Mandla Shikwambana: Department of Higher Education Is The Problem

The Daily Vox speaks to Mandla Shikhwambana, the new president of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC), on his campus activism plans. 

Shikwambana was elected the president of the EFFSC in mid-July.

Since EFFSC first took over many campuses across higher learning institutions back in 2016, they have had to deal with the struggle left by outgoing organisations, including the issues of funding and accommodation. This has been especially true in historically black institutions like the Durban University of Technology. 

The Daily Vox has been carefully following EFFSC leadership across three institutions in KwaZulu-Natal; all their protests and shutdowns have led to different repercussions and victories, but some of the issues still persist.

Shikwambana, as the new president of the organisation, told the Daily Vox about his plan for the EFFSC in dealing with these persistent issues.

University fees

In spite of the Fees Must Fall era, university fees continue to be a major issue. This was a driving force for students, who over the years, have continued echoing the sentiments of the 2015 Fees Must Fall calls for free education. Although a free education policy was announced in 2017, many students are calling for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to be totally scrapped and not be reformed.

Shikwambana says that the first route to take would be dealing with the department of higher education.

“We have a crisis in the department of higher education. As I speak today, there are campuses that are on strike because students’ funds haven’t been released from January until now. Can you imagine the frustration? They never received their book allowances, meal allowances, and transportation allowances,” he said.

According to Shikwambana,  this problem is created by the department, and they as the new leadership are ready to resolve it.

“This problem arises from the department and goes to NSFAS that they are actually working with. So what we have decided to do is to approach the management and tell them that’s it’s no longer a matter of sitting down the round table with them because they know our problem; what we want them to now implement what they have promised us in the previous years,” Shikwambana said.

Plan of action

Talking about the plan up his sleeve for the organisation as the newly elected president, Shikwambana says they are planning to mobilise student activists across the country. 

“We will have a seminar where we will create a dialogue for all students to put forward all their issues and interests then we will act on those. They will be sent to the department of higher education as a memorandum of student issues across the country. But we can also just do it campus to campus by visiting all campuses, including Tvet colleges,” he said.

Research task team

Technical and vocational education training (TVET) colleges are often the forgotten ones when it comes to student issues. As part of the plan, Shikwambana says they are looking to establish a research task team in various Tvet colleges, aimed at exploring student issues.

“During our national assembly we have adopted a declaration that we are going to form a research task team where we are going to get students of different colleges in all provinces to research on student issues and challenges faced by TVET colleges. But this doesn’t mean we will turn a blind eye on universities.

“The task team will then present the findings to us and we will take them up with relevant departments. We will also give them a time frame to say we expect these issues to be addressed at this particular time,” Shikwambana said.

He said this plan is in part with understanding of all issues in a unique manner as per each campus’ issues.

“This will actually help us better understand issues faced by all Tvet colleges and universities in different provinces across the country,” he said.

EFF upcoming conference

On December 13 this year the EFF will convene its national elective conference, and Shikwambana says his hope is to see policies that will enforce and ensure work on the ground from all of the mother body’s branches.

“We need to have a clear policy on the work that needs to be done by all EFF branches. What I’ve identified is that people instead of working and representing, they go around spreading wrong information. So, we need a policy that will ensure that there’s a clear understanding on launching and functioning of branches. Everyone must be on the ground working because for EFF to continue growing, everything must start on the ground.

“I believe that we should have a policy that will work in line with ensuring that branches really exist so that when time for voting comes, we know how many branches we expect in terms of numbers,” he said.

Featured image by the EFF