The Effects of Virtual Learning

By Amahle Phendu

With virtual learning being the only option during the pandemic, everyone had no choice but to adapt and move with the time.

Virtual learning is an experience in learning supported by electronic devices ,both inside and outside the resources of an educational institution. In this, the learners and teachers are separated physically, and interact mostly in an online environment.

The transition to virtual leaning did not only affect teachers who need to change their way of teaching, it also affected learners who needed to adapt to the new learning environment. One of the most important consequences of this transition to virtual learning is the impact that it has on students’ physical health, mental health and sleeping habits.

Another issue is that while some students have access to resources like reliable internet and libraries, low-income families often cannot provide the same assistance ,thus, virtual learning increases educational inequalities.

As it is clear that virtual learning separates learners and teachers, and this in most cases, leads to social isolation and results in pupils not developing communication skills that are very much important in these times. This is one of the negative effects of not being able to interact with other students and teachers in virtual learning.

These challenges of online learning can impact both learners and teachers to a great extent, as it is clear the negatives of this style of learning are too much to be ignored.

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The Impact of Pollution on Coral Reefs

By Amahle Phendu

While millions of people and species of wildlife depend on coral reefs, they are deteriorating and dying at an alarming rate due to human and natural pressures, including overfishing and climate change.

Coral reefs are large underwater structures, composed of the skeletons of colonial marine invertebrates called coral. They play a crucial role in the ecosystem for life under water and protect coastal areas by reducing the power of waves hitting the coast. That is ,they serve as natural marine barriers that protect coastal infrastructure from high impact waves in times of tropical storms, hurricanes and tsunamis .

To survive, coalesced clean water, so when pollutants enter the water, they smother them and speed the growth of damaging algae that in turn lowers the water  quality. Pollution also makes the corals more susceptible to diseases, impede coral growth and reproduction.

The primary cause for coral reefs degradation throughout the world is land-based pollution. This is because human populations are expanding in coastal areas and the development alters the landscape increasing runoffs from the land. These runoffs carry large amounts of sediment from land clearing, sewage outflows and many other pollutants such as petroleum products.

While people may undermine the impact of their doings, coral reefs bear the brunt of it all, and billions of people are going to suffer.

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Fatal Shark Attack Sends Sydney on High Alert 

By Sonia Van der Linde 

6 February 2022, a tragic Wednesday afternoon that left Sydney shocked, as a 35-year-old swimmer was mauled to death by a Great White Shark. This was the first fatal shark attack seen in Sydney since 1963. After the attack, chaos ensued as beaches along the coast were shut down and a hunt for the shark was launched. Drones and drumlines were reportedly deployed to capture the Great White.

The theory as to why the shark was present in that area on the afternoon of the incident, despite the presence of shark-repellent within the inshore waters, is the uncommonly high levels of bait content within the waters. This, coupled with ever-changing sea temperatures altering the movement of Great Whites along the Australian coast, could have led to the shark wandering into the area. As sharks have been known to mistake humans for their usual prey, e.g., sealions and seals, the British swimmer’s death, tragically, could have been due to the shark’s evolutionary inability to distinguish between the colours and morphologies that separate humans from their prey. 

This hunt has created a lot of controversy within an array of communities as many are aware of the presence of sharks within those waters. The debate was sparked when officials announced that the hunt was necessary for the protection of locals, however, others still believe that killing one shark will not avoid another incident and that the community should focus on bettering their shark-repellent and urging swimmers to stay within designated areas.

Hunting predators to ensure human safety has resulted in the eradication of many keystone species, which has and will continue to lead to the downfall of many ecosystems, in such cases educating the community seems to be a better way to solve the problem.

Photo credit: (Ekrulila).

The Mandela Effect, Like Déjà vu

By Phuthego Precious Nthoke 

Have you ever remembered something that probably never happened? As crazy as it sounds, this is more common that you would think. This phenomenon is known as ‘false memory,’ better known as ‘The Mandela Effect’

This term was popularized in 2010 when a sizeable portion of the population believed that the late President Nelson Mandela had passed on while serving his sentence in the late 1980s, which obviously is untrue as he was very much alive during that time. Despite many people going through various means to prove this, claiming to have seen clips of the funeral, no tangible evidence was presented to play in their favour.

Scientists later explained why and how this ‘effect’ emerged, citing the ‘misinformation effect.’ This touches on the fact that the information acquired after an event has occurred, interferes with the way you remember it. In the case of Nelson Mandela, another well-known activist Steve Biko, passed during that time and most people remember is being Mr Mandela. The death of one popular activist and the incarceration of another triggered people’s brains into falsifying memories and intertwining these events. 

To this day, many examples of the Mandela effect continue to surface with many people believing their fabricated memories to be true. One example might be that Curious George the cartoon character had a tail although throughout that show he never had a tail, but most people remember him having one. This interesting phenomenon makes us question whether our memories are true or fabricated.

What Mandela effect have you came across?

Photo credit: Magda Ehlers  

You + Various Careers = Chemistry 

By Lesego Maluleke 

Chemistry is no joke. The workload is heavy, the substance of the subject is difficult, but the benefits? Amazing. Chemistry opens up a world of career fields, but the top three are currently Analytical Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Forensic Science.

Analytical chemists identify the elements in a substance to understand its structure and composition and how different parts interact with one another. It may conduct extensive research projects while also supervising the work of other lab technicians. If analytical chemistry intrigues you, you could pursue a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Calculus, Physics, General chemistry, Organic chemistry, Inorganic chemistry, and Physical Chemistry. There are just some of the courses you might take as a chemistry major. 

Moving on to Chemical engineering, the universal engineers as they are typically called due to their knowledge and abilities. They have all the fundamental engineering training in mathematics and physics, as well as a thorough understanding of chemistry and biology. A chemical engineer has an impact on many different areas of technology by thinking about and designing processes for producing, transforming, and transporting materials. There are a lot of experimentation in the laboratory before a chemical engineer brings these materials to full-scale production.

Lastly, a forensic scientist is someone who gathers and analyses evidence in criminal cases. They typically spend a significant amount of time in laboratories; however, they do go to crime scenes and work with investigators to find and collect evidence. Forensic scientists must learn and apply best collection practices to avoid tainting samples and jeopardizing the chain of evidence. 

To pursue any of the mentioned careers you must decide if this is the right career for you. When you are certain that you want to pursue this path, you should look for and complete an appropriate undergraduate program. Doing adequate research on the career is greatly beneficial. Chemistry is a broad field, and these mentioned careers are just the tip of the iceberg.

Photo credit: Pixels 

Can Genetic Information Preserve Species?  

By Ashley Ndliwayo 

Organisms are known to produce other similar organisms through the process of sexual reproduction. It is this process which provides genetic material to be linked to upcoming generations. Different kinds of species maintain genetic information which links individual members and their successive generations. This genetic material allows living things to function and potentially pass it down from generation to generation.

All plants and animals have cells that can  transfer genetic material. The survival of these species relies on the genetic information found in them; therefore, it is this information that is used to trace these species whether in present generations or past ones. Oliver Ryder, a geneticist at the Centre for Reproduction of Endangered Species, clarifies that the biological diversity of the planet is being depleted rapidly due to direct or indirect consequence of human action or other species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has seen the need to conserve biodiversity. 

The genetic makeup of organisms is a result of how they can be traced or preserved for the future. This develops the forms of chromosomes and genes. The preservation will take place from the traces of these characteristics. Also, DNA samples can be studied and kept providing future generations with an accurate record of species that are at a risk of being threatened such as the black rhinos or the pandas. Ryder and his colleagues believe that scientists compile samples in the science lab to provide a higher possibility of reconstituting an extinct species.

We may be uncertain of what the future holds, but one thing we can be certain about is our current actions and the preservation of DNA samples of various species seems to be vouched for by many, but is it really the best way to conserve biodiversity?

Photo credit: Pavel Danilyuk. 2021. Medical professional looking through a medical microscope. [Online].  


Booster shooting to secure the future  

By Siphosethu Tshakatsha

 COVID-19 has changed so many things that brought a sense of comfort, pride and belonging in university, not forgetting the lives of our fellow students it took. As the students of today we can create change by fighting back against the Coronavirus as booster shots have come to the rescue. “Let us not be a selfish generation that will delay the world’s progress by being reluctant to take vaccines as they will provide higher chances of survival in this hazardous period” said Yamkela Pako second year student in Nelson Mandela University.  

  The pandemic ceased and restricted a large number of ‘fun’ activities in varsity like intervarsity competitions and varsity cup rugby games. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccine ingredients are harmless and nearly all of them are common in the food we consume daily like fats, sugars and salts. therefore, students and the staff should be encouraged to take the booster shots so that varsity life can go back to normal as soon as possible. The booster shots also consist of a Messanger ribonucleic acid which is the one that instructs the body to create protection out of the virus that causes COVID-19. Many people usually become hesitant because of the side effects of the vaccine like fever and headaches which are just normal as the body is still building protection against Covid 19. 

 People have taken vaccines for chicken pox and other diseases before meaning that students and the rest of the country should not worry about the rumours of what the vaccine contains but they should take it to protect themselves once more, these booster shots are one of the main keys to stopping the spread of the virus. 

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Mucus is our friend  

By Amahle Phendu

You hack it up, spit it out or blow it into tissues and throw it away. While mucus might seem gross, it plays a very important role inside us. It keeps you healthy and when that fails it helps you to overcome the sickness. 

It acts as a lubricant for the body, and protects your nasal passage, lungs, and throat from drying out. It also poses as a barrier that traps bacteria and allergens, like dust or pet dander to prevent you from getting sick. Vaginal mucus can help women get pregnant or avoid pregnancy if they wish, while mucus in the gut helps your digestive system function. 

 Although mucus production is natural and healthy, excess mucus production can be a sign of illness including the common cold. When you are sick or have fever your body responds by increasing the snot production since mucus can act as a defence against infection. Mucus also acts as a means of ridding the body of what is causing the inflammation in the first place, like bacteria and other unneeded materials.  

Remember that while your snot keeps you healthy it can make others sick. That’s why if you cough or sneeze up any mucus, make sure to wash your hands and disinfect anything that you have touched. In doing so you minimize the risk of spreading illness to the people around you. 

No matter how disgusting it may seem, mucus is always with us inside us every moment of our lives.  

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From Omicron to Pokémon  

By Ashley Ndliwayo

On the 26th of November 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found a new, more easily transmissible variant and dubbed it Omicron. This variant has terrorized the globe from November, to date. 

The Omicron variant has exposed people to less severe disease than previous variants, though it has still led to some hospitalizations. However, hospitalizations account for a small percentage of the cases, in a broader sense, as the majority of people suffer mild symptoms. The numbers continue to fluctuate daily with less critical conditions and a stable number of deaths.  

Furthermore, Health officials from the health department have predicted a fifth wave to approach South Africa in a few months. Health minister Joe Phahla did say the number of COVID-19 infections are expected to be at a peak as soon as winter nears. The fifth wave too is expected to rock its own new variant with its own Greek symbol. Although the fifth wave has only been promulgated as a predication, the severity of the wave is unknown. It could be lighter or even worse. Like with any other wave, the implications of this prediction should not be taken lightly. 

Precautions and further safety measures should be taken. Especially for students who are ready to actively begin with 2022 academic activities. This is to say, vaccination centers within all campuses should be set up and operate smoothly and effectively. This is to ensure the encouragement of vaccination of returning students as well as prospective ones. Vaccination is effective and convenient to the care and safety of self and also those around us. 

Photo credit: WHO

The Impact on Science and Technology

By Phuthego Precious Nthoke

With the introduction of COVID-19 and its variants, we did the only thing we could do, adapt. The concept of adapting is flawless on paper but very difficult to execute, we can manoeuvre through certain situations that occur in our personal lives, however we cannot seem to adapt in our academic lives. 

This observation solely pertains to challenges experienced by first year students in the science department. Many courses had been offered online and to no surprise it had its fair share of challenges for the students in the science and technology field, ranging from technological problems to being able to comprehend the workload issued. During the 2021 academic year, many courses required to be conducted online but some exams were to be written on campus and practicals had to be performed in the school laboratories.  

I had the opportunity to interview a student, enrolled for Medical Laboratory Science so most of her modules required a certain level of practicality, who started their first in 2021 amidst covid restriction. When asked about her expectations for the year given that all her modules are online, she pointed out that she expected some level of difficulty in the course, but she faced more than she had originally expected. She explains that she had mixed feelings about learning online and writing on campus.  “The whole online thing, it gave me challenges and being isolated from your colleagues is difficult” she went on venting, she experienced difficulties as she struggled with assignment and certain concepts. 

Online learning had many challenges and has had an impact on first year students, especially those in the science field, feelings of exclusion and not being able to discuss with your course mates. Hybrid classes will be seen as a norm, yet the struggle to cope will continue, but keep in mind that if you have a certain goal, you should be able to adapt despite the mode of learning to achieve it. 

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