Dion's random ramblings

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What do you thnink about the South African campus riots by disgruntled students?

What are your thoughts? Today we heard of another campus that was disrupted and vandalised by unhappy students...

I can understand that a student (or group of students) would become angry when there is no service delivery by their academic institution. I can also understand the desperation to gain higher education in order to be employed, and the frustration with the cost of education (and particularly higher education in South Africa).

Cost is a complex issue, as a Dean of a college we have found that we simply cannot register too many 'private' students (i.e., students who will have to pay fees as opposed to our 'Church sent' students for whom no fees are required). The sad reality is that the expectations of the Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education are so high that they cause institutions to incur HUGE costs that are not directly related to education. These are costs such as administrative systems, reporting mechanisms, sureties, and other such things. We have incurred hundreds of thousands of Rands worth of costs to meet the requirements. However, if one were to conduct an 'audit' of the DOE I'm fairly sure that one would find that they are not fit to offer the service they are required to offer... But, tha't is another matter entirely.

Sadly, what this means is that private and public institutions either need to find donor sources to absorb the new costs, or they have to recoup them through registrations and student fees. This is simply not feasible! We currently have to provide a surety ammount that is more than double our student fees for every one of our private students (in other words, we don't make money on their training, we loose the cost of their education, plus pay an additional amount in surety!) If we were ruthless we could simply charge three times what we currently charge in order to make a profit (and so grow our operation and train more people).

However, that is not the case....

In reality, I guess, that most administrations do a bit of both, they try to fund some of these costs by donations, budget cuts, and some other creative means, and then other parts of the cost through raising student fees. The pressure must be released somewhere!

Sadly, it would seem, that the students who are threating educators, intimidating fellow students, and destroying the costly facilities of their campuses show no insight into these struggles! In fact, if the news reports are to be believed, many of the students in Durban and at the Tshwane University of Technology who are 'striking' are doing so because they have been excluded from current study because of unpaind debts arising from previous study... Now that is just thuggery! How can one carry the costs of previous students (and previous years) into the current year and still provide quality education if there is no money coming in!

It is a grave situation! Perhaps Naledi Pandor's student pledge is not such a bad idea after all (I have not read it yet, I need to do so). From what I understand it deals with the issue of entitlement and encourages learners to understand the privelages and responsibilities of learning.

What are your thoughts? What should we do? Someone is going to have to pay, it is either the tax payer, or the learner... Who should bear the cost?


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