Habib speaks out against violent student protests

STU­DENTS protest­ing against the slow pace of trans­for­ma­tion in higher ed­u­ca­tion ought not to con­fuse vi­o­lence with rad­i­cal­ism, Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand vice-chan­cel­lor Adam Habib said yes­ter­day.

Habib was speak­ing in Dur­ban, de­liv­er­ing his key­note ad­dress at a three-day teach­ing and learn­ing con­fer­ence held by the Univer­sity of KwaZu­luNatal. The topic was “Dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion in higher ed­u­ca­tion,” but he de­vi­ated slightly to speak on the trans­for­ma­tion of uni­ver­si­ties.

While con­demn­ing the vi­o­lent stu­dent protests which saw the Univer­sity of KwaZu­luNatal shut down last week, Habib said the up­surge in protests was not sur­pris­ing.

He said the acad­emy and the gov­ern­ment were col­lec­tively re­spon­si­ble for the fail­ure to achieve trans­for­ma­tion.

“There has been con­fu­sion be­tween rad­i­cal and vi­o­lent. I’m struck by how of­ten peo­ple have con­fused rad­i­cal and vi­o­lent. While there is no doubt poor peo­ple in our so­ci­ety have been the sub­jects and vic­tims of struc­tural vi­o­lence, that does not mean there is carte blanche and peo­ple have grounds to start un­der­tak­ing vi­o­lent ac­tiv­ity. So I will put it on the ta­ble: don’t be­come san­guine about vi­o­lence.”

“There has been con­fu­sion be­tween rad­i­cal and vi­o­lent. I’m struck by how of­ten peo­ple have con­fused rad­i­cal and vi­o­lent. While there is no doubt poor peo­ple in our so­ci­ety have been the sub­jects and vic­tims of struc­tural vi­o­lence, that does not mean there is carte blanche and peo­ple have grounds to start un­der­tak­ing vi­o­lent ac­tiv­ity. So I will put it on the ta­ble: don’t be­come san­guine about vi­o­lence.”

Habib spent the bet­ter part of his ad­dress ar­gu­ing for the need for dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion in higher ed­u­ca­tion.

“It en­ables re­spon­sive­ness to the di­verse needs of an econ­omy in a so­ci­ety. In South Africa we need to do mul­ti­ple things si­mul­ta­ne­ously… We need to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the teach­ing of un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents and pro­vide pro­fes­sion­als to meet mar­ket needs. We need to pro­duce post­grad­u­ate stu­dents and to un­der­take high-level re­search. And yet again, we need to pro­duce a fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor which com­prises col­leges fo­cused on pro­duc­ing grad­u­ates with vo­ca­tional and ap­plied skills.”

Habib ques­tioned why South Africa had not been able to move to­wards a sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­en­ti­ated higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in the past 20 years.

“The an­swer lies in our his­tory. Too of­ten, higher ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers and vice-chan­cel­lors want to build an in­sti­tu­tion they were not al­lowed to build un­der apartheid.

Too of­ten we want to be what we were never al­lowed to be … We are bur­dened, to use Steve Biko’s phrase, by a colo­nial con­scious­ness. And un­til higher ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers free their minds from that colo­nial con­scious­ness, we will never be able to make the break to­ward a dif­fer­en­ti­ated sys­tem.”

Too of­ten we want to be what we were never al­lowed to be … We are bur­dened, to use Steve Biko’s phrase, by a colo­nial con­scious­ness. And un­til higher ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers free their minds from that colo­nial con­scious­ness, we will never be able to make the break to­ward a dif­fer­en­ti­ated sys­tem.”

● Univer­sity of KwaZu­luNatal stu­dents are on hol­i­day un­til next Mon­day. Spokesman Le­siba Seshoka said there was calm on all cam­puses, and the dam­age to prop­erty stood at R22 mil­lion, not R32 mil­lion, as had been es­ti­mated. Talks with stu­dent lead­ers are to con­tinue on Thurs­day.

 

See the original article that here: Mercury 22.09.2015

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