Stu­dents – not uni­ver­si­ties – to blame

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - Charles Ca­tor

THE AR­TI­CLE in your is­sue of De­cem­ber 22 ti­tled “Uni­ver­si­ties must learn from the chaos” by Suellen Shay re­quires a response to pro­vide some sort of bal­ance and con­text on an is­sue that is be­com­ing badly dis­torted.

First, the prob­lem is not with the uni­ver­si­ties but with the stu­dents, largely, but not en­tirely due to the grotesque mis­man­age­ment of ed­u­ca­tion by the ANC.

The uni­ver­si­ties have gen­er­ally done a fine job over many decades of­ten in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, and in some cases, es­pe­cially UCT, they are in­ter­na­tion­ally highly rated. The cur­rent stu­dents, how­ever, are fail­ing in droves, wast­ing money that could be bet­ter di­rected. Sta­tis­tics show that 85per­cent of un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents fail, which means that 85 per­cent of our uni­ver­sity fund­ing is wasted.

But per­haps the most damn­ing statis­tic comes from the Statis­ti­cian Gen­eral, Pali Le­hohla, who points out that in the 1980s un­der the apartheid gov­ern­ment, for ev­ery black grad­u­ate there were 1.2 white grad­u­ates. Today, un­der the ANC, for ev­ery black grad­u­ate there are six whites. This is in spite of the fact that 78per­cent of con­tact stu­dents and 83 per­cent of dis­tance learn­ing stu­dents are black.

The fact is there are many stu­dents who should not be at uni­ver­sity at all.

A re­cent sur­vey pub­lished in The Star showed that only 4 per­cent of the chil­dren en­ter­ing school in any one year ob­tain a uni­ver­sity de­gree within six years of leav­ing school. In many in­stances the fail­ures are be­cause the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has be­trayed them. How­ever, there are oth­ers who sim­ply do not have the IQ lev­els re­quired, some who are in­ter­ested in the high life, not the hard yards, and some be­cause they are there for the wrong rea­sons, in­clud­ing the be­lief it will en­sure them a cushy job.

One prob­lem is that uni­ver­sity ed­u­ca­tion, far from be­ing free, has be­come very ex­pen­sive, not just in South Africa. The Sut­ton Trust re­port in the UK shows that Bri­tish stu­dents on av­er­age leave uni­ver­sity with debts of £44 000 (about R734800).

In view of the huge im­pact stu­dent debt can have on peo­ple’s early work­ing life, the chair­man of the trust, Sir Peter Lampl, sug­gests young peo­ple should con­sider higher level ap­pren­tice­ships, a view echoed by some ex­perts in Canada and Australia as well.

A much big­ger prob­lem for South Africa is the po­lit­i­cal stooges who are at uni­ver­sity to make trou­ble as part of the cur­rent broader ANC black racist cam­paign to fur­ther vil­ify and marginalise whites by “de­colonis­ing ed­u­ca­tion”.

The aim is pre­sum­ably to put black peo­ple in to­tal charge of all ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion so that stan­dards can be ma­nip­u­lated to turn fail­ure into suc­cess at the stroke of a pen à la ma­tric. This will cer­tainly make South African de­grees worth­less.

Shay’s ar­ti­cle goes on to trot out the for­mula pro­pa­ganda boiler-plate about Euro­cen­tric, white, mid­dle-class cul­ture and neo-lib­er­al­ism’s cap­ture of higher ed­u­ca­tion, hence the calls for “de­colonis­ing the cur­ricu­lum”.

Many writ­ers in your letters col­umn have queried the no­tion of “de­colonis­ing” uni­ver­si­ties or cur­ric­ula as this is never de­fined.

The pub­lic needs to ap­pre­ci­ate that this de­colonis­ing has noth­ing what­ever to do with colo­nial­ism as such; it is merely a use­ful, so-called po­lit­i­cally cor­rect eu­phemism to avoid the ne­ces­sity of ac­knowl­edg­ing that this is just an­other apartheid pol­icy be­ing dusted off.

Then there is the is­sue of “who the hell are these stu­dents to tell any­body how to run a uni­ver­sity?” These are peo­ple whose brains are not fully formed, who have spent 20-odd years get­ting a free ed­u­ca­tion, and who have con­trib­uted lit­tle if any­thing con­struc­tive to so­ci­ety.

On the con­trary, they have been re­spon­si­ble for ar­son, van­dal­ism and loot­ing, prob­a­bly by now cost­ing the coun­try about a bil­lion rand, as well as reg­u­lar as­saults on the po­lice and mem­bers of the pub­lic, not to men­tion in­ter­fer­ing with stu­dents who want to study.

I was not present at the meet­ing dis­cussed in the ar­ti­cle, but know­ing these stu­dents, I am quite pre­pared to ac­cept the ver­dict of chaos as that is the modus operandi of this rab­ble. When there is a need for a rea­soned ar­gu­ment, they hurl in­sults, threats or stones.

Per­haps the most telling sen­tence in the ar­ti­cle is near the end when the writer says: “I had come (to the meet­ing) to as­sert my po­si­tion and not to lis­ten”.

This ab­so­lutely ex­em­pli­fies the ar­ro­gant, lim­ited, self-cen­tred at­ti­tude of these peo­ple who then have the temer­ity to say the uni­ver­sity must en­gage with them.

How do you en­gage with peo­ple who want to talk but not lis­ten, who in­sist that their de­mands must be met be­fore they will ne­go­ti­ate, who shout you down when you try to present your views, and wreak havoc and de­struc­tion if they don’t get their own way?

No, I am sorry, but what we need here is not any change by the uni­ver­si­ties but a rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion by the feesmust-fall cam­paign­ers from stone-throw­ing ya­hoos into civilised hu­man be­ings. Grey­mont, Joburg

DIS­RUP­TIVE: Stu­dent crim­i­nal­ity has cost the coun­try R1­bil­lion, the writer says.

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