“Arab springs revolutions have shown us what happens to countries that sideline youth priority concerns. We must quickly find solutions to the youth’s outcry for free education. No form of censorship tricks will defuse those ticking bombs this time around.”
Those were the words of former South African acting president, Kgalema Motlanthe’s where he warned the ANC during the National and Provincial Elections rally in July 2016. Since then, very little has changed. In fact, contrary to what the former president said, a lot of bombs were aggravated. A number of young people, including Activators have made their voices heard.
University of South Africa (UNISA) student and social change driver, Nelson President Simelane said: “The problem here is that we are dealing with a government that doesn’t want to hear anything that seems to challenge the premise of this country’s structured inequality, particularly the capitalist economy. It is rather utter dejection that this regime comprises of black majority who hail from humble backgrounds but now suddenly reduce themselves to mere apologists of the oppressive system that deny the black child from accessing quality decolonized education.
FREE EDUCATION IS UNREALISTIC
Contrary to popular belief, Mpumalanga Activator Vusi Tshabalala is convinced that the feasibility of free education is a ludicrous idea that a democratic state such as South Africa should not have entertained. He also lambasted all those who are using national government as a scapegoat. “Shifting the blame to government leaders is a lazy excuse. The reality is free education can never work in South Africa if we still have millions of educated people refusing to repay the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Where do those individuals think government will get the money to pay for the upcoming generation of students?”
“According to the University of Johannesburg research report, South Africa is a country with the highest (68%) dropout rate in the 1st year. Students who claim to not have enough money to pay fees should consider alternative income streams like getting part time jobs,” said Tshabalala.
A THOUSAND STEPS BACKWARD?
Black Management Forum Student Chapter and National Deputy Chairperson and social change driver, Tshepo Wilfred Mabuya, believes that the Minister’s decision of a maximum 8% increase has crashed all significant education struggle gains: “This decision will continue to place young people at the worst margins of our economic growth and development opportunities as many of them will get financially excluded. Some of the immediate implications of this decision are: Potential national student unrest that will delay the current academic year; tertiary education dropout statistics increasing; quality skilled workforce shortages and national economic downturn,” said Tshepo.
FREE EDUCATION IS POSSIBLE
Researcher at the Centre for Integrated Post School Education and Training at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Zolisa Marawu, believes that free education is possible if South Africa moves beyond smoke and mirrors. Marawu argues that: “There are several reasons for students’ anger toward the state and university managements. The most immediate is that Nzimande’s statement dealt with fee increments but sidestepped the fundamental issue. All the minister has done is to kick the can further down the road, deepening students’ disquiet and provoking conflict on campuses. The State cannot merely exhort citizens to patiently await an increase in economic growth and its trickle downward, while blaming “selfish” students for taking resources allocated elsewhere. There are revenue sources that can be examined carefully and accessed to fund free education for all, at all levels.”
Image from bdlive