The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is saddened by the violent clashes between students and police at some university campuses. Even though only a few of the more than 20 universities are in protest, the voices of those who protest should be aired peacefully and likewise be heard.
While we do not differ from the ideal of free education, we believe that a more comprehensive plan for the execution of free education should be worked out under sober and well considered circumstances, looking at education holistically from the first three years of life (Early Childhood Development) to university.
In that regard the serious question of historic deprivation and inequalities in South Africa must be in the centre of the core considerations. This as part of creating a well-equipped society, which has the capacity to produce knowledge for the development of our economy, and the preservation and enhancement of our cultural and social heritage.
It is in the context of the obscenity of persistent inequalities in South African society that the SACC views the matter of education financing. Inequality persists at worrying levels with glaring imbalances in the distribution of income and opportunity across race and gender. Quality education, especially higher education, is a key leveler of opportunity. Inequality has a huge social and economic cost as it leads to and sustains poverty. This is not yet the South Africa of our dreams - a just, reconciled, equitable, and sustainable society, free of deprivation and discrimination. The South Africa we pray for is for each child born to develop to its God-given potential. A holistic value-based education system that is equitably financed from beginning to the tertiary level is what we need.
The proposals presented by government, while falling short of the desirable ideal at this point, are well taken, as they at least address the pain of inequality, so that the State better provides for poor families and meets the needs of middle class professionals who can't make ends meet - the missing middle.
We continue to see young people in our communities, who face an uncertain future without adequate provision of quality education and requisite productive and marketable skills. We appeal to parents of the students, and indeed to all sectors, especially students and their political formations, to work within the limitations of the current offer that mitigates inequality, and together with all of us, to negotiate a lasting solution with government in a multi-sector convention that gives student representatives a structured space for creative thinking and presentation of their solutions.
What the nation needs beyond this is a full National Convention for Education that will bring together all concerned, and craft a comprehensive plan with funding projections. We call on this as part of the efforts to deal with poverty and inequality, where, in the South Africa We Pray For Campaign, we place the highest value to the place of education in combating poverty and inequality.
Notes to Editors:
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