THE IRONY OF MISSING THE POINT

Missing the point is at best a waste of time. And opportunity. At worst it can be a helluva mess. Or even a massive disaster. As the one we are seeing unfolding in the out-of-control #feesmustfall 2016 campaign.

I like what Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, says about the student protests that have been disturbingly dragging on for… how long now? He calmly and convincingly states, with conviction, that it is urgent for the South African government to revisit its subsidy policies regarding tertiary education in this country. THAT is the point.

If this point had been acknowledged, admitted and addressed – much, much sooner – by those responsible and accountable, there would no doubt have been much less panic and pain. The latter are sadly suffered by tens of thousands of South African students who are in dire straits for being rudely and ruthlessly disrupted from completing their academic years and preparing for end-of-year examinations. This is almost unforgivable. It is totally unacceptable.

Mr President-of-the-country – for what you are worth in this capacity: where in the world have you been?! Was it not you who sowed this unfortunate seed on our university campuses? – The one that has blossomed into the misconception that five star tertiary education can be handed out for free? Could you not speak out and admit that you simply had no idea what you were talking about? Blade Nzimande – how could you allow things to deteriorate to these barbaric levels?! Without contextualizing; offering some form of perspective; correcting the perceptions of so-called students and preventing them from escalating into warped and distorted ludicrity?

Marching on university campuses with placards bearing appropriate slogans is probably not the worst kind of awareness campaign. This country-wide demonstration could most likely have had its desired effect if conducted and concluded in a powerful but dignified burst of orchestrated protest. The message was undoubtedly heard and elevated to the next appropriate levels of authority (it was, was it not?); but was there any indication that it had been noted? Hello? Was anybody home?

DESTRUCTION & DEVASTATION

But, no: instead of a swift and orderly response to a pretty obvious issue, blind eyes have been turned and rampantly raging students(?? really??) have been left to destroy and devastate. Irreparably. For whose account? Presumably and actually most certainly not theirs…

A review of government subsidies for tertiary institutions is long overdue. Drastic increases are a glaring need. Is it so hard to make the connection between the overwhelming multitude of aspiring students jostling for a place in the race and the drastic financial implications all round? More than 22 years downstream from the start of our democratic voyage: did no-one at the helm foresee that capacities would have to increase by leaps and bounds, and that the handful of available institutions would have to be drastically empowered to meet the swelling demands?

On the one hand we have the emerging generation – surging towards the stars; and on the other hand we have the apparently clueless political authorities who have seemingly long forgotten how to apply their political will. Assuming there is one.

Just a random thought to ponder: it would be interesting to establish both the quality and quantity of ‘true student fibre’ among the rampaging mobs. Perhaps someone should hasten to remind our boisterously demanding youth that it has never been a ‘right for all without reserve’ to enroll as a post-matric student for a university degree. As far as I know and can recall, there have always been requirements.

Granted – if and when these are met, the way forward should be paved and open, for each and every qualifier. And only THEN should financial constraints NOT be stumbling blocks.

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