“I do not believe it is going to be smooth and effortless; I do not think it will be easy, but it is possible,” says Lerato Ndlovu, the first black woman to be elected president of the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Student Representative Council (SRC). “In the boardroom, things will get very ‘interesting’. At the end of the day, we need to understand who elected us, why we are here and why we are doing this. If we all come to an understanding of the ‘who’ and the ‘why’, then regardless of our backgrounds and political views, we can find solutions to students’ problems.”
In an election that took place from 26 to 28 October, Ndlovu pipped two other presidential candidates – including Rameeza Abdool-Sattar, who will serve as her deputy – to be elected president of the 2021 SRC.
Ndlovu – who hails from Luka, a village in Rustenburg in North West – is a final-year Political Science student and the outgoing deputy secretary of this year’s SRC. She says she chose to run for election because of inefficiencies in the way that student governance structures fulfil their respective mandates.
“While serving in the SRC, I realised that students generally feel neglected or do not feel wholly served or helped by the SRC, because student governance structures at our University seem to lack certain elements,” she explains. “Having seen that play out throughout the year, I was prompted to run again, with the goal, hope and vision of trying to address these matters. I was exposed to a great flaw, which, if addressed adequately, could see more students being assisted and having access to structures like the SRC and faculty houses. Such structures can, in turn, do a better job in serving students.”
One thing that will be done differently under her leadership, she says, is more effective and frequent communication between the SRC and the student body, especially considering how the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed on-campus activities. This has resulted in there being a greater need for the SRC to be more accessible to students and to communicate with them in an inclusive manner. She also highlighted a few things that she would like the newly elected SRC to achieve by the time its tenure comes to an end next year.
Lerato Ndlovu recently led a march against gender-based violence and human trafficking from the Hatfield Magistrate’s Court to the Brooklyn Police Station to hand over a memorandum to the station’s leadership. Photo: Thabo Shingange
“Helping students with their basic needs will be a priority,” Ndlovu says. “Transforming student governance and fostering a more inclusive culture in our community as a whole is another objective. While we have entities that deal with cases of sexual- and gender-based violence and harassment, what is concerning is that students still come to the SRC and other student governance structures to report incidents because they are not aware that these entities exist, or they feel more comfortable sharing certain things with us. So ensuring that all student governance structures at the University receive sensitivity training will be crucial. In addition, [I hope to] establish a help desk in the SRC that will deal with issues faced by individuals who form part of the LGBTQIA+ community, so that they are heard and not neglected.”
If Ndlovu had the resources and could adequately address one problem that affects students, she says it would be the issue of fees.
“Students not being able to pay their fees does not bode well for them because the opportunities that are available to them will not be the same as those who can have their fees paid,” she says. “That is one issue I would really like to fix, because it deals directly with access. Every young person has the right to education. Access to knowledge should be a basic right.”