AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - University protests: Bishops call for “honest dialogue with students”

Monday, 7 March 2016 bishops   university  

Bishop Abel Gabuza

Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - "Not enough has been done to promote an environment that enables open and honest dialogue to happen. We call for honest dialogue on the issues raised by the students at various campuses” says a statement issued by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) regarding student protests in South Africa.
“Honest dialogue means being clear and transparent about the time frames by which the university and the government would meet student concerns, including calls for tuition-free higher education regime. Honest dialogue includes having clear clear policies about transformation of our universities to end the racism and colonial models of being a university ", said Bishop Abel Gabuza of the diocese of Kimberley chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission.
“As Church we firmly support the campaign of the students to end financial barriers to accessing and completing higher learning” the statement continues, while at same time expressing the Bishops’ concern for the level of violence and vandalism which has accompanied student protests in tertiary institutions
"The escalation of campus violence and vandalism is however playing into the hands of those who seek to discredit the legitimacy of this important campaign" said Bishop Gabuza.
" Political parties are part of the problem when it comes to campus violence. They can also be part of the solution. Political parties should make a commitment to refrain from discourses that discourage honest dialogue and fuel campus violence ”.
The Commission also invited the government and university leadership to involve Church leaders in the mediation processes between the students and the universities .
"We call upon the government, university leadership, political parties and Church leaders to sit around the table and address the issues at various academic institutions that are marked with campus violence ” said Bishop Gabuza.
Studies in at least four universities have been affected by student protests including the University of Pretoria, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Free State .
Last October South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma agreed to student demands not to increase fees in 2016 and promised more funds for less well-off students. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 7/3/2016)