Chairperson of the South African Student Congress and student activist, Keke Maki writes…
It is important to distinguish between equity of access and equity of opportunity and outcomes for those social groups that were historically disadvantaged or continue to be disadvantaged – black and women in South Africa, those of working class and rural poor social origins, and those with special needs.
With hindsight of the difference between equity and equality there is a necessity to consider the equity of access and the quality of opportunity.
The terrain of institutions of higher learning, universities in particular serves a crucial purpose in society – that of knowledge empowerment and most importantly skills development and training to provide life chances, create businesses, employment opportunities and build civil society.
The discourse of quality human resources as a product outcome of education is reflected in the state’s economy and the crippled state our economy is in, speaks for itself.
The challenges we face currently in the country with high unemployment rate, unemployable graduates, corruption and inequality has much to do with the higher education system among other things.
Whilst we celebrate a higher access to higher education post 94’ we also need to assess the equity of that access.
Are we merely celebrating the fact that more black young people in particular are accessing higher education as if catching a lift in Noah’s ark or do we look to redress and serve a purpose?
Does this education system prepare students for the roles that they will play in the future through guidance, instruction, and/or training activities?
Is it for the development of ability and enhancing the standard of living and dignity of our state to realize national and international goals?
Is this national education aimed at elevating the intellectual life of the country and to develop state citizens who will have high morality, knowledge and skills, physical and mental fitness, independence, and social responsibility?
What are the deliberate, immediate/long term goals it seeks to achieve in redressing socio economic challenges in our communities?
What is its impact in class segregation and inequalities of our society? Who exactly does it serve?
The state last year spent 14 billion of tax payers money on higher education to fund autonomous institutions who still reflect a status core of colonialism, hell-bent on marginalising and systematically excluding disadvantaged black people by language policies, applications/admissions policies that favour a certain stream line of elites in our society.
I mean some of these admissions policies are completely ludicrous and really have no logical basis. An admissions policy needs to reflect the engagement of the University with the apartheid legacy, the current social structure, constitutional, legislative and other social imperatives, and the institution’s engagement with the concepts of social equity and redress.
Example: The University of Cape Town? Their faculty of health sciences point system is based on a trivial, outrageous composition of unnecessary requirements, in fact which has no similarities to the University of Western Cape point system for the same course of a national senior certificate.
On top of that there’s still a National benchmark test (NBT) they conduct themselves and determine whether you are adequate enough for their acceptance. The NBT is also booked with a fee and all this is done electronically.
Now Ntombomzi from Gqugqwala in the Eastern Cape who went to Sthembiso Secondary high school doesn’t stand a chance to study medicine at UCT.
These institutions have identified that most black people are mainly concerned of the quality of opportunities no matter the odds.
Hence forth most black students flock towards the business/commerce faculty since it has the lowest and pretty much straight forward app score requirement, not to say that the faculty has no significance but it mainly promotes an administrative labour as if black people are only good enough to be clerks, secretaries or managers and this faculty also has the cheapest tuition fees.
As is opposed to the white dominated faculty of health sciences, engineering and many other fields of essential skills, carrying on a legacy of their fathers and those before them of pilots, engineers, doctors etc.
Whites are maintaining the very same unreformed social constructs in our country that is oppressive to black people.
Institutions of higher learning don’t exist in isolation. They are in fact a microcosm of society and what transpires at these institutions of higher learning, be it racial marginalization or stratification, be it gender discrimination or even the general moral degeneration, is a mirror image of civil society.
If we seek to transform this state then universities are where we need to start.
Scrap institutional autonomy which in fact is an indication that these white institutions have no faith in government’s national development plan and are ready to privatize these institutions as soon as there’s discomfort.
Regulate all forms of aptitude tests equivocally across.
Enforce a purposeful national building plan education system which not only begins in varsity but must have had foundation in basic education and fully fund it.
– Keke Maki
[DISCLAIMER: Mr Maki contributed to this article in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Independent Media or TYI.]