24 January 2013
The South African Students Congress (SASCO) welcomes the announcement of the Oversight Committee on the Transformation of South African Universities by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training. Finally our government seems to be signaling to the correct direction as it relates to the transformation of institutions of higher learning. The implementation of this very important recommendation of the Soudien Report has been long overdue.
We believe that this will require some level of tempering with the independence of institutions, currently dubbed as Institutional Autonomy. It is our considered view that the higher education system in South Africa is fragmented and skewed towards a particular racial and population group as it was during apartheid and we thus cannot allow this independence if we are to transform it.
The reality is that formerly white institutions are still white and significantly advantaged and formerly black institutions are still black and extremely disadvantaged. It should be the responsibility of this oversight committee, working with the various stakeholders including students to ensure that this is buried into the dustbin of history.
Institutionalised forms of racism and sexism still continue to happen in institutions such as the University of Free State and many other formerly white institutions. We believe that the law should empower our government to put under administration those institutions that are failing to transform. This is a lobbying that we will be doing in our interaction with the committee.
We believe that the committee should not just be a toothless committee with its only role being the identification of transformation problems in institutions of higher learning. It should be given powers to intervene where it deems fit.
We believe that if Vice Chancellors are committed to the transformation of our universities, Higher Education South Africa (HESA) should openly declare its commitment to working with this oversight committee and provide it with enough information on racism and sexism in our Universities. History shows that universities try by all means to hide the information that comes out about problematic realities in them.
We welcome the fact that the committee includes two unionists. We hope that the fact that the committee is over populated by academics and that it is chaired by a Vice Chancellor of an institution which also requires transformation will not lead it into doing the opposite of what it was set out to do. We will carefully monitor this committee so that it steers to the correct direction and not signal left whilst turning right.
As students we are looking forward to working with the oversight committee and giving it enough details on a variety of racist and sexist practices in our universities. We plead that Vice Chancellors do the same.
Ngoako Selamolela, SASCO President, 0718752224
Themba Masondo, SASCO Secretary General, 0791993421