THERE is nothing essentially new about the current crisis on university campuses around the country. What we are seeing is a more dramatic rerun of what happened in 1998. That eruption occurred when government failed to meet its 1996 promises made at a “stakeholder imbizo” to halt the financial exclusion of academically qualified students.
Another demand by the students at that time, backed by education unions, was that the “upfront payment” required before students could register be scrapped. Today the difference is that government is being held to its promise to provide free education, by implication, across the board.
In 1998, as with the more recent protests, there was also a heavy-handed response by poorly trained police and often “gung-ho” security guards. Eighteen years ago, at the University of Transkei, students were teargassed in their beds in a university residence. Several were injured jumping from second storey windows to escape, and others were badly beaten.