South African Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has called for the re-opening of the University of Pretoria following violent demonstrations at the institution in recent weeks.
Nzimande met with university management and students here Sunday to plead with them to resume with their academic programme while they continue to engage on thorny issues troubling the university, including the issue of using Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.
Nzimande said if the issue of language was not addressed immediately, it could lead to a racial confrontation at the university.
“In some of these institutions you could easily have racial confrontation. We must be careful that in the manner in which we treat the problems that are facing us, we don’t allow deterioration where we see expressions of racism as well as white anti-chauvinism. We must condemn both those things,” said Nzimande.
Stressing that he does not run the 26 public universities in the country on a daily basis, he added that they must each deal with their own challenges. Nzimande said students should express their frustrations through dialogue with the management and not through violence.
“If we are not careful, we can collapse our education system. I don’t like to see the police or security on campus but also we must not have criminality,” he said.
Nzimande called on students to go back to class and accept that the changes they are calling for will not happen overnight. Transformation is not going to be an overnight thing, no matter how much they wish for it, he added.
“We want curriculum transformation; it’s not going be an overnight thing. Do we have enough lecturers to understand what we need. Isn’t part of curriculum transformation also the production of a more diverse professorate in this country in terms of race and gender?”
The opposition political party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), wing, the Student Command, stormed out of the meeting with Nzimande and university management. They vowed that the University of Pretoria will not re-open.
Nzimande says the EFF came into the meeting with a different a political agenda anyway. “I am not surprised because for them it’s more of a different political agenda. I will be honest with that and they need not do that because they must not gamble with the future of our young people,” he added.
“This is the future of our youth and the future of our economy and the future of our country in terms of providing skills and changing lives. So it’s unfortunate, I hope at some stage they will see the light.