The Solidarity Movement’s plan for university crises
5 October 2016
The Solidarity Movement today at an urgent media conference in Centurion called for the universities to be reopened as soon as possible. The Solidarity Movement, which includes Solidarity, AfriForum, AfriForum Youth and Solidarity Helping Hand, represents thousands of students, university staff and parents who work hard to keep their children at university, and would like to see the urgent resumption of the academic programme.
According to Flip Buys, Chairperson of the Solidarity Movement, it is unacceptable that a small minority of riotous students is depriving the vast majority of students of their right to study. “We insist that the academic year should resume immediately after the recess while negotiations to find a solution continue,” Buys said.
According to Dr Danie Brink, Chief Executive of Helping Hand, the poor students studying with Helping Hand’s study assistance show extreme tolerance towards university authorities. They understand that quality university education is expensive and they take the initiative to finance their studies themselves.
“On behalf of 1 250 students studying with study assistance to the value of more than R31 million, we insist that university authorities should ensure that the academic year runs smoothly and that they clamp down strongly on protesters. The students studying with our study assistance do not have a second chance at education – do not take the only chance they have away from them,” Brink said.
According to Kallie Kriel, Chief Executive of AfriForum, they insist that the safety of students, staff members and the public be guaranteed by universities, and that strong action be taken against groups that intimidate students or lecturers or damage property. “We will do all we can to ensure that the voices of pro-study groups are heard as well,” Kriel said.
The Movement announced a ten-point plan for the crisis in the university sector:
Liaison with the universities, government, political parties, student organisations and the police to normalise the situation and ensure a safe academic environment. We are also going to talk to alumni associations, university councils and convocations and ask them to put pressure on university executives to normalise campuses as a matter of urgency. We pursue good relations with all groups, and we believe that formal or informal partnerships across political boundaries are required to ensure the future of universities.
2. Legal action
Look into the possibility of legal action against universities who do not protect the rights of the majority of students who want to study in peace.
3. Student council elections
We insist that the postponed student council elections at Tukkies, Stellenbosch and Bloemfontein be held immediately. This is essential to ensure that democratically elected representatives of students act on behalf of the students, and not self-appointed activists who only serve their own interests. AfriForum Youth will take part in these elections to ensure that the voices of pro-study students are also heard.
4. Lecturers and other staff
Urgent normalisation of universities is essential in order to prevent further disruption of the work of lecturers and other staff. Solidarity will meet with university executives to ensure that the conditions of employment and working conditions of its members employed by universities are not further prejudiced by the crisis.
5. Study costs
AfriForum Youth will take part in discussions on a continuous basis to find solutions to the cost crisis in order to ensure that meritorious needy students can study. We will encourage students assisted financially by Helping Hand to embrace the opportunity offered them to prepare themselves for their future. Free university study unfortunately is not possible, and the 80% dysfunctional free schools have already demonstrated that students at free institutions only get what they pay for.
6. Expansion of Helping Hand’s Study Fund
Solidarity Helping Hand is going to drastically expand its Study Fund, and plans in this regard will be announced shortly. Solidarity Helping Hand’s Study Fund Centre has already assisted more than 5 000 students with interest-free study loans, 1 250 of them in 2016. We call on businessmen and the public to assist meritorious students who want to study by establishing or supporting a study fund. Helping Hand may be contacted for more particulars.
AfriForum and Solidarity have instituted legal actions against the universities of Pretoria and the Free State and Unisa concerning students’ right to study in Afrikaans. These cases will be pursued with the assistance of some of the country's best legal brains, because we believe that the contempt shown by university executives for constitutional rights has contributed to the contempt for the pro-study majority shown by small groups of activist students. The High Court in Bloemfontein has already found that offering instruction in Afrikaans increases access and does not militate against it. This exposes the lie by the protestors that they are campaigning against Afrikaans because non-Afrikaans students are denied access.
The Movement believes that universities should be international institutions of excellence in Africa and is concerned about the lower positions of several South African universities in world rankings. We reject political projects that will further weaken universities under the guise of “decolonisation” and will watch over academic standards that will be decisive for the future of the students and the country.
9. Pro-study meetings
AfriForum Youth intends organising, where necessary, peaceful pro-study meetings of students, parents and university staff as demonstration of our solidarity with universities. We will invite all pro-study groups to join us in demonstrating peacefully for the future of universities.
10. Akademia expanded
The Solidarity Movement commits itself to the promotion of the public universities but also believes that private universities, as in other countries, are part of the solution. In light of the increasing etatisation of public universities, we believe that independent private universities instead of public universities that are free of charge should be actively promoted. We call on the support of the public. Please note that applications for Akademia have already opened.
Issued by Francois Redelinghuys, Spokesperson, Solidarity, 5 October 2016