South African Students Congress

Issue 2, Vol 7: 12 May 2015

In this issue:

Mam Ruth MompatiSASCO Pays tribute to Mam Ruth Mompati

Lala ngoxolo Mkhonto, kudala uzabalaza

The South African Students Congress (SASCO) has learnt with deep sadness and a deep sense of loss about the passing of Mama Ruth Mompati.

We would like to take this opportunity to send our deep and heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and comrades who have woken up today to learn of a loss of this struggle veteran.

As we mourn the death of this gallant fighter we should take some consolation in celebrating a long-life well-lived.

Mama Ruth Segomotsi Mompati was born in Tlapeng Village, few kilometres from Ganyesa in Kagisano-Molopo area within the district of Bophirima, now called Dr Ruth Mompati District Municipality after it being named after her. Born on the 14 September  1925, she grew up in a thoroughly rural environment. Between 1933 and 1940 she attended Vryburg United Primary Schools, where she completed Standard six (6). Two years later, she continued her schooling at Tigerkloof Institution of Education where she received her Native Lower Primary Certificate. In 1944 she started her teaching career at the age of nineteen in Dithakwaneng Primary School near Vryburg.

She got married in 1952 and lost her job due to apartheid laws regulated that black female teachers were not supposed to get married. Immediately after, she moved to Johannesburg and became an active member of the ANC Orlando branch. In the same year, she studied short-hand typing.

In 1953 she was employed by Mandela and Tambo Attorneys as a short-hand typist. She became a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC Women’s League and become one of the founder members of the Federation of South African  Women the following year. She was one of the organisers and leaders of the Anti Pass Law march in Pretoria on the 9th August 1956.

In 1962, she left the country for Military training with MKhondo We Sizwe in the then Soviet Union.  She could not return to the Country to do her underground work because her colleague had given evidence against the ANC leadership. She had to become the full-time cadre of the underground movement in exile.

In 1966 she was elected to the National Executive Committee and during the same year she was transferred to the ANC‘s office in Zambia, but continued between Tanzania and Zambia during the course of her work in the ANC President’s office. In 1966, she was sent to Germany by the movement as the ANC Women’s League secretary to represent the Federation of South African Women in its secretariat.

In 1990, she was chosen to be part of the ANC delegation that negotiated the peaceful transition with the government at Groote Schuur. In 1994 she was elected to the National Assembly of the Republic of South Africa and served as a Member of Parliment from 1994-1996 before she seconded to become an Ambassador to Switzerland until 2000.

In 1996, Mama Ruth was awarded an Honorary Masters Degree in Education by the University of the North West in Mahikeng. The scholarship was named after her by Huston-Tillotson University, in Austin, Texas, USA. In 1998, the Medical University of South Africa awarded her an Honorary Doctorate. She has been the Mayor of Naledi Local Municipality from June 2000 until May 2010. In consolidating the vision of the society and the country she liberated, this true activist and daughter of the soil continued to serve her community in various capacities. She served on many Boards, including being Chairperson of the Swiss-South Africa Corporative Initiative Trust.

In her last public appearance on April 2015 at the unveiling of the Dr Ruth Mompati Statue, she said “This statue symbolises the struggle of all races because it is the struggle I was involved in. I dedicate it to all South Africans; especially the people of Vryburg and women of this country, the sculpture must always be seen as a mark of unity, which all must embrace".

We dip our revolutionary banners in honour of the now departed revolutionary and giant, whose life was dedicated to building a truly non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

We thank you for your contribution in making South Africa a better place for us. Our task is to follow in your footsteps and carry the struggle forward.

We thank you, Mama Ruth

Robala ka kgotso!

References:

Chabalala BoltonFROM NMMU TO UFH, what does it mean to the MDM?

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.- Andy Grove

Chabalala Bolton

The current state of the MDM, motivated by our loss of another university again this year has struck me to use it emphatically and ironically to describe what this means, from the silent SACP, troubled PYA and COSATU. As much as I believe each organisation out of their autonomic state within have their own shortfalls to what we are currently facing, the state of the Congress movement as a whole is part and parcel, the complacency, plutocracy and rhetoric plays a major role.

I argue that SASCO is not simply losing in institutions of higher learning only because it is failing to deliver students needs, majority of PYA comrades remain the most capable in addressing students' predicaments. It is visible in institutions where SASCO is not even in governance but you would find out that most of the students facing academic and financial exclusions contact and get help from our pool of capable young cadres who do win these cases, other opposition led SRC's also run to SASCO for help, students know that SASCO remains their true voice.

I must however from the start go note that these young capable cadres do contribute invariably and indirectly rendering the PYA unpopular through their conduct and attitude, to be practical, we have seen students voting out SASCO because SRC deployees lose touch with the students, sitting in air conditioned offices end up making them to have self-claimed political maturity in a way that they feel they are untouchable, this is where we have witnessed students voting them out to prove a point. This is noticeable particularly where students would vote to replace SASCO with ANCYL or the other way round, whatever the case may be.

I have deliberately gave an example of SASCO and ANCYL replacing each other in certain institutions where it happened that they contest each other, students would still want to vote one component of the PYA to replace the other not because the structures within the PYA are the only ones which exist, but because students still felt and believed that it is only structures that have a relationship with the ANC that can deliver them because they believed the ANC still remained the future. 

Previously, you would opportunistically find out that most oppositions existing in many institutions were led by comrades who would not hide telling comrades of the PYA that they are ANC outside of the campus, as funny as it is, it is a reality and these opportunistic comrades could not completely mobilise students and hence the maintained, now diminishing, popularity of the student movement over the years. Is this still the same?

A detailed response to my closing question aforementioned, No! the kind of opposition faced by the student movement today is different, the opposition we are having is one which means business. The opposition we are having today is not convincing students to vote for them because the PYA is not delivering, but it is convincing students to vote them as an alternative because the ANC is 'failing'! Students continuously vote opposition today because of the challenges they are facing in the education system, the opposition would tell students to vote for them because SASCO failed to give them NSFAS? who approves? Is it SASCO?

Students vote opposition because they are reminded that the ANC aligned SASCO is failing to give them free education. On the contrary, SASCO consistently and continually puts pressure on the ANC led government to deliver free education. Our complacent government even after adoption in 2007 by the ANC itself, the ruling party of government does not even have a single well documented plan on the implementation of free education, when will this happen? Will it happen after the NDP? I ask because the liberal NDP in its 2030 vision does not talk about free education and young people are losing hope. The opposition has opportunistically and out of the open space we created convinced students that we are a rhetorician and they will never get free education, students get disgruntled and vote otherwise. 

Allow me to ask again in passing. From NMMU to UFH, what does it mean to the MDM?

The country has reached a state where it is no longer morally wrong to equate our democratic government to that of the apartheid epoch regardless of how oppressive it was. This happens because the masses are conscious, they are slowly removing race out of the apartheid and colonial struggle and are starting to compare the two within the context of economic inequality, the working class struggle amongst many.

Irrespective of what we have delivered so far, we have complacently drive our people to a state where they are even willing to relinquish power to a white liberal opposition, we have drove them to a state where they see opportunistic clueless neonatal protest movements as an 'alternative' who do not even know where to take our masses if they are to gain power. What has been happening recently in institutions of higher learning is not that our comrades are failing to represent students, it slowly tells us to read a sign that if things continue, we are going to find ourselves in an open opportunity society, a society that would have been built by us as the ANC when we allow the masses to bitterly vote us out because we are complacent. I would not want to imagine an open opportunity society, what will happen to salary disparities? It is a fact that white people still earn more for the same work and positions as our fellow blacks.

We are members of our respective communities first before we are students, the very same students who are voting out PYA in institutions of higher learning are the very same people who will vote out ANC. Each campus has its own dynamics, but I still argue these students vote PYA out because they are somehow angry at the ANC, these students are not only convinced to vote otherwise because PYA comrades are not giving them what they want but because they want free education and service delivery desperately they no longer care who liberated them.

These students vote out PYA for opposition because they want better administration of NSFAS, they want free education, they want to see service delivery happening in communities where they are from. As soon as these students realise that not any opposition in institutions of higher learning, no matter which political party is in students governance, cannot give them free education; they will soon realise that these oppositions they are voting into power in campuses are slightly addressing few of their issues and will at some point get tempted enough to vote them into power nationally.

All that we see means that the masses have been patient enough and can no longer wait, young people as the future of the country want radical economic transformation, free education and service delivery!

Above is my analysis, but it can never be complete without a solution.  Strategic intervention is needed, the current hegemony must economically emancipate the majority black masses, deliver free education and that's all. I do not believe in the rhetoric writing of introspection, we cannot introspect daily when we continuously lose the centre stage, we do not need to introspect any further! Let us implement.

"I have absolutely no idea what my generation did to enrich our democracy. We dropped the ball. We entered a period of complacency and closed our eyes to the public corruption of our democracy."-Wynton Marsalis
Less talk, more action!!!

Chabalala Bolton is a member of SASCO at Medunsa, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University

Pinda MofokengAre we in a dilema dilemma for transformation off Higher Education? Part 2

Pinda Mofokeng

The transformation of higher education cannot be a stand-alone issue, since education is part of the social core it must then be pegged to the national vision of the country. South Africa is a country that is culturally diverse and has a history that was so brutal in all spheres, which have not been confronted.

Apartheid education policy:

The ideological framework for Bantu education had its origins in a manifesto crafted in 1939 by Afrikaner nationalists. Based on the racist and paternalistic view that the education of blacks was a special responsibility of a superior white race, this document called for "Christian National Education" and advocated separate schools for each of South Africa's "population groups"-whites, Africans, Indians, and Coloureds.

Segregated education disadvantaged all black groups, but was particularly devastating for Africans. In a pamphlet released in 1948, the organization asserted: "... the task of white South Africa with regard to the native is to Christianize him and help him culturally, Native education and teaching must lead to the development of an independent and self-supporting and self-maintaining native community on a Christian National basis" (quoted in Hlatshwayo, 64).

The Bantu Education Act, 1953 (Act No. 47 of 1953; later renamed the Black Education Act, 1953) was a segregation law which legalised several aspects of the apartheid system. Its major provision was enforcing racially separated educational facilities. Even universities were made "tribal", and all but three missionary schools chose to close down when the government no longer would help support their schools.

Very few authorities continued using their own finances to support education for native Africans. In 1959, this type of education was extended to "non-white" universities and colleges with the Extension of University Education Act, and the internationally prestigious University College of Fort Hare was taken over by the government and degraded to being part of the Bantu education system. It is often argued that the policy of Bantu (African) education was aimed to direct black or non-white youth to the unskilled labour market, although Hendrik Verwoerd, at the time Minister of Native Affairs, claimed that the aim was to solve South Africa's "ethnic problems" by creating complementary economic and political units for different ethnic groups.

The national authorities of the time is often said to have viewed education as having a rather pivotal position in their goal of eventually separating South Africa from the Bantustans entirely. The Minister of Native Affairs at the time, the "Architect of Apartheid" Hendrik Verwoerd, stated that: "There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour ... “What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?"

The law forced basic and tertiary institutions under the direct control of the state. In 1976, the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974, which forced all black schools to use both Afrikaans and English as languages of instruction beginning with the last year of primary school, led to the Soweto Uprising in which more than 575 people died, at least 134 of them under the age of eighteen. The act was repealed in 1979 by the Education and Training Act, 1979, which continued the system of racially-segregated education.

Paulo Freire gives a powerful explanation of what does education represent “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” The apartheid regime made sure that their Bantu education system brought conformity from blacks and it was echoed by

“There is no space for him the "Native" in the European Community above certain forms of labour. For this reason it is of no avail for him to receive training which has its aim in the absorption of the European Community, where he cannot be absorbed. Until now he has been subjected to a school system which drew him away from his community and misled him by showing him the greener pastures of European Society where he is not allowed to graze” (quoted in Kallaway, 92).

After the 1994 democratic breakthrough the new government outlawed many of this apartheid laws however it has become tacit to out rightly bury the manifestations of the legacy of the undemocratic apartheid government. The Ying and the yang elucidates on the none dying of the past but it only reforms itself and the south African education system still and has largely been controlled by the past. Below are some of the tracts that we inherited from the past and we are failing to get rid of them.

  • Institutional autonomy
  • Statutory bodies
  • Board exams
  • Failure to merge Afrikaner and white universities
  • Underfunding of predominately black institutions
  • Commercialisation of education.

The above points were crafted by the past regime as part of an extensive system to control the input and output to the market eventually. Only institutional autonomy was not outlawed then as the state rightfully was the custodian of tertiary institutions and everything in the syllabus went through the state and it was taught after secondment from it. Numbers of black students to be enrolled in critical fields like make, science and medicine were directives from the state. Blacks were systematically excluded from tertiary education. Archie Mafeje a qualified lecturer was refused to teach at UCT in 1968 because of his skin colour the question is today are we still confronted by this anomaly? Yes

Blacks are excluded even today; the government has given universities a blank cheque with the so called institutional autonomy which is used extensively to exclude the majority class which is predominately black from the education system. Universities have a point system that is not pegged or compatible to the basic education rating system for one to be eligible for entrance to a university and all the bachelor’s degree qualifications that are enshrined in their matric results are useless. What type of a government allows students that have certified to have passed and are fit for tertiary education but cannot access it because university which is owned and controlled by the state and funded by the state has upped a point system and refuses to allow blacks and only those from model c schools.

Neo-Segregation:

Today 21 years of our democracy we are witnessing the neo segregation and exclusion not only in education but in the economy as well. In education the segregation is holistically a result of the skewed distribution of the economy which is still largely in the hands of the few white males and a few black elites eating from the crumbles of these whites. This permeates a situation whereby the kids of these rich clowns are there ones that get the better education or access to education and this class is only 6% of the population and the majority kids of the proletariat are left in the lurch.

 SA’s most expensive private schools (Above R140,000)

School Annual Fee (Boarding) Annual Fee (Day) Entry Fee
Hilton College R209,000 N/A R52,250
Michael House R192,000 N/A R24,000
St Martins R184,460 R71,460 R12,000
St Andrews R182,700 R81,600 R15,225
Kearsney College R181,350 R124,800 R17,400
Roedean School for Girls R181,140 R99,234 -
St Alban’s College R181,000 R102,900 R55,000
St Johns R178,523 R105,760 R61,348
St Andrews School for Girls R174,860 R94,380 -
St Mary’s School for Girls R173,700 R92,450 R34,950
Bishops R168,140 R96,360 R20,000
Somerset College R167,736 R89,904 R22,000
St Stithians R166,691 R96,119 R10,000
St Mary’s DSG R166,155 R90,630 -
Kingswood College R158,355 R82,920 R10,700
Diocesan School for Girls R157,590 R82,320 R35,200
Herschel Girls’ School R157,560 R78,960 R10,000
The Wykeham Collegiate R154,820 R83,500 R4,000
Bridge House R149,490 R81,680 R3,500
St Cyprians R148,560 R76,560 R7,500
St Anne’s School for Girls R146,200 R80,000 R34,000
Treverton College R142,400 R69,600 R5,000

FEES FOR FORMER WHITES UNIVERSITIES

Tuition fees

University BCom BA BSc LLB BEng
University of Cape Town R44,000 – R56,000 R41,500 R45,000 R42,000 R46,500 – R48,000
University of the Witwatersrand R37,400 – R39,130 R30,580 – R39,380 R37,340 R29,500 R36,500 – R45,050
Stellenbosch University R29,093 R30,125 R37,218 R36,074 R40,637
University of Pretoria R34,720 – R39,610 R27,750 – R32,500 R35,260 – R44,740 R31,800 R35,270 – R43,670
University of Kwa-Zulu Natal R31,226 R36,557 R27,619 – R35,358 R29,098 R34,798 – R35,101

Accommodation

Typical residence accommodation at Stellenbosch University amounts to between R28,690 – R37,850 for a single, excluding meals, with double room occupants paying about R22,790.

At UP, residence accommodation starts at R29, 700 for a single room, going up to R48,700, while a double room costs between R27,500 – R29,700 in 2014.

Conclusion

This means that for a student to get the best education his/her parents must be filthy rich and per year at high school they must have at certain instances above 200 000 and all the top schools means won’t be accessible for middle income earners kids those including teaches, soldiers and more than 90% of government employees who are paid on average the 150 000 per annum. This therefore means the black child is segregated from accessing the best education because of economic reasons.

The ruling party must fast rack a holistic approach in relation to transformation as Amilcar Cabral put it “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone's head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children” the future of the South African child is bleak to say if only whites get the best at the expense of blacks. How can a high school charge per year money that is equivalent to a three year BA degree at university this is ridiculous .

The struggle for access must be waged relentlessly for 21 years we have been negotiating and results have not been forth coming we ought to call the government to effectively over education and regulate fees since education is an apex priority hence action must be shown.

References

  • Hlatshwayo, Simphiwe A. Education and Independence: Education in South Africa, 1658-1988. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000
  • The Bantu Education Act, 1953 (Act No. 47 of 1953; later renamed the Black Education Act, 1953)
  • Kallaway, Peter, Ed. The History of Education under Apartheid, 1948-1994: the Doors of Learning and Culture shall be opened. New York: P. Lang, 2002.
  • The Education and Training Act, 1979

Pinda Mofokeng is the Provincial Secretary of SASCO in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ntuthuko Makhombothi Building our TVET sector brick upon brick: Lessons form BRICS

By Ntuthuko Makhombothi

A few weeks ago I was invited to be part of a delegation of the Ministry of Higher Education and Training that attended the BRICS Ministers of Education Meeting, held in Brasilia Brazil. The delegation included a number of stakeholders in South Africa’s higher education sector. Amongst those were senior academics form various universities, researcher and advisors of the department. This meeting was a follow up from the first meeting that took place in Paris, France.

We are grateful to the department for acknowledging the importance of the involvement of students in these important decision making platforms. It was the second time that student leadership was included in the delegation. This indicates that there is recognition of the contribution the student movement in South Africa has made to the development and transformation of higher education and training in South Africa.

“We cannot improve our country and education system outside the context of the global situation we find ourselves in.” Strategic Perspective on Transformation (SPOT)

It is within this context that we felt it was important to take part in the high level discussion about the future of education in the BRICS nations. The global political and economic landscape is changing with emerging economies, such as those in BRICS, beginning to take center stage in the world stage. There is no doubt that the international space is characterized by re-configurations in trade, growth and development. It is therefore important to consider carefully the role of skills development and knowledge in this paradigm.

We had an opportunity of making a few observations about our fellow BRICS nations. Most of our partner countries are strong-willed and resolute when it comes to implementation of their national programs. Once decisions have been made, every effort is put to ensue effective and efficient action.

South Africa has a real opportunity to take lessons from the BRICS in its journey of development and transformation of education. In as much as we can learn much from the BRICS, South Africa and Africa have important lessons for these nations. For instance our continent due to its history of oppression has great examples of empowerment policies, which BRICS nations could use in the empowerment of women and disadvantaged groups much more meaningfully. There are also many similarities between these nations especially in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector.

I participated in the High-Level experts Meeting on Professional and Technological Education group. For me this was an important opportunity to learn best practice in the TVET sector and also identify areas of cooperation and partnership with BRICS nations.

Amongst the common challenges identified throughout the BRICS body of nations, was the lack of attractiveness of the sector to youth and families. There also exist weaknesses in the linkage between the TVET sector and industry. In this regard the BRICS nations agree on a common program to establish labour market information system that will ensure capacity to analyze and forecast market relevance and skills development planning.

South Africa could learn from China, where local industries participate robustly in defining curriculum content in their local TVETs. This has assisted China also in ensuring that industry supports TVET and also provides in-service training for both students and teachers. The benefits are that teachers and students are able to relate to the workplace, making TVET graduates attractive to local industries.

South Africa needs to go through a defining paradigm shift in the program qualification mix within the TVET. The current programs mirror that of universities, reinforcing negative attitudes towards TVET, that suggest that they are lower quality “universities” or institutions. We also have very poor outcomes in our TVETs which is as a result of a number of factors, teaching capacity being a major one.

Governance and funding are also important areas of focus that our nation needs to consider. I was particularly impressed by the example of the governance structure of TVETS in the Federal Republic of Russia. Their governing councils are led by both state and industry leaders. In most of their TVETs, the Chairs of Councils, whom they call ‘Presidents’, are leaders of industry. This has led to easier flow of support from industry to colleges. Some of their colleges receive donations of resources and training equipment from the private sector. It would be great if companies, in the automobile sector in our country, could donate equipment and model vehicles to Mechanical Engineering departments of our TVETs in East London. This is common in Russia.

The involvement of the private sector must not happen without the overall leadership of the state. This is to ensure that national interests and development is not compromised. Our institutions must be market relevant, but more importantly must be driven by the developmental imperatives of the country. However the reviewing of our governance structures is important. Some of our TVET colleges have collapsed to administration due to poor management and governance. Most Councils are led by individual with little industry experience and who do not understand the sector. The Minister appoints these Councils and he should not use this to the advantage of his political acquaintances. 

In relation to the question of access to TVET education, our country has been engaged in a program to reverse the British model, which favours university education than TVET. The National Development Plan, which projects that in 2030 the ratio between university education and TVET will still favour the former over the latter, unsurprisingly failed this noble goal.

It is no surprise that our government retreated from its planned objective to enroll a million students in TVET by 2014. We began hearing Minister Nzimande making statements to the effect that expanding TVET further is catastrophic because of the weaknesses in quality. So the dichotomy between quality and quantity arises. All this does is to expose the poor planning on the part of the state. If the Minister was serious about achieving a million students by 2014, he should have equally focused on radical expansion of teaching capacity, infrastructure and funding.

There are important and interesting lessons we could learn from Brazil in this regard. Let alone the massive expansion of TVET during President Lula’s administration, increasing enrolment to about 4 million, the current administration introduced the National Programme for Access to Technical Education and Employment (PTONATEC). This decisive intervention in its first phase, from 2011 targeted to expand enrolment to 8 million students within 5 years for free. Today Brazil is engaged in the second phase PRONATEC 2, which aims to expand free training spaces to 12 million between 2015 and 2018.

Our nation is much smaller demographically to Brazil, however important lesion could be learnt about how Brazil matched this radical expansion program with teaching capacity, infrastructure and funding. We could learn good lessons on planning and execution. Brazil also introduced a program called e-Tech, which supports PRONATEC, and employs technology to provide distance learning in the TVET sector. Mobile units are also used to reach remote and rural areas in Brazil. The role of industry to assist distance students to access practical training is fundamental.

South Africa could also look at its BRICS partners on their regulation of private sector involvement in skills development. For instance in Brazil, medium and large companies are compelled by the law to employ apprentices from between 5% to 15% of their workforce. They are entitled to hourly minimum wage, employment and social security rights.

In China from 1.5% to 2.5% of companies wage bill goes to vocational education and training. In South Africa we also have a skills levy of about 1%, however most of this money goes back to companies who claim it through training reports. This money has been wasted through Sector Education and Training Authorities, who fund programs that don’t meaningfully contribute to skills development.

Like South Africa, China introduced tuition free vocation education in 2009, however in our case we poorly resourced this program and many poor young people get turned away. Corruption in the administration of the NSFAS bursaries in TVET remains a challenge we all need to fight. Some colleges go against policy and require poor students to pay upfront payments. This is common practice, and without SASCO’s vigilance, many more young people could be turned away due to this illegal act. We have not so far seen decisive action from the department of Higher Education and Training against colleges that practice this illegality.

Brazil also introduces payroll tax for all companies, which supports education and training. It being an important oil and gas producer in South America, led its government to take radical and decisive interventions to support education and health. The Brazilian government allocates 75% its oil royalties for education and 25% for health. Its oil royalties amount close to R10 billion and are expected to grow to between R1 818 billion and R3 636 billion in the next 35 years. (Ziomek, 2013)

This intervention characterizes the radical approach that Brazil has been engaged in since President Lula. South Africa should seriously consider these options of funding in view of our huge mineral wealth. This approach also presents a futuristic approach by Brazilians, which we could emulate, in order to have a sustainable Free Quality Education programme.

In conclusion, the BRICS Ministers of Education meeting agreed on important areas of co-operation in regards to professional and technological education. These include developing a BRICS inventory report for the TVET sector that includes statistics, curriculum, teacher training legislation ect. This was viewed as an important instrument to identify areas of focused cooperation and partnership.

Specific areas of research and innovation within the TVET sector will be identified and initiated. This will assist to ensure that in areas of common interest BRICS nations can be able to cooperate. For instance as stated earlier there are areas of common challenges such as the attractiveness of the sector, industry linkages, teacher training and curriculum development.

India also volunteered to host an online platform for teacher training and other co-operation initiatives for the BRICS nations. This was also complemented by a great desire for student and teaching mobility within the sector across the BRICS nations. This will be an important advantage for South African students and teachers. The TVET sector in our country can benefit immensely from the BRICS platform. Fellow BRICS nations also made commitments to support and cooperate with our sister countries in Africa. It is important for our nation to always carry the mandate for Africa’s development in all engagements and platforms.

Our visit to Brazil was indeed fruitful and opened our eyes to important realities. South Africa needs to radically transform the TVET sector; this should be realized through decisive actions. Our strength rests in the collective actions by students, lecturers, workers, managers and government.

Let the Brasilia minute renew our commitment and determination to enhance quality, relevance and excellence in our TVET sector.

Ntuthuko Makhombothi is the President of SASCO.

Themba MakamuON THE BRINK OF A RELIGIOUS CIVIL WAR: Does the problems in Kenya needs a military or a political solution?

Themba Makamu

Africa have been dominated by civil wars and of late by what the media and international community refer to as "terrorism". Presence of groups like Al Shabaab, which means youth in Somali have increased in the horn of African and its neighboring countries. The latest victims of this religious mobilized groups are fellow students in Kenya, Garrisa College. There have been an international condemnation against Al Shabaab but not a lot have been said about the fundamental political challenges in Kenya and no political solution is proposed by either Kenya or the international community.

Condolences rained from all corners of the world to Kenya following the killing of students by Al Shabaab. To Kenya this misery is not new as they have experienced similar attacks in the West Gate Mall before. The media and the international community have been calling for a radical military intervention against an Islamic extremist group, Al Shabaab, President Uhuru Kenyatta have also vowed to revenge the lives lost in both Westgate Mall and Garrisa College attacks but however the questions are whether or not the problems in Kenya are military or politically and do they require a military solution without any form of political solution?

The media and the United States through its Secretary of state John Kerry have termed the attack in Garrisa College as violent extremism and the US have vowed to assist Kenya to combat that form of extremism. The US have been fighting Al Shabaab in Somalia which happen to be Kenya's neighbors for years and the attacks in Kenya by Al Shabaab were provoked by Kenyan forces involvement against Al Shabaab in Somalia. For many years the US have been using drones and the AU have been trying use military means to get rid of Al Shabaab but what fruits have this form of intervention brought about to Kenya and Somalia? More blood is shed and more lives are lost.

Beside that Kenyan armed forces were involved in direct combat against Al Shabaab in Somalia there are other political problems in Kenya. We cannot talk about Islamic Extremism without making a mention about Christian Fundamentalism in Kenya. Religious intolerance and marginalization of minorities will always be exploited by groups that are termed "terrorists" by the media and the international community. Understanding very well that propaganda role that the media is playing to increase Islamophobia globally we saw how the pictures of the dead students were paraded continuously in various media platforms to spark emotional rather than rational response to the situation in Kenya.

Tensions between Islams and Christians are ongoing in Kenya. Father Willybard Lagho, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Mombasa, told the Christian Science Monitor in January that “The level of tolerance that has been there since the two religions were founded has, in the last 20 years, been challenged by incidents.” The problem of radicalism is not only a problem of Muslims in Kenya but also of Christians. The media, the US and the international community have jumped before the gun because of the rising levels of Islamophobia to blame only Al Shabaab without analyzing other fundamental challenges that Kenya is facing and Al Shabaab is exploiting.

The right to religion in Kenya was constitutionalised in 2010 and since the have been complaints from Muslims who are mainly in coastal Kenya that the government have favoritism on Christians in Inland Kenya. Muslims have been complaining that the government requires them to provide more extensive citizenship paperwork and many Muslims view this as some form of discrimination. The government security forces have been terrorizing Mosques and detaining Muslims following the Westgate massacre. All this will be exploited by groups like Al Shabaab to recruit Muslims and to justify their modus operandi which is not different from the one of France, United Kingdom and the United States of killing who have holds a fundamental different view with them.

In no way we are condoning any modus operandi that have something to do with killing of innocent civilians hence i remain a critique of America's foreign policy and the employment of military solutions over political problems. We in the same spirit without dismissing their geniune demands condemn the mode of operation of Al Shabaab and other groups that are dubbed as "terrorists" groups by the media and the international community.

The people of Kenya must be aware that religion have been used to divide and to mobilize wars in many African countries, the President Uhuru Kenyatta must know that someone is trying to start a religious war in his country and the international community must pause and ask if the problems in Kenya are military or politically and their intervention should be directed by their findings because you cannot use military solution over political problems and the other way round. Kenya is on the crossroads, on the brink of a religious civil war.

Themba Makamu is SASCO Mopani Regional Secretary, YCLSA Lawrence Phokanoka District Deputy Chairperson, convener of International Relations subcommittee of ANCYL Mopani Regional Executive Committee and a final year Student of Politics in UNISA.