Ihron Rensburg.  Picture: SOWETAN
Ihron Rensburg. Picture: SOWETAN

THE University of Johannesburg’s (UJ’s) transformation initiatives will in future include compulsory courses on African philosophy and anticolonial teaching.

Vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg‚ in a statement confirming UJ’s zero-fee increases for 2016 and his commitment to tackle other student issues‚ also addressed the promotion of black academics and the university’s curriculum.

"In respect of our academic programmes we have done far too little to examine our knowledge epistemologies‚ philosophies and contextual realities. We need to establish inclusive traditions‚ with particular reference to Africa‚ and that it is now time to do so earnestly‚ urgently and with integrity‚" he said.

"This work will be kick-started with a focus on designing new compulsory undergraduate modules on topics such as Key Themes in African History‚ Great African Philosophers of the 19th and 20th Centuries‚ Important Anti-Colonial struggles of the 20th Century‚ The State of the Post-colony — Progress and Retrogression‚ and‚ Critical Citizenship in the 21st Century."

Mr Rensburg said UJ had recorded good progress with its transformation programme.

"Consider for example that 10 years ago the university had only 9% black academic staff and that this has now grown to 37%. Further consider that 10 years ago the university had 60% black students and that this has now grown to 86%. However‚ we acknowledge that much remains to be done. In particular our attention must now be intensely focused on creating welcoming‚ embracing and far more diverse environments.

"It must equally be focused on securing the success of our Accelerated Academic Mentoring Programme that aims to support black and women staff to secure promotion and to build a far more diverse professoriate within the next three years... Our work is far from finished."

Mr Rensburg blamed the government for the high cost of tertiary education‚ which sparked this month’s #FeesMustFall campaign by students.

"This situation of high fees is the direct result of the long-run real decline in per capita student state funding‚ which has seen, for example, state funding at UJ decline to below 50% of our annual budget‚" he said.

Since 2008‚ he added‚ UJ had leveraged its budget to fund poor students.

"Specifically for 2015‚ a full three-quarters of the 10.5% increase was allocated to student support."

A total of R120m was raised and spent during 2015 on various student support initiatives‚ Mr Rensburg said.

"This amounts to a full 75% of the 2015 tuition fee increase being allocated and spent in this manner… UJ takes financial access for our students very seriously."

Providing a breakdown of the university’s support to students‚ he said:

- R25m of the fee increase was allocated to top up the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) shortfall

- Council approved a further R20m to top up NSFAS while management mobilised a further R37m from some of the Sector Education and Training Authorities

- R10m of the fee increase was allocated to establish the UJSRC Trust Fund to assist 3‚000 students who were unable to pay their registration fees.

- R12m of the fee increase was set aside to provide‚ in partnership with Gift of the Givers‚ 3‚800 of UJ’s most indigent students with a balanced meal twice daily.

- "Furthermore‚ we agreed with the UJSRC to allocate R15m of the fee increase to run the intercampus bus shuttle service because we know that far too many of our students are unable to afford the daily transport fee from their private accommodation to our campuses."

- A further R1m was raised during the UJ Future Walk to aid students who are unable to finance their studies.

Apart from confirming the university’s participation in the national discussion around implementation of the zero-free increase for 2016‚ Mr Rensburg committed UJ to reviewing the working conditions of outsourced workers. He said an inclusive task team would be set up from next week (week of November 2).

He also said that no disciplinary action would be taken by the university against students and staff who had participated peacefully in the staff and student protest. However‚ the court interdict that the university had obtained would remain in place for the protection of the university community and property. He said: "The interdict will only be invoked if the safety and security of staff‚ students and university property is threatened."

The academic calendar has been revised due to the student protests.

Classes and tests that were scheduled for October 22 and 23 and have not taken place‚ were rescheduled to take place from October 28-30. The study break (block week) will run from October 31 to November 6; and examinations will begin on November 7. Supplementary examinations are rescheduled for December 7 to 11.

RDM News Wire