24 January 2013

South Africa: Education Stakeholders Should Support the Oversight Committee On Transformation in Public Universities

NEHAWU welcomes the announcement, by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Cde Blade Nzimande, of the establishment of the Oversight Committee on Transformation in South African Public Universities to be led by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Vice Chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.

Other members include: Cosatu second deputy-president Zingiswa Losi, NEHAWU first Deputy-president Joe Mpisi, University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Dr Mvuyo Tom, Director of transformation and employment equity at Wits Nazeema Mohamed, Director of the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice at University of the Free State Professor Andre Keet and the Director of Lifelong Learning at the University of Western Cape Professor Shirley Walters.

This is a welcome development and hopefully this committee will be able to assist in eradicating all forms of discrimination including the twin scourges of racism and sexism.

We have confidence in the abilities and integrity of all the esteemed members of this committee and we are happy that amongst them there are worker leaders including the Cosatu second Deputy-President Cde Zingiswa Losi and NEHAWU first Deputy-President Cde Joe Mpisi.

These man and women have a very difficult task of eradicating an entrenched legacy of apartheid that divided our society and affected all its facets.

The pace of transformation needs to be hurried up and adequate policies adopted.

We call on the university vice-chancellors to work with this committee to speed up the transformation of universities.

In addition to the question of racism and sexism, as NEHAWU we believe that the Oversight Committee must also place the question of socio-economic class at the centre in its approach to the transformation of these institutions.

The transformation process must address the following:

a) A clear bias in favour of students from working class and poor rural backgrounds in terms of admission policy and access in order to drastically raise the participation ratio of the black, especially African population in higher education.

b) The class orientation of the course content and curricula, which turn to be less relevant to the immediate context of the majority of the South African population and in some instances, there is a tendency to pretend as if South Africa is a developed Western society. We need to produce a calibre of students that will be able to assist the nation in fulfilling the vision of a developmental state.

The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Cde Blade Nzimande is demonstrating courageous leadership by confronting the reluctance of some universities to transform.

This follows another welcome decision by the minister to introduce new measures in order to improve the standard of governance in the Sector Education and Training Authorities {SETAs}.

The higher education sector has been crying for decisive leadership in order to reverse some of the ill-conceived policies that left it in a state of near collapse. We expect all stakeholders to play a constructive role in pushing for the much needed change in the sector.

Our union is a willing and constructive partner in the education sector and will continue to lead from the front to ensure that the doors of learning are opened to all and are also accessible to the poor.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Office

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