Little achieved over campus integration
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The Ministry of Higher Education and Training has conceded that transformation at former Afrikaans universities has stalled and efforts to forge social cohesion have been frustrated.
This acknowledgement follows a Stellenbosch University documentary, Luister (Listen), in which students tell of racism towards blacks on and off campus.
The efforts at reconciliation flowed from a 2013 report by a ministerial committee on transformation that recommended that measures to foster social cohesion be fast-tracked and discrimination eliminated in higher education.
The committee was formed in response to several incidents of racism on campuses, including the University of the Free State, where students fed cleaning staff food in which they had urinated.
Higher Education Ministry spokesman Khaye Nkwanyana said on Friday that less progress had been made than expected since the report.
The minister, Blade Nzimande, was giving the committee more resources so it could monitor transformation, drive it if necessary, and clear blockages.
“The minister met all the university council chairmen and vice-chancellors of the former Afrikaans universities in Cape Town in April. He read them the riot act on transformation and expressed his concern about the snail’s pace in transformation, 21 years into democracy.”
At Stellenbosch, there was some resistance to social inclusion.
“We are happy that some institutions have established transformation committees and offices,” he said.
The ministry is to stage a second summit on transformation next month.
Nkwanyana said the summit would focus on clear transformation indicators, such as the quality of research by historically disadvantaged individuals, and increased graduate output.
The summit would champion the Africanisation of content “away from the Eurocentric narrative”, the redressing of professoriate demographics, and upward mobility of black academics to senate level.
The summit is to be attended by academics, student leaders, social movements like “Rhodes Must Fall”, Open Stellenbosch, unions, international scholars and the government.
Professor Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, said yesterday that his campus was not perfect, but was working on race relations among staff and students.
Speaking in Cape Town at the launch of his new book on leadership on divided university campuses, Jansen said that racial tensions had led the university to realise it had to prepare its students as soon as they arrived on campus.
Universities had no control over how children were brought up, but could “prepare them” so they were able to live with other races and cultures.
“This is a handy book with some answers to the problems we see on our campuses.”
Jansen said his research had led him to see how intimate relations were forged between slave owners and their slaves in the US context.
“In these relations there was closeness in the physical sense, but distance at the same time.”
Jansen warned that this was happening at most universities with white cultural backgrounds.
“Intimacy does not guarantee respect; it does not guarantee dignity. We need nearness.”
Offering some answers from his book, Jansen mentioned focused orientation programmes for first-year students.