Equal Education has supported South Africa’s renewed student movements since before Rhodes’ statue fell, and welcomes this week’s new wave of militant actions on campuses nationwide. We endorse the calls made by students of Wits University, Rhodes University, University of Fort Hare, the University of Cape Town and others:
#FeesMustFall #EndOutsourcing #DecolonisationNow
As an organisation of learners in township and rural schools, we know that many of our members and their peers may never pass through the doors of higher education because of exorbitant fees.
As an organisation of poor and working-class parents, we know that it is impossible to provide a decent life for a family as an outsourced worker who is paid a poverty wage.
As such, our 2nd National Congress, comprising over 300 delegates representing thousands of learners nationwide, resolved that:
“This Congress recognises the importance of the struggle of students in institutions of higher learning for the transformation and decolonisation of their institutions, and supports the work of movements whose members are fighting the oppressive legacy of colonialism and Apartheid at their institutions of higher learning.”
VIOLENCE AGAINST STUDENT ACTIVISTS
At UCT, Wits and Rhodes, black students have been subject to racist attacks in response to their political work. In at least two cases this involved white motorists who rammed through barricades and hit protesters with their cars, resulting in at least one student being hospitalised. In both cases, police failed to arrest the driver responsible.
Unsurprisingly, the police have themselves used violence to suppress students on several campuses, deploying stun grenades, water cannons, armoured vehicles and riot police against peaceful demonstrations.
EE condemns in the strongest terms all the violence that has been directed at the progressive student movements, both from private individuals and the state. We know from our own experience that the state is not afraid to deploy violence against legitimate demonstrations, and it seems clear that the police are not willing to protect black students from attacks by white racists. In such circumstances we must support students’ right to defend themselves and their movements.
TOWARD FREE EDUCATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
The continued commodification of education poses a threat and unconstitutional limitation to the right to education. Currently only the rich can afford higher education and therefore access institutions of higher learning with little or no challenges. Those who can’t afford higher education are subjected to student debt in the form of bank loans or NSFAS. When neither bank loans nor NSFAS are an option for potential students, they end up staying at home. With student debt being on the increase, this has led to massive drop-out rates because students simply cannot afford to stay in the system.
The Balintulo report released in 2010 recommended amongst other things that there be:
“The development of a comprehensive policy framework to articulate the detail of the national policy imperative of progressively providing free higher and further education to the poor.”
The report was not only welcomed publicly but was also meant to introduce targeted interventions in the Higher Education funding model with the ultimate goal of progressively realising free higher and further education for the poor. There is no doubt that the students calling for free education and demanding that there be no fee hikes are not unreasonable to do so.
We therefore in solidarity with the students make the following calls
– There must be a moratorium on fee increments across the country and this must be followed by meaningful and democratic conversations and interventions with regard to the funding crisis.
– Deliberate steps must be taken to realise free, quality tertiary education.
– Former white institutions like UCT, Wits, Rhodes and Stellenbosch must be urgently decolonised in terms of their student and staff bodies, their curricula and language policies, and their employment practices.
– The condition and quality of education in former black institutions such as Fort Hare must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
– No students, staff or workers be victimised by university management through internal or external disciplinary structures.
For more information contact:
Tshepo Motsepe (EE General Secretary)
071 886 5637
Nishal Robb (Head of Western Cape Office)
079 511 6790
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE Spokesperson)
060 503 4933