Academics add their voices to student protests

STUDENT activists have slated the protest at Parliament yesterday by academics and staff members of the universities of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch (SU).

Academics submitted a memorandum to the regional office of the National Department of Higher Education and Training, calling on them to urgently address the crisis in higher education in South Africa.

The protest was initiated by UCT’s Health Sciences Students Council (HSSC), the Post Graduate Students Council (PGSC), the Dean’s Advisory Committee (DAC) and the senior leadership group of the university (SLG).

Central to the memorandum submitted by professor Bongani Mayosi was a demand for a new policy for the funding of higher education before the 2017-18 budget speech.

It called for additional funding, the establishment of a special task team and the participation of all relevant stakeholders in talks to address the challenges in higher education.

UCT student activist Simon Rakei said academics who aligned themselves with the state would not be supported by students.

“We are highlighting the hypocrisy and contradictions of this picket.

"As students our cry is for free decolonised education, not more money or more task teams, which in the long run are a waste of time and are not sustainable.”

He said any meaningful alliance with students would depend on academics aligning themselves with the principle of free, decolonised education and the return to the universities of expelled and suspended students.

Tygerberg campus student Lee Baatjies said students rejected the Higher Education proposal and stood in solidarity with all university activists, who were shutting down campuses.

“If university academics and management are in support of students they would not implement suspensions and interdicts.

"There can be no constructive way forward while they turn a blind eye to students being victimised."

A UCT activist, who asked not to be named, said: “We remain resolute in our demands for a truth and reconciliation commission on UCT and for the return of our cadres.”

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said participation in the picket was voluntary.

“Participants in the march did so out of their own choice.

"Those who chose not to participate were at liberty to do so.

"While the minister’s (Nzimande) proposal to address fees is a step in the right direction, the vice-chancellors have acknowledged this important gesture by the minister is only an interim measure.”

He confirmed that the Student Disciplinary Tribunal had concluded the three outstanding cases, but he said their outcome was private.