Let us march in support of our students and our public higher education systemDate Released: Fri, 23 September 2016 09:28 +0200
Our public higher education stands on the edge of a precipice. The challenges confronting our system demand that we all work together to strengthen rather than weaken it further. Should our public higher education collapse, it is the poor and the working class families who will bear the brunt of a dysfunctional higher education of dubious quality; the rich will send their children to private or overseas universities.
The primary cause of the crisis faced by our higher education system is its chronic underfunding over a long period of time. We recognise and empathise with many of our students who struggle to raise adequate financial resources to support their higher education. Our collective position on the issue of funding of public higher education, and access to quality higher education, is unambiguous.
First, we stand united with our students in urging our Government and the private sector to provide funding so that every academically deserving student is afforded a fair opportunity to access quality higher education. In particular, we support the call for the immediate implementation of free quality higher education for the poor.
Second, we call on our Government and private sector to support our public higher education system adequately to maintain quality in our public higher education, and with a view to lessening the burden of tuition fees on struggling parents.
It is vitally important that we stand together on these issues that affect our students and our public higher education system. We invite the entire Rhodes University community – students, academic and support staff, NEHAWU, NTEU and the University Senior Leadership team – to gather at the Drostdy Arch today, 23 September 2016, at 12h45 for a march to the City Hall to hand over a statement to the Municipality Manager to pass on to our national government.
Earlier yesterday a group of students engaged in activities that sought to undermine and divert attention away from the worthy cause of highlighting the plight of our struggling students. These included the barricading of South Street with burning tyres, invasion of some residences, storming of some dining halls, intimidation and harassment of kitchen staff, forcing of staff to leave their posts in the Admin Building. Such unlawful acts are unacceptable. Action will be taken against those who engage in such unlawful conduct.
We reiterate the University’s position that everyone has a right to protest peacefully and within the bounds of the law. However, no one has the right to interfere, undermine or infringe on another’s rights. Any person’s rights end at the point where exercise of such rights encroaches in the rights of another person.