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Student leadership structure must be rethought

Access and accessibility to education and, in particular, higher education is an obstacle in South Africa, says the writer. Picture taken September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Access and accessibility to education and, in particular, higher education is an obstacle in South Africa, says the writer. Picture taken September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Published Jun 13, 2022


Yonela Mlambo

Cape Town - Access and accessibility to education and, in particular, higher education is an obstacle in South Africa. Obstacles to access and accessibility to education is the manifestation of the three important factors: global neoliberal conceptualising of education, nationalist elites’ failures, and most importantly, lack of student activism qua SRC failures.

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On the eve of liberation, South Africa was confronted with an anti-education global order that conceptualised education in terms of commodities that can be bought and sold in the market.

The anti-education global order nudged the states to decrease their spending on public and social welfare programmes and create a “conducive” environment for the market to thrive.

Unfortunately, education was not spared from the anti-global education gospel largely preached by the Euro-American governing elites backed by the Bretton Woods Institutions.

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The anti-education global order was faithfully implemented by the nationalist elites mis-leaders publicly masquerading as the “progressive leaders” seized with public interest of their newly found “nations”.

Unfortunately, the gullible “masses of our people” were sympathetic to the nationalist elites, notwithstanding that public sympathy was short-lived. Upon the depletion of the public sympathy the “progressive leaders” nationalist elites took desperate political and economic measures to retain their public image of being “progressive leaders” which were further against the interests of the “mass of our people”.

Who can forget the 2017 political desperate announcement of “free-education”, with no sound planning and implementation plan?

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The nationalist elites have mastered the politics of deception for survival. When the conceptualisation of education and barriers to access and accessibility to education became visible, they all of a sudden became “intellectuals” and further conjured up economic “reasoning and rationality”.

The economic “reason and rationality” invoked is the regurgitation of the anti-global education order. Nonetheless, and because of intellectual bankruptcy, they are unable to discern that they are re-invoking Euro-American and Bretton Woods Institution utterances. Alas, to Africa.

Disappointed by the nationalist elites conniving with the Euro-American rulers and Bretton Woods Institutions, the SRC symbolically appears to be the messiah of the student albeit empirically weak, irrelevant, structurally unable, and further lacking the political will to save the students.

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The SRC derives its legitimacy from the Education Act and therefore the act allows the SRC to have chairs in different university institutional forums and advocate student needs.

However, the SRC goes to these different university institutional forums already defeated by the processes and the procedures, and having very little non-support of the different representatives in these forums.

After failing either to properly and prior engage with the university policies and proposed policies because of their academic commitments or merely not reading the proposed policies, and failure to lobby the different representatives in the university institutional forums, the SRC loses engagements in these forums.

To maintain and sustain its symbolic powerful position, the SRC takes it either to the streets to disrupt registration or the writing of exams. The strategy adopted by the SRC should be sufficient enough to inform you that as the SRC does not have a voice thus to be heard, it has to disrupt important university activities.

Furthermore, SRC power-mongering leaders’ attitude similar to the nationalist elites, plunge it further into hegemonic and legitimate crises in the student populace. It becomes difficult to reach the threshold of voters during the election period.

If SRC leaders are not caught up in scandalous affairs, its leaders are found impressing their affiliated political party leaders with the intentions of future deployment to the upper echelons of the party or government department or institutions.

To dismantle the lack of access and accessibility to education, students must re-imagine their current leadership structure.

Mlambo is a master of philosophy candidate at UCT

Cape Times

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