Blade tells students to ‘pull up socks’

HIGHER Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande yesterday warned troubled "rural universities" in the Eastern Cape to pull up their socks, and announced his vision for a new type of tertiary education in South Africa. Speaking at the sixth ZK Matthews Memorial Lecture at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) in Alice, Nzimande said: "We need a thousand more ZK Matthews in this country ... and you must contribute to this."The work ethic ... about wanting to knock off at 2pm to do other things ," he said, must change "otherwise no matter how much money we throw at education, it will be wasted".

The call for the progressive introduction of free higher education for poor students could not be a licence for breeding "professional students", he said to the 100-strong crowd. Nzimande said the department was not interested in giving funds to students "who were not serious". The minister said when he was growing up, the church and university were the only places that were not corrupt."And now? We cannot allow a situation where some of our student leaders are more concerned about being elected into SRCs (student representative councils) in order to access tenders and other privileges.

"Universities need a revolution in morality and hard work, especially in the historically disadvantaged universities," Nzimande said, which had the crowd laughing and applauding. "These tenderpreneurs at universities are problematic but we will be ruthless in cutting them out. "Unfortunately, Fort Hare and other ... rurally-based universities have not yet found stability or a clear role for themselves in a democratic South Africa. "One of the most critical challenges facing our post-1994 dispensation is that of properly defining and resourcing the role of historically black universities," he said. Nzimande, also the general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), said the idea of every university "wanting to be like the other must stop".

As an example, he said: "If ... we decide this university must be a prime university for agriculture ... this means a person studying a BComm (degree in commerce) will be a specialist in all matters related to agriculture". "So that it can be known if you want to be a ... legal person in agriculture ... you will come to Fort Hare," he said."In other words, all programmes at a university will be geared to elevate you in your specific field."He said a task team would look into such possibilities next year. Nzimande said he was "thinking very hard" about reviewing the funding formula used to determine how much money the State should allocate to institutions of higher learning .

He said the gap between historically advantaged institutions and historically disadvantaged institutions was too big. He said as they reviewed the funding formula they would look at rewarding excellent teaching which produced black professionals. "In this way, we could possibly compensate, equally for both good teaching and research, rather than funding in favour of the latter at the expense of the former," he said.

In closing, Nzimande said the university must build on its strengths and tackle its weaknesses. "It must become a vital centre of intellectual life that fulfills the expectations of its students, their parents and their communities," he said. Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews was the first African to graduate with a BA degree from Fort Hare in 1924.

By 1944 he was the head of Fort Hare's Department of African Studies. He assisted in drawing up the ANC Freedom Charter. He retired to Botswana and in 1966 took up the post as Botswana's ambassador to the US. He died in the US in May 1968. -

By MICHAEL KIMBERLEY

Council Reporter

Courtesy of the Daily Dispatch