FeesMustFall - Let's Make a Difference

2016-09-28 18:51

On Tuesday, 27 September, I participated in the multi - faith religious meeting for peace and prayers at the University of KwaZulu - Natal (UKZN), Pietermaritzburg, campus.

Although I do not condone violence and the destruction of property and infrastructure, students, quite rightly, have a genuine grievance with regards to the high cost of tertiary education because most of them genuinely cannot afford the fees. These #Fees must fall protests are rooted in tough financial and economic realities that cannot be resolved within the current model of student funding. Across South Africa, unemployment is high and inflation, poverty and homelessness is rising, driven by the effects of apartheid and in part by the drought. A university degree is very costly and less privileged students, especially black students, who come from historically disadvantaged households, cannot fund the cost of tuition, text books  and stationery, transport, lodging and food. Not only that, many of them come from deep rural areas with not much support from their families due to various reasons such as unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, and some may not even have parents or come from single parent homes. Behind these factors and social problems are human beings with feelings, emotions, desires, hopes and aspirations. Let’s deal with the issues at hand diplomatically, rationally, wisely and in a human manner. Moreover, religious leaders need to offer pastoral care to students.

Most definitely, the issue of funding cannot be resolved instantly and independently or unaided by the learning institutions themselves, therefore it requires the intervention of parents, communities, religious leaders and government and business houses. There must be an effective dialogue between the different stake holders in order to address the issue amicably.

After attending the peace/ prayer meeting, I believe it is possible to find an agreeable way forward without disruption and violence. I fully support and understand the struggle and the legitimate grievances of the students, but may I humbly and politely request to students not to burn down facilities that are needed to educate our youth and adults.

Whilst every citizen has the constitutional right to protest, it must be done within the limit of the law. The implications of critical behaviour will have a ripple effect on the lives of the students, staff, victims, recognition of our degrees and diplomas and South Africa’s academic reputation internationally. Furthermore, we can lose established intelligentsia's and not attract reputable lectures, scientists, researchers, etc. as a result of the manifest instability.

Whatever the grievances or challenges, please do not damage property, because as long as it is existing, there will always be knowledge and education imparted from it and even greater remembrances happening between those buildings and walls. May I humbly request all to use restraint and non-violent and legal means of protest and rule of law, while an amicable solution or way forward is carefully crafted by our collective leadership.

In conclusion I quote Vince Lombardi: “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”

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