Students must finish their studies and go to work — not become “career students
This was the advice of President Jacob Zuma to members of the South African Student Congress (Sasco) when he delivered his keynote address during the national Right To Learn Rally held at Mangosuthu University of Technology on Friday evening.
“We must never have career students or student veterans who do not finish their studies but come back for gatekeeping‚” warned Zuma to rapturous applause.
Zuma‚ who was seven hours late‚ also encouraged students to study to create jobs rather than to study to get employment.
Earlier in the day Zuma had been at the launch of Operation Phakisa and had an impromptu media briefing on the so-called xenophobic tensions in Pretoria. His plane would not take off and he had to take a commercial flight‚ he said.
When he entered the Seme Hall‚ students cheered and sang: “Pravin‚ Madonsela Wenzeni uZuma‚ awuphendule usitshele wenzeni uZuma wena ubulawa ipropaganda” (Pravin‚ Madonsela what has Zuma done? Answer us and tell us what has Zuma done. You are full of propaganda).
The song was an inference to Zuma’s well-documented run-ins with former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the president’s frosty relations with his finance minister‚ Pravin Gordhan
Once on stage‚ Zuma‚ alongside provincial ANC secretary Super Zuma‚ eThekwini regional chair Zandile Gumede and ANC Youth League secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza all sang along.
In an inference to some of his cabinet ministers‚ Zuma told students to be wary of people who are deployed by the organisation but do not understand and appreciate their role.
“I often say such people have lost their compass. If you have lost the compass you will go to any direction‚” he said briefly before reverting to his speech.
Zuma expressed concern about the escalating costs of tertiary education saying the exorbitant fees have become another source of exclusion for the poor and vulnerable in particular‚ black South African child.
“While we appreciate the autonomy of universities‚ we must caution universities against excluding students on the basis of price and race. This should indicate to you therefore that your consistent call for free education is in perfect sync with the thinking of the movement in general regarding the cost of higher education‚” said Zuma.
He said the ANC has‚ for the past two years‚ welcomed and actually supported the countrywide revolutionary struggles of students against fee increments as long as these were conducted peacefully.
“We remain guided by the vision of the Freedom Charter that the doors of learning shall be open to all. It is now common cause that these struggles have also led to the emergence of what we have come to know as the Fees Must Fall Movement‚” he said.
“You have gathered here as students organised under the banner of SASCO to make clear the point that everybody has a right to learn. The correctness and appropriateness of this assertion lies precisely in the fact that education is a public good and should not be made by any measure as a commodity with a seller and a buyer‚ as well as an exchange value subject to the dictates of invisible market forces‚” said Zuma.
Zuma said at a political level‚ the Fees Must Fall movement cannot be understood as a spontaneous apolitical movement of random students outside the context of the call for free quality higher education which SASCO has made since its inception in 1991.
“We commend SASCO for having consistently planted the seeds of revolutionary struggles among students and also for the leadership it displayed during the Fees Must Fall protests‚ especially when confronted with real attempts by some in our society to hijack those protests and use them to advance a narrow anti-ANC and regime change driven counter-revolutionary agenda‚” he said.
Zuma also pledged for the strengthening funding models and to convert the student aid scheme into full bursaries.
He called for the strengthening of SASCO saying they must not lose SRC elections and should demonstrate to the broader society that they are leaders.
“SASCO has a historic responsibility to lead all students of South Africa as the foremost progressive student political organisation. There is no progressive student movement located outside the leadership of SASCO. It is against this background that despite the flair of populist radicalism‚ SASCO must at all times preserve its ideological relevance and organisational functionality