Wits' black medical students feel out of place

2015-06-12 16:43
voiceFormer president of the Wits SRC Mcebo Dlamini

voiceFormer president of the Wits SRC Mcebo Dlamini

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Johannesburg - Black medical students at the University of Witwatersrand feel out place on campus and live in fear of discrimination, the institution has heard.

Nkosinathi Maluleke said being a black student at the medical campus reminded him and others of their "blackness".

"When I speak of blackness I speak to assert the reality that so many others know of, of discrimination, of dehumanisation and racism within a space that is predominantly white and ruled by men," he told a lecture hall filled with health sciences students and staff members.

The faculty hosted an indaba at the Parktown campus on Thursday on transformation at the institution.

"The notion of 21 years into democracy sets a new scene into the space, but fundamentally we still have institutionalised discrimination that we must deal with.

"It is no secret that the implementation of policy towards levelling the racial agenda is [moving] at a snail's space. This is in particular to the need to increase African and coloured academics, more especially black female lectures and professors."

Maluleke said it was important and beneficial for black students to see lecturers and professors of their own colour.

A fourth year black female student echoed Maluleke's sentiments.

"Having a black lecturer, or a facilitator that's black, is [about] finding an identity within the university, and sometimes that is the clash between white and black students. Other white students might find that 'This is my playground... Dr [Cyril] Adler? He's my uncle, Phillip Tobias? Oh my word that's my grandfather'," she said, causing those in the hall to erupt with laughter.

She said efforts to promote transformation, such as renaming buildings, would make a difference to those who felt left out at the institution.

"You may ask South Africa why its renaming the streets. It may not make sense right now, but in 10 years to come, when it is not Church Street but Thabo Mbeki Street, it will make a difference. It's like Rhodesia versus Zimbabwe, it makes a difference to some people."

Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said the institution was making R45 million available to address the number of African and coloured academics at the university.

He referred staff and students to a document he released on May 21 in which matters relating to transformation at the institution were mentioned.

"Firstly, R35 million should be dedicated to underwriting the costs of appointing between 25 and 35 new African and coloured academics," reads the document titled 'Opening the conversation: Accelerating transformation for an inclusive and competitive Wits'.

"These should be tenured track positions and may require a mandatory period of service for a limited time.

"Secondly, R10 million should be dedicated to a special programme to advance 30 to 35 African and coloured academics who are currently within the system towards promotion to the professoriate over two to five years."

Habib said naming would have to be informed by both Western and indigenous traditions. It was not only about recognising political figures. Artists, poets and scholars should also be considered.

"I do not think we need to have a battle to replace all white names with black names. The purpose of renaming is to recreate an institutional culture where all of us can actually feel comfortable."

Read more on:    university of witwatersrand  |  johannesburg  |  education

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