On Thursday, the 9th of this month, South African President, Jacob Zuma delivered his State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) at the joint seating of Parliament in Cape Town. Compared to past SONAs, commentators considered the 2012 SONA to be an improvement.
I agree. For example, it could be said, unlike before, that his government’s new focus of developing the country’s infrastructure in order to create jobs, as promised by the President who is received as the ‘Shower man’ by some mischievous youth on social networks, is indeed captivating.
Of particular interest to us today is the staggering announcement that Zuma’s pro-capital government will build two universities; one in Mpumalanga and the other in Northern Cape Province. This has been, over the years, the call of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) of which I was its Stellenbosch Branch Political education officer, in 2010 and currently, its deputy secretary, as I write. The importance of this development cannot be over emphasised for it is known that the geography of white development in South Africa has been biased towards places inhabited by settlers and their offspring. Little development took place in places occupied by the natives of South Africa. So the building of universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape is celebrated and viewed against that milieu.
A day after President Zuma’s SONA, we met, as the Stellenbosch SASCO leadership, in Regte van Zyl hall to discuss the preceding political year and to receive the political input from our chairperson on the political year ahead. Chairman Lehlohonolo C. Lebenya noted that “Higher education is not just an instrument for necessary momentary working class survival but it is also an arena of class struggle and working class values and ideas to contest space in this terrain. For us, as students, we need to reinforce the working class to guard the interest of their own constituency and create the space of dialogue within the organisation… It is, indeed, a reality that an institution of higher learning is being commodified to exclude the needy students and promote tiny segments of the population for statistical purposes… On the state-of-the-nation address, it is positive to hear that what SASCO has maintained over the years on building universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape is promising. Nevertheless, that hasn’t substituted the quell of free quality education in our country.”
Of course educational challenges in general and higher education challenges in particular remain high in South Africa today. In his revolutionary book, ‘On African Culture and Politics: Reflections of a Black Journalist’, Pan-Africanist, revolutionary freedom fighter and Afro-centric scholar, Simphiwe Sesanti writes about the need of ‘Africanising’ South African Education. He argues that, “Failure to expose African children to literature critically looking at our experiences, denies children inspirational role models and adults the opportunity to see the effect of their conduct on children’s mind.”
Should Africans heed to Dr Sesanti’s call, our children would read books by Cheikh Anta Diop, Chinua Achebe and other great Afro-centric scholars instead of being bombarded with Shakespeare, cartoon stories and other useless narratives.
Don’t forget that we are still dealing with two universities to be built by President Zuma. How many universities will be built by our President must be the question by those capable of comparative analysis of state-directed development. We need a new university in Namibia. Forget about the various ghettoes we have all over the country masqueraded as Unam campuses. What Namibia has seen is that in taking away colleges by Cabinet, in a 2009 campaign tool, delivered nothing but pain and suffering upon our people.
The colleges used to absorb our brothers and sisters who could not make it into Unam and Polytechnic. Now that politicians took them away, our brothers with the average points are surrendered to the devils’ workshop (ill-leadership). Unam is now decorated with chaos, confusion, mediocrity and maladministration.
Over the years to date, there has been chaos surrounding examinations. The registrar and the head of examination who must be fired as early as last year or years back, keep receiving salaries while our children spend years at Unam due to management incompetence. Who can have confidence in an institution with questionable examinations? That is why those running it do not send their children there. We need a new university in Namibia; I propose that we build a university at Uis to be known as Uis State University.
Those who say we do not need one must tell us where thousands of qualified students turned away by Unam, as reported in the local media, go. As progressive youth, we have done our part, as in the China-Africa Summit in Windhoek last year, by lobbying for a resolution supporting the building of a new university in Namibia with the support of the Chinese. The resolution is there, Swapo and Government are aware of that resolution (agreed by the Chinese). Ask them what they are waiting for.
Are we going to hear, during the upcoming SONA, about the building of a new university by President Pohamba? While we wait, let me make it known to you that in President Pohamba’s 2012 SONA, the following will not happen: There will be nothing on a new university; nothing on free tertiary education; nothing on the chaos at Unam; nothing on internships; nothing on accommodation and related issues. You will be told, however, that education receive the highest budget and nothing on why we do not get results; you will be told to study science with no mention of how you will escape 51.2% unemployment; Unam and Polytechnic will be thanked for increased enrolment with no mention on the number of students that were turned down.
Let’s wait for the SONA and observe whether my predictions will hold any water or not.
Till second half – Hear and be heard