I sat quietly trying to listen in the meeting where student leaders ( from schools/political organizations/residence/sport community and others along with the VC highlighted problems and some solutions to bettering our campus.
I was the last to give a contribution and in summary highlighted how disingenuous and ineffective the structures at Wits are ( some of the subject matters discussed included ; academic performance of students , mental health , social programs and university culture , curriculum and attitude of students and staff et al ) . Mine ( As a student leader and Deputy President and Academic officer of the Wits SRC , at a point of leaving office in reflection , as well as an Honours student with 4-years-experience at Wits ), was to highlight truths we need to be honest about.
Prior to commenting on what I termed ‘band aid’ solutions to structural issues that exist because of the difference and gap between ; 1. those who make/take decisions binding the Wits community 2. The weight/influences of the finances that maintain the status of Wits in society 3.attitude culture and regard of leadership on campus 4. the gap/strange inability to understand fully how the behavior attitude and culture on our campus is telling of our society and second to this informing what this society is going to have as contributors to its economy and community , are forgotten or overlooked in the manner in which we deal with one another and thirdly how we respond to issues in general can almost be regarded as being negligent/careless to the long-term and continued implications our words actions and choices have. On the experiences we have on campus.
- Majority of the people who make decisions are white and male. On behalf of a largely black and female university.
- The funding of Wits university , outside of the government grant , fees of paying/bursary students also lies from investments from greater members of society who associate with brand Wits. An example of this can be said to be ( FeesMustFall)
- Student leaders at Wits university externally are held to a great regard. This has been consistent and more prevalent during the time of #FeesMustFall. Second to this is the medias attitude toward Wits , often placing them at a pedestal. Yet there seems to be a disconnect on campus where after the highest decision making body ( in Undergrad) Wits SRC 2017/18 is voted into office by no more than 18% of the student community about 2900/37000 students took part in the elections process. Yet these vary students similar to the SRC prior 2016/17 with 23% voter turnout about 4000/37000 students was received and sworn into office with the responsibility of REPRESENTING the issues of the student community officially formally and genuinely so. My experience of this is worth paragraphs but at the risk of loosing your readership I would want to say that it isn’t a fully honest/true reflection of the voice of students.But this does not go to disregard the views/voice of those who DO participate rather it becomes an incident where the loud concerned and aware voice of 2-3000 odd students is articulated and made the voice of students. And among the things we ought to do include a look at what informs the low participation care or interest. When the decision taken are to affect your lived experience. Perhaps my concern stems from a person who in her active sense is worried that this attitude and poor participation into student leadership can only be telling of the kind of graduates and members of society that will be born from this space. But I do hope that is simply my pessimistic sense taking over. Second to this is the culture attitude and what many ‘student leaders’ call politics of the day. Rhetoric’s slander and lies to shame one group from another without any convincing of legitimacy to a space either than how X is bad because of ABC. I at some stage said its a good day to be apolitical on this campus and frankly in the country , if the politics of the day are anything to reference. But I can’t help but come out of a week and month where I visited historical sites that informed our democracy , in Soweto Orlando Kliptown to name a few , as well as having attended the #ORTambo100 lecture by President Mbeki and grieve at what has become of our society , someone on social media said ” The whole of South Africa is an apartheid museum”. These words stuck with me and resonated deeply when I look at institutional and structural conditions throughout the country. Our attitude toward race , issues of access and finances , leadership all over , gender based harm and violence and the day to day lived experiences are telling of a broken society and deep void in leadership beyond the colour of ones t-shirt.
We generally are in trouble and need to ACT soon , no one else can ‘save’ us but ourselves.