Mbeki: Bond between state and higher education destroyed

It is the African political class’s doubt in universities’ crucial roles in the development of the continent that is holding universities back, former president Thabo Mbeki told a summit at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Thursday.

Mbeki said one of the major tasks that universities faced was convincing the “so-called political class in Africa that they are indeed situated at the centre of the African development agenda” and needed new investment to significantly improve their capacity to discharge their responsibilities.

He was the keynote speaker at the Times Higher Education (THE) Africa Universities Summit, which is to be held on Thursday and Friday at UJ. The summit – with the theme of “Moving Africa’s universities forward: building a shared global legacy”, aimed to give insight into what the THE’s press release called “best practice in the development of world-class teaching and research and shaping institutions’ strategic missions in an African and international context”.

Mbeki told the audience that it is only once this political class is “convinced about all this that it would be possible for our governments to lead the process, which would result in the substantially larger public funding that is required and without which many of the radical changes that need to be made will not see the light of day”.

He said when African countries gained their independence from colonialism, universities “were indeed situated at the centre of the African development agenda”.


But then the “healthy relationship between the state and the university was weakened and destroyed” by, in part, “the perception among the African ruling elite that universities were serving as centres of political opposition to this elite”.

“This led to the impoverishment and weakening as well as the marginalisation of the African University from both the State and the development agenda.”

This resulted in many African countries coming to consider expenditure on universities “as a burdensome but unavoidable cost rather than an absolutely necessary and beneficial investment”.

He said African countries needed a clear message from their political leadership.

“Perhaps the recognition of the need for an African knowledge society to achieve the Africa we want by 2063 is exactly the message we need to signal the commitment of our political leadership to provide the resources that will enable the African university to play its role, firmly situated at the centre of the Agenda 2063 development vision.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Black Lives Matter – turning point at a historic moment

The protests that have taken place in the United States confront the racialised edifice that built the modern world

Extractive histories and a waste-laden present: On Sammy Baloji’s Essay on Urban Planning

Congolese photographer Sammy Baloji’s Essay on Urban Planning interrogates the links between colonialism, extractive practices and environmental catastrophes in Urban Africa

What is the future of black lives in historically white, elite schools?

These schools, to varying degrees, have an intense attachment to the values of authority and obedience — it is an attachment which numbs critical thought

Black lives must matter in Africa too

Although Africans must continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement, there is also the need for them to raise their voices against injustices in other African countries

It’s just not cricket

Near Makhanda in the Eastern Cape in the village of Salem is a cricket pitch that is said to be the oldest in the country. Watered by blood and trauma, rolled with frontier nostalgia and contemporary paranoia, how does it play?

India and China border conflict intensifies

A frontier dispute between the two Asian giants turned deadly for the first time in 45 years. Observers argue the skirmish was exacerbated by Delhi’s annexation of Kashmir and Ladakh
Advertising

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday