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Wrong tactics could derail students' struggle
Author: Alec Basson
Published: 09/11/2016

Students' struggle for free higher education is just but wrong tactics could derail it.

This was one of the viewpoints of Professor Winston Nagan, Director of the Institute of Human Rights, Peace and Development at the University of Florida (USA) and also a fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), on Tuesday (8 November 2016). He was the speaker at the fifth and final public STIAS lecture of 2016.

Nagan said today's students are fighting a just cause but may lose that cause by indiscipline and a lack of vision and restraint.

He urged students to make non-violence a morally infused stratagem of action.

Nagan said students must develop strategies of action that are constructive and enlightening. They should use their strategies to advance greater levels of governing transparency, responsibility and accountability, he added.

"They should engage with authority with as much intellectual muscle as they can generate from their faculty and administrators to insist on proper accounting, proper planning, and more aggressive fund raising to reach the goal of maximal tuition free access to higher education."

"They should convene a national teach-in to engage all the fiscal authorities in a deeper and more profound level of accountability for how the finances of this nation are managed, and they should demand an end to financial corruption at all levels."

Nagan said all the students could generate a national discussion on the neoliberal economic policy embraced by the government, the ANC and the South African Communist party.

"The consequences of economic neoliberalism have been accelerated unemployment, and the expansion of radical economic inequality."

"This has resulted in wide spread alienation of the middle classes. Fundamentally, neoliberalism ignores the centrality of human capital in the framework of economic policy making. This implies that tuition assistance to students is not an investment into human capital it is simply a gift."

What this ignores is that investment in human capital regarding students is a major investment in human capital and the future well-being of the nation, Nagan said.

He pointed out that  fundamental changes at universities require a theory about human rights and a recognition that students are the most important stakeholders in the future of higher education.

  • Photo: Prof Winston Nagan delivers the fifth STIAS lecture.
  • Photographer: Justin Alberts