The Fees Must Fall campaign has planned to stage a march to parliament tomorrow in an attempt to continue the quest for free education in South Africa. Members of the campaign also wish to hand over a memorandum to the minister of education. The memorandum will detail the importance and the need for free education in the country.
Three UCT members of the campaign spoke to VOC to discuss the march and the topic of free education in South Africa.
Lethabo Maunye, who is a student that is in the process of completing his final year of studies, believes the government only responds to issues when there is some sort of tension or turmoil.
“An example of the government responding to problems only when there is tension is that of teachers asking for an increase every year. The government only responds when every high school and primary has been shut down. Having universities being shut down is not a sign of not wanting to learn, but it is a means of speaking to the government in a language that they understand,” said Maunye.
Having universities shut down affects all students, including the protestors and members that are part of the reason for its shut down. The ones that contribute to the closing of universities are however viewing the danger of not being able to attend classes in a different manner.
Siphu Cook, a final year medical student at UCT and member of Fees Must Fall, states that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to the threats shut-down universities pose on their studies and graduation.
“Achieving free education for all South Africans is much better than having a delayed graduation,” said Cook.
The march has planned to gather members of the public and religious leaders to join the march. The call to the public to join in on the battle is a plan that aims at helping communities understand the deeper cause of the need for free education.
Second year UCT student and member of Fees Must Fall, Kolosa Ntombini, states that having free education will lead to South Africa dealing with other problems more efficiently, such as the country’s health system issue.
“We cannot solve the health system issue in our country if there are areas that have lack of health workers because of no education. This campaign speaks to everyone, especially for people that are less fortunate and for those who have no chance of ever being able to study. The fight needs to go out to communities because it concerns everyone,” said Ntombini.
One of the most controversial aspects of protests is the violence that has taken place. Students have been detained and buildings have been completely burnt.
Maunye, who was an eye-witness to the violence, believes the media has criminalized students without providing the public with context of what really happened. He mentions that the media has shown the public only a portion of the whole image.
“The presence of private security aggravating peaceful students has not been taken note of. I myself have been harassed by private security and police for simply being at protests with a camera. No one has been held accountable on the other side for wrongfully harming students,” said Maunye.
Leader of the MSA at the CPUT campus, Tashreeq Lasker, said the MSA along with other student bodies categorically denounced the violence during the protests. He mentioned that there are students that take advantage of Fees Must Fall and that they are contributing to a negative image of the movement.
“Violence is not the mandate of the Fees Must Fall movement. The most controversial acts of violence do not match what is trying to be achieved when it is looked at once more; this is evidence that there are students that are taking advantage of what is going on. Vehicles and buildings being burnt down are completely unnecessary,” said Lasker.
Lasker urged parents to consider the strain that comes with high financial fees and to help support their children who are battling for free education.
Cook mentioned that there is a misconception around the purpose of the Fees Must Fall campaign that has misguided people into thinking narrowly about students that protest. She explains the misconception by saying that people believe that protests act out for there to be immediate change.
“We want a commitment to a sustainable plan that will take us forward as a country. We saying we want a commitment from the government and a detailed timeline saying fees will fall in whatever year in the future,” said Cook.
A bank account has been set up at UCT to help fund those that have been arrested, for legal fees and for supplies. The bank account is called Shackville TRC from Standard Bank with the account number 073 731 684. Code: 4909.
The march will begin 10:00am tomorrow from the Grand Parade in the CBD. VOC