Qondile Khedama writes…
Amidst the strongest ever campaigns (#feesmustfall campaign) waged through social media platforms in South Africa, many questions are still left unanswered, this is despite the nearing resumption of the academic year.
Most universities have announced an 8% increase in fees for the 2017 academic year. This announcement was made following the statement made earlier by Dr Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, that individual universities can determine the percentage they increase fees by, capped at a maximum of 8% and that for some categories of needy students there will be no increase.
The unfortunate thing is that this increase occurs during quite a volatile environment in institutions of higher learning. The greatest fear is that this should not flare up the already tense situation at hand.
It was also interesting to see the campaign manifesting itself into multiple facets. Amongst others we saw it bringing afore an old debate of decolonisation of education into the centre stage and it at the same time elevated the radical young female activists and across racial lines and reminding us of the generation of 1976 Student uprising that took to the streets and ultimately changing the socio – political landscape in South Africa.
Leigh-Ann Naidoo does acknowledge this in her piece “Contemporary Student Politics in South Africa” in a book titled ‘Student Must Rise’ that there was a significant change in thinking about education and society from 1969 onwards, when SASO stopped fighting for “equality” in education, or education equal to white education, and started criticising white, privileged education as a domesticating or dominating education.
This is an indication that discontent amongst black South Africans has been brewing for years.
“Fees Must Fall Now!!! or We will send a signal to V&A, Uyeva Blade??” Student’s march for FreeDecolonizedEducation to Parliament Cape Town | 26 October 2016 #FeesMustFall #2016 #NationalShutDown #YhuuuuAbelungu! #MakunyiweMacala #FreeDecolonizedEducation #Parliarment #CapeTown #uwc #cput #uct #nmmu #blackandwhite #blackandwhiteonly #photographysa #photographer #photography #photosociety #magnumphoto #igersuct #igersuwc #igers #AJPhotography
It is during this protest (#feesmustfall) you could hear students questioning the 1994 project. Asking questions such as – what was achieved?
What is still outstanding, did we expedite the real needs of students post 1994, the change that took place after the new dispensation was it merely cosmetic, just opening doors of higher learning to people of previously disadvantaged backgrounds without taking into consideration the socio economic needs of these individuals.
These have been dominating questions in the material generated during the #feesmustfall activities.
Clearly, there is an urgent need for a meaningful community engagement. It the duty of the caring community to build ongoing, permanent relations with the purpose of building a culture of intergenerational dialogue.
Just like during the times of the struggle against apartheid, sustainable community based structures have to be built that focuses particularly on all levels of education. It cannot be that we build structures such as e.g. community policing forums and yet we ignore important sectors such as education in a developmental state like ours.
Pre 1994 most people from disadvantaged communities were depended on long distance learning to develop themselves and it is a model that UNISA has mastered and continues to do so in a technologically driven era.
This brings me back to the question, do we need warm bodies attending lectures under the roofs of universities or the same quality of education can be delivered via other technological means like e-learning which can provide a more affordable alternative to those who are finding the cost of attending institutions of higher learning unaffordable e.g. accommodation, meals, security, overcrowding, security and general expenses).
Advance in technology have changed approach in tuition and course delivery. Research does show that blended instruction could offer advantages to institution of higher learning and student body. It is time that our knowledge industry is made convenient and accessible to the needy.
It is high time that government and role players within the education sector explore other options such as e- learning especially to school learners who have interest to further their education in institutions of higher learning.
Whilst we are waiting for the outcomes of the Presidential Commission and other initiatives undertaken to quell the situation.
We cannot as the society fold our arms – we need to encourage ecumenical dialogues amongst stakeholders within the Higher Education sector, and these dialogues should be embedded within our communities/ townships since institutions of higher learning exist within our communities. Transformation of the education is everybody’s business.
Qondile Khedama is a communications practitioner & Founder of Bram Fischer Foundation
He writes in his personal capacity