The Congress of South African Trade Unions is deeply
shocked at the tragic death of a student's mother at the
University of Johannesburg, and the injuries to 17 other
people, in a stampede at the university on Tuesday 10
We send our condolences to the family and best wishes to
the injured for a full recovery.
It is absolutely intolerable that students and their
parents should have to undergo the kind of ordeal which we
have witnessed at the UJ this week, just to qualify what
should be a basic right - to higher education.
Some prospective students had slept on the pavement waiting
for the gates to open. One said that the problem arose from
"congestion, because the university put everyone who wanted
to renew and the newcomers in the same queue."
COSATU demands that the UJ urgently finds a more humane
procedure for dealing with applications to study, and
endorses the call by Mangaliso Khonza, national
spokesperson of the SA Youth Council that "the
university, after its experience of similar situations,
should have found better means of dealing with such crises
and it`s important that we raise this issue across the
entirety of the higher education fraternity".
This tragedy highlights a fundamental problem. South Africa
desperately needs more qualified and skilled graduates, if
we are to transform our economy and bring down the levels
of unemployment and poverty. Yet students have to battle to
gain admission to universities and then to pay the fees
that are demanded.
Last year UJ received 85 000 applications for 11,000
first-year places. The University of the Witwatersrand
received 30,000 applications for 5500 spaces, UKZN 61,500
applications for 9000 places and the University of the Free
State 13,000 applications for 4000 places.
This means that thousands of young matriculants,
particularly those from the poorest families, are missing
out on the chance to further their education and make a
bigger contribution to society.
COSATU appreciates the excellent work being done by the
Minister for Higher Education and Training, Comrade Blade
Nzimande, to expand and improve higher and further
education, but urges the government to do even more, in
line with its policy priorities, to open the doors of
learning to all South Africans, in particular the demand in
the Freedom Charter that "higher education and technical
training shall be opened to all by means of state
allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit."
Let this tragic loss of a life spur us all on to fulfil
that demand for free education and make sure that we never
again see such horrifying incidents at our universities.