Rudi Buys
Rudi Buys

We need a national student convention and truth commission

No one else but the students of our country are able to halt the steady progress of campus violence to full-blown revolution. This is so because the generational distance in lived experience between public decision-makers and students is such that it disallows an authentic engagement between the student movement and “our parents” – young people live with others’ compromises. No number of concessions by government or university leaders will satisfy the deep-seated frustrations and angers that cause the burning fire of protest that sweep across our campuses.

Own agenda
The student movement must set its own agenda, determine its own perimeters for protest and then abide by its own authority. Then, students will truly lead us all. As a country we urgently need a national convention by students and for students. A convention to design a generational contract for a post-apartheid movement that defines a future for education and our country as a whole.

White UCT protesters form a human shield around black protesters to protect them from the police outside the Rondebosch police station, 20 October 2015. Photo by David Harrison

White UCT protesters form a human shield around black protesters to protect them from the police outside the Rondebosch police station, 20 October 2015. Photo by David Harrison

Broad student movement
But, such a convention will fail when it (again) brings together only the leaders of political organisations or officially elected SRCs. A national student convention must reflect as completely as possible the actual lifeworld of the student movement in our country. The convention must consist of delegations from political, religious, cultural, sport, media and academic student organisations. Each officially registered student association at any South African campus should be able to participate in sending delegations to the convention, even if it is through a proportional system of seats per campus.

Truth commission
The student movement must at the convention answer its own questions regarding the nature, scale and pace of transformation on campuses, if not more broadly about societal change. It will inevitably answer questions on student perspectives on history, democracy and the rule of law. It may birth a truth commission of sorts for a generation that lives with a history not of their own making. But, above all, it will give meaning and hope to the traumas of a country at the brink of race war. It will build much-needed bridges.

I am a student. I call on my leaders in the student movement of our country to take up this call. We need a national student convention now.

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    • RSA.MommaCyndi

      Do you really think that it would not be hijacked by political parties? For that matter, do you really think that the current university unrest is not politically motivated?

    • Rory Short

      Rudi I think it as an excellent idea and I have faith that the students who have self agency would ensure that its proceedings are not hi-jacked by others to serve their own agendas. Read my comment, on the companion article to this one, i.e. “Fees Must Fall a blessing”.