Dear SASCO, Free Education First

2015-02-04 06:39

It’s been 60 years since our progressive rainbow masses declared that the doors of learning and culture shall be opened to all. The adoption did not by some mistake leave out a clause stating that this was exclusively on basic or primary education. This was a holistic adoption stating that every education institution should be free. To this day, these doors are firmly shut to the black majority. A dompass in the form of financial capacity is employed to marginalize our black people and prevent them from empowering themselves.

Students are still sleeping in toilets at Wits, struggling to get accomodation. UCT's registration fees are at R30,000.00, further entrenching marginalization of the poor.The question then remains, who is supposed to spark a fire to change things? In as much as its not SASCO who decides on policy nor its implementation, I strongly believe that it remains its core task to confront, influence and take to task those holding offices of power for such a change. I firmly believe that as Africa’s biggest and most influential student movement, it remains our job to speak for those that cannot, to tilt the status quo to see to it that these shut doors of learning are opened unconditionally.

Going back to basics, the primary task of SASCO remains that of advocating for the freedom every student. Everything else comes second. It is to ensure that every student that is eligible for university entrance does so. Everything else is secondary. It is to ensure that institutions of higher learning are conducive to study in, learner friendly and remain open to all. Everything else is but an additional task. Fighting for cafeteria food prices is not a primary task. Fighting for installation of satellite dishes and recreational paraphernalia is not apex to our tasks. Ample SRC benefits including free food and who performs in fresher’s balls is not on top of our hierarchy of needs.

Our primary task starts not at varsity gates but right at the moment a disadvantaged black child gets a matric certificate. It is to relentlessly ensure that each student, including the poorest of the poor, gets an opportunity to free himself, his family and his community at large from chains of poverty. The self-adulation of ‘SASCO won 14/14 seats’ in SRC elections only to fight for NSFAS pay-outs and the likes is meagre to our fundamental task. It has become glaringly obvious that NSFAS is not a panacea; in fact it is an anti-thesis of what we are for, Total Freedom. We cannot fight to see our people trapped into debt in perpetuity. Its policies, terms and conditions make it impossible to appreciate it. For starters, it is not comprehensive and even after obtaining it, it stays a burden. It’s not easy to get it, you struggle to get pay-outs and it’s also a job and a half to settle it.

The other day I wrote on social platforms that we are slowly becoming weary of the “Free Education march marked by songful chants. It has become a routine with no sensible intention. We no longer understand why we march, it’s more of a compulsory timetable milestone that we do to later report on. I’m not seeking to downplay SASCO’s efforts (including the 1 million signatures for free education) but we need to make it simple. We need to get back to basics; we need to adopt a radical stance on this declaration. It can’t deliver itself; no professors will push for it. The rich and resourced will not come to the table on it. It’s our responsibility to radically convince those deciding on policies that tuition fees are socially unjust. If a first world country like Germany can eradicate tuition fees although every single family can afford then it makes perfect sense and logic for South Africa to scrap tuition fees. We can’t be told to free ourselves whilst are starved of tools of freedom. We have been entrusted by students to fight for their interests and this is one mammoth task that we have been running away from since 1991.

Each time a student drops out of varsity or fails to register because of funds, hopes are dashed, a family loses a potential breadwinner, a community misses a prospective role model, our country losses a future leader and unfortunately, a jail cell gains a potential inmate. To think that we will get Free Education in this lifetime from a meeting of some people holding high offices is an extreme fantasy. If we can shut down campuses on the basis of high tuition fees then what stops us from doing so in demand of free education? What stops us from confronting those that hold relevant offices in demand of free tertiary education?

No emancipation will ever see the light of day if our people are not allowed to educate themselves. Let doors of learning be opened to all at no cost.

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