Summit to end violence

June 9, 1995

South Africa's education minister is to meet with student bodies next week to try to find ways of ending racism and violence - and promoting reform - at universities and technikons.

The summit, which will be the result of talks between six student bodies and department of education officials last month, will focus on transformation at institutions and strategies for dealing with problems in higher education.

John Samuel, education deputy director-general, said it would be a first step towards improving the environment in tertiary education, which was "plagued with problems".

Among the student bodies at the education department talks were the South African Students' Council Sahe Azanian Students' Congress, the South African Technikon Students' Union and Students for Democratic Transformation. Students for Democratic Transformation is a new organisation, formed mostly by white students at five historically Afrikaans universities, apparently largely in reaction to the increasing disruption of campuses by protests and the domination by black students of student organisations.

The campuses involved in the forum are the Universities of Stellenbosch, Port Elizabeth Potchefstroom and Free State, and Rand Afrikaans University. Other members are the little-known National Student Movement and the South African Liberal Students' Association.

Students for Democratic Transformation has clearly been created to give a voice to white students - especially fairly conservative students.

While no one would deny the right of white students to have a voice, there is little doubt that it will divide student bodies even more than they appear to be now, at least at Afrikaans universities.

The student representative council at Rand Afrikaans University, which has rapidly increased the number of black students on campus in the past couple of years, is the latest to affiliate to the organisation.

When 1,000 students supported affiliation to Students for Democratic Transformation, members of Sasco walked out in protest. It is likely the split will deepen as the new body begins to present an alternative point of view, even though it supports university transformation.

Paulo Andrade, students council president at Rand Afrikaaans University, said the university needed to begin transformation immediately - but that the forum viewed mass action as unacceptable.

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