A CRY FOR A TRANSFORMED EDUCATION SYSTEM
Written by: Carissa Marnce
With financial issues becoming a concern at universities nationwide, students are beginning to consider free education a practical solution. However, after the Fees Commission of Inquiry delayed their report on the feasibility of free higher education in June, the country has not seen any violent outbreaks of protest action in response to this delay.
This year, students’ attention has drawn to other areas of concern. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has been the main concern for many students in 2017. The financial aid scheme left some students without tuition fees and accommodation. Additionally, students are also faced with high food costs and issues accessing the internet on a daily basis.
Twenty-two-year-old fine arts student, Leevi Matthew from the Durban University of Technology (DUT), says that he was a former NSFAS student. Fortunately for Matthew, he did not experience any particular issues with the financial aid scheme. But he does insist that education is a basic need just like food and water.
“It has the power to change our social condition because if everyone is educated then everyone is equal,” said Matthew. This student is a full supporter of the fees must fall movement. He hopes that South Africa gives people an equal opportunity to pursue their academic dream.
Ntuthuko Mavundla (23) comes from Umlazi and is pursuing a career in video technology. NSFAS has helped to fund his studies and he admits that it has been a good experience so far. The only problem he has encountered is getting money in his Sbux voucher.
“There is a lot of corruption in South Africa; people are going to university and are not getting jobs. My hope for South African education is that we can manage to change the unemployment situation,” said Mavundla.
Chairperson of the South African Students Congress (SASCO), Siphephelo Mthembu, says that the fees must fall movement is not relevant in 2017.
“Students need to be vigilant during this time; we need to be transformed as individuals first,” said Mthembu.
He believes that students should be focused on getting quality education and making sure that poorer students are taken care of.
Student Representative Council (SRC) candidate, Sizwe Khathi. shares the same view.
“Students need to be protesting for quality education,” said Khathi.
He believes that the current education system has been colonised and that students need to embrace the African culture.
Mhlonishwa Chiliza is a lecturer and masters degree student at DUT, who believes that the fees must fall movement demonstrations should use alternative ways to protest without destroying property.
“When we want to send our own children to university they will suffer because of the high fees,” said Chiliza.
Chiliza says that the protests were very disruptive last year and as a result, modules could not be completed properly. Despite this, he says that he is in support of the campaign. He believes that university fees are very expensive and that the rate will continue to increase as the years progress.
Fees must fall activist, Bonginkosi Khanyile, believes that the movement is being used to solve problems.
Khanyile was arrested in September 2016 on account of the fees must fall protest and was only released in March 2017. He says that his experience with the fees must fall movement has not been easy. However, he is persistent to continue the fight for free education.
“When I was in jail, I felt a lot of loneliness and sadness. But all the support I got from the outside was very encouraging,” said Khanyile.
Khanyile says that the movement has moved beyond just education fees. The movement is centred to decolonise the education system and ensure free education from grade one upwards.
He adds that they are going to reinvent the movement, whilst awaiting the commission of inquiry report.
*Caption: Students protesting during the #feesmustfall movement in 2016. Picture by Samkele Sokhela.