Editorial: #FeesMustFall: Cool heads are now needed

2017-01-15 06:03
Crowds protest rising University tuition fees. (Twitter)

Crowds protest rising University tuition fees. (Twitter)

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The start of the 2017 tertiary academic year is still weeks away, but already the dark clouds of disruptive protests are gathering.

Student bodies have warned that protests could begin as early as the first week of the academic year if students are excluded on the basis of affordability.

Even as they prepare to meet Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande this coming week to discuss the funding of the tertiary sector, the students were already beating the war drums.

“We do not want any student left out of funding this year. There are already signs that there will be protests countrywide,” a student leader told City Press.

When 2016 drew to a close, student leaders threatened that the often violent #FeesMustFall protests – which brought most campuses to a standstill for nearly two months – would spread to Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges this year.

If the current rumblings are anything to go by, it seems that 2017 could prove more disruptive than the uprisings of 2015 and 2016.

The students have also declared 2017 “the year of free education”, meaning they will ramp up the campaign.

This is why cool and clear heads are required at this week’s meeting. The various parties should walk into the meeting with open minds and realistic expectations about what is immediately possible and sustainable.

The government has already committed to progressively working towards free higher education for the poor and has put in place measures to ensure no child is deprived of a place at university on account of affordability.

Universities have also been more than accommodating of student demands.

It is now time that the students came to the party.

They have to recognise that they have already scored major victories and that the all-or-nothing approach will destroy the higher education sector and harm the futures of millions of young South Africans who are either at universities or making their way through the schooling system.

Read more on:    blade nzimande  |  #feesmustfall

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