Student voices come to the fore, James* who is a postgraduate Wits student shares his opinion on the #FeesMustFall protests and university shut down. James*, postgraduate student at Wits University
Although I have not being paying that close attention to this year’s protest action, I feel this year it is far more disruptive than it was in 2015. Within one day, universities across the country were shut down, and property destroyed. I agree with the sentiment behind the protest action – tertiary education should be free for all who meet the admission criteria. However, it is being expressed in the wrong way and directed at the wrong institution.
The denial of access into hospitals, the destruction of university property that will have to be replaced (with money, the thing they are protesting about) and the violence toward other students, all this is simply unacceptable. This is not the way to go about fighting for an ideal.
Protest action should bypass the university as a symbol for education and look to government for answers and change. It is illogical to shut down the very thing we are protesting for. I believe we should continue with classes – safely, undisturbed, and without the threat of violence – and continue the protest action, with the support of the university and the vice chancellor, against the corrupt government.
Yes, I do understand the symbolism attached to the university as a place of higher education and the symbolic shutting down of the campuses and the barricading of the gates. Yet this goes against what the protest stands for – education for all. The university is a symbol for education – this cannot be changed. Our attitudes and the protest action can be averted from preventing studies and destruction of university property to a suitable source: the government and the Minister for Higher Education, Blade Nzimande.
It is Nzimande who has failed to address the plight of students, miserably so. It is to him that our attention should be directed, instead of university powers. I am somewhat partial to believing that protesting students are uninformed as to how the university functions as a business. The university itself is lacking funding – re-appropriation of government funding can solve this.
There is no need for South African Airways. The monies directed at saving this white elephant can be better appropriated to funding education. However, what is evident is that the current situation cannot continue. Universities across the country need to re-open, and the safety of students guaranteed, without the looming threat of violence from other “students”.