Maties' transformation slated

2009-10-13 22:34

Stellenbosch - The University of Stellenbosch’s racial transformation programme leaves much to be desired, chair of the National Assembly’s higher education portfolio committee Marius Fransman said on Tuesday.

Fransman was speaking in Stellenbosch following a university presentation to the committee on issues including language and the numbers and pass rates of black students.

Rector Russel Botman told the MPs that the university had adopted a policy which would allow undergraduate students to be taught in either English or the university’s traditional language Afrikaans, but with the proviso that they would be exposed to the other language.

He said that in 2008, 48% of the university’s postgraduate students were black, but only 24% of undergraduates.

This figure, which had grown only slightly over the past 14 years, was "the sad story of Stellenbosch", and the university wanted to increase it to 34% by 2015.

This would be quite a challenge and also very expensive, as Stellenbosch, unlike the University of Cape Town, did not attract middle and upper class black students.

Eighty four percent of this year’s black students at Stellenbosch needed financial assistance.

Botman said the university was also seeking to improve the academic performance of its black students.

More beds in residences

It had set up a special academy to track first year students throughout that year, monitoring their progress and offering support.

Research had shown that students living in residences performed better than those who had to travel to the university every day, and with black students in mind, 1 056 beds would be added to the approximately 6 000 already available in residences.

The number of black African academic staff stood currently at 4%, most of them at junior levels, but the university had plans to raise this by 15% by 2015.

Coloured staff made up 34% of the total, and whites 62%.

The university would next year announce a major fundraising drive for infrastructure, which would open up more spaces for students and staff of colour.

Fransman said after Botman’s presentation that he was concerned that the university’s transformation vision was "too mediocre".

Racial under-representation

He had a view, which could be wrong, that the university left very much to be desired in terms of a non-racial agenda.

The reality was that there was a complete racial under-representation, he said.

Other members of the committee echoed his views, with African National Congress MP Sbusiso Radebe saying 2015 was too long to wait.

The university had to be able to show achievements this year and in 2010, he said.

Speaking to journalists afterwards, Fransman said the committee broadly agreed with the thrust of the university 2015 vision.

"However, I do believe that the issues around the implementation, around the language policy, we need to rev up its implementation in the shortest space of time."

Botman had to be supported in his efforts to achieve greater integration, and to move away from Stellenbosch’s historic Afrikaans-only language policy.

"We must get everyone, in particular black students, to feel that they can actually access this institution, that they can be involved in this institution and that they can excel in this institution.

"So there is an issue around in a sense the culture and the environment at this institution that needs to in a sense radically change."