SA students stick to own races despite integration on campus

2015-02-08 15:00

Their brochures show students of all races learning, laughing and hanging out together.

But at many South African universities, black and white students play different sporting codes, socialise separately and are affiliated to different societies and social clubs.

The University of Pretoria’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) president Mosibudi Rasethaba told City Press that despite on-campus integration programmes, glaring racial divisions persisted.

“Inside residential dormitories, people separate themselves in black and white cliques,” Rasethaba said.

“When we watch TV, the majority of black students watch soccer and whites watch rugby and cricket. Someone may argue that it’s people’s preferences, but it’s clearly along racial lines.”

The university’s demographics are representative of the country at large. But Rasethaba said it wasn’t enough just to transform the student body.

“Our professional staff is not as transformed as possible. It needs to start there. We need black professors and black academics.”

He acknowledged that the University of Pretoria had come a long way, adding that “a little bit more can be done”.

At the University of Cape Town (UCT), SRC secretary Ramabina Mahapa said money dictated access and limited racial integration.

“For example, some residences are very expensive. Black students, most of whom use government financial aid schemes, are excluded from them. It means such residences will have a concentration of whites,” Mahapa said.

“How can there be integration when our rugby team has three black players out of a team of 30 students? We can’t say we are integrated because in order to play hockey, you need expensive gear, which many black students can’t afford. You may be interested in joining the diving team, but if you can’t swim, you cannot join. And we know that many students from disadvantaged backgrounds can’t swim and, as such, they are excluded. If you don’t implement programmes to remove such hindrances, you are perpetuating a subtle form of racism.”

He said people of the same race groups tended tostick together at UCT.

Stefan Laing, Stellenbosch University’s SRC president, did not respond to detailed questions. He said only that black and white students had integrated well.

Interestingly, North West University’s SRC president Bethuel Mokoena considers the institution well integrated.

The department of higher education and training last year investigated the university after a series of race-related incidents made headlines. But Mokoena downplayed these, saying: “I don’t know about other students, but my view is that we are over those things.”

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