Declaration of the YCLSA National Progressive Black Academic Summit
27 Novemebr 2017
"Schools should be democratic public spaces. They should be places that educate people to be informed, to learn how to govern rather than be governed, to take justice seriously, to spur the radical imagination, to give them tools that they need to be able to both relate to themselves and others in the wider world. I mean, at the heart of any education that matters, is a central question: How can you imagine a future much different than the present, and a future that basically grounds itself in questions of economic, political and social justice?" Henry Giroux
We, [the] 150 delegates from universities and TVET Colleges known as Campus based branches of the YCLSA, drawn from the length and breadth of the Republic of South Africa, met at COSATU house in Johannesburg from the 24th- 26th November 2017 for the first ever National Progressive Black Academic Summit under the theme: Decommodification of higher education in our current epoch, towards free education for the poor.
The main aim of the summit was to frankly and genuinely problematize the higher education sector as we heighten our demand for free quality education. It has been and is still dominated by liberal forces and the need to radicalise knowledge production to respond to the aims and objectives of the NDR, this was to also position our branches and students to approach knowledge production, and the struggle for free quality education for the poor to a new height as we assert our leadership in the battle of ideas.
We believe that this is the pedagogical and epistemic battle that the YCLSA must grapple with and ultimately win in pursuit of a socialist society.
It is our view that education must possess an emancipatory currency. It must be a public good not a "saleable" good nor an item for private accumulation of wealth by a tiny minority at the expense of the vast majority. As such, education would go far in unleashing the actual and potential capacities of every human being.
In the main, and in dealing with the oppressive pedagogies, ideologies and epistemologies reinforced and reproduced by a neo-liberal capitalist imperialist trajectory, we collectively realized a need for the YCLSA to heighten our political and ideological work, which must find adequate expression in mass campaigns and popular mobilizations. We must be head and shoulder above anyone and never retreat nor run away from any form of ideological and intellectual engagements.
The arena of Higher education has and shall always be a terrain of a contestation of ideas. As such, our observation is that the current state of the education system still maintains and sustains the colonial capitalist power relations, which in the main are sexist, racist and out-rightly reactionary to our National Democratic Revolution and socialist imperative.
It is our observation that the current curriculum at both the basic and higher education levels is deliberately constructed by the ruling class to produce a loyal labour force for the markets. We need a system that will yield critical, conscious and innovative people that will lead the country forward. We are therefore calling for the radical transformation of the curriculum at all levels of the system such that it leads us towards socialism. Education, contrary to popular belief is not ideologically neutral and it is the ruling class that subjects us to its ideas currently.
It is for this reason that we will also call for the teaching of relevant South African history to be made compulsory at all levels of the education system.
With the same enthusiasm, we will call for the prioritisation of African indigenous languages into the mediums of instructions in our schools.
Education in a class divided society is an instrument of class rule which is used by a particular class over the other. It is on this basis that we must pull our weight behind any emancipatory trajectory that seeks to empower the marginalized, the exploited, the oppressed, the excluded, and the dehumanized.
The demographics in institutions of higher learning are palpably reflective of an increasing number of women and black students, but that does not mean that institutions of higher learning are non-sexist and non-racial. We have noted that the class question is interlinked to racial and gender questions. Equally, we have concluded that the character of our education system has no changed post-1994 but rather it was just a transition from classical liberalism to neo-liberalism characterized by class, gender and racial contradictions. This is the task of the YCLSA to overcome in pursuit of a socialist society.
With these and many other challenges, we believe that by earnestly putting into practice the resolutions of these historic Summit we can go far in terms of our ideological mission of creating an egalitarian socialist society.
We the strong living branches of the YCLSA and as progressive academics commit to take our resolutions of this summit forward and advance transformation of education towards socialism. The dialectical fusion of theory and practice remains the only powerful way through which we can attain our political and ideological tactical and strategic objectives.
As the ever-revolutionary Red Flag song would say,
"With heads uncovered swear we all,
To bear it onwards till we fall,
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn"
We thus collectively declare in this Summit that these resolutions shall be our guiding insights towards quality, compulsory and emancipatory education in particular and a just society in generally.
Issued by YCLSA