Corruption At South African Universities Raises Concerns

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Acts of corruption and the looting of public funds are some of the greatest challenges faced in South Africa. Experts have highlighted that corruption appears to have firmed its grip on the country’s tertiary education sector as well.  


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Over the years the education system in South Africa has faced many obstacles and challenges. Obstacles that have deprived thousands of students from access to higher education and quality learning.

Professor Jonathan Jansen at Stellenbosch University says while South African universities receive far less scrutiny, there is intense corruption taking place at these institutions of higher learning every year.

If you invest billions of rands every single year in 26 public universities, the vultures are going to be out — inside and outside the university — to lay their hands on it, in the same way they would do that for any other public entity.

In his new book: "Corrupted, a study of chronic dysfunction in South African University", Jansen highlights the extent of corruption at universities, which he says is very much similar to what happens in municipalities and state-owned enterprises.

Jansen says university councils (which function like boards in other entities), have been often used for partisan politics adding that part of dealing with corruption at universities is depoliticizing the council and let it be run by professionals.

“In a way universities are also consolidated enterprises that have total budget north of R87 billion. When you have that kind of money concentrated in the university sector then of course the vultures are going to be out on a feeding frenzy," he said. 

Research for the book has discovered that there is rampant theft going on running into millions of rands at several higher learning institutions in the country.

He stressed, “For every cent that is stolen there is a student that cannot access higher education, a student that cannot get decent accommodation, a student that cannot progress because of a lack of books.”

Jansen says that the point of his book is not only to expose corruption but also to sign a light on its corrosive effects on universities as institutions and that millions are being stolen from students.

University of Fort Hare

The recent assassination attempt on University of Fort Hare (UFH) vice-chancellor professor Sakhela Buhlungu, in which his bodyguard was killed, has further highlighted the threat of corruption and looting taking place within higher education institutions.

Last year, Professor Buhlungu, asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign a proclamation authorising an investigation probe into corruption claims at Fort Hare. Therefore, the attack on him has been linked to his role in pushing for the investigation. 

Several other institutions have also been alleged of corruption, looing, maladministration, and incidents related to bad governance and stakeholder relations.

As a result, Higher Education minister, Blade Nzimande has noted that his department is committed to fight against corruption at institutions.

“We are going to leave no stone unturned to fight against corruption in our institution and also to ensure that Fort Hare is protected. As institutions we want to say to the criminals that they won’t win. We are very determined,” said Nzimande.

Nzimande has also committed to form a national task force that will work with institutions of higher education to improve safety and security.

 

Suggested Article:

UKZN investigates corruption allegations

The University of Fort Hare is the subject of an investigation by the Special Investigative Unit. Attention has been drawn to another public university as allegations of this nature also surface.

 

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