Colleagues from media houses, parents at home, students and the general public, we have convened this session in order to outline the state of readiness for the 2018 academic year, following the announcement of fee-free education for the poor and the working class by the state President in December 2017.
We have convened this press Conference at the University of Fort Hare in East London campus as a symbol of our commitment to reconnect with our students but secondly as an indication that we are hard at work on the ground, bumper to bumper with our returning students and prospective students. As the NEC we decided to begin with the Eastern Cape in our drive to be on all campuses during this critical registration period and not speak from the comfort of our office chairs in air-conditioned offices. We are here to speak what we see and live every day in our campuses and not what we watch on TV.
On Free Education
As the South African Students’ Congress we wish to reiterate our thunderous welcoming of the introduction of fee-free education in South Africa. We welcome this progression because we know too well that the call for free education has been a war cry of poor students and families for decades. This is a protracted struggle which SASCO has fought for, fearlessly, internally and externally; using boardroom and street tactics where necessary.
Floods of rubber bullets and tear gas have been unleashed on our comrades and students on several occasions, suspension and expulsion letters were dished out to our comrades like flyers advertising a sale in a supermarket, many comrades have sacrificed their qualifications for the advancement of the course with others having paid the ultimate prize of life in advancement of the course. We lost comrade Benjamin of TUT at the frontlines of picket lines for free education. We dare say it today that nobody can tell the story of the struggle for free education better than SASCO.
We led popular protests, fought in various policy formulation platforms including government commissions and conferences of the ruling party. The ANC has listened and given hope to more than 90 percent of South African households who live on less than R350 000 combined annual household income; a painful reality of apartheid legacy and the triple interconnected oppression in terms of class, race, and gender which bedevils the South African majority.
This intervention by government is a major advance in the revolutionary course of uplifting the lives of the South African majority from the sharp claws of economic oppression. We must, therefore, take stock and celebrate victories registered, manage new challenges which come from progressive advances and continue with the struggle. The struggle for free education is not over, education for the poor is merely fee-free. It has not been freed from the capitalist jaws clutching on it. So long as education is a commodity; the struggle must continue.
On Matric Results
The South African Students’ Congress welcomes the consistent improvements in matric results. We welcome mostly the improvements in performance by the rural provinces which still lag behind in terms of resource allocation and facilities. The Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal have impressively improved. It is encouraging to see learners from quintile 1 and 2 Schools achieving top marks especially in the fields of science and mathematics notwithstanding the limitations of their schools. The sterling work of teachers, school governing bodies and individual learners is commendable.
As we said before, the Independent Examinations Board must be collapsed and a single examination board be established in line with the vision of creating a single coordinated education system for nation building and peoples power.
In addition to the abolishment of the IEB, the National Bench Mark test demanded of prospective students by certain universities must also be abolished as it is nothing less but a gatekeeping measure disguised as an assessment of readiness. Emphasis must be placed on early childhood development, investment in primary education and redistribution of the academic capital and resources to rural schools. The Admission point score system must be reviewed together with the differentiated syllabi offered by universities as these are susceptible to manipulation by various university and college authorities in order to satisfy donor needs and other unscrupulous intentions.
On Student Access and Success
With the phasing in of free education, the unintended inevitable crisis of space limitations will certainly arise. The South African higher education sector is disturbingly not capacitated enough despite the introduction of three new universities. The uncertainties on the future of the so-called missing middle students persist despite the increment in the threshold for eligibility for government funding. Student debt remains a nightmare for many families. Student accommodation and student transport problems persist. There can be no student success without the requisite support systems.
The following interventions must be implemented in order to truly realize the fruits of introduction of fee-free education.
- The sector must be expanded as a matter of urgency this will require the building of new Universities starting with the University of the Ekurhuleni aerotropolis. The University of Mpumalanga and Sol Platjie University must be expanded and fully developed.
- The TVET sector is not a dumping site or second choice institutions. The skills revolution necessary for our country requires a skilled workforce and sufficient artizenry. Learners are encouraged to apply for study in the TVET colleges as institutions of choice.
- All those who cannot afford to repay their student debt must be cleared of their debt.
- The private sector must be compelled through legislation to intervene in dealing with the cost of study for students classified as the missing middle. This should not come at the expense of workers.
- Student villages must be established in partnerships with government and the private sector, the department of human settlements and municipalities must be brought on board in this instance. This intervention must be synchronized with student transportation. University precincts are mini economies on their own.
- There must be a crackdown on all bogus colleges, this is a charge which must be lead must SASCO volunteers working with relevant state authorities.
On the Right to Learn campaign
The right to learn campaign is a historic campaign of SASCO. It is a campaign aimed at assisting students from all sorts of exclusion be it financial, academic and social exclusion. It is through the right to learn campaign that students are ensured access, assisted with cases of academic dismissals, assisted with orientation around college and university precincts.
This is a campaign of conviction carried out by SASCO volunteers without an expectation of individual glory, personal gratification or material gain. This campaign has assisted many students who are now in the workplace or owning their own businesses and practices including those students and leaders who share different views on political and policy matters. This is a campaign carried out not at the gallery of cameras but year in, year out SASCO volunteers leave their homes on the 4th of January to communally sleep in halls side by side with students in ensuring access.
The 2018 Right to learn Campaign has begun with most of our structures already on the ground with students and parents. The campaign will be in full swing as matric results have been released. Guidelines have been issued to structures, deployment of NEC members will be made to all provinces.
No SASCO volunteer must be remunerated or bribed in order to assist a student and no SASCO cadre must accept any payment. Learners and students must not give sexual favours to any student leader or university/college manager as has been the case in some instances. Students, learners, and parents are warned of sexual predation by old men around campuses who offer accommodation to unsuspecting desperate young women in exchange for sexual favours. Parents and new students must be alert for rental scams around this time. SASCO comrades will be on guard.
The instruction to our comrades and the message to parents is unequivocal; every deserving student has a right to learn. Walk inns are not a new phenomenon, all Universities and colleges must allow for an extension in the consideration of late applications, in this regard, dedicated IT centers must be opened for this purpose. No deserving student should not be in school in 2018. This will mean that NSFAS applications must also be extended in order to respond to this call. As an experienced organization in the sector, we advise those with limited understanding of the sector to not make reckless pronouncements but to build on gains registered. All deserving students will be assisted by SASCO to access gates of teaching and learning and benefit from the hard-earned fruits of fee-free education.
Make SASCO your first friend on campus. Make SASCO your home. Make SASCO your best friend on Campus. Students first, SASCO to the front!
Issued by the NEC
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