Last year universities across South Africa stood in solidarity and protested tuition and accommodation fee increases (I think somehow we forgot to add free textbooks!) and we got what we wanted. There was a 0% increase in fees going from 2015 to 2016. Those who had budgeted for the fee increase used the extra cash to go on holiday (that is if you booked your flight and things before the president pulled the prime minister stunt). However, the battle hasn’t been won since we’ll most definitely be seeing fee increases going into 2017 and we’re once again protesting fee increases in 2016.
The Fees Must Fall movement was not just about the 2016 fees hike, it was (and still is) about realizing affordable tertiary education while we are waiting for tertiary education to be free. Ultimately the movement is about free tertiary education within (or in, English is not my mother tongue) our lifetime, right? I could be wrong about this, if I am let me know. Although there was a Stellenbosch Bonfiire question centered around how tertiary education should be funded (I entered and got zero likes! :( I have been nursing my bruised ego since, kidding), there has been very limited discussion on how free tertiary education will be funded so the assumption is that the government will do it (I want to snort at this assumption, but I’m a lady, dainty and slight so I won’t do it).
So let me try and put things into perspective. The life expectancy in South Africa is around 57 years, since we want free education within (or in) our life time it means we want free tertiary education in the next 30 odd years, right? This implies two things:
- In the next 30 odd years the government should be able to tell left and right apart. This means that unemployment numbers will have improved, inequality reduced, economic growth and development realized, that public employees live like public employees and not kings and more importantly that the government budget will be in an immaculate condition.
- Most importantly, it implies that we will be better leaders than those in power. By being part of the Fees Must Fall movement we all individually commit ourselves to doing a better job at managing the country and providing for the poor.
Let me talk straight and personal for a paragraph (was going to say minute but since this is text paragraphs seems more fitting). I’m one of nine children, I come from a beautiful rural area that is somewhere on the side of the road somewhere in KZN and there is no way I would have made it to university without a bursary (#Vodacom for life, don’t start the #dataMustFall conversation with me), so more than anyone I understand and vouch for the Fees Must Fall movement.
I will now proceed with the stepping on toes
However, as much as I am for the Fees Must Fall movement I don’t think that a 0% fee increment for the next however many years is realizable because more than a third of South Africa’s population is situated in rural areas. These are areas that are largely underdeveloped and are in need of government TLC. You’ll be surprised at the number of places that still don’t have electricity in South Africa, the number of areas that don’t have running water, and whole communities that don’t have schools (both primary and secondary school) and health facilities (clinics and hospitals) and these are all issues and challenges that the government has to deal with. As sad as it makes me to say this, free (or affordable) tertiary education is a first world privilege and unfortunately South Africa is a second world country, kidding, third world country.
Sure, free tertiary education is ultimately to the benefit of the poor, but right now it won’t be. The poor are still very reliant on subpar public secondary education, children that go to school in rural areas struggle to meet university entrance requirements (don’t talk to me about how you went to a public school and had world class facilities because obviously it wasn’t in a rural area and the education wasn’t free so your point is moot), so ultimately the privileged make it to university because they can afford quality secondary education and if tertiary education is free those who can afford to pay for tertiary education just get to advance themselves in other ways and the poor stay poor. I don’t know if I am articulating myself well but I hope you kind of get the picture.
Moving on from the ignorant ones, breaking doors and windows doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere (I don’t think we broke anything last year but we go what we wanted right? At least in Stellies we didn’t). Vandalizing (there I go again with the toe stepping) makes us look like hooligans that will protest about anything, like we are just looking for something to let off steam instead of fighting for a cause and fighting for those who don’t have a voice. In the same breath I will address the brutality directed at students that is rampant in universities across South Africa. None of it is acceptable, I don’t know if law enforcement officers realize this but protests that are aimed at changing the way tertiary education is structured is also to the benefit of their children, so instead of brutalizing (if this is even a word) students that are fighting for the future of their children they should work with students to ensure that their children have a better future. Treating students like animals is not acceptable, brutality and violence should not be tolerated. And even though we are mad at the system, vandalism does not make us louder or more effective.
In conclusion (lol, so formal!), freezing the fees this year will cost someone, I don’t know who it is but the way the system is set up makes me believe that it will be those that we are trying to speak up for in the first place, the poor. Because they don’t have a voice, they don’t have a platform and they don’t have and audience. At the end of the day though, I still want free tertiary education realized, but I want is as much as I want to see the development of rural areas and the advancement of the poor but right now the once seems to be happening at the cost of the other. But that’s just me…
This a rather long post now isn’t it… sorry…
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