Black students are damned either way

2016-10-16 09:06
Gugulethu Mhlungu

Gugulethu Mhlungu

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Poor black young people find themselves in terribly difficult positions.

An often repeated binary is the idea that “those who want to study will study, and those who don’t want to study will not”, ignoring that, for poor black young people, “wanting” to study almost always contends with various structural challenges.

Some senior university managers have repeated the binary when talking about so-called secret alternative lectures that some departments have decided are the best solution in light of student protests disrupting classes.

While the argument can be made for them as necessary interventions, these secret lectures will most likely perpetuate already existing class inequalities, because those who want to attend said lectures may not be able to because of where and when they happen, and what they cost.

This while poor black students are presented with two conflicting options – protest for an outcome they need or go back to class for an education they need.

Many students don’t have the simple choice of one or the other because they are in desperate need for fees to fall, but also urgently need to complete the year.

Poor children who continue to attend class are also not simply “sell-outs”, as many have been labelled, because there is no South Africa where incomplete academic years don’t overwhelmingly disadvantage poor kids.

In addition, incomplete academic years are most likely to inconvenience undergraduate students most, because they need contact time.

Even those of us who claim to support the movement must be honest that the consequences will not all be uniform.

It is still not enough to just say that all black children need to do is “stay in school”, when we know that the current economy is still racist, sexist and classist and will most likely punish them anyway, even with a degree or qualification for their having done all the “right things”.

After completing tertiary studies, we launch young black people into a terribly unequal society.

At the same time, life can and is often harder for young black people who cannot complete their studies, and they’ll probably be punished even more.

Therefore, we cannot in good faith pretend that black children find themselves in places where they must simply choose one or the other and it will be fine.

Not when we have placed young black people in terrible situations, not of their making, where they must make difficult choices, often with competing interests.

Read more on:    uct  |  uj  |  tut  |  wits  |  free education  |  fees must fall

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