Parliament welcomes resumption of studies at Rhodes University after #RURefernceList protests

MAY 4, 2016

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training on Wednesday welcomed the resumption of classes at Rhodes University following disruptions last week of violent protests against rape culture. 

Students at the university had classes suspended when they protested half-naked, making an emotional point against the rape culture that they say pervades the university. At the university, 22 students have been reportedly raped or sexually assaulted this year.

Chairperson of the Committee, Yvonne Phosa, called on all institutions of higher education to use power at their disposal to decisively deal with the rape culture that has reared its ugly head, as well as with the alleged perpetrators.

“Even though we understand the sensitivity of this matter and the students’ right to protest, we totally discourage disruptions of the academic calendar around this time when mid-year examinations are a mere few weeks away. This is also coupled with the fact that the higher education sector did not have a best start this year,” she said.

Phosa said it is a welcome relief that classes are back on track just in time for the mid-term examinations.

She called on universities’ authorities to address the rape culture at campuses as it appears that most universities were confronted by this challenge.

“Rape is one challenge we need to defeat as a society, we just cannot afford to look away and act as if nothing is happening. It does not help to produce graduates who carry eternal scars even long after leaving university. Female students should feel safe and secured when they enter and exit universities,” Phosa said.

She called on society to denounce rape as despicable and not belonging in the 21st century, and that universities should somehow include in awareness programmes of sexual assault and rape culture during orientation.

Incidents of the rape culture were raised as a concern by student organisations such as Open Stellenbosch earlier in the year at the University of Stellenbosch.

“We condemn this with the strongest contempt it deserves,” Phosa said.