What do the students want?

2016-10-02 06:01

(Oppidan Press / Stuart Wilson)

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A student protester at Wits University said they were not deterred by the poll facilitated by the university, which will in part inform the decision to reopen or not tomorrow, following a one-week shutdown.

According to the university, 21 730 students participated in the poll, which sought to gauge if the Wits community wanted to resume with academic activities tomorrow. The final decision was to be communicated by SMS at the weekend. Results indicated that 77% supported the resumption of classes tomorrow.

Seabe says that the right course of action would have been to convene a student assembly, not a poll. Seabe and other students have been conducting mass meetings and dialogues at residences, communicating what the shutdown is all about.

“Outside of the fact that I can’t pay for fees, decolonisation is important to me. Free education means that there is access. As a child, you are constantly told to get educated and live the life that you want to live. I’m also motivated to continue to protest because it is my generational obligation.

“When we get this victory, we will focus on basic and primary education. Opening up access does not mean that those coming here will have gotten what they should have gotten in the basic education system. After getting free education, we will be coming for the land.”

Seabe emphasised that students negotiated with the state “in good faith” last year, but were let down. She said that making protest action an annual event was not feasible and that the time to insist on free, quality and “decolonised” education was now.

“It is unfortunate that the academic year may be lost, but it shows how serious we are, that we are willing to make that sacrifice. We are heavily invested in this cause. We are not asking for the impossible; we are not asking for the black Jesus here – we know it is possible.”


The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in the Eastern Cape decided to shut down indefinitely following protest action during which nine students were arrested.

Second-year accounting student Matandela told City Press this week that he was worried about losing the academic year, but that the onus was on the institution to put pressure on government to deliver free education so that the protest could end and students could head back to class.

“Free education is not something we collected from air, it is what the ANC government promised. Institutions must put pressure on them because the sooner they do it, the sooner we can go back to class,” Matandela said.

“We don’t want an annual event of protest. Striking is really draining. People who are striking don’t want to be in the streets all the time, they want to go back to class. We have made this cry before. We made the concession of going back to class last year, if we do the same this year, we will find ourselves in the same boat as last year.”

He said students were promised last year that there would be no increase pending the work of the fees commission, however, there will be a fee increase for 2017.

On the 0% announcement for the poor and “missing middle”, Matandela said it is not in any way a welcome reprieve.

“If you can’t afford [fees] this year, increase or no increase, then you can’t afford them next year. You are already in debt; it doesn’t matter. So 0% in the greater scheme of things means nothing, really. Furthermore, you must be subjected to a dehumanising process of having to prove that you are poor.”

He admitted to fractures in the movement, with fallists on one side and the student representative councils on the other, resulting in a failure to agree on the way forward.

Read more on:    wits university  |  university protests  |  fees must fall  |  university fees

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