Sociology in Dire Straits at Formerly Black Universities with Huge Staff Shortages

Cape Times (South Africa), August 20, 2007 | Go to article overview

Sociology in Dire Straits at Formerly Black Universities with Huge Staff Shortages


BYLINE: Solani Ngobeni

An audit by the Sociological Association of South Africa has revealed gloomy statistics about the parlous state of sociology across our higher education landscape, especially in our previously black universities.

In another country this would call for a presidential decree.

In some of our universities, the ratio of lecturers to students is mind-boggling. For instance, at the University of Limpopo you have 378 first year sociology students, 421 second years, 101 third years, eight honours and two masters. Yet you have one full-time member of staff, and two part-time lecturers.

At the University of Zululand, you have three full-time staff members, and one part-time lecturer. Yet the student numbers are: 400 first years, 150 second, 30 third, five honours, seven masters and one PhD.

At the University of Venda, you have three full-time and one part-time lecturers. Yet student numbers are: 420 first years, second 200, third 40, one honours and two Masters.

Thirteen years after the advent of democracy the chasm between previously black universities and white ones is wider than ever.

Isn't it about time we closed down the glorified high schools cited above? What kind of tuition are students receiving at these institutions?

The book stock in the dilapidated building that passes for a library at Fort Hare is nothing compared to what you find at Stellenbosch, UCT, Wits and Tukkies.

Are the students at Fort Hare, Limpopo and Univen children of a lesser God?

Our lecturers are over-worked, as the lecturer-to-student ratios above illustrate. Our teachers are badly paid, hence many opt for private practice. And the few who opt to teach choose the urban universities for the obvious advantage of resources, rather than teaching in the remote rural areas with their meagre resources.

In this country of some 48 million people, we only have 170 full-time sociologists and 11 part-timers across race, gender, rural and urban divides. Shame on us South Africans.

Yet we have 173 students enrolled for a PhD this year, most of them from beyond our borders, of course.

Why are these people not adding to the numbers of those who are currently teaching in order to bolster our paltry teaching and research staff? …

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