World Watch

08 March 2004

President Thabo Mbeki was awarded the degree of Doctor of Commerce Honoris Causa from the University of Stellenbosch. In its motivation the university described Mbeki as a "visionary leader". The president said he believed the occasion, and the fact that the university was the venue of the African National Congresss 51st National Congress, showed the university's commitment to nation-building.

At the University of Pretoria, the Maroela men's residence was thrust into the spotlight last year after an 18-year-old matric girl laid charges of rape against students associated with the hostel. Although the rape charges have been withdrawn, the university-commissioned report into activities at the university and at Maroela in particular, went ahead. Alcohol abuse, sexism, and problems with racial integration all apparently added to the perception that the hostel is trouble. Some Maroela residents interviewed expressed their dissatisfaction with their group identity and said their "bad name" was due to a small group of troublemakers. The report said, however, that the situation at Maroela could be changed. Closing it down would punish the wrong people. Vice-chancellor and principal of the university, Prof Calie Pistorius, said the recommendations would be used as a basis to develop strategies for dealing with the issues raised.

At the University of Zululand, unrest broke out over a hostel accommodation crisis on the main campus. Sources said that teargas was used to disperse a crowd and lectures were disrupted. Disgruntled students are said to have drawn up a list of grievances about the shortage of accommodation, catering problems and issues involving student registration.

Several hundred foreign students demonstrated last week in Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, to protest the failure of authorities in the city to protect them from racist attacks, the latest of which resulted in the death of a second-year medical student from Guinea-Bissau. Authorities in Voronezh have yet to make any arrests in the seven race-based murders of foreign students there since 1998.

Women's rights Organizations in Botswana are lobbying the government to end a longstanding policy that suspends scholarships to female students who become pregnant. In the southern African nation, most university students, whether studying at home or abroad, have government scholarships that cover their fees, living expenses, books, medical treatment, and transportation costs. One organisation, Women and Law in Southern Africa, says that the suspension policy contradicts Botswana's constitution, and notes that it does not apply to male students who become fathers. Botswanan government officials say that the policy is designed solely to cut costs, as most of the university students who become pregnant are studying in South Africa or the United States, where medical expenses are high.

Sources: Independent Online,, The Chronicle of Higher Education

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