Public spending a hot topic in South Africa

One of the modules I study at NMMU is Public Resource Management, and what a relevant subject this spring! Of course in a country like South Africa, struggling with poverty, corruption and worsening unemployment,  public spending is always highly relevant. However, both on local and national level, public spending has been given a lot of attention lately, for various reasons.

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The Herald, 12.03.2014

In local news, ANC’s wish to spend R5 m on the 20 Years of Freedom Events stirred some pots. The opposition did not agree to R5 m, but they ended up reluctantly agreeing to R1.4 m. The following quote illustrates the clashing view of the opposition towards ANC’s budget proposition for the events.

“We agreed on R1.4-million, no more. This is not only an irregular expenditure but, in my view, gross wasteful expenditure” - DA councillor Angelo Dashwood

On national level the budget has of course been an important headline. The national budget of South Africa, the budget speech as well as other documents related to it can be found on the National Treasury website. The budget has been described as pragmatic and poignant.

Other public expenditures are not so easily praised. I am guessing most of my readers have heard about the criticism president Zuma face after spending public funds on his private home.  The Public Protector made stinging criticism of the president and ministers who have been involved, in her report (the Nkandla report is available on the Public Protector website).  According to the Public Protector, the Nkandla project was handled in an ‘appalling’ manner, and ‘state funds were abused’. Opposition parties have pressed criminal charges against the president and want to initiate impeachment.

Poems are also being written about this case. This one I stumbled across at the Times iLive page, written by a user called ‘The Lone Groover ZA’, titled ‘My President‘.

My president is a fool,
he has no understanding
of the difference
between
serve and rule.

My president is a liar,
he lines his pockets
and he lights the fire
giggling
over his objects
of desire.

My president is a thief,
rotten to the core
way beyond belief
living in the past
and thinking like a chief.

The election is coming up in May, so we have yet to see how this case will affect ANC turnout . Speculators say that ANC will win with a reduced majority, and in the meantime, there is a lot written about damage control and war of words inside the party.

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South Africa

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Picture from Tsitsikamma National Park

Where to start? I am in South Africa! Time has been flying by, and so much has happened since I arrived in South Africa!
All international students kicked off our stay in South Africa with a weekend orientation trip to Tsitsikamma on the 31st of January, arranged by The International  Office at NMMU.

 

 

During this trip I got to know the other international students and  the study abroad coordinators. Activities included a trip to the Tsitsikamma National Park, and zip lining across the Kruis River DSCF9681. The higest points were 50 m above the water, and I won’t lie, I was a bit scared and hesitant… But I ended up doing it nonetheless!

The week following the weekend orientation, the weeklong orientation started, with registration, campus tours and sessions about topics ranging from medical aid to homesickness. With its six campuses and over 27 000 students, NMMU is really a comprehensive and big university from my perspective.

The main building at South, 19 stories high.
The main building at South, 19(?) stories high.

After studying at ØUC for two and a half years, being faced with the massive (compared to ØUC at least) NMMU South campus was somewhat overwhelming. Despite having a map in my hand nearly at all times, and asking other students for directions, I constantly got lost in the beginning. Another noticeable difference between ØUC and NMMU is the fact that NMMU South campus is situated on a nature reserve, and monkeys are a normal sight at both North and South campus.

 

There is also a difference in assessment methods. I had my first experience with multiple choice tests last week. Quite different from the assesment methods I am used to from the modules at ØUC. The student-professor relationship is also evidently different here at NMMU. The contact is more formal than at home, not only in written communication but also in face to face interaction. Of course, not all professors or courses in Norway are as informal as what I am used to, but nonetheless it’s a big difference from my experience at ØUC. However, the courses are both interesting and demanding, and I hope to do my very best and obtain good grades despite the sometimes challenging differences.

By now, I have had lectures for over a month, and in three weeks I am already done with half of the semester. In the end of March,  the mid-semester break is upon us! In a strange way, time is flying by, and passing slowly at the same time.  I am really looking forward to getting a visit from my boyfriend during the break, and showing him PE and experiencing both familiar and unfamiliar destinations in PE and surroundings with him!

Problems with the internet connection is a weekly, if not sometimes a daily occurence, so updates are sporadic and I am not sharing many pictures on twitter, facebook or here at the blog (or on flickr as you can see in the sidebar). However, I am sure I will share more pictures and experiences from my semester abroad here later. In the meantime you can follow me on twitter to get my somewhat frequent updates and snippets of thoughts.

 

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Student Election 2014

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This week has been dedicated to the student election at Østfold University College. When not attending the seminar, working on my term papers or working in other ways, I have been at our election stand. Together with the other members of the Student Council and the Student Parliament, I have been on stand to get students interested and engaged in the student election. On our stand we had ‘election computers’ the students could log on to and vote, and we also had some goodies available for those who did.

We had a big ambition of beating last year’s voter turnout, but unfortunately we did not. However, our big ambition was not unfounded, as Østfold University College has had the best voter turnout in the country during the student elections the previous three years. The voter turnout for the Student Election 2013 at ØUC was 34%. Although we did not beat our previous record, the final result this year wasn’t all that bad; the voter turnout percentage was 28,8 %.

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Kristina (behind a balloon), Maria, Berge and me after the polls closed at 12:00 p.m.

Thank you to everyone who voted, and everyone from the Student Council and Student Parliament at ØUC dedicating time and a lot of effort to the election!

Voter turnout per faculty, and who got elected as permanent/substitute representatives for the Student Parliament and Council can be found here. Good luck to all our ‘old’ and new representatives!

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Politisk ukultur og demokratisering i Halden

(This post will be in Norwegian, as all sources referred to are in Norwegian. However, I might publish a translated version later if I have the time.)

Dette blir et innlegg som ikke har et like positivt fortegn som forrige innlegg om #Halden. Etter en granskning av byggesaksleder i Halden, en gransking ledet av Alexandra Bech Gjørv har det nemlig (med rette) kommet kritiske stemmer til og debattert og uttrykt misnøye med kommunen. Ikke bare fra granskningen, men også fra andre slik som hovedtillitsvalgt i Fagforbundet i Halden (HA-intervjuet med hovedtillitsvalgt Kirsti Rørmyr kan leses her).

Ytringsfrihet og rettsikkerhet er blant de viktigse og avgjørende trekkene ved et demokrati. Det er nettopp forhold som angår dette kommunen har fått kritikk for.  I granskings-rapporten avgitt 24.10.2013 fremgår det av sammendraget at granskerne ‘deler Sivilombudsmannen bekymring for at tilliten til kommunen er ‘utsatt for sterk slitasje” (side 44). Hele granskings-rapporten kan leses her.  Sivilombudsmannen tok nemlig til orde for uavhengige granskninger i 2010, og skrev

‘Problemet i Halden, slik jeg ser det, er at det synes å være manglende tiltro blant et ikke uvesentlig antall innbyggerne og folkevalgte til at de etablerte kontrollfunksjonene har den effekten lovgiver har forutsatt.’ (Henstilling til Halden kommune om undersøkelser av mulige misligheter, 2010).

Opposisjonen i Halden har også tatt til orde for gransking. I 2009 skrev opposisjonspartiene den gang (Høyre, Frp, Miljøpartiet De Grønne, Sp, Pensjonistpartiet) under på krav om granskning av ukulturen i Halden.  Selv om posisjonen og opposisjonen ikke er den samme i dag er ikke problemet borte. Dette var noe tillitsvalgt i Fagforbundet også påpekte, at frykten for represalier var der uansett politisk flertall i kommunen (se HA-artikkelen over).

haldengransking
Tynnslitt tillit og represalier – langt fra positiv omtale av Halden i media. Faksimile fra Kommunal Rapport og NRK.

På lederplass i Kommunal Rapport denne uken står det at ‘Halden må ha bistand’ slik at kommunen får bukt med ukulturen. Det er viktig med en velfungerende varslingskanal og at det opprettholdes et klart skille mellom politikk og administrasjon. Videre står det at kommunen må ta grep for å bygge tillit i de politiske fora. Faktisk har situasjonen i Halden fått ganske ‘god’ om enn ikke positiv dekning i Kommunal Rapport. Oversikt over Kommunal Rapport sine artikler om Halden-granskingen kan du finne her.

Ordfører i Halden Thor Edquist (H) skriver på sin blogg Glad i Halden i dag (5 november 2013) at dette er en situasjon som skal snu. Edquist skriver også at han tok kontakt med redaktør i Kommunal Rapport og  sa at demokratiseringsprosessen ‘var godt i gang i Halden’ og at den ble påbegynt for to år siden.  Allikevel, rapporten kom nå i oktober, etter fem måneders arbeid, med ganske krass kritikk og den malte et veldig lite flatterende bilde av situasjonen i Halden. Så selv etter to år med demokratiseringsprosessen  ‘godt i gang’ er det fortsatt ikke godt nok. Halden har et tillitsproblem som det må gjøres noe med. Synet kommune-Norge nå har på Halden skal ‘endres for godt’ skriver Edquist. Hvordan? Hvilke tiltak skal iverksettes i denne snuoperasjonen?

Ordføreren avslutter med ‘Heretter skal omtalen av byen vår skje med positivt fortegn. Vi fortjener det nå.’ Gjør vi det? Hvilke tiltak ligger bak dette, hva har blitt gjort som gjør at kommunen fortjener positiv omtale nå? Her burde ordfører komme med eksempler. Skal lokalavis såvel som landsdekkende avis(er) omtale Halden med positivt fortegn må kommunen gjøre sitt for at det er positive tiltak og resultater å skrive om, og eventuelt være flinke til å selv promotere disse.

Kilder nevnt:
Bech Gjørv, Alexandra og Andreas Stang Lund.Gransking i Halden kommune. 24 oktober 2013. Tilgjengelig på <http://multimedia.api.no/www.ha-halden.no/archive/05158/Sluttrapport_-_sla_5158513a.pdf>

Thor Edquist. ‘Halden og demokratisering’. Glad i Halden. 5 november 2013. <http://gladihalden.no/post/66077544479/halden-og-demokratisering>

Halden Arbeiderblad. “-Denne frykten har jeg visst om i 13 år”.  26 oktober 2013. <http://www.ha-halden.no/nyheter/article6943971.ece>

Kommunal Rapport. ‘Halden må ha bistand’. 31 oktober 2013.

Kommunal Rapport. ‘Krever gransking av ukultur i Halden’. 22 mai 2009.

Sivilombudsmannen. Henstilling til Halden kommune om undersøkelser av mulige misligheter, 2010. <https://www.sivilombudsmannen.no/uttalelser/henstilling-til-halden-kommune-om-undersoekelser-av-mulige-misligheter-article1865-114.html>

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Hashtag Halden

#halden_logo_blaaLast month I was at Brygga Kultursal for Anne Kat’s show ‘Jakten på ærligheten’, and on the very first day of this month I was at a concert with singer/songwriter Thomas Dybdahl. From November 23 and until the 24th  there will be a Christmas Market at Fredriksten fortress. On November 28 the street Christmas lights will be turned on in Halden town and the city centre and its small and big shops will be ready for the festive season. This is just a taste of events coming up here in Halden, in between the big happenings, there is many small events and gatherings. A lot of different gatherings are taking place at or in collaboration with Halden volunteer center, local  teams and associations are having meetings and competitions, there are exhibitions at galleries, theater shows etc. You can view an open calendar (where everyone can post their event) on the website of the local newspaper here (Norwegian) and a calendar operated by Halden Tourist here (English).

The conference – ‘Haldenskolen’

#Halden is an initiative with roots in the business community, with the aim of making residents proud of their town, as well as showing tourists what Halden has to offer. In order to promote #Halden, and all the good things happening here, this initiative has had its own kick-off conference and Omni Produksjon has made #Halden videos with residents announcing what they will do to contribute to their town Halden.  This coming Wednesday there will be a conference about Halden, its reputation and the hashtag initiative. It’s an open conference, so everyone can come (program in Norwegian). You can sign up for the conference here.

I find this to be a great initiative, and try to remember to hashtag Halden as well as hashtag/mention the concert venue, cafè or shop where the experience takes place when I tweet. As a student ambassador for Østold University College, using twitter as part of the job, I might find this social media initiative more fun and exciting than others. However, I do believe others could find joy in it too. Writing about a cosy little shop, your favorite restaurant or cyclingroute or sharing another great experience you’ve had in your town can be really fun.

It is fun to share these things and communicate with others experiencing the same, and you might even inspire someone to check out your favorite cyclingroute or drop by for a hot drink at your regular cafè. Maybe your sharing will lead to other people sharing some great suggestions with you? It’s always nice to learn something new about and experience something different in the town you thought you new every nook and cranny of (and if you really do know all there is to know about Halden, feel free to share your best suggestions in the comments below!).

So, if you should happen to be an active twitter user, or maybe an enthusiastic facebook sharer; include #Halden in your tweet or post next time you experience something in Halden!

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I got accepted!

CIMG2247I got back from a lovely trip to Gothenburg this past Sunday, and the week is now in full swing. For the vigilant reader, it might have been pretty obvious that I got accepted to NMMU after my last post. I wrote about getting some documents ready for the visa application, and that is because I got my acceptance letter!

Actually I got my acceptance letter very early, on the 4th of October. I thought I would not get it until the end of November. However, I am glad I got it early.  There has been a lot to do lately with two exams due and the process of applying for accommodation, financial support from the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund, booking my flight, and getting a general checkup and getting an x-ray taken etc. It’s nice to have the opportunity to get all of this out of the way early on, instead of having to do it all during a much shorter time period later.

Now I only have the visa application left, so I have to get my insurance through Ansa, and a couple of documents printed before I can visit the South African Embassy in Oslo.

At this point, my module selection looks like this:

Contemporary SA Politics and Policy SLP102 6
Introduction to Negotiation SLC201 10
Sociology: An Introduction SLC201 10
Community Service CSL100
Cultural Studies – Contemporary Society LMC210 10
Media Studies – Media and Society LMC203 10
Popular Literature and Subversion LLE202 10

I will soon mail my module selection to International Office here at ØUC for confirmation, and International Office will send my selection to NMMU for confirmation on the availability of the courses. I am now reading through the Pre-Arrival Handbook, and reading through some links the coordinator here sent me after our meeting today.

Crossing fingers and looking forward to my exchange semester! :D

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Week 43 through the lens

1 Rainy autumn days here at Østfold University College in Halden. Winter is coming….On Monday I had an appointment with my general practitioner so he could give me a check-up and fill out the documents needed for the South African visa application. 3 Hard at work on my research essay for the American pluralism course – mine is on Italian-Americans and political participation. 4 The school library is getting ready for Halloween with a skeleton and some scary books.  5  Karrieresenter Østfold had a very useful course on ØUC about career and finding your key characteristics on Tuesday. The pamphlet reads ‘Many paths. Your future.’ 6 This week we are trying our best to convince students to run for election, either for the student council or the student parliament. If you should happen to be a student at ØUC, don’t hesitate to join in on the fun and the opportunity to influence our student life and our school! If you are thinking ‘why join the student democracy’ and want a list of reasons, you can find one hereThe construction work is now done, and the new knowledge center/office building across the road from ØUC is ready for use. Read more about it here (Norwegian) 8 Tomorrow, my boyfriend and I will be celebrating his 23rd birthday and our two years together with a (long) weekend getaway to Gothenburg. Can’t wait! We will travel by train both ways, stay at an hotel (we’re staying at Rica Hotel no 25, fingers crossed), walk around, drink hot beverages at cafes, check out some restaurants & sights and just relax. We’ll be back on Sunday.

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To-do list: exchange student edition

CIMG2213My application is sent to NMMU, and I have started the preparations. You have to start early with vaccines and other things in order to get it done in time.

I have checked that I am up to date on routine vaccinations, and I have got the vaccines needed for long-time foreign travel. I have renewed my passport and made sure to apply for the scholarship offered by ØUC for students exchanging three months or more. I have not yet decided on which modules to take, but I have a certain idea. I find these modules quite interesting, and if Community Service is offered in semester 1, I want to get involded in that too (or maybe instead of one of the modules listed below).

Contemporary SA Politics and Policy SLP102 6
Introduction to Negotiation SLC201 10
Sociology: An Introduction SLC201 10
Contemporary/Comparative Literature LE439 25
Cultural Studies – Contemporary Society LMC210 10
Media Studies – Media and Society LMC203 10

The tasks remaining on my to-do list is mostly things I have to take care of if I get accepted, like applying for a visa and applying for financial support for foreign students from Lånekassen. A thorough medical examination is also needed before the exchange, because of the visa, but I think I would have found it necessary even if it was not required .

I applied to NNMU in South Africa, which is a partner institution of Østfold University College. ØUC have a lot of other partner institutions in different parts of the world from Iceland to Spain. You can view a list of partner institutions by country here. I am so excited, and hope to get accepted to NMMU! International Office at ØUC will probably be notified of the outcome of my application in November.

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Read and compare constitutions

Just a quick post before I’m heading to a presentation. (Norwegian Library Association is celebrating its 100 years with a presentation, cake and coffee at the school library today).

constituteGoogle launched a new website today, Constitute, featuring an archive of 160 constitutions. You can search by country and/or by constitutional topic (citizenship, foreign policy, minority rights etc).

This site can be a great tool for teachers and students of political science! It is definitely interesting for students like me. It can be a useful resource for lessons in comparative governments or just to satisfy your curiosity, as you can use the site to compare countries and different parts of their constitution.

Google and the Comparative Constitutions Project wants to digitalize all the world’s constitutions and make them searchable to everyone. What do you think of this project?

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Work and play

After a week of lectures and unexpected work as someone called in sick, this weekend is very welcome.

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The view – Fredrikstad Bridge

However, work did provide me with a lovely view and a nice walk to and from it this Thursday and Friday. I had to get from the train station in Fredrikstad to the Nabbetorp area across the river. Fredrikstad municipality has a great offer, free ferries! One of them goes straigth across the river, between Cicignon (where the train station is located) and the Old Town.

 

Goodies from the farmer market
Goodies from the autumn fair

My boyfriend and I decided that we had to check out the autumn fair in town today (arranged by Handel i Halden). We bought some juice, jam and chai. We’ll give some of it away tomorrow as a birthday gift.

This and other inititatives in Halden town are really great! I have made a list on facebook featuring actors from trade, tourist attractions, politics and local enthusiasts. If you are interested you can view the list here. Unfortunately most of the facebook pages publish information in Norwegian only. Feel free to comment on the list. Maybe you feel like I have missed someone or something important?

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