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Maties students call for speedy transformation processes

A group of students say the institution has been dragging its feet when it comes to transformation.

FILE: Students gather at Stellenbosch University during an open dialogue to discuss issues of inclusion and exclusion on 15 April 2015. Picture: iWitness.

CAPE TOWN - Management at Stellenbosch University insists it's on the right course towards transformation.

Some Maties students are now calling for the removal of a plaque in one of the academic buildings commemorating ex-prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd.

Rhodes has fallen, could it now be Verwoerd's turn to fall?

A group of students says the institution has been dragging its feet when it comes to transformation, citing the example of a plaque at one of the university's buildings which commemorates Verwoerd, a grand architect of apartheid.

Students say change is long overdue.

But the university's vice-chancellor Wim de Villiers said transformation is already underway adding that one-third of all students are non-white.

De Villiers says Maties has been taking the matter seriously long before the Rhodes Must Fall campaign.

"The university was firmly set on the path to transformation over the past few years, such as renaming certain buildings that preceded this significantly."

CAMPAIGN WAS A WAKE UP CALL

Students held an open dialogue on issues of inclusion and exclusion on campus on Wednesday.

The move comes after the Cecil John Rhodes statue was removed off the University of Cape Town's (UCT) upper campus last week after weeks of protests.

One student from Stellenbosch, Wayde Groep, said the campaign sparked a long-awaited debate among students on campus.

"A lot of conversations are around statues symbols, inclusions and exclusions."

Student, Wiaan Visser believes the campaign has led to an awakening on campus.

"Interesting part and maybe a bit problematic, is the power which students have when they come together and decide to do something like this."

Ahead of Rhodes's fall, UCT said the Rhodes Must Fall campaign had been a "wake-up call" not only for tertiary institutions, but the entire country as transformation issues needed to be addressed a long time ago.

UCT's council voted in favour of removing the contentious Cecil John Rhodes statue.

UCT Council Chair Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane said they would take up the transformation agenda for a robust debate on how South Africans could move forward after the statue was removed.

"I think we are crying for leadership in the nation as a whole to give direction on these matters and to engage with us.

Universities are places for discourse and discussion so we hope we can generate a discussion, moving us forward."

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