The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) have called for an urgent high-level summit to address the current crisis in higher education.
In a statement released today, the academies recognise that the resolution to the current widespread ‘youth action’ – the most sustained and widespread in the country since 1976 – lies beyond university campuses and that all stakeholders from government, business, civil society, the faith community, as well as university and student leadership should together consider appropriate policy development and priority resourcing.
The need is urgent or else South Africa is facing the prospect of permanent and irreversible damage to a fragile higher education system which is critical for a just, equitable and prosperous society. The statement describes the current situation as threatening to academia and having potentially far-reaching impacts on the economy and future development of our country.
As the authentic representatives of the knowledge community in South Africa, embracing the full spectrum of scholarly disciplines, the Academies identify six drivers of the current crisis to which solutions are needed.
- Inadequate investment in transforming higher education in a country beset by severe inequality.
- ‘Low-throughput’ cost multiplier.
- Spectre of wastefulness.
- Failure to shape an appropriate landscape of post-basic institutions.
- Continuing lack of inclusive social cohesion in a diverse society.
- Continued failure of public basic education to prepare students for higher education.
The statement condemns the violence of some of the protests and the consequent violent responses of police and security personnel. While it is a Constitutional right to peacefully protest, it is not peaceful to incite violence, damage property, or to impede the access of others to their academic programmes.
The statement concludes with a plea to protect the academic enterprise and to allow the higher education institutions to complete the 2016 academic year and in so doing to avoid lasting damage to the lives and futures of hundreds of thousands of students, to research, and to South African society as a whole.
Read the statement here.