Racial Attacks, Black-Facing, South African Universities Unchanged

Racial Attacks, Black-Facing, South African Universities Unchanged
These two Stellenbosch students caused a furore on Twitter after they posted images of themselves in black face mocking Venus And Serena Williams

AFRICANGLOBE – South African universities remain untransformed with racial attacks, black-facing and unchanged demographics of both educators and students persisting around the country’s tertiary institutions.

Higher education institutions need administrators and graduates that are diversity literate if transformation is to be achieved within them. This was a proposal made at a University of Pretoria Humanities Department dialogue on higher education transformation held yesterday.

Melissa Steyn, Director of the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies said that goal is “an informed analytical orientation that enables a person to read prevailing social relations, recognising the ways in which possibilities are being opened and closed down for those differently positioned within the unfolding dynamics of specific social contexts.”

“These are capacities for dealing with the complex society that we live in today,” she said. “Literacy has to do with a social and cultural environment and being able to function [within it].”

The basis of such a skill set is determined by factors such as a recognition of race, a grammar and that facilitates a discussion of privilege and oppression and the recognition of both symbolic and material inequalities. She added that an engagement with the transformation of oppressive systems towards the deepening of social justice at all levels of a higher education organisation were needed.

Steyn said however, that it is important to critique the notion of diversity within the country, We must take a look at those fundamental assumptions,” she said. “There must be a profound rethinking and profound changes of everything that has been considered as normal… to allow us to re-imagine what our universities will need to look like.”

History lecturer from Rhodes University Dr Nomalanga Mkhize argued that deracialisation had reached its limits in the transformation of the South African education system.

“We have reached our limit because there is only so much you can do with white people in an institution. Other than forcefully retiring all of them, you have reached your limit. There is just a natural biological limit to who you can push out at one point,” she said.

She suggested that there could be incentives that universities could employ, such as compelling staff members to learn an African language, and those that do not follow such transitionary steps should step aside.


By: Dominic Skelton


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