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Young people pivotal in transformation

- By Vivienne Rowland

“A seismic shift is currently happening in transformation in higher education and it is up to the members of that community to raise their voices so that it is heard and documented,” said Professor Melissa Steyn, Director of the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies.

Steyn spoke at the opening of a colloquium for the Anti-Racism Network in Higher Education (ARNHE) titled Transforming Transformation? The Changing Landscape of South African Institutions of Higher Learning.

“Something much more seismic is happening in terms of transformation in higher education. We have young people who are active and vocal and who are taking responsibility for their own generation. The young generation does not have the past as their primary reference. Their primary reference is their aspirations,” said Steyn.

Steyn said that the ARNHE aims to enable people in higher education to voice their opinions about what is happening in their institutions, be it anonymous.

“The ARNHE likes to be active in constructing knowledge that we know can be of use in our society. It is a collection of people in the higher education community committed to keeping the conversation on transformation alive,” said Steyn.  

The ARNHE began operating in June 2008 in response to the Reitz Residence incident at the University of the Free State and overall challenges of racism in higher education institutions.

Attendees at the colloquium included members from more than half of the 25 member institutions. Wits University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the University of the Free State, the University of the Western Cape, the University of Johannesburg, the University of Stellenbosch, the University of Pretoria, Venda University of Technology, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Fort Hare, the University of Cape Town and the Cape Town University of Technology were all represented.

 “We want to capture voices from across the higher education sector and produce a report. We feel that it will have great deal of value. It will also act as holding members of higher education accountable so that no-one can say that they didn’t know [what was going on],” said Steyn  on the ultimate outcome of the colloquium

Listen to Steyn.

The ARNHE colloquium was hosted by the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies.