Where has lead­er­ship gone?

Blame the govern­ment for prob­lems

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - KA­BELO CHA­BAL­ALA

IGHER ed­u­ca­tion is not a ba­sic right, but a sec­ondary right. There­fore, govern­ment can­not pay for it alone,” says the De­part­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion amid all the stun grenades, rub­ber bul­lets and up­heaval.

I am an alum­nus of a univer­sity that ex­cels in protests. I am a Tsh­wane Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (TUT) grad­u­ate.

I spent four years (2010-2014) at Soshanguve, the head­quar­ters of stu­dent strikes, toyi-toyis and protests. There was never a year with­out stu­dent protests.

In­ter­est­ingly, the strikes were about the wel­fare of the stu­dents. They were about en­sur­ing stu­dents got Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) fund­ing, proper ac­com­mo­da­tion, meal cards and books, and that there was no aca­demic ex­clu­sion. The protesters were cham­pi­ons of stu­dent rights.

As stu­dents, we were al­ways di­vided on whether to re­sume classes or not. We had our own valid rea­sons for choos­ing to join the strike or strongly op­pose it – that’s democ­racy.

Two years later, things have in­ten­si­fied.

Ed­u­ca­tion is one of the piv­otal tools for suc­cess, but it is def­i­nitely not the only pri­or­ity in our coun­try. To­day, the youth are up in arms; those who were for­tu­nate enough to get ac­cepted at uni­ver­si­ties are fight­ing for their right to ed­u­ca­tion. But sadly, as ed­u­cated as they are, they still van­dalise and burn and only re­sort to around-the-ta­ble dis­cus­sions when much da­m­age has been done – cost­ing tax­pay­ers mil­lions of rand.

Ed­u­ca­tion is a pri­or­ity, but hous­ing, health and polic­ing, for in­stance, are too. At the mo­ment, one would think ed­u­ca­tion is the only pri­or­ity for our com­ing-of-age democ­racy.

Whether classes should re­sume or not, ev­ery­one has a right to their own opin­ion. There are two groups: those who want free qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion at all costs, and those who want to re­sume aca­demic ac­tiv­i­ties at all costs.

What is at stake? I would like to say to those who seek free qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion:

The au­ton­omy of our uni­ver­si­ties al­lows them to fairly and rea­son­ably ad­just fee in­cre­ments yearly. Sadly, the uni­ver­si­ties are not gov­ern­men­trun, they are only sub­sidised.

This means your de­mands, no mat­ter how valid they are, should not af­fect the nor­mal run­ning of these in­sti­tu­tions.

No univer­sity in the coun­try has promised any­one free qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. How­ever, ed­u­ca­tion is a con­sti­tu­tional right and at times comes at a cost. Who promised free qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion? The govern­ment.

All the griev­ances should be di­rected to the govern­ment be­cause it sold the dream of free ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try. And it did not com­mit to a dead­line.

We all know the govern­ment wastes ridicu­lous amounts of money. Think SAA, Eskom, Nkandla and other plat­forms where the public purse is mis­used.

In essence, the govern­ment does have money that could be di­rected to aid poor and des­ti­tute stu­dents to get ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion. How­ever, it can­not ig­nore other ur­gent mat­ters in the coun­try.

To those who want to re­turn to school, I know how you feel. My beloved aunt (my mom’s sis­ter) paid ev­ery cent for me to study for four years to ob­tain a diploma and BTech in jour­nal­ism at TUT.

I felt be­trayed by the protesters. Each time the protest halted classes for two or more weeks, the aca­demic year was threat­ened. My aunt’s money was slowly be­com­ing a bad in­vest­ment.

I am from a vil­lage. My fam­ily be­lieved if I ob­tained a qual­i­fi­ca­tion, I would get a job and help them fi­nan­cially. Ev­ery day that passed, I felt help­less.

I went to TUT to study and bet­ter my life. I was raised to be­lieve it is the par­ent or guardian who deals with tu­ition. I was wrong. Time is of the essence for you. You know higher ed­u­ca­tion is not a ba­sic right in our coun­try. You un­der­stand poverty is rife.

You are rac­ing against time; you want to ob­tain a qual­i­fi­ca­tion that will hope­fully help you to get a job in a coun­try where un­em­ploy­ment is ex­tremely high. That is what we will be fight­ing very soon

You too have a point. You do not want the loan money to go down the drain.

But where is lead­er­ship in all these vi­cis­si­tudes we are fac­ing as a coun­try?

Re­tired Amer­i­can busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive Jack Welch summed it up when he said: “Be­fore you are a leader, suc­cess is all about grow­ing your­self.

“When you be­come a leader, suc­cess is all about grow­ing oth­ers.”

Sadly, in South Africa, when peo­ple be­come lead­ers, suc­cess is about get­ting as much money as pos­si­ble while in power, while those who voted them into power con­tinue to suf­fer.

Whether classes re­sume un­in­ter­rupted or we lose out on the 2016 aca­demic year by con­tin­u­ing to protest, there will be no win­ner.

Un­for­tu­nately, the lack of good lead­er­ship is our worst en­emy, and that makes our lead­ers the worst losers in this bat­tle.

I did not only grad­u­ate in jour­nal­ism, I also grad­u­ated in the study of protests. I have learnt that as bud­ding aca­demics the board­room should al­ways be the place where we fight our bat­tles.

For­mer pres­i­dent and world icon Nel­son Man­dela would tell you: “We will lis­ten to rea­son, not be hu­mil­i­ated and vul­ner­a­ble enough to re­sort to protest­ing half-naked. The high­est stan­dard, the fun­da­men­tal right of hu­man dig­nity, will be pre­served, as we strive for equal­ity and free­dom.”

PIC­TURE: EPA

Stu­dents from Wits Univer­sity are thrown to the ground af­ter a stun grenade ex­ploded near them dur­ing run­ning bat­tles on the campus as on­go­ing protests con­tin­ued against the cost of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

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