Friday marked an unprecedented coming together of academics across South Africa to draw attention to the crisis of education that is sweeping our country due to chronic underfunding by government. With the postponement of the University Assembly that was meant to be held on Friday and now with the announcement of the re-opening of the University tomorrow, we share your concern about the way forward in this moment.
The ASAWU Executive maintains real sympathy with the overarching plight and focus of the protests but not with the tactics being employed. The continued shut down of the academic project disadvantages all students, and particularly those from poor backgrounds that are engaging in higher education as a pathway to a better life. The use of violence, intimidation, and bullying runs counter to creating a space for free exchange of ideas.There is a misguided belief that the only way to seek effective change is to shutdown and prevent learning from taking place. What is taking place now, runs counter to decolonising education, it runs counter to enhancing freedom and improving the material well being of many, and it runs counter to realizing improved access and funding.
The postponed University Assembly and pledge, which the ASAWU Executive supported, represented a significant milestone in our common effort to improve funding for higher education and to work towards the goal of free higher education. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous. To only agree to a coalition in a context of maintaining a shutdown of the academic program represents a serious lack of strategic thinking and leadership.
We reaffirm the commitment of ASAWU, mandated in a general meeting on 28 September, to improving state funding to higher education, to decolonizing the curriculum and learning environment.
We are deeply concerned with the prospect of teaching and working in spaces characterized by violence, bullying, and intimidation. We call for this to stop immediately so that we can unite as a community and resume the academic project.
Finally, the ASAWU Executive has a mandate to speak for its members. Others outside of the executive speak in their individual capacity. We welcome the participation of all staff in our union and aim to be an inclusive platform for all voices. Any staff not yet members can join and participate in our decision making immediately.