Strategies and specifics for transformation

10 August 2009

Your correspondent Aphiwe Bewana, the provincial chair of Sasco, has written a letter (Volume 28#10) of "warm greetings" to complain about groups at UCT who display "tendencies – whose underlying principles and acts are divergent to genuine transformation". This letter in response is written in the same spirit.

For a long time we have been told by Sasco and other black organisations that this university has been too slow in pursuing the goals of transformation. I suggest that if they want additional policy action they need to be much more concrete in their proposals. Apart from stating in general terms their wish to see more black appointments to senior academic and administrative posts, as well as certain curricular changes, they do not specify what actual changes would satisfy them, nor any strategies for carrying them out.

Until groups like Sasco become specific we are not likely to see a greater meeting of minds within the university on these issues. The following list contains the sorts of questions I venture require clarification by concrete answers. These are illustrative, not complete.

  • What does black mean in this context? Africans, or all people other than white as designated in the old apartheid era terminology?
  • Can black appointments be of people from anywhere in the world, such as the rest of Africa, the Caribbean countries and the US? Or do they have to be South African-born and bred to satisfy the demands of 'transformation'?
  • Given the supply constraints - too few suitable applicants for employment who are black - should the university perhaps offer enhanced salary and benefit packages? Say, 40% more than the going rate, in monetary terms?
  • If this is acceptable, then should the 40% premium be paid only to new hires after a certain date? Or should it be paid to all black employees in comparable grades?
  • If such a strategy is adopted by the university, is it realistic to expect problems of morale and motivation among staff members who are not paid the premium? If so, how can this be countered?
  • If curricula are to become less Eurocentric or global-centric in content and style, then what concrete changes are proposed for disciplines other than the obvious ones such as historical studies, languages, certain social sciences, and arts like fine art, drama and music?
  • We need to recognise that curriculum regionalisation - greater African-oriented content - will entail costs. To meet such a goal, some of what is now taught in a range of disciplines will have to be substituted by the new content, because there is not room and time for everything. Is that simply a cost to be borne? What should be dropped, and by what criteria will these difficult decisions be made?

These are the kinds of questions that must be researched and distributed within the university community by groups, like Sasco, pushing for accelerated policy action.

Sean Archer
School of Economics

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.