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Black universities immune to transformation?

Featured Image: An entrance to the University of the Western Cape where student protests and activism have been raging on since last year. Photo: Wikicommons

By Ndiphiwe Mkuzo

I have concluded! It is much more easier a task asking white Universities to engage in the transformation discussion, persuading them to renegotiate the politics of institutional racial discourse and pedagogies, than it is to engage black Universities.

I use the former racial definitions purposefully, against the popular attributed notions of such institutions as transitional entities of their historical anatomies, for in the real of the lived experiences of those studying and working in such institutions of higher learning, they are but still just either black or white. Their racial make-ups are reflected in lecture hall names and their statues, in their colors and their missions. Therefore, white Universities still carry the sometimes assumed, but always very true and real legacies of their formative political contexts and agendas, with a majority of their student body as lily white as white Jesus heaven and an ambiance of privilege arched into their very logos. However, they are conscious of this reality. They attempt to recruit as many token black people to their ranks as possible, engaging issues of language (even if rhetorically so) so as to seem more complaint with the transformation discourse. Their neighbours on the other hand, the other ones, the black Universities – they escape these conversations for in their mind transformation means blackening the University space from which of course they are obviously exempted.

To this end they accept the hegemonic patronage of black enrollment, seeing no need to ask themselves whether they have transformed from their historic racial make-up and the inherent legacies and discourse of their former lifetime. These institutions remain black with a handful of white kids who either weren’t accepted into Stellenbosch or UCT, or just couldn’t afford to study there because their parents missed the apartheid gravy train. Their (black Universities) exemption from these conversations have sent them wondering into a different transformation trajectory which I call the “ANCfication” of black Universities.

First, they are given a part to play in the liberation narrative; then they are named after ANC struggle heroes (no heroines); then they are targeted as deployment sights for failed cadres either in government or in business; and then they are unionized for the negotiation of employment deals entailing meaningless positions for unqualified ANCYL members for the purpose of distributing university tenders etc. In these Universities, worth becomes secondary to an ANC membership card. All else falls to ruins as the Party line determines who becomes Registrar, Vice Chancellor, Chancellor, Administrator, Dean, the catering company, etc. All these vital components of a machinery which governs the knowledge building mechanism is thus ANCfied. This is how transformation has lost its relevance before it was even given a chance.

The medium of facilitating the way ahead via “ANCfication” leaves the white Universities, once more, ahead of the game, whilst the black University continues getting blacker, and blacker and blacker, with no transformation!

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