Over the last few days, the youth of our country have taken action. They are standing up for what they believe in. Our vision as enke, is to create a global movement of young people who are taking action on the world’s most urgent social issues. #FeesMustFall demonstrates young people mobilizing and working to create the future they want to see.
enke has been moved and inspired and we continue to be as we see moments that are shaping the history of South Africa. enke will be sharing the thoughts of some of our alumni involved in the movement in universities across the country.
“I don’t have full, coherent thoughts on #FeesMustFall yet; but this is what’s on my mind as I witness what’s going on.
I believe this issue is of deep significance for everyone in the country. Access to education and skills training is crucial for a developing country like South Africa. Given our mineral wealth, much needed economic growth and the current abysmal lack of access, does justify this deep, overwhelming expression of anger and rage from students. The results of this social action impacts everyone.
The decolonization of university spaces is especially important. This involves ensuring that the many facets of higher education are fundamentally changed so that they benefit more people in our country. The training of our economists, doctors and engineers must explicitly ensure that the injustices of the past are resolved, and all parts of the country participate meaningfully in the economy.
This is not new. Colonization officially ended 50 years ago and since then Latin America, South East Asia and many parts of the world have had to fix up centuries worth of problems created by their (and other people’s) ancestors. It has happened. The world is still roughly intact today. We must learn from this. We already know that the world need not work in one way only. We can change it if we need to. The details of funding higher education and how to rework our economies can be found in studying this history.
I support the protest. I support the strong push to ensure that the powers-that-be change how they relate to students and deliberate on student issues. The top prize would be more radical openness about the universities’ expenditure. An unveiling of details of finances and plans that determined how the fee increments were arrived at, is this prize.
We are all tense. We are all deeply affected in various ways. I can imagine myself in the shoes of those who seem to be on different sides of the issue, but I believe justice is on the side of those who have been historically disadvantaged. The best long term solution is the one that allows more students to afford university education. We must allow people to express themselves in a way that resolves their frustrations.
I think most of us are committed to justice. Solving this issue will need those on the privileged side to reflect on where the protesters are coming from- usually abject poverty or precarious middle class advancement post 1994. We must not be dismissed as ‘entitled’. It is precisely because we put in hard work and sacrifice to get into and succeed at university, with the risk of it all collapsing to naught through financial exclusion and being unable to pay fees, that we will not be dismissed. That’s why many protestors are angry. In addition, the traditional media has failed to give nuanced reporting on the overall nature of the protest- peaceful, forceful yet thoughtful. We, as normal protesters can critique the details of how we do things and importantly, we do. That’s a good thing.
In general, this is going to require that those with power and influence, like our student leaders and those who influence them, find a transparent reasonable compromise, taking care to weigh up all reasons and considerations. We need to move quickly to the goddamn details- “the best long term solution is one that allows more students to afford university education” is going to involve sacrificing many things we value about university. If we must have less green lawns, and slash the public event catering budget, so be it. Wits is brown and concrete-dull anyway. But pushing a hard-line position on everything will not solve much. Every day this goes on, we precariously wait for someone to do something foolish- be it a student, member of the public, policeman, anyone- to ruin everything. We should be hastening towards a resolution.
Protesting (and some populism) is not incompatible with thinking. I know many of the protest leaders and organizers at Wits personally. They are protesting emphatically while thinking deeply about how to make sure the protest opportunity is not a wasted opportunity. They are attempting to ensure that the protest does not degenerate into anarchy, and the academic progress of protesters is not destroyed. Most of the leaders I know, no matter what they say in public and (more importantly) no matter how it comes across, want the most reasonable solution.
In this spirit, we must be in solidarity because we are all on the same side in terms of the general cause, while beating the hell out of each other intellectually. This means being brave enough to challenge each other’s assumptions and plans of action. Challenging what we think is the best solution. Having divergent views in the movement. Making sure that we also deal with these other important issues like patriarchy and misogyny within our politics.
The protest space can be transformed into something beyond Jam Alleyist singing & sloganeering (which is really fun, ngize ngijuluke nami), but a space where we also robustly and sincerely debate about the status quo from all our schools of thought.
We need to take a running leap in order to cross this gulf of realizing that there will be sacrifice, but it is in our power to determine the details, so that we find the best decision for all. Look- structures, systems and “the masses” are all ultimately people. People have thoughts, beliefs and feelings which, with tenacity and selflessness can be influenced for the good. The solution involves some pain in some ways, but for the good.
As I said, messy. But we can think clearly and usefully, while expressing the rage at injustice we are entitled to feel.”
University Of Witwaterstrand