Too often student, management conversations useless - UJ VC

2015-10-05 22:02
(Adam Wakefield, News24)

(Adam Wakefield, News24)

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Johannesburg - Too often conversations between management and student leaders are useless, University of Johannesburg (UJ) vice chancellor and principal Professor Ihron Rensburg said on Monday.

Speaking at the UJ Critical Conversation on University Transformation discussion, Van Rensburg acknowledged it was a fundamental problem and solutions were needed.

The discussion was held at the institution's Kingsway campus.

"The challenge, I think for us, is to talk more about conversations and how we can have conversations that matter."

The forum was held ahead of a meeting between vice chancellors of higher education institutions and President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday.

Professor Dan Kgwadi, VC of North West University, said the first thing that needed to be admitted and acknowledged was that both student leaders and university management were navigating a "very complex situation".

"We are sort of reliving 1976 in the debate around language, Afrikaans especially," Kgadi said at the forum.

"University [is] the microcosm of society. It's a very complex South African society we have out there and that complexity we experience at our own universities."

Rhodes University VC Dr Sizwe Mabizela believed 2015 would go down in history as a watershed year for higher education in South Africa.

"After 21 years of democracy, there is palpable discontent, disengagement and impatience with the pace of transformation and responsiveness in our society and this manifests itself in our campuses of higher education and learning," he said.

"The revival of student activism is long overdue. We owe a debt of gratitude to our students for pushing transformation as forcibly as they have."

Jodi Williams, a representative of the Open Stellenbosch movement, believed the discourse around transformation was dominated by the term "platforms of engagement".

"We all realise that is very important but we fail to conceptualise how we get there," she said to a hall, packed with students, university staff, and academics. 

"We need to ask ourselves who sets the terms of engagement...We need to ask ourselves how do we engage with the drivers of transformation of this project when they have indicated an incompetency."

UJ student representative council secretary general Mmangaliso Mkhonta forcefully criticised university rankings and argued for the need to "de-colonise" the university curriculum. 

"The best university in Africa [the University of Cape Town] does not offer African history," he said.

"This revolution feels like it's not going to need a pen and paper. It needs us to have intellectual engagements, not notes or videos downloaded from YouTube."

Read more on:    uj  |  johannesburg  |  education

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