By: Batlile Phaladi
Academic experts say the country needs a minister of higher education who will communicate rationally with students about a way forward.
The #FeesMustFall protests are far from over as government did not resolve students’ grievances in a clear manner, academic experts warned.
Tshwane University of Technology Professor Rasigan Maharaj said that as long as government failed to establish a platform for students to have the means of creating wealth for future generations, universities would have issues about affordability.
Experts taking part in a university dialogue yesterday hosted by Brand SA and Constitution Hill, added it was possible for free education to be executed in the country in two to three years’ time if there was commitment from the department of higher education.
The dialogue, facilitated by crime activist and former Primedia head of news Yusuf Abramjee, tackled issues around the need for free higher education.
One of the panellists, University of Cape Town Professor George Hull, argued that to curb violent protests where students felt they were not being listened to, the country needed a minister of higher education who engaged with students, who communicate rationally with students about a way forward and cost sharing. Hull also said government needed to decide what it was going to do next year to avoid the same situation experienced by South African universities late last year and at the start of this year.
Last year, students started the #FeesMustFall protests that spread to universities across the country. Some of the protests turned violent, resulting in damages of hundreds of million of rand to properties.
North-West University was one institution hit hard, with damages at the institution estimated at more than R150 million, followed by the University of Johannesburg’s R100 million bill.
While Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande earlier called on vice-chancellors to display leadership during disruptions, the academic experts at the dialogue also called on the minister to have a proper engagement with students to discuss the department’s plan to fund students.
The two professors said it was possible for free education to be executed in the country in two to three years’ time if there was commitment from the department. Maharaj said government and other leaders had to teach students and society about the importance of doing away capitalism.
“We have to build universities beyond capitalism; capitalism is inherently unfair.”
Maharaj also encouraged students to not enter universities thinking “you go there to get a certificate to go into the labour market. Getting educated is also about expanding your knowledge, and we should prioritise education.”Source: The Citizen
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