Interview with Rag Chairperson, Roahan Gouws

LORINDA MARRIAN

For those who do not know, what does Rag do at the University of Pretoria?
Rag is a substructure from [of ] the SRC and it focuses on community engagement. It’s basically the university’s community engagement strcuture that deals with all of the community structures, charities, orphanages. It’s basically the goodwill image of the university outside. It’s there to improve the community as a whole and there to uplift. It’s a completely student-run substructure of the SRC.

 

Whose idea was it to change some of the elements of Rag? Was it the University or was it the Rag committee?
Usually people affiliate Rag with procession. Procession is gone, not Rag. In the old days it was very easy to accumulate funds due to the floats being outside the university because students did “Blikskud” [begging]. Due to safety reasons; one year it was limited a bit to only certain streets and then it was restricted completely to LC De Villiers [...] so the floats raised no money at all. It still takes a lot of money to build the floats, between us and TuksRes we spend about a million rand a year. It’s not community engagement anymore and that is the reason why Rag is here. It’s a great tradition to have, but […] we can’t fund it anymore. The university has been telling us to do something else. So that is why we as an executive committee took recommendations from management to change the entire format. A lot of the inspiration actually [for the market day] came from Dr Matete Madiba, when she said she visited a market day in Chicago.

 

What exactly will be happening at the market day that will be hosted next semester?
The residences have to build a chest of hope with minimum requirements. We are requiring [them] to put in maize meal, tin[ned] food, soap [and] toothpaste. Things charities, orphanages and organisations always need, because you can never have enough food. We are also having them make quilts and they have to make 20 quilts. Then they have to identify a problem in whatever they choose from their charity, organisation, orphanage and from that problem they have to incorporate it into a chest. An example [of this is], I think it is an orphanage ,[have] a dire need for books, so they are putting in books. So in this way they are actually solving a problem. We are also making the chest mobile because a lot of these orphanages, [and] especially old age homes [...] need storage space. On the market day, each partnership or faculty house is going to get a gazebo and under the gazebo they will display their chest. They can decorate the chest and the gazebo how they want. It’s like a nice family market. We will also have each partnership perform one talent [...]We are also working with SSC to have them play a bit of rugby or football or like the sports day they normally have.

 

Are there ways for day students to be involved with the market day?
Every year the residences and the day houses and their partnerships build floats[...] [this year] we are actually not limiting it to residences. We incorporated societies as well as faculty houses [...] so that is a big thing for us this year – incorporating all of the day students. Societies and faculty houses will make their own chest of hope. They will have the same requirements as the residences.

 

How can students become involved in Rag activities?
We have a host of events throughout the year that a lot of people don’t actually focus on. What we are planning to do in April or May is have an entrepreneurs’ day, because a lot of the time students have these small businesses. We are giving a platform for students to come and promote [their] business. We are also doing “I am Susan” this year, which [is related to Pledge-a-pad]. All the activities and events we host are open to day students. We are actually regularly busy with that so that people can stay up to date.

 

What is the main goal for Rag this year?
One of the big things we have decided as an executive committee is to change the image of Rag, make sure students know about it. People think that Rag is only procession and it is not, it happens throughout the year. I am not too sure about this, but apparently we won an award for last year’s Casual Day for selling the most tickets among students. We sold 5 000 tickets. We have a bit of a lack[ing] reputation in the past few years, so the biggest goal we have this year is getting our reputation back.

 

How do you envision RAG as a service provider at UP?
I want Rag to be one of those substructures that first years hear about from their parents[...] like when I get to University, I want to be part of Rag. That willingness that students have to help people, there is no better feeling and a lot of the times, I feel that students miss it because you get so busy with academics [and] you get so focused [on] your problems. But you don’t always see there are people sleeping at night that don’t even have a bed, don’t have textbooks [or] don’t have funds. I want students to get excited about helping other people and that is in essence [the concept of] Ubuntu: “I am because you are”. My goal is to come back in ten years and people are saying [that] they want to be part of Rag this year and let’s make it a big thing and get students more involved like in the old days.

 

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