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'Racism, sexism still pervasive at universities'

Staff Reporter

The extent of racism and other discrimination in higher education institutions revealed in a report is disturbing, says Blade Nzimande.

The extent of racism and other discrimination in higher education institutions revealed in a ministerial committee report is deeply disturbing, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said on Wednesday.

Briefing the media on the report of the ministerial committee on transformation and social cohesion and the elimination of discrimination in public higher education institutions, Nzimande said he had considered and accepted the report and its major findings.

The report (PDF)

Read the executive summary of the report

Most important was to establish a monitoring and oversight body to complement the work of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and to deal with the challenges of transformation identified by the committee as needing attention.

This oversight body would be based in the Department of Higher Education and Training and details regarding its composition, structure and brief would be released in due course.

“We regard this as a priority issue,” Nzimande said.

The report had highlighted a number of instances revealing the extent of still-existing discrimination.

“While the report commends institutions for initiatives on change, the report unfortunately states that discrimination, in particular with regard to racism and sexism, is still pervasive in our institutions.”

It noted there was a disjuncture between institutional policies and the real-life experiences of staff and students, indicating that the good intentions of institutions were not fully experienced.

The committee found that the system largely had in place a comprehensive range of policies dealing with transformation-related issues.

This was especially so with respect to the requirements of employment equity.

The committee came to the conclusion that, in legal and regulatory terms, the higher education system was compliant.

In addition, it noted there were aspects of the system requiring attention.

“There is no doubt that significant policy development has indeed occurred towards transformation; the next important step is making those policies work,” Nzimande said.

He had written to the chairs of councils reminding them of their fiduciary responsibility to their institutions and the higher education system and urging them to consider and respond to the report.

Councils and vice-chancellors had been urged to consider establishing institution-wide mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the state of transformation on their campuses.

In addition, the report had been referred to the CHE for advice on what additional measures could be considered to deepen transformation and social cohesion in the institutions and system.

Nzimande said he would soon be meeting with the Higher Education South Africa and would ask them to consider a number of issues.

These included developing a transformation compact between institutions and the department.

“We can’t leave these matters to chance,” he said.

They should also consider that vice-chancellors be held responsible for transformation and this be included in performance management contracts.

There was also a need for institutions to consider the extent to which the curriculum had been transformed to play a role in the socialisation of students in accordance with the values of the Constitution and for broader participation in society.—Sapa

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