South Africa: Students Bring Their Concerns to Taking Parliament to the People Delegation

The Taking Parliament to the People delegation on higher education provided an opportunity to students from higher education and technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in the Eastern Cape to raise their concerns.

Among other issues raised, including a severe shortage of student accommodation, the Secretary-General of the Students Representative Council (SRC) at Walter Sisulu University, Mr Nelisa Qomiyana, told the delegation that often they are taught English in Xhosa. "I would like to task you with ensuring that students are taught English so that they are able to articulate themselves, given that English is a medium of instruction at universities. If this is not addressed it will hamper our education and employment prospects."

Regarding the government's recent intervention in the Fees Must Fall campaign, Mr Qomiyana said that education should be regarded as a human right. "What government presented is an improvement on what was in place, but the students' call is still for free education. Education is supposed to be free for the poor. There are so many intelligent children who are deprived access to education due to their poor upbringing and the cost of education."

The Secretary-General of the SRC at the Buffalo City TVET College, Ms Cathrine Mangope, said that the labour and higher education sector do not recognise TVET qualifications. She asked: "Why invest so much in a sector that is not recognised. Are these colleges a place to dump those who could not make it? Whatever achievement we gain, we end up working at Spar. Our qualifications are never recognised by companies and our qualifications are not recognised by institutions of higher learning."

The President of the SRC at Buffalo TVET College, Mr Siyamthanda Nqguthwana, said they supported the Fees Must Fall campaign, but TVET colleges have their own set of challenges, one of which is the outdated curriculum that does not speak to the economic needs of the country. "We need to spend our efforts on improving our curriculum. The outdated curriculum means our qualifications are not recognised, both in the job market and in institutions of higher learning."

Mr Nqguthwana complained that it takes up to two years for the Department of Higher Education and Training to issue certificates and diplomas of TVET students.

According to the Unit Director of TVET in the province, Ms Pumeza Mbontsi, the delay was because of shortcomings with the service provider and have now been addressed. She said other steps are being taken to improve the TVET sector in the province. "One of the interventions is the teaching capacity at TVET colleges. Lecturers have been attending training and we also have a task team that speaks to the private sector to help in this regard. For instance, welding and electricity lecturers are being trained in Cape Town to upskill their capacity."

A member of higher education delegation, Prof Themba Msimang, expressed appreciation for all the inputs on the many issue bedevilling the sector. "We appreciate the high standard of the presentations. We have been enriched and we want to assure you that every issue raised will be followed up."

He congratulated the student leadership for setting a good example in averting damage to property during Fees Must Fall protests. "Here we have a typical student leadership that knows that when they protest it must be done with respect. We condemn violence that destroys property. Your presentations today are the best way of protesting and of making your voices heard."

Source: Parliament of South Africa.

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