The Institute for African Alternatives (IFAA) notes that the student movement has rallied young people to come together to insist on inclusive, quality education for all. We offer the following points:
- The protest action on university campuses across the country expresses legitimate concerns and grievances.
- The issue of fee increases and the exclusion of students are integral to the institutional problems of a higher-education model that needs to be transformed.
- Understanding that university management is under serious pressure to respond to student action, we condemn any move to criminalise these protests. Criminalisation only serves to escalate an already heated situation. We call for universities to take a calm and measured approach to student protests and provide spaces for formal interaction and engagement with student demands.
- It is national policy that poverty should not exclude access to education. It is thus imperative that the government plays an active role in resolving the current conflicts.
- We appreciate that the fiscus is under pressure from a variety of different sources and that government funding for poor students is constrained. However, we believe that allocating sufficient funds to higher education institutions should be a priority.
- While funding is necessary, it does not address the underlying issue. Youth poverty is not separate from the conditions of poverty, unemployment and inequality that exist throughout the country. The youth bear the brunt of an untransformed economy. The struggle in higher education is not separate from the struggle for economic transformation.
- IFAA is concerned that universities are in turmoil and, ultimately, cabinet is responsible.
With the above points in mind, IFAA proposes the following:
- Immediate emergency funding to be made available to universities.
- Freeze all fee increases.
- A national discussion on the entire higher education sector, led by government and inclusive of university management and student representatives.
Issued by Prof. Ben Turok, Director
20 October 2015