Monday, 26 September 2016

Fees Must Fall students are not spoiled brats

A wise person recently posted on their wall that you can tell a lot about someone based on what they make noise on and what they choose to keep quite about.

I have been learning a lot about South Africans based on what we condemn as unacceptable behaviour, what we shout moderately about and what we downright push under the carpet and ignore. As voices of displeasure keep getting louder against the FeesMustFall movement, a study I read earlier about salary disparities in South Africa keeps surging to my conscious. The findings of that particular research summarized by Business Tech become vivid every time I become aware of an analysis that supposedly sums up why the students who are calling for free education just don't get it. What bothers me the most is that those who "get it" appear to fit into the brackets of high and better-salaried citizens, giving further credence to the belief that poor people's cries are worthless. This is a principle that must be rejected.

Its been over 2 months since an earnings analysts at Analytico exposed the shocking differences in median pay between white and black professionals on the same rank. As I write this piece another study equally disheartening is pending and this time by Finscope South Africa which aims to show that spendings on education by South Africans. Already the company has indicated that on average black South Africans spend more on education that any other race in the country. Students are not so clueless as to be unaware of how these workplace wage politics affect their lives, threaten their education and change their paths in life. Those who are not on bursary schemes rely on the already stretched financial resources of their family members to fund and maintain their tertiary education. Your tertiary institution hopes and dreams be damned if you are one of those who came from households where not a single member is employed. 

Once accepted at university most students not eligible for bursaries will tell you the task maintaining your place at a university is more difficult until you complete your studies is a fight of a life. This is a personal testimony too. One that is still not yet complete with a 6-year gap between undergraduate and postgraduate.

Despite various verbal commitments given to general transformation by most institutions, most of them still struggle to shed off their elite cultures that always find students from poor and working class at a disadvantage. 

Observers who are far attached from the students to hear for themselves what their issues are have been quick to label the anti-fees protesters as entitled brats who don't know what they are fighting for. Others have gone as far as to suggest that if fees are dropped the condition has to be a mandatory 75% pass mark. My condition would be to make sure students coming it our institutions all got the same quality education and access to educational tools.

All the anti-FeesMustFall noise left me conclude that as much as we are quick to acknowledge that South Africa is a very unequal country, we are not willing to make sacrifices that would try to even the playgrounds in the workplace and at tertiary institutions. Hard as it is,there is potential for this kind of work to start at universities. And Blade Nzimande's offer is not it because apart from it being 22 years too later, the government has not taken students in their confidence and laying out the plans of how we are going to work our way towards free education. If there is a lesson to be learned from the FeesMustFall is that things will not get better with next generations of students if fees continue to increase while nothing changes. Corporate SA must not ignore the Finscope South Africa's study when it is released in early November.

The FeesMustFall movement is showing us that the pressure that used to be carried by parents solely is now spilling onto students causing great frustrations of any prospects of breaking out of the cycle of financial struggles.  Parents and specifically black women carry the most burden as the study by Analytico has proven that they earn the lowest. Education should not have to be a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. Right now it is. And this is not working for students.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking as a parent paying fees, I agree with your article but hesitated to say that in the long-term, government cannot afford to provide free eduacation. There needs to be a solution that will improve access to education for all without eroding the education standards enjoyed by institutions in South Africa