Guest Column

'Why we reject Blade's announcement'

2016-10-04 12:52
Shaeera Kalla (Image via Twitter)

Shaeera Kalla (Image via Twitter)

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WATCH: No reason for students to be treated like criminals - Wits lecturer

2016-10-04 09:48

A fees must fall leader has been arrested following unrest at the University of Witwatersrand on Tuesday.WATCH

Shaeera Kalla

Malcolm X once argued “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, that's not progress. If you pull it all the way out, that's not progress. The progress comes from healing the wound that the blow made. They haven't even begun to pull the knife out. They won't even admit the knife is there."

Black students have had a knife in their back for too long, this is especially so on the question of university fees. The more we look at this and analyse it, the deeper the wound proves to be given that we are in a higher education system that is inherently anti-poor and anti-black.

The question that we need to ask is; who is holding the knife? Blade Nzimande, the government and University management get away with murder year in and year out. They are the directly involved in limiting and cutting out opportunities for the poor black child. Expecting students to retreat and to go back to agreeing with the status quo is simply unrealistic.

Last week Blade Nzimande announced, with the support of government, that the fee increase for next year would be capped at 8% but that for poor and missing middle students it would be 0%. This statement has been welcomed and praised by University management’s and leaders across the country as being pro-poor and pro-working class students.

Students now sit with a knife deep in their backs and the response from Blade and the government has, as Malcolm X shows us, not even begun to pull the knife out. Contrary to the propaganda that has been put out into the public, Blade Nzimande’s announcement was no solution at all. Moreover, the university management teams have once again shown that they have no will to remove the knife and heal the wound nor do they have any interest in pushing government to come up with meaningful interventions to the current crisis.  

Nzimande and company have argued that his announcement is pro-poor and considered what they call “the missing middle”. The simple table below illustrates how this "solution" cannot in any way be considered good for poor and working class families.

Table showing the effect of the 0% increase to poor and working class families

Effectively, there will be little to no difference for the average family in terms of how much they will have to fork out for their children to get a university education. At our protesting of this decision Nzimande labelled us as “thugs” and criminals. What is really criminal act here is that a Minister and an entire department have wasted a year of taxpayer’s money to provide a pathetic response to a crisis. As the table shows, they have basically made absolutely no intervention. Free education is not a new demand that just came up last year- it is an unfulfilled ANC promise since 1994 and it was committed to in 2012 to be rolled out in 2013.

Added to this, we should consider that government funding for higher education in South Africa is low by any standards and is shockingly low in the context of a country that it trying to develop. As a proportion of GDP, our spend on higher education is lower than the global average. It is lower than the African average and developing world average.

When looking at this only in the context of our country’s budget, this is only a small part of our national budget for a crucial output. Less than 4% is needed to fund free higher education yet it cannot be prioritised. The reason why is a lack of political will by those leading us.

The propaganda machine that exists is driven by old men who refuse to sit down so that the youth can rise; these men use their propaganda to trick us into believing that free education is a burden that needs to fall onto someone’s lap when in fact, free education is the greatest investment a society can make in itself.

They will use every means at their disposal to divide us and to squeeze our demand of free and decolonized education of substance so that all we are left with is a fees commission that is looking into the feasibility of free education despite this demand already being proven to be realizable and necessary by the ANC.

The commission has done nothing the entire year and its terms of reference are baffling and will not fool us. We want to look at how to fund free education because it is a fact that South Africa cannot afford to not afford free, quality and decolonised education.

We would like to ask Adam Habib and company to stop suspending the revolution. We would like Nzimande to stop selling emptiness and packaging them as solutions. These are the same people who have been part of consistently maintaining the unjust status quo and they should be called out. Finally, their unrealistic demand for the academic program to continue while this call for free, quality and decolonised education has not been realised, is the knife in our backs.

Aluta Continua

- Kalla is former SRC leader at Wits

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