Methodists weigh in on Fee-Free Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

19 October 2016

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa ( MCSA) Higher Education Summit  meeting from 17-18 October  2016 at the Emseni Methodist Conference Centre reflected on the education crisis currently playing out on university campuses across South Africa; the call for fee free education and possible funding solutions and the roles that communities of faith can play in helping to bring about peaceful resolution. In this regard, the meeting declared:

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa acknowledges and recognises that the call for a different tertiary education funding model is an honourable and legitimate one.  According to some World Bank estimates, South Africa is amongst the top 100 countries in the world with the highest inequality index. As such, the call for ‘fee free education’ should be seen within its socio-economic context.

We are further mindful that there are a myriad of interests muddying the waters that constitute the ‘fee-free education conversation’. The deafening pitch which now characterises the ‘Fallist Movement’ protests, originally founded on objectives which everyone from government, universities’ leadership, people of faith, the students themselves and most of civil society, agree with, is now threatening to derail the vital consensus which is key to resolving the dispute.

The deal-clincher for breaking the current impasse is for inclusive stakeholder participation so that opportunity is given to all role players to speak and be heard.

Much research has been done around the intractable issues of student funding world-wide which indicates that a cascading and equitable solution is possible and one has to thoroughly analyse the different option models to see how student funding can be rolled out effectively and sustained over time.

We as the church urge the State to refrain from treating the ‘fee-free education’ protests as just another law and order matter. It is far greater than that and speaks to fundamental bread and butter issues exacerbated by dignity-eroding poverty and inequality. The dominant narrative must not be that of dissonance but rather of a society united in seeking the solutions to the prevailing challenges.

We continue to appeal with all those involved to desist from the use of violence and the pointless destruction of infrastructure.  This type of behaviour is counterproductive and distracts and detracts from the real issues. We call on all people of faith to denounce the culture and perpetration of all acts of violence, opportunistic and senseless criminality characterised by looting and socially unacceptable behaviour. 

The call for ‘free education’ for all is a justice issue that has the potential to do away with classism while levelling the ground so that all young people with the requisite qualifications can have equitable  access to quality higher education.

It is possible to bring dignity  and peace back to the university campuses and to the negotiating table so that, together, we formulate viable solutions that will not only provide our children with education that will develop their intelligence and form their characters but also build our societies and economy. The church stands ready to serve through presence, mediation and constant prayer.

Statement released by the office of

 Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa

Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa

 

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