False sense of calm at universities, says church


The 2017 academic year has begun at tertiary institutions‚ but the Anglican Church leadership is worried that some universities have created a false sense of calm.

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa met in Benoni recently to reflect on the state of education in the country after the national Fees Must Fall uprisings.

IN THE WARS: Tartius Ningiza, one of the student leaders of the Fees Must Fall movement at Rhodes University is arrested by the police after rallying the students Picture: GREG ROXBURGH

In a statement issued on Monday the synod also applauded the efforts of students‚ university management‚ the government and the National Education Crisis Forum who worked together to save the 2016 academic year.

“We pray for God’s blessings over the 2017 academic year and beyond‚’’ the statement read.

However Archbishop Thabo Makgoba appealed to university managements to scale back to normal levels the presence of security guards on campuses.

“We plead with university managements to adopt a deep listening posture in response to student unrest‚ and to work with students to find creative solutions to the pressing issues with which we are confronted‚’’ said Makgoba.

While grateful for campuses which had returned to normality‚ the synod was “deeply concerned at the presence of police and increased numbers of security personnel” on a number of campuses.

Militarised presence‚ the synod warned‚ “kills dialogue and serves to deepen polarisation between students and management’’.

The synod wants to see the government‚ the Department of Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Mzimande especially‚ to ‘’play a more pro-active role’’ in addressing the crisis.

“We strongly urge the government to seek more creative ways of providing more resources for education‚ and in particular of creating a “free funding model” for tertiary education – including provision for high earners and companies to contribute to the costs of that education – so that students do not have to graduate with crippling levels of debt‚’’ the statement continued.

“We acknowledge the Minister of Finance’s allocations for tertiary education in his budget and we appeal for further tangible commitments and timelines for increased funding.’’

The clerics also pleaded with students not to resort to violence or destruction when trying to address their concerns.