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Cape Town - Acting president and Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor says the decline in white student enrolment, too few black graduates in the sciences and a lack of access to higher education for poor students are some of the issues that need attention to transform education.
Pandor, who has been the acting president for the past two days while President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe are out of the country, was speaking at the Sixth Annual Imam Abdullah Haron Memorial Lecture in Landsdowne last night. Imam Haron was a religious and political leader who died in detention during apartheid.
In her talk titled “Transforming higher education” Pandor described Haron as someone who “taught and learnt within the Muslim community, yet who did not view religion as restricting one to a religious community”.
“Imam Haron reflected the true ethos of Islam – universality. He related to all within other religious groups, within other communities of the most vulnerable, progressive organisations, women, youth, publishers and tragically, the apartheid state which eventually killed him.”
Pandor said Haron would have been proud of some of the achievements in South Africa since 1994, including the number of university enrolments which have increased from 360 000 to 740 000 and the more than 200 percent increase in the number of African students graduating.
But she said there was still room for improvement and several areas were worth paying more attention to.
“There has been a decline in white student enrolment, most of the student increase is at universities of technology and African students are overwhelmingly represented at distance institutions.
“Moreover, the majority of black graduates are in the social sciences and not in the… technology fields.
“Also there appears to be the very limited growth in 18 to 24-year-old participation rates. Further, the most affluent seem to enjoy greater access than the poor.”
She added that special attention needed to be given to women in the maths and science disciplines and that young South Africans should go and study in other African countries create stronger bonds.
South Africans needed to do more than be “armchair critics”to move beyond these circumstances.