Report of the ministerial committee on transformation and social cohesion and the elimination of discrimination in public higher education institutions
10 Jun 2009
The Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande today announced the official release of the report on transformation, social cohesion and the elimination of discrimination in public higher education institutions.
The Minister would like to acknowledge and thank his predecessor Minister Pandor for embarking on this important investigation. This is pioneering work in that the report represents a first systematic study into issues of social cohesion and transformation in higher education. This report provides a means for engagement and debate amongst higher education stakeholders and provides a vehicle to assist in continuous transformation of the sector.
Following the Reitz incident at the University of Free State which received wide media coverage in the country and internationally, Minister Pandor in March 2008 announced the establishment of the ministerial committee to investigate discrimination in public higher education institutions. As the report states, South Africa is one of the world's major social laboratories' and therefore it is a critical imperative that a mirror be held up to enable us to gauge our progress in terms of transformation in our institutions of learning.
The committee had to investigate and report on the following:
* The nature and extent of racism and racial discrimination in public institutions and in particular university residences. While the emphasis should be on racial discrimination, other forms of discrimination based on, for example, gender, ethnicity and disability should be considered
* The steps that have been taken by institutions to combat discrimination including an assessment of good practice as well as shortcomings of the existing interventions
* Advice the Minister of Education and key constituencies in higher education on the policies strategies and interventions needed to combat discrimination and to promote inclusive institutional cultures for staff and students, which are based on the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution
* Identify implications for other sectors of the education system.
The membership of the Committee was as follows:
* Professor Crain Soudien (Chairperson)
* Dr W Michaels
* Dr S Mthembi-Mahanyele
* Professor M Nkomo
* Ms Gugu Nyanda
* Mr N Nyoka
* Professor S Seepe
* Dr O Shisana
* Dr C Villa-Vincecio.
The committee commenced work in April 2008 and submitted its final report to the Minister on 30 November 2008 following an extensive and exhaustive process of data collection which included institutional, organisational and individual submissions, documentary analysis, institutional visits, consultations with national student organisations and trade unions.
The Minister has considered and accepted the report and its major findings. 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. The report notes that there is a disjuncture between institutional policies and the real life experiences of staff and students, indicating that the good intentions of institutions are not fully experienced. The Minister has written to Chairpersons 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 have been urged to consider the establishment of institution-wide mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the state of transformation on their campuses.
In addition, the report has been referred to the Council on Higher Education for advice on what additional measures could be considered to deepen transformation and social cohesion in our institutions and system. The Minister will be meeting with Higher Education South Africa (HESA) and will request them to consider:
* The development of a transformation compact between higher education institutions and the Department
* Vice-chancellors to be held responsible for transformation and should be included in performance management contracts
* There is a need for institutions to consider the extent to which the curriculum has 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
* Proposals related to student learning needs and the establishment of a four year undergraduate degree have been referred to the Council on Higher Education (CHE) for advice
* Proposals on the implementation of the language policy have been referred to the CHE for advice.
The committee observes that the system largely has in place a comprehensive range of policies dealing with transformation related issues. This is especially so with respect to the requirements of employment equity. These gaps notwithstanding, the conclusion to which the Committee has come is that, in legal and regulatory terms, the higher education system is compliant. In addition, the Committee further notes that there are aspects of the system that require attention.
There is no doubt that significant policy development has indeed occurred towards transformation, the next important step is of making those policies work. In this regard in accepting the report, and having noted the observations made by the Committee, the Minister has considered and accepted the following proposal:
* The establishment of the monitoring and oversight body to complement the work of the Council on Higher Education and to deal with challenges of transformation that have been identified by the committee as needing attention. This oversight body will be based in the Department of Higher Education and Training and further details concerning its composition, structure and brief will be released in due course.
In addition, the Minister intends convening a higher education stakeholder summit in the first quarter of 2010, to discuss a range of matters affecting the higher education sector. Some of the key issues will include the reports and recommendations from stakeholder and institutional deliberations on the committee report. In addition, the summit will explore the possibility of developing a higher education transformation charter and the establishment of a permanent stakeholder forum as envisaged in the White Paper 3.
There are several recommendations in the report that pertain to the different levels in the sector. The Minister has raised these matters with the various constituencies and escalated matters that fall within the purview of institutions, to Chairs of Councils.
The Minister expects that Chairs of Councils and Councils will consider the findings of the report and engage in implementation of the recommendations taking into account the different institutional contexts. Later this evening, the Minister will be meeting with the leadership of higher education at the HESA board meeting.
At this meeting, the Minister will firmly assert the need for serious engagement with the findings of the report and to present a plan of action within a reasonable period of time. This will be the expectation of HESA as well as individual institutions. In this regard, the Council on Higher Education has been asked to provide advice on certain critical aspects of the report like the language policy and monitoring transformation at institutions through the audit processes of the Higher Education Quality Committee.
Cell: 082 529 4808 or 079 716 5240
Source: Department of Education (http://www.education.gov.za/)
Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training
10 Jun 2009
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