Nzimande pledges to tackle varsities transformation

Blade Nzimande

Blade Nzimande

PRETORIA. — Student movements like the Rhodes Must Fall or Open Stellenbosch campaigns will be able to argue their cases at a Higher Education summit next month, Minister Bonginkosi Emmanuel “Blade” Nzimande said yesterday.

He said while the decision to hold the summit was taken last year, the recent upheaval in universities over problems of transformation made the summit urgent.

“No one can deny that your Rhodes Must Fall and Open Stellenbosch and so on have provided further impetus to the summit, and for the urgency of transformation.”

He said there should be clear actions on how to deal with transformation coming out of the conference, and this was why student organisations were invited to the summit, to be held between October 15 and 17 in Durban, and a prior dialogue session on October 5 in Johannesburg.

“As much as demographics are important, they are not the only aspect of transformation. We need to change institutional cultures — and it is given further urgency by the recent student protests,” Nzimande said.

“Our universities are very uneven. We do need to improve quality. . . We hope that this summit will provide a platform to raise all these issues that are being raised by Open Stellenbosch, Rhodes Must Fall, and so on.”

He said these problems illustrated that transformation was still not complete.

“For example, in 2001/2002, the then department of education adopted a language policy for higher education.

“But there is still a vast differences between those language policies and reality. . . including the issue of promoting multilingualism.”

At least one student was injured in a protest that turned violent at the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute last month, as people who tried to enter lecture halls were sjamboked.

The protest concerned the college’s language policy.

At Stellenbosch University, the institution’s language and transformation plans came under criticism following the release of a documentary called Luister (Listen), in which students and lecturers tell of discrimination on and off campus.

Last month the Black Student Movement staged a sit-in at Rhodes University’s council chambers in Grahamstown, reportedly over the failure of transformation at the university.

Earlier this year a statue of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes was removed from the University of Cape Town following protests, headed by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. — News24.