We should draw lessons from Capricorn TVET stam­pede

African Times - - Leader -

THE un­for­tu­nate stam­pede that took place at the Capricorn TVET Col­lege n Polok­wane, Lim­popo last week should serve up call to all the stake­hold­ers in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor: gov­ern­ment, in­sti­tu­tions, par­ents, stu­dents and politi­cians. While a hand­ful of stu­dents es­caped with mi­nor in­juries, the worst could have hap­pened in the same way a mother lost her life in a sim­i­lar stam­pede out­side the Uni­ver­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg a few years ago while try­ing to get her child space. Luck­ily, this time around, there were no fa­tal­i­ties.

Be that as it may, valu­able (and un­com­fort­able) lessons must be drawn from the prob­lem by all stake­hold­ers. That stam­pede, which hap­pened when throngs of stu­dents pushed their way into the col­lege by rip­ping the pal­isade open, was not sup­posed to hap­pen. It could have been avoided and it should have been avoided.

A lot of key role play­ers must shoul­der the blame for var­i­ous rea­sons. Let’s start by peel­ing off this onion layer by layer. Firstly, there was re­ally no need for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to make the an­nounce­ment - on De­cem­ber 16 - so late in the year for uni­ver­si­ties to ad­e­quately prepare for free ed­u­ca­tion. Equally, there was re­ally no need for EFF leader Julius Malema to mis­chie­vously call on all and sundry to show up at the in­sti­tu­tions of their choices re­gard­less of whether they had ap­plied and been ad­mit­ted, sim­ply be­cause free ed­u­ca­tion had been an­nounced. It’s com­mon knowl­edge that one has to ap­ply and meet the cri­te­ria for uni­ver­sity ad­mis­sion be­fore they can be con­sid­ered for free ed­u­ca­tion.

Thirdly, there is re­ally no need for stu­dents not to ap­ply be­fore registration. We need to stop this thing of do­ing things at the eleventh hour. Ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions open their ap­pli­ca­tion process in Septem­ber the pre­vi­ous year and call on prospec­tive stu­dents to sub­mit their ap­pli­ca­tions. Stu­dents are en­cour­aged to ap­ply us­ing their Grade 11 or June ma­tric re­sults for the fol­low­ing year. Then they wait for the ma­tric re­sults to con­firm if in­deed you would be tak­ing the re­served space you have.

By do­ing so, they avoid a sit­u­a­tion where thou­sands of ap­pli­cants will be queue­ing out­side in­sti­tu­tions in Jan­uary, re­sult­ing in a stam­pede like the one at the Capricorn TVET Col­lege. Forth, there was re­ally no need for in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing to fold their arms for two years when all in­di­ca­tions pointed to the pos­si­bil­ity of free ed­u­ca­tion. The #FeesMustFall move­ment and Zuma’s sub­se­quent de­ci­sion to in­sti­tute a com­mis­sion to look into the fea­si­bil­ity of it all should have been a sign and a call for in­sti­tu­tions to prepare for in case it is im­ple­mented. Yes, Zuma’s an­nounce­ment on the eve of ANC’s elec­tive con­fer­ence was part of pol­i­tick­ing but we all knew of the pos­si­bil­ity of it all.

Var­si­ties and col­leges should have been at least 90% pre­pared for any even­tu­al­ity. For fail­ing to do so, in­sti­tu­tions must also bear the brunt of the blame. Their lack of ac­tions and an­tic­i­pa­tion can be con­strued as in­ten­tional and an at­tempt to block stu­dents from at­tend­ing.

Fifth, Capricorn Col­lege it­self has to do some se­ri­ous in­tro­spec­tion and ad­mit that it failed to prop­erly plan. Had there been ad­e­quate plan­ning, enough se­cu­rity per­son­nel and sit­u­a­tional awareness, this could have been avoided. Most in­sti­tu­tions have im­ple­mented a sys­tem of bar­ri­cad­ing the en­trances and keep­ing prospec­tive ap­pli­cants a few me­ters from the gates. That en­sures the safety of ap­pli­cants and staff. Sit­u­a­tional awareness should have also in­formed those in charge at the Col­lege that the an­nounce­ment will re­sult in a huge in­flux. A de­ci­sion should have been taken to do the registration and ap­pli­ca­tion at a cen­tral place like they did af­ter the stam­pede. The de­ci­sion to go Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium should have been taken right from the get-go.

Fi­nally, gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion since the an­nounce­ment also leaves much to be de­sired. Those in the ech­e­lons of power waited un­til registration pe­riod opened be­fore get­ting up off their tails and try­ing to lead. Steps and guide­lines were sup­posed to be de­tailed in De­cem­ber, long be­fore the ma­tric re­sults were re­leased. The gov­ern­ment was sup­posed to have met with ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions im­me­di­ately af­ter the an­nounce­ment to say: Right, this is not the sit­u­a­tion we had an­tic­i­pated but none the less it’s here, how do we move for­ward to find a mean­ing­ful so­lu­tion. They failed to do so.

What tran­spired was be­cause those in charge failed to lead and they must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that. We must en­sure such never hap­pen again go­ing for­ward. Stop fail­ing poor and work­ing class chil­dren.

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