A challenge to our varsities
TOO much sex on TV could be behind the recent surge of rape incidents, including the notorious gang-raping of a Soweto teenager whose ordeal was captured on a viral video footage.
So says Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who believes the solution is simply to cut down on sex.
Mokonyane, who expressed her opinion during a rape prayer meeting, assumes that the sexual scenes on TV trigger horniness among children.
She may well have a point. That children need not be exposed to explicit sexual content is very much part of South Africa's broadcast and publishing rules. It is also generally accepted that it is not in the interest of children to consume adult content.
Mokonyane's view should therefore not be dismissed. But it is important to conduct research to ensure that her views are not entirely unfounded.
The government needs to take policy decisions based on facts. And herein comes the challenge: our universities do not seem be in tune with societal challenges.
If academics and students of psychology and sociology are unable to provide research-based solutions, who will? The relevance of universities is linked to the research agendas theypursue.
Blade Nzimande, the minister of higher education and training, recently commissioned a report on the decline of humanities and social sciences. The report concluded that these fields of study were no longer as influential as they were in the past.
This is strange, given the kind of societal challenges we have, requiring the full attention of the humanities and social sciences.
Crimes such as rape and corruption should preoccupy the research agenda of academics and students. What the causes, nature and consequences of these crimes are should top the research agenda.
That these continue to eat into the diminishing social fabric suggests we are unable to track their genesis and are unable to comprehend their nature and consequences. As a result we are unable to craft solutions.
It is about time our universities became more relevant to the challenges of our times.