Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor has challenged stakeholders at institutions of higher learning to examine the root causes of violent incidents reported on campus.
“Why would it be that students are prepared to kill each other to be on the Student Representative Council (SRC)? Why does a young man feels he owns a girlfriend and that it must be him and no other? Why would a young student stab another nine times? These are questions we need to ask ourselves and begin to answer,” Pandor said.
She was speaking at the department’s first ministerial roundtable on campus safety and security, which aimed to address the incidence of violence at some institutions of higher education and training across the country.
The roundtable, which was attended by university and college management and student leadership, explored policy questions and concerns, as well as practical strategies to address campus safety and security.
During the discussion, student murders, rape, abuse of students by outsiders and lecturers, drug abuse and vandalism of infrastructure were listed as among the top incidents facing institutions.
Pandor urged stakeholders to think of collective action that can be taken to turn the tide on the disturbing trends.
“There are questions we need to ask ourselves and begin to answer, and they speak to the institutions. I’m looking to vice chancellors, in particular, to be the ones that will play that leadership role and ensure that the people they lead are safe,” Pandor said.
The Minister said the department must work speedily to finalise the policy on gender-based violence, as discussions have been going on for “too long”.
“We need to have something in place,” Pandor said.
South African Union of Students (SAUS) President, Misheck Mugabe, said substance abuse and political differences were among the leading causes of violence on campus.
SAUS proposed a number of solutions to create a safe and secure learning environment, including policy amendments to solidify student safety; the hiring and training of security guards at universities, fencing around surveillance cameras, as well as a functional partnership with police.
“Part of the complaints we received from students is that when there is an incident and you call the police, they take five hours to arrive at the scene and sometimes they don’t even arrive… We need a partnership with the police so that there’s pro-activeness.
“We also need to embark on a student safety awareness campaign to ensure that students are aware of their responsibilities on safety. We also need to give support to students who are victims of violence because sometimes you find that a student commits suicide or suffers from depression after being raped,” Mugabe said.
Principal at Vhembe TVET College, Basani Hlekane, emphasised the need for collaboration between institutions, police and security companies, as well as minimising activities such as bashes at universities.
Hlekane also urged student leadership to work with institutions when disciplining unruly students, instead of protecting them. – SAnews.gov.za