OPERATION SIYANGENA CAMPAIGN #SASCO
Areas of intervention of this programme are located on the outskirts of the Eastern Cape which is characterized by rural areas. People living in these extreme conditions are of extreme poverty and consequently, they do not have a possibility to afford the cost of basic needs, such as shelter, education, healthcare and food.
The majority of the families have an average of 6 numbers per household and they struggle to survive by doing jobs and social grants. Therefore all the families’ income basically oriented to first needs and in most cases, they cannot afford to the cost of school fees in higher institutions for the children. As a result, most of these poor families choose very simple and poor but affordable schools for their children. Children in these communities attend schools with no libraries or opportunities for research. Yet these children from poor background and schools are examined together with the rest of the better of children who have access to good schools with all the necessary facilities. The extreme consequences of this are that the children that are in need of a scholarship to continue their studies are the ones with possibilities to obtain it. The opposite is that it is well-off children who, after attending very good schools, perform better and are eligible for free higher education at tertiary level.
South African Students Congress at NMMU has successfully concluded their two-week Operation Siyangena campaign on Friday, 14 July 2017 in Grahamstown. The campaign aims to provide assistance, information and guidance to matriculates of the different Municipalities in the Eastern Cape. This intends to close the gap between high education sector and high schools in the Eastern Cape. Community work, one of the pillars of SASCO, states it clear that it has been a historical motto of the student movement since the days of the South African Student Organisation (SASO) that “we are members of the community before we are students”. We need to affirm this in practice by continuing to work amongst the people. Hence in our attempt to entrench this in our society we have historically called for compulsory community service. It is of our strategic plan that through our dialectical observation we have a duty to transform society in general and education in particular.
The campaign provided direction to the learners on which courses they could enrol in and also minimum requirements for the courses they wish to enrol in. We found out there are courses that matriculants in our province are not aware of; courses which have the potential to equip personnel with skills to contribute in the transformation and development of our province. We then sought to introduce these courses to the community by inducting Grade-12 learners coming from different high schools. This program also encouraged those that haven’t applied or are not even considering applying for tertiary education due to finances to do so, as we provided them with information about financial assistance in tertiary institutions, telling them about NSFAS and other bursaries that are provided by different companies. SASCO NMMU started the program in Bhizana in Alfred Nzo District Municipality on Tuesday, 4 July 2017. We visited 12 towns across the Eastern Cape province including Willowvale, Lusikisiki and Centane with more than 30 winter school centres over the two weeks. The reception was warm in most learning centres but there were places where teachers and other Municipal Mayors did not understand the importance of the presentation and therefore, we could not present in all schools.
The organisation was disappointed that some principals deprived learners of such invaluable information. We believe the lack of cooperation is a result of teachers’ children being afforded the chance to attend former model C and private schools. Nelson Mandela has switched to free online applications and NSFAS has only online applications which has created a massive gap between the poor rural learners and learners. As much as we understand that institutions want to move with the technological times, we believe this move is in line with the times of the majority in Eastern Cape. Internet access and computer literacy is only experienced in urban areas while the majority black poor cannot even open a computer. The province is still moving slowly to modernisation and the university and NSFAS have failed to take that into account. The organisation calls on the university to treat hard copy applications with the same respect and urgency as the online applications. NSFAS must also allow hard copy applications because the ones who need it are excluded systemically by the implementation of online application. The organisation was exposed to the different types of learning environments and appreciates the work done by the government but we feel the province still has a lot to do with regards to creating a conducive environment for learners to strive. The organisation will write to the provincial government about the concerns we have of the basic education in the province. The state of basic education has a direct impact in the access and success of learners into institutions of higher learning. Operation Siyangena received support from Nelson Mandela University, municipalities, business leaders, African National Congress in Eastern Cape and SAYC in the Metro. The organisation extends its unreserved gratitude to all who helped hundreds of learners have hope again.
As we draw towards the end of the academic year, one cannot help but think about the number of Matriculants that will not be able to access Institutions of Higher Learning and students who will be evicted in the year 2018, as a result of academic and financial exclusions. We wish to commit ourselves again to serve students selflessly, and to ensure that we put their interest first. SASCO belongs to students and must therefore become our best friend on Campus!
*NB: SASCO exists in ALL institutions of higher learning. No matter which TVET, College or University you are in, there is a SASCO BRANCH to assist you.
*All photos are taken by Sonwabile Ngoza
For more information:
Bamanye Matiwane- SASCO Western Region Chairperson