10 December 2012
The South African Students Congress (SASCO) held a successful National General Council (NGC) from 2-7 December at the Elijah Mango College of Education, Kabokweni, Mpumalanga. The NGC was attended by 566 delegates from SASCO structures across the Republic of South Africa. The NGC was addressed by the Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr. Bonginkosi Nzimande, ANC NEC member cde Bathabile Dlamini, SACP Deputy General Secretary cde Solly Mapaila, YCL SA National Secretary cde Buti Manamela, ANC YL President cde Ronald Lamola and former Deputy President cde Mandlenkosi Mondlane. The national leadership of NEHAWU and SADTU also attended the NGC. The NGC dealt with major policy issues pertaining to higher education and further training; and society at large:
Access into Higher Education and Further training
The NGC made a critical assessment of the state of higher education and further training. Our struggle for transformation of education is about ensuring access, success, redress and curriculum transformation. The NGC noted that, despite the existence of the NSFAS, majority of our people are denied access into institutions of higher learning and further training simply because they do not have the monetary means to buy education. SASCO will continue with its struggle against commodification and commercialization of education. In 2013, we will embark on a vigorous and consistent mass action in demand for free education for all. Our campaign for Free Education for All will move to the next gear in the 2013 academic year. This will also involve our call for the renovation of abandoned government infrastructure to expand access into higher education and further training.
The challenge of low throughput rates, drop outs and academic exclusions
The NGC noted with concern the persistent challenge of drop outs and academic exclusions in our universities and colleges. Whereas this is a general problem, the reality is that the black African student is the primary victim of academic exclusions particularly in the previously white institutions. Lack of proper academic mentoring and support; racism and poor student services are amongst the factors that contribute to academic exclusions and, ultimately, drop outs. As an organization, we will intensify our Student Services Campaign to ensure that a conducive environment is provided for academic success. The NGC further reaffirmed our unwavering political commitment to ensure redress in the post-schooling sector. We will continue to wage counter hegemonic struggles against the dominance of the ruling class ideology in education.
The challenges in the Further Education Training (FET) colleges
The NGC noted with concern the plethora challenges facing the Further Education and Training colleges. These challenges includes poor management, corruption and maladministration, criminalization of student activism, uncoordinated academic curriculum, ill-prepared and unqualified academic staff, low throughput rates, lack of student accommodation, workshop and laboratory facilities for practical training. This is a very bad state of affairs considering the potential which the FET sector holds in addressing the skill shortage and the socio-economic challenges. The NGC resolved that we should pay particular attention in resolving these challenges. The Universities must assist in developing a coherent and properly coordinated FET curriculum; and in training lecturers. The FET Colleges must also strengthen relationship and partnership with local industries for experimental training and work placement. Since the FET's are now National Competence, the Department of Higher Education and Training must strengthen weak examination and assessment systems in this sector.
Universities under administration
The NGC noted that the DHET has placed a number of 'historically black' institutions under administration for maladministration and financial mismanagement. We are concerned that most administrators appointed by the DHET have become reckless despots who run our universities as if it is their personal entities. These administrators have deepened the crisis they were appointed to resolve. The administration appointed at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) has hitherto dismally failed to bring order and stability in this University. We believe that the administration team of WSU, which is populated by quasi-experts drawn mainly from TUT, is more corrupt than the disbanded council. The administration appointed at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has veered from its mandate and has become a machinery for student victimization and muzzling of critical voices. It is within this context that we call for the immediate disbandment of the DHET-appointed administrations at WSU and TUT.
On the Higher Education and Training Laws Amendment Bills
SASCO welcomes the debate brought forth by recently passed Higher Education and Training Laws Amendment Bills. We believe that the problem in our higher education system is the competing roles between the various principles guiding higher education transformation. The competition between institutional autonomy and public accountability for instance continues to be a stumbling block for the higher education transformation project. Moving above the financial reasons for intervention in universities, as captured by the Bill, SASCO believes that the legislation should also empower our government to disband institutions such as the University of Free State for failing to transform. We also believe that government should be empowered to dissolve institutions that are failing to develop in both size and quality whilst they have billions in reserves.
On social transformation
The NGC reaffirmed SASCO's commitment to an egalitarian development trajectory buttressed by principles of inclusive growth and expanded social spending. We reject the government New Growth Path (NGP) and the New Development Plan (NDP) for they represent no fundamental departure from South Africa's problematic neo-liberal development path. We call for the immediate replacement of the GEAR macro-economic strategy and its attendant ASGISA, NGP and NDP. We call for a new development path which will meaningfully address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
We call for a properly articulated industrial, labour market and employment policies to address our immediate developmental challenges. What we need urgently is an active and radical democratic developmental state with the capacity to facilitate and drive job creation through socially sensitive labour market and industrial policies, and human resource development strategy. The NGC reaffirmed SASCO's call for nationalization of the mines and the commanding heights of the economy. We reaffirm our call for the expropriation of land without compensation. We further call for the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and a moratorium on the sale of SA's land. We call for these as a means towards the attainment of socialism.
As SASCO, we call for the increase in the market share and support for co-operatives. Co-operatives are often overlooked by government in favour of established black business and white monopoly capital. Government must procure some of its services from cooperatives and the private sector must be forced, through government legislation, to do the same. The active support given to cooperatives can also help us deal with a massive graduate unemployment as these graduates will be permanently employed into these collective forms of ownership. The building and strengthening of the cooperatives should not be understood as an end in itself, but as a means to fundamentally change production relations.
Racial settlements in South Africa
SASCO is concerned about the establishment of racial settlements by Afrikaners in Orania and now in Kliefontein. These settlements have defined themselves outside the normal practices of the country, including the usage of a different currency (Ora) managed and distributed by their own racist and territorial co-operative bank. These communities have on more than one occasion refused state intervention, including refusal to cooperate with the SAPS. As SASCO we have pronounced ourselves against these racialised settlements as they undermine our noble goal of building a non-racial and united South Africa. SASCO will continue to fight against any organized racial or ethnic enclaves within our country. We cannot allow a creation of countries within the Republic of South Africa.
International Solidarity to the People of Palestine, Swaziland, Western Sahara etc
We will continue to fight for self-determination of the people of Swaziland, Western Sahara, Palestine, and any oppressed people in the world. The recent bombings of Gaza by the Israeli apartheid state calls for all peace loving people the world over to defend the right of Palestinian to dignified life and against occupation. We will at all times support and defend our people in Palestine against the Apartheid Israeli state. We are outraged at the growing immoral support given to the Zionist state by Western superpowers, particularly the United States of America. We welcome the launching of the Coalition for Free Palestine (CPF) in South Africa and we will actively support and participate in its activities.
Working together with our historical, most trusted and most reliable allies in Swaziland-Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) and People's United Democratic Movement (PEDUMO)-we will continue to fight for real people's power in Swaziland. We will not to partake in any activity that seeks to undermine the leadership and efforts of the progressive forces in Swaziland. The people of Swaziland, like the entirety of humanity, deserve a democratic right to elect a government of their own choosing. The people of Swaziland continue to live in abject poverty whilst the king and his associates continue to live lavish lifestyles. Our international solidarity work will also be targeted to the people of Western Sahara, North Korea, Cyprus, Cuba and other countries suffering from imperialist aggression.
Ngoako Selamolela, SASCO President, 071 875 2224
Themba Masondo, Secretary General, 079 199 3421