Students’ anger mirrors discontent in communities

2014-10-05 15:00

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It goes without saying that the violent protests in many of our campuses, with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) being the latest and most abhorrent, are not something we should be happy with.

We should not isolate these incidents from the ­violent protests in many of our ­communities.

It appears many people believe that raising their grievances via the avenues provided by the law is limiting. The sad case is that more often than not, property gets vandalised, and people lose their lives or suffer life-changing injuries.

Simplistic people?–?most of them young, retired revolutionaries and active technocratic bureaucrats?–?fail to approach the ­discussion from this angle. As a result, they end up making conceptually weak and short-sighted analyses.

The students’ frustration against the poverty they endure in universities and colleges is part of the overall frustration of our people against the system of neoliberal capitalism.

I believe this is the context in which the mass protests taking place in our institutions of higher learning should be analysed. Of course, there are other causes for these and we cannot remove the question of criminal intent in some of the protests.

We believe the police should deal with these cases of ­criminal behaviour.

Part of the cause of violent outbreaks is the lack of leadership in many universities and colleges.

For instance, TUT has a vice-chancellor with a bloated ego who does not believe she should sit at the same table with students or union leaders. So this closes down opportunities for her to know the challenges the students face and to design measures to avert them. She also fails to manage a protest when it has started.

There are many cases like these in our institutions and when protests happen, we neglect to mention them. The other ­parties who should be blamed for fuelling violence are the police and the security guards at our institutions.

Police are quick to shoot at peacefully protesting students, which leads to anger among them. The idea of quickly quashing a peaceful protest soon leads to a day of student unrest.

The police also damage the property of the institution by firing rubber bullets at the campus.

We often have to deal with cases where police have shot a student through a window of their room. In some cases, these students were not even part of the protest.

Beyond this, it appears that the patience of South African students at the neoliberal education system, which was sustained by faith and hope after the appointment of a communist minister of higher education, is beginning to fade.

Students have been yearning for a fair opportunity to ­receive their education, but it does not appear to be ­forthcoming.

Our department of higher education seems to be operating within the neoliberal manifesto that discourages increased student funding.

Buku is the secretary-general of the SA Students’ Congress

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