Student funding focus on Human Rights Day

SIYAVUYA KHAYA

There is a need for an urgent transformation of the education system in South Africa to enable young people from poor families to access higher education without hassles.

This appeal was made during the Human Rights Day commemoration, held at Langa Square, on Monday March 21. The commemoration was organised by a group of Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) members.

PAC secretary, Manelisi Mampana, said in the wake of the Fees Must Fall Campaign a lot was still needed to make education accessible to all. He said the campaign highlighted the underlying challenges facing the country’s education system. He said it was sad that, after 22 years of democracy, black students were still struggling to access higher education because of excessive fees..

Mr Mampana said political parties should set aside their political differences and address the country’s economic and social challenges. He said education in South Africa was of a low standard and did not meet the requirements of many companies.

“To us this is not a Human Rights Day commemoration, to us it is a Sharpeville/Langa commemoration day because people were killed on this day. Six people were killed and they were not given human rights.

“We are of the belief that there were many who were killed, but they were never reported as others were never found. Many people were killed next to block C and D,” he said.

Mr Mampana argued that the day should never have been renamed Human Rights Day as it distorted history. “This day is crucial in the history of South Africa as it acknowledges those who died fighting for the liberation of this country,” he said.

On March 21, in 1960, residents of Sharpeville and Langa townships, marched to protest against pass laws. The apartheid police shot and killed 69 of the protesters at Sharpeville and the tragedy came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre.

Formerly referred to as Sharpeville Day, in 1994, March 21 was officially declared Human Rights Day.

Mr Mampana said a day before Monday’s event they visited the graves of those who died during the massacre and held a night vigil afterwards to pay a respect to them. “There are many issues that still need to be tackled like the scourge of racism facing our country,” he said.

PAC stalwart Dagama Mngqibisa, said he still remembered what happened in 1960. The 86-year-old told Vukani that people were informed that police would come to Langa to collect the “Dom passes”.

“When we got here in Langa, we started drinking, under the impression that we no longer needed to carry our passes. Around four in the afternoon the police came and people had gathered here. Some were on roof-tops and others on balconies waiting to hear what the police would say. Police gave us three minutes to disperse or they would shoot us.

“We were stunned. While we were still trying to make sense of what they said, they started shooting at us. People jumped from the roofs and balconies, injuring themselves. I don’t know how I survived,” he said.

Mr Mngqibisa said he was shocked that the day was now referred to as Human Rights Day. “The white regime was killing us. How can this be called Human Rights Day?” he asked.

Langa resident, Luthando Makahle, 18, said the day was important as it informed the youth about the history of the country. “It is important to have events such as this one. They teach us not to take this freedom for granted as the are people who lost their lives fighting for us to have a better future,” he said.