Student leaders are important resources for the growth of the campus atmosphere in education, community and culture.
Student leaders have played a significant role in mobilizing students to fight for their rights to access quality education and access to decent residences. They encourage institutions to focus on the fulfillment of their visions. The dilution of external politics in the campus atmosphere has extensively polluted student activism. National parties’ involvement in student policy debauch the institutions.
There are student leaders who have forsaken the collective vision of student activism and turned into political playground where factions and influences take priority. Campus comrades do not seem to be actively fighting and supporting students as they should but rather in it for their self-benefits and recognition. The disparity gets wider for marginalized students to get access to academic needs to successfully complete their studies, needs such as financial assistance registration and not limited to, accommodation. Student leaders should by virtue assist such students as they receive hefty amount of money aimed at assisting students that may need assistance. The budget is often splurged and lavished on entertainment leaving student problems unresolved. Nevertheless, student leaders are not solely responsible for discourse and transformation, however they should play a role to ascertain that proper and quality academia is afforded to every student.
Probably the most difficult thing to pursue social change on campus is to inspire students to engage and participate in student politics. There has been a recurring notion on campus that in order to be alleviated, people should “empower themselves”. With little resources and a lack of privilege, it would be absurd and unfair to marginalized students who constantly feel like they are battling against the current unjust and disproportionate system. The opportunity for leading change is used as a stepping stone by student leaders in all higher educational institutions to strengthen their position further in political parties.
The first mistake that students make is to normalize the assumption that they can never succeed in the University premises without the student Comrades’ shield. The very same shield they are seeking is the one that leads them to worse situations. More especially first-time entering students. We want student leaders who understand that rendering their responsibility is not a favour. For our University environment to be conducive for learning, it should begin with student leaders.
If you happen to attend an Annual general meeting (AGM) or the branch annual meeting (BGM) of student leaders, you understand that at the root of their discussion is the conversation which is also defeating the governing party. Such issues are discussed at a higher political level and are also flustered. The debate that young leaders should undertake is a transformation in higher learning on how to adjust the curriculum to allow students to create their own entities rather than contributing to employment status annually. These are the kind of leaders who are keeping track of this nation. Politics is no longer a revolution, especially for black people, but it is a self-fulfilling process. Those with more ideas do not have power or platform to voice out their ideas, but those without have the influence and platform.
Student leadership now has become an exercise forum for a dishonest and reckless dictatorship. It is through this that young leaders make power ties and even build their very own factional battles which they sweep out of the mother-political party body. These are the ones who say management to students is the enemy of the progress of black students, but they are buddies on the round tables and so on. They claim they are there to fix students problems, but the issues were never resolved rather add to those already existing. When their relationship with the management is challenging, they threaten students of harsh consequences. Many have been leaders in the University since they married the idea of transforming the university but this reform is collapsing because the student leaders are battling for power among themselves.
We need student leaders who understands their role and responsibilities and who are committed to the values of the institutions and vision of student activism. We need leaders who will always put students first for the institutions that we want to be progressive.
By Sanele Thwala and Thando Langbooi