AFRICANGLOBE – For a change, let us forget about the African National Congress (ANC) and its failures and focus on our universities and their failures to transform.
Let us forget about a scapegoat of our every problem, President Jacob Zuma and his failures, and focus on his critics, the Black professionals at the universities who are good at criticising him, but not so good when it comes to transforming their own institutions.
By their very student intake ratios, our universities do not reflect the demographics of the country. Most of them are still dominated by a white minority, over two decades the country had ushered in a democratic order.
It is still a privilege for a Black child to access tertiary education, as opposed to it being a right. The exclusion of a Black child at the university is not only about a financial neediness, but also about a linguistic barrier.
Following protests over financial exclusion and other transformational issues in some of our universities, the Black students have taken it upon themselves to transform these institutions.
Their course of struggle is not only about the issues that affect them, but also about the ones that affect their parents or fellow beings, cleaners and Black professionals alike. They want the universities to do away with outsourcing and insource the cleaners and other academic staff. In some universities, they have won the war on the outsourcing.
The question, therefore, begs itself as: What is it that our Black professionals, especially the so-called political analysts, are doing to transform these institutions? When one switches on a radio or a television or reads a newspaper, they are dominating the current affairs, criticising the ANC-government and Zuma for steering the country in the wrong direction. What about them? What are they doing to transform their institutions to reflect the country’s demographics?
It became clear during the protests over no fee increases last year that our Black academics lack basic leadership skills. At Wits University, Professor Adam Habib, who is a fervent critic of the current government, failed to show glimpses of leadership.
He chose to engage the students through the media. How he had dealt with the issue of a former Wits SRC President Mcebo Dlamini, who had made derogatory remarks against the Jewish community in South Africa, sums it up about his leadership. His emotions got the better of him and he acted irrational, expelling Dlamini from the university.
University of Pretoria (UP), on the other hand, failed to read the telltale consequences of a bilingual medium of instruction, which pitted the African students against the white students at the University of Stellenbosch, and introduce a monolingual medium of instruction to prevent similar protests.
The African students want the university, which has Prince Mashele and Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, who is an advisor to a Principal and Vice-Chancellor Cherly de la Rey, to scrap the bilingual language policy in favour of English as a monolingual medium of instruction. Mashele, Maluleke, and other Black professionals have failed to transform the university.
The students argue that, among other things, by scraping Afrikaans as the medium of instruction, the university would save in the region of R100 million. This is the money it can use to make the tertiary education accessible to the most privileged students.
Having studied at the UP, I know how the linguistic barrier disadvantages a Black student. I know how the white students excel, passing with distinctions while their Black counterparts are struggling to get an exam entry mark (a forty per cent).
Interestingly, the AfriForum, a minority group that comprises non-reformist whites, wants the university to keep Afrikaans as the medium of instruction. It argues that Afrikaans forms part of the whites’ culture and calls for the university to incorporate SePedi as the medium of instruction. This does not solve the problem, as that not every African student speaks or understands Sepedi.
Bilingual medium of instruction is a form of racism against the non-white students. Black students at the University of Free State (UFS), where four white students fed Black cleaners urinated food, also face racism in a form of linguistic barrier.
Yet a UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor Jonathan Jansen, who equated the cleaners’ dignity to monetary value (offered them money to forgive the students), buries his head in the sand on racism at the university. He is an apologist of white supremacy.
Our Black professionals have also failed to transform the University of Cape Town (UCT), where Xolela Mangu is an associate professor of sociology. Like the UFS, the university is an apartheid museum, as seen by colonial artefacts the students had burned. It boggled my mind that over two decades the country had ushered in the democratic order, the university had kept the artefacts.
Our Black professionals are apologists of white supremacy. They are just good at criticising the ANC-government and its leaders for failing to transform our society. A real transformation should start at the institutions of higher education and cascade down on the ground. If these institutions cannot transform, so is the society.
By: Molifi Tshabalala