As I sit here compiling this opinion piece, I’m constantly checking my phone for an SOS message from my eldest daughter, who is currently a 2nd year Occupational Therapy student. Sporadic disruptions of academic activities have started again on the main campus of our beautiful university here in the City of Roses. Since the majority of the students who are back on campus for face-to-face teaching are the students from the Medical faculty, my daughter and the rest of the medical students have had to bear the brunt of this round of disruptive protests. As the young folk would say, “the medical students had to take this one for the team”.
For the most part these protests are never really physically harmful to the non-protesting students or staff on campus, but they are disturbing and upsetting to witness and experience. Academic activities are often rudely and abruptly disrupted and property is destroyed and this is very traumatising for those not involved in these protests. Since the start of the #feesmustfall campaign and protests in 2016, most tertiary institutions have not had a full academic year without any disruptions of academic activities. In fact as academics we now make allocations for these disruptions in our semester and annual teaching and learning planning.
The recent spate of protests are fueled by the usual suspect - lack of finances - for the much desired tertiary education qualification. In my article published in the Friday edition of 5 March I made reference to the South African youth’s thirst for education and what drives it and also the importance of education in securing their employment. StatsSA found that during the years 2006 - 2011, the unemployment rate amongst people with a tertiary education aged older than 25 was only 7%, compared to a figure of 20% for adults with only secondary education...
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