By Kgomotso Ramotsho
Former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, said the demand for access to further education, including higher education and further education and training is legally valid. Justice Moseneke was speaking at the 2016 Founders Lecture held at the University of South Africa on 27 October. He said the plea for the doors of education to open to all has been a core demand of a ‘long glorious struggle over centuries’.
Justice Moseneke noted that the Constitution is silent on whether access to further education is subject to available state resources. He said government must prioritise or re-prioritise resources in order to give quality education. Justice Moseneke added that the entitlement of further education is to be contrasted with the right to basic education and adult education, which government must provide universally and without qualification of progressive access or availability of government resources.
Justice Moseneke said since 1994, government must oblige, devise and implement a masterplan that would afford, at the very least, its citizens universal and quality basic and adult education and increase access to higher education. He said government cannot hike fees every year, because the higher the fees the more education will be commoditised.
Justice Moseneke said the debate of ‘fees must fall’ must start where it should, which is with the Constitution. He said rising student fees, will reduce progressive access in higher education, and that only the rich will afford higher education. He pointed out that the violence that is connected to the ‘fees must fall’ campaign is totally unacceptable and should stop immediately. He said that the violence bares no justification whatsoever and said it amounts to punishable conduct. ‘I urge young university students not lightly to flirt with terms like revolution and violence uprising. A revolution may be apt only when there is no real prospect for a democratic accommodation,’ he added.
Justice Moseneke said that students in tertiary institutions are in a good position to resort to electoral correction if they are unhappy. He pointed out that universities are wrong targets for violent uprising, adding that universities have no effective means to deal with violent protest and disruption. He further said universities were meant to be open spaces to enrich ideas and new knowledge, and that the true counterpart to claim the ‘fees must fall’ campaign is government and that universities can never give the right to access to free quality education. He stressed that society cannot sit and watch while universities get destroyed.
Justice Moseneke said the question must be asked: What has been done in 22 years for the country to find itself in a fight for education? He said it was not clear on the call for ‘fees must fall’ if every student irrespective of financial needs must be fully funded by government. Justice Moseneke said young people must be given an opportunity to be heard in an accommodative way. He further said that government has not persuaded students that there is a solution to the fees crisis. ‘What we need to collectively do, in my humble view, is convene a negotiating forum a CODESA [Convention for a Democratic South Africa] of education. This should be convened not by the state but by civil society,’ he advised.
Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.
This article was first published in De Rebus in 2016 (Dec) DR 14.