Free education struggle to continue

2016-11-23 06:02
PHOTO: nokuthula khanyile UKZN Fees Must Fall activist, Chuma Wakeni

PHOTO: nokuthula khanyile UKZN Fees Must Fall activist, Chuma Wakeni

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FEES Must Fall activist and one of 10 University of KwaZulu-Natal students granted bail by the Pietermaritzburg High Court last Thursday, Chuma Wakeni, said he remains unshaken after spending 49 days behind bars.

Speaking to the Maritzburg Echo after his release, Wakeni said if anything his time in jail has propelled him to continue advocating for the Fees Must Fall movement.

The 22-year-old first-year student from Eastern Cape said he chose to join in the protest to highlight the plight of students like him who are regarded as the “missing middle”, those he says are deemed too rich to qualify for government education, but too poor to afford tertiary tuition.

“My mother is a civil servant and on her salary she can’t afford to pay for my tuition. The price of education in South African is too steep, especially for a black child. I feel it is my responsibility to fight for the legacy of free education; it’s taking a baton from the youth of 1976 who fought for a different course.

“Education must not be based on class; everyone must be afforded a chance to higher education regardless of their financial background.”

Recalling his time in prison, Wakeni said he was worried by what he saw while there.

“It was not easy, it’s rough. Black people are screwed. About 99.9% of people populating prisons are our black brothers, we are on our own. We eat each other there; it’s the survival of the fittest in prison. The future of a black child is bleak, the system is very violent and brutal it doesn’t care.

“To say prison is not a place for students is an understatement - it’s not a place for human beings. Many young people in prisons are forced by circumstances and it is our duty to liberate them,” he said.

Wakeni said the struggle for free education must continue.

“Families will collapse if we give up now. If the government is set to increase fees, we have no alternative but to continue fighting tooth and nail. The state has cornered us and we have to push for those that are coming behind us.”

Reflecting on the decision of the court after their successful appeal in the High Court Wakeni said the judiciary system leaves a lot to be desired.

“It’s clear that our courts are not independent. The magistrate was playing politics, we never expected any amnesty or mercy from the court because what they do is silence people who speak out against the state.They will not silence us, we are back and stronger than ever before,” he said.

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