South Africa is in trouble and the shortage of water is just another blow to a country already battered by one setback after another.

City dwellers often fail to understand just how serious a drought condition is. There is water in their taps and while that is the case there is nothing to worry about. They fail to understand, however, that drought in the rural areas affects them directly. Crop failures inevitably lead to a situation where basic foodstuffs such as maize have to be imported. The price of consumer goods soars. Meat prices escalates and sadly, many rural jobs are lost and many small businesses simply succumb to the pressures of economic hardship.

It is high time that all South Africans become water – wise. This country is an arid one. Water is scarce and we are squandering a non-renewable resource as if there is no tomorrow. Experts have warned that there will soon come a time when water-shedding will be as common as Eskom’s load shedding.

Each and every South African will have to become aware of the fact that we live in a country where every drop of water counts. We need to be concious of the ways in which we use water. Instead of turning on the hose, use your dish water to water your garden. If a tap leaks, have it fixed. Do you really need to utterly fill the bath with water? There are numerous ways in which each of us can save water.

The drought that now devastates the rural areas will most surely influence your lifestyle. Take action today and resolve to treat water as a precious resource. Because it is!

Platinum Certification for South African Hotel

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Global First for Africa’s Greenest Hotel

Hotel Verde is the first eco-hotel in the world to achieve double Platinum Certification for LEED® — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The Unites States Green Building Council (USGBC) has just awarded the establishment a second LEED® Platinum Green Building Certificate.

The green hotel received its first Platinum Certification in May 2014 for New Construction in the Green Building Design and Construction category, establishing it as the first hotel in Africa and one of only 7 hotels in the world to achieve this status. A second Platinum Certification has now been awarded for the Existing Building Operations and Maintenance of the 4*-hotel that is situated a mere 400m from Cape Town International Airport.

The prestigious LEED certification consists of 4 levels — Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The rating system encourages projects to earn credits by reaching certain criteria within a combination of credit categories. Hotel Verde achieved a whopping 89/110 on the LEED score card and raked in the highest LEED Platinum accolade. Some of the rating categories include indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, and innovation in operations.

Hotel Verde offers 145 luxury rooms, well-equipped conference facilities, a fine restaurant, a fully-stocked bar, and a 24-hour deli. It also boasts an indoor gym with cutting-edge equipment that feeds power back into the grid when in use, an outdoor jogging trail, and an eco-pool that utilizes plants as a natural filtration system. The hotel uses 3 wind turbines and 220 Photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. The multi-award winning, carbon neutral establishment rewards guests with carbon offsetting certificates to indicate their stay hadn’t had a negative impact on the environment.

Hailed for their top-notch, front-line innovations and technologies regarding eco-friendly building practices and design, sustainable operations, and using water and electricity sparingly, Hotel Verde embraces a green conscience by providing environmentally responsible accommodation to those of us who like to do our bit for the planet.

Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, congratulated Hotel Verde “on achieving double platinum LEED”. She proudly stated that Hotel Verde is “committed to doing business which contribute to economic growth, and continue to lead in innovation in the green economy.” She also expressed her hope that other businesses will follow suit and adopt these best practices.