SRC President, Kefentse Mkhari shares his views on Fees Must Fall and Africa, following Mbeki’s inaugural speech. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki was inaugurated as the chancellor of the University of South Africa (UNISA) on Monday.
In his inaugural speech he highlighted key issues affecting South Africa’s higher learning institutions, the significance thereof, student activism and the role that knowledge plays in the advancement of our country and Africa as a whole.
Wits SRC president spoke to Wits Vuvuzela , Kefentse Mkhari responds to some of the key points raised in Mbeki’s speech.
“Firstly, Mbeki acknowledged that our education system is in a crisis, a crisis that was depicted over a decade ago, a crisis that should have been proactively attended to. This confirms the fact that the fight for free, quality and decolonised education is not new – it’s an on-going struggle,” said Mkhari.
This, according to Mkhari, is a reflection of our state’s failure to address key issues, such as education over time.
In his speech, Mbeki asked three critical questions which speak to the advancement of South African Higher learning institutions and society at large:
“Is our society, that is South Africa in all its echelons, clear enough in its expectations of higher education; does it know what resources are necessary to produce such outcomes as it shall determine; and is our society providing resources sufficient to enable higher education to produce the expected outcomes?”
Mkhari supports Mbeki’s sentiments and considers them “significant because it seeks to “interrogate” us as Africans and more so as a South African society at large, in addressing the issues in higher education through discourse, discussion and intellectual engagement”. Mkhari adds that such questions also seek to assess our priorities when it comes to government spending and resources.
Mbeki also said, “Each of these demands the spending of public revenues in a situation in which, objectively, the State has finite resources whose quantum is principally determined by the possibility of our economy to produce the new wealth from which these public revenues would be drawn.”
Mkhari agrees with the former president on this point and explains, “[this] is something that we as students have been trying so hard to put across that there’s a lot of unnecessary expenditure that our government prioritises that bears no fruits whatsoever and therefore suffocating other fundamental and primary areas such as education, that have substantial and tangible benefits to the development of this country and Africa as a whole.”
Mbeki took a powerful stance, saying that it is our duty to advance African knowledge and intellect
through university curriculums, enabling the “intellectual awakening of Africa” to achieve, “Africa’s renaissance”.
Mkhari’s own opinions on the decolonization of curriculums are not far off from Mbeki’s. He told Wits Vuvuzela,“[Our universities] are still celebrating and embracing Eurocentric ideas and are also they are not producing thinkers and innovators. They are producing intellectual slaves and labourers that are used to maintain capitalism that continues to exploit our people. Our universities are only located in Africa but they are refusing to be African universities. We must keep fighting to decolonise and Africanise our institutions.”