Violence in SA education a crisis - academics

2016-05-21 14:24
Professor Jonathan Jansen and Professor Adam Habib speak at the Kingsmead Book Fair in Rosebank. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

Professor Jonathan Jansen and Professor Adam Habib speak at the Kingsmead Book Fair in Rosebank. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

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Johannesburg – Two of South Africa’s most outspoken and prolific academics have called for better leadership and more participation from communities in improving education.  

Vice chancellor of the University of the Free State, Professor Jonathan Jansen and Wits University vice chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, appeared at the Kingsmead Book Fair in Rosebank where they discussed violence in education.

The pair highlighted some of the causes of violence in the education sector and saying South Africa was in a crisis.

Jansen began the discussion by reminding the audience that South Africa emerged from a violent history. He said apartheid violence affected many people who now have a "genuine anger".

"There is a group of young people who believe that destroying universities is a twisted form of revolution. There is no evidence of it going away anytime soon."

Habib agreed with Jansen, saying violence at universities was a microcosm of the larger problem in society.

"There is violence everywhere. This violence has increased because of a dramatic polarisation in society. People's perception of inequality has grown. Inequality is a dangerous thing because it alienates people."

Habib added that violence had become more prevalent because there weren't enough consequences.

"When violence erupts at Wits University, it takes me four to five hours to get police active. When they arrive, they look at me and say they are not sure what to do. I have even had to phone the premier and threaten them to humiliate publicly."

Habib added that police were yet to take action against students whose names were handed over by the university.

Crisis in leadership

According to Habib, violence in Vuwani, where a number of schools were burnt down in succession, pointed to a lack of proper leadership.

"If we look at the celebrations in Fort Hare yesterday, there was a massive contingent of police. Why did this not happen in Vuwani? Why did it take so long to act? This divide is what is contributing to a serious problem in our country."

Jansen agreed, adding that young people largely learnt from what they observed from political leadership.

"If a young person observes these kind of public values in political behaviour, this is the example they take away."

Jansen said that ultimately, a shift in mindset, not policing, was required.

"Yes, the police can come in and stop violence today. But what about the next day or the next week? What we need are parents, community members, shining examples in society to come forward and guide our youth."

Jansen said that early childhood education also needed to be analysed.

"We lose half a million kids from grade one to matric. Early education is vital."

Jansen recently announced that he would be stepping down from his position at UFS to take up an invitation as a Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Behavioural Sciences at the US’s Stanford University in September 2016.

Read more on:    jonathan jansen  |  adam habib  |  durban  |  education
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