Whilst a student in the 90’s at the former Technikon Northern Transvaal now Tshwane University of Technology, I was always mesmerized by student politics and how brilliant this youth leaders were and ahead of their time. I have many times asked myself how come these leaders being students, able to master the art of public speech, power of persuasion and the finesse with which they executed their student leadership tasks. I was in deed in admiration.
Many of these leaders were in the student representative council known as the SRC and they were vocal about student matters and also militant in terms of putting their points across. What I noticed was that they were highly respected by the institution’s authority and they held power over the institute’s academic matters and general affairs. As for us students, we followed like sheep each time they called student meetings and other social gatherings of concern to students. Such was the nature of student politics.
But from where did these student leaders hone their skills? Was it a question of taking interest in the students’ matters at an early age or natural born-leaders? Many of these students were militants who in the 80 have led student politics under organisations like the ANC-aligned Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and Pan African Students Organisation (PASO). However, it should be noted that the formation of student politics was given birth by the void left behind by the banning of political parties like the Pan African Congress (PAC), African National congress (ANC), SA Communist Party (SACP), etc. in the 60’s. The space was therefore created for student politics to enter the fray.
Who can forget the South African Students Organisation (SASSO) formed by the late Steve Biko and others? This was now at the tertiary level where skills developed at high school were put to good use.
Prior to these student politics was the youth formation and involvement in politics with the formation of the ANC Youth league and PAC youth leagues respectively. This is how the youth got involved into politics and I am in no way against such involvement, these moves were necessary and a welcomed intervention since protest politics mounted by the ANC in the 40’s and 50’s had not yielded the desired results.
As we mark the 39th anniversary of Youth Day on June 16, 2015, we need to reflect on the involvement of student politics and the contribution it has brought this country. June 16 was known as the student’s uprising when African students took the battle of being taught in Afrikaans to the streets in Soweto and Langa townships, which resulted in the deaths and injuries to many students including Hector Peterson’s much documented death.
Fast-forward to the 80’s and nineties, student politics have evolved and became the fabric of our institutions of learning and dominance and influence grew from then onwards. But what could have been their dominance brought with it the erosion of the institute’s principles and prevented the smooth running of the academic affairs much to the detriment of the said institutions. The institutions management functions collapsed and we saw the increase in student protests and marches and disobedience to the institution’s policies. Students had taken over!
A worthy cause that would have ensured the championing of students’ right to quality education had been ‘hijacked’ by those student’s leaders who not only interfered with academic running of institutions of learning, but they held too much sway and influence in which they almost dictated terms that were favourable to them instead of benefiting all students. This I called politics of deceit.
Politics of deceit purports to advance and protect the interests of their ‘elective constituency’ when in fact it is not the case. Leaders of politics of deceit always display the following traits:
• They are demagogues and agitators who often please crowds by saying the right things and not necessarily doing them;
• They are populists and claim to be sympathetic to the plight of those they lead;
• They are centric and selfish as they put their interests above anybody else’s;
• They are dictatorial in forcing their ideas and know how to use force if necessary.
• They appear to care and most often than not, downplay the plight of their followers; and
• Most of them did not complete their studies on time if at all educated, and also use their connections to advance their course.
When these student leaders ‘graduate’ after spending more than half their youth years at school, they would form a clique or a network even more determined to enter government and others state institutions including parastatals, eager to continue the onslaught against the citizens of this country. They have learnt how to manipulate the system at SRC level. They were in charge of finance and other resources at institutions of higher learning and infiltrating state institutions would simply be extending their prowess to further enrich themselves.
They would introduce reforms which look good on paper and difficult to implement.
The bid to turn Gauteng schools into a ‘paperless classroom’ saw the acquisition of tablets and computers instead of textbooks.
The MEC involved, was vocal about it and the launch was accompanied by pomp and ceremony.
R2 billion would be spent to achieve this remarkable feat.
“There have been serious cases of burglaries in schools to steal tablets that we have
given to schools, and I have been asking the police to really come to the party and assist us,” says the MEC in Gauteng after 3000 of the 88 000 tablets were stolen or lost.
His brainchild has now caused security concerns over the safety of students. Apparently all 88 000 tablets will be recalled, and if that happens, will the learners be given textbooks?
Our parastatals have ceased to function the likes of SAA, PRASA, TRANSNET and ESKOM is uppermost in many people’s minds. The recent spate of load shedding has become second nature to every citizen of our country and the ecomony continues to suffer. Provincial government, especially the department of health and education, problems are massive. Local governments are a cancer with service delivery protests that highlight the non-functioning of these municipalities. Some have become premiers and their administrations are engulfed by allegations of corruptions.
These are but some of the examples by a breed of student leaders who learnt the trade and delved into politics of deceit at a very early age. Unfortunately, they are everywhere in government and others are being bred in universities and technikons as we read this article. They lead students protests and have infiltrated the workings of NSFAS, National Student Financial Aid Scheme. Scenes like contained in the picture below are a common sight and they continue unabated.
We need to relook at the student involvement in politics and school affairs. A question I have always asked myself was, if student should be allowed to ‘rule’ institutions of learning, what is it that they know? Aren’t they supposed to be learners and allow adults to teach? Why has society allowed and tolerated this behaviour?
These leaders must be identified and shamed for taking our country to the dogs.
How can they claim to be advancing the course of the poor student whereas they amass enormous wealth to themselves?
They need to stop and rethink their actions as no one will benefit but themselves!