UNITED FRONT STATEMENT ON THE ONGOING EDUCATION CRISIS IN WORKING CLASS SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES
CALL FOR PEOPLE’S SUMMIT ON THE EDUCATION CRISIS AND SUSTAINED POPULAR MOBILISATION FOR FREE, QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION
PRESS STATEMENT 13 January 2016
In response to the continued failure of the ANC government to transform our education system into a high quality, free public education system from the lowest level to the university level, the United Front reiterates its call for the urgent convening of a National People’s Education Crisis Summit. In this regard, we will engage student, youth, education, parent, worker and other relevant organisations for the endorsement and joint organisation of this Summit.
In the view of the UF, such a Summit must develop a joint programme of action to intensify popular pressure and seek alternatives to the ongoing education crisis. This Summit must discuss how we can build on the victories of the Equal Education Campaign on Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure as well as that of the #FeesMustFall movement for a no-fee increase for university students this year. Other immediate issues for this Summit are the ongoing financial exclusions from institutions of higher learning of students without the financial means to pay the extraordinarily expensive fees and other tertiary education costs, the demand to end outsourcing of all university services, and the overall transformation and decolonisation of the education system.
The failures of the ANC government are demonstrated by the fact that even in January 2016 the Wits #FeesMustFall movement must still put forward the most basic of demands in order for poor black students to access decent university education. This failure is seen everywhere in the education system: in last week’s dismal Grade 12 results, this week’s student action at several universities (including the University of Johannesburg, UNISA, University of Pretoria and Wits University), and the long queues for late admission and registration at many working class schools this week. Instead of addressing the crisis, the ANC government and university management respond with half-hearted measures combined with police repression as was seen with the eviction of protesting Wits University students from Solomon Mahlangu house yesterday. The UF condemns Wits University management for its manifest failure to engage students in a proactive and solution-oriented manner.
As Equal Education showed in its response to the 2015 Grade 12 results, a banal rehashing and comparison to previous years of the pass rate conceals a host of systemic and structural failures in our education system. Most of the 455 825 learners who passed Grade 12 from the 2015 class will not be able to enter tertiary education or job opportunities. The 455 825 learners represent only 40,7% of the 1 118 690 learners who began school in 2005. Those who will not study or work this year will add to a few million more futureless youth who have been produced by the disastrous post-apartheid education dispensation.
The negligent gains made by the Department of Basic Education have failed to fundamentally change the apartheid racial, class and geographical divides that prevent our education system. This failure can be attributed to the straight-jacket of neo-liberal policy and the increasingly declining capacity of the state. This toxic combination effectively disables access to sufficient and qualified teachers, basic school infrastructure, adequate sanitation, sporting, library and technological infrastructure. It is the same policies that have seen declining state contributions to university financing and the outsourcing of university services. It is these policies that the #FeesMustFall movement rose up in response to. In general, this neoliberal straight-jacket prevents fundamental economic transformation away from a neo-apartheid dispensation to one of redistribution and job creation.
All these underline the need for the people who are most affected by it, the poor, black and rural people of our country, to build their organised power and sustain pressure on the government to deal with the crisis. No one should be condemned to a poor school because they are in a rural or poor neighbourhood. Now is the time to stop the ritual of pass rate watching and start the work of transforming our education system so that we transform our society. The UF’s call for the National People’s Education Crisis Summit is about laying the foundation for a sustained campaign of popular mobilisation to win free, quality public education.
FOR COMMENTS, CONTACT:
1. Mazibuko K. Jara – Interim National Secretary 083 987 9633
2. John Appolis – Interim Campaigns Coordinator 071 623 5996
3. Dinga Sikwebu – National Coordinator 078 457 9855