Higher education is seen as that level accessed after one has completed earlier educational levels such as primary and secondary schooling. Similarly, the higher-self can be actualised once one works through the ‘hard knocks’ schooling from life lessons. Higher education prides itself on knowledge acquisition and intellectual achievements. Conversely, the higher-self recognises the incomprehensibility of divinity and the limitations of knowledge and the intellect. Considering these different realms, does this mean that ‘never the twain shall meet’? The global pandemic of Clovid-19 and the consequent worldwide ‘Operation Lockdown’ provides an opportunity to explore this inquiry.
Recalling the horrors of World War II, the United Nations (UN) came into being around 1945 and ushered in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Covenant) is an international treaty signed in 1966 and which became effective in 1976. Article 13 (c) of the Covenant, provides that “higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education”. Upon the dismantlement of apartheid in 1994, the Republic of South Africa (RSA) was quick to sign the Covenant in October 1994. Former president Nelson Mandela saw to this on his first visit to the United Nations. However, the RSA declared that it will “give progressive effect to the right to education, as provided for in Article 13 (2) (a) and Article 14, within the framework of its National Education Policy and available resources.” Article 13 (2) (a) and Article 14 are about free basic education. This means the ‘right to education’ in South Africa is the right to basic education. This is borne out in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution, section 29 (a) and (b). Section 29 (a) gives rise to the right to free basic education and 29 (b) the right to further education. The latter, according to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) includes grades 10 to 12 at NQF ratings 2 to 4, respectively. The designation ‘further education’ cascades into the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. Here, the government abides by the Section 29 (b) mandate of applying “reasonable measures” to make further education “progressively available and accessible”. This amounts to TVET college students receiving government subsidies of as much as 80% for tuition and fees.
But what about higher education? We have witnessed the #feesmustfall campaign and annual, if not bi-annual disruptions of academic programmes due to student unrest. There are calls for improved student residences, decolonisation of curricula, protracted delays in meeting academic requirements, and the list goes on. Students have argued their cases before executive management forums and resorted to violence and arson to make their points. In 2020, student unrest led to a higher education academic shutdown that was followed by the national Operation Lockdown. Now, higher education executive management, the heads of colleges and schools, academics and academic support providers are readily joining forces to shift to online and e-learning teaching technologies. What a teacher Covid-19 has become. We were already confronted by the realities of the fourth industrial revolution and now a poisonous virus is catapulting us forward. Covid-19 is forcing us to figure out how to make electronic devices and internet-based teaching and learning available to students in remote rural areas who may be without optic-fibre network accessibility or even electricity.
Moreover, Covid-19 and Operation Lockdown have granted nature a reprieve from humans. Air pollution indexes have reduced, swans are returning to lakes, ocean waves are billowing and rivers flowing happily, free from human-induced debris. Nature is restoring itself.
Covid-19, as a deadly poison is saying to us humans, “stay away from each other or I will spread the infection and kill you off, one-by-one”. We hear the instructions from our leaders to “stay home, keep safe and apply social distance”. We can read “stay away from each other” and “stay home, safe and socially distant” as, “get in touch with yourself – your higher-self”. But, with Covid-19 killing us on the one hand and teaching us on the other hand, what have we learnt during Operation Lockdown about raising our higher-self to help heal higher education? It is not easy to communicate with one’s higher-self. The mind, the intellect, the ego want no part of the higher-self infringing upon its ‘knowledge’ jurisdiction. On the one hand, the mind is certain that it ‘knows’ things and has you convinced that you can use it figure out anything you want to know. The mind uses the ego to assert itself and make determinations to manifest reality. On the other hand, the higher-self relishes in the unknown and thrives in the wisdom of uncertainty to manifest reality. With its focus on using what Deepak Chopra calls ‘pure potentiality’ the higher-self is best equipped to guide convergence of opposing mental and intellectual dispositions into oneness that serves the greater good.
In this unprecedented level of uncertainty, to what extent are we each actualising our higher-self to direct higher education decision-making? How many performance management systems in higher education and other sectors have an indicator for actualising one’s higher-self? Operation Lockdown is an avenue for deep communication with one’s higher-self. The universe has its own customised healing modalities to which humans can be privy if we take the time to tune in, listen and allow our higher selves to advise us. This means disallowing the ego from being attached to one’s position and the ultimate outcome sought by one’s intellect. This amounts to moving beyond international treaties and domestic constitutions and laws to connecting to the infinite divine power of the higher-self that dwells within each of us. Higher education is broken. We can fix it. But the mind, intellect and ego are incapable, singularly or collectively to heal it. Rather, it is up to each stakeholder – internal and external to use Operation Lockdown to raise the higher-self to heal higher education and other sectors.Fayth Ruffin, Juris Doctor, PhD (Global Affairs)