The DA is saddened and disappointed that the 2017 University academic year, which began peacefully, has once again been marred by violence and disruption.
Two Universities closed this past week – Mpumulanga and Fort Hare – because of student violence. An important national conference, under the aegis of the esteemed former Deputy Chief Justice and Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Dikgang Moseneke, was forced to close, again as a result of student violence. Accompanying the closure of the conference was the virtual forcing of white participants to leave the conference.
The campus protests have their roots in the financial plight of poor students and the accommodation shortages in rural universities. Both of these are a result of government underfunding over a long period. And while a significant amount of additional funding has been ploughed into NSFAS this year, our on the ground research indicates that even that additional funding is not reaching students to the extent and in the way that it should be.
This, however, does not justify violence, nor does it justify the closing of campuses.
The intolerance displayed is unacceptable. We cannot stand by while educational activities are being stopped and while sincere attempts at discussion are blocked.
These events warn of another extremely worrying year on campuses. While the ANC-led government goes about destroying many of our political and economic institutions, we are witnessing the inflicting of very severe damage upon our educational ones too.
Four factors underlie this:
- The extreme poverty of many of our students and their complete dependence on NSFAS grants remains a deep and intractable problem.
- The rise of racial nationalism is palpable throughout our society and the presence of any racially motivated exclusion on campuses or elsewhere cannot be tolerated.
- The violence which some student movements are prepared to engage in is an appalling indictment of our society; and
- And the rush to close University campuses by managements, often encouraged by government, is both cowardly and thoughtless – those non-violent students who wish to study and who have sacrificed a great deal to do so, are deprived, often for months on end, of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities
The poisonous atmosphere on many campuses engendered by these various factors will be difficult to clear.
We in the DA pledge ourselves to the values of non-racialism and non-violence within healthy and viable institutions. It is only by committing ourselves to these principles that we can ensure that the academic year will progress without interruption.
Belinda Bozzoli MP
DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education