Amidst the current #FeesMustFall Protests, tangible solutions and leadership with foresight is required to move beyond unsustainable protests. Let us use our minds to fight this!
Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) – speaks directly to ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. The urgent action in our country around the poor quality of basic education and inaccessible higher education is perhaps one of the greatest barriers to our economic development and addressing past injustices.Below are a few recommendations based on personal experience as a student at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and which as a young leader and student representative could contribute to engagement on the way forward for present crisis in the South African higher education sector:
Efficient use of university and state resources
Mismanagement of funds by our government is the issue, more money or increased taxes may not result in free education – corruption must be addressed and tackled by the #FeesMustFall movement.
The university could look to internal measures such as re-looking at the procurement system and questioning whether it is yielding value for money – having led several student societies, the costs of catering may result in 50% of the budget of the society being used early into the year and this is the case for many other vendors and departments at the university.
In my experience, the university financial aid unit is dysfunctional, some processes are efficient, however the majority of available funding (including well-funded scholarships) remains inaccessible due to late announcements or inefficient and bureaucratic application systems.
The reality is that many South African students do not reach a postgraduate level, how could we re-direct resources such as National Research Foundation (NRF) and other grants to the undergraduate level, especially for well-deserving students. Or even how could we extending the funding from undergraduate level up until the end of a postgraduate degree?
As a way forward, while students are mercilessly hurt, while international students dreams of coming to South Africa fall short, while our university is not functioning the way it is meant to, it is undoubtedly time for like-minded youth and students to expand on these solutions. As our esteemed Public Protector Thuli Madonsela succinctly put it, “use their minds” to address this. In fact is that not the purpose of having higher-education degrees? To move beyond once off annual protests and unacceptable police brutality to long-term solutions?
Image source: http://ewn.co.za/2015/10/20/Wits-postpones-exams-for-medical-students-amid-protests