Is #FeesMustFall another middle-class betrayal?

2015-10-24 23:41

South Africans have accepted curtailed solutions to their demands for too long. The #FeesMustFall campaign may have the “middle-class” rejoicing but majority of South Africans remain overlooked and are amongst the most brutally betrayed.

While some were protesting for a 0% increase in tertiary fees for 2016, many were riled up in protest for free education. Student leadership gathered worldwide support for a #NationalShutDown that benefitted only a minority.

Celebrating a 0% fee increase hardly seems relevant when surrounded with South Africans who cannot afford tertiary education to begin with.

Similar to the ANC selling out majority voters in 1994 for free-market capitalist policies; the anti-climactic end to the #FeesMustFall campaign failed to acknowledge the main priority of free education and, once more, the middle-class was the sole winner while South Africa’s majority are left in the lurch.

Democratic South Africa started out as an unequal nation and 21 years into our democracy South Africa’s development is still hindered by a severe skills shortage, climbing unemployment and the highest inequality in the world.

If we really are serious about building an equal and flourishing economy surely FREE education would be the first place to start?

Access to education provides empowerment. Denying education to citizens, based on their income levels, displays a lack of confidence in the capabilities of millions of South Africans. A country supposedly “alive with possibilities” unfortunately only provides for those who have the accumulated wealth to provide for themselves first.

If the emotions of students already attending universities were able to shut down institutions nationwide, the outrage from students writing their grade 12 exams, and cannot afford higher education, is likely to be an even greater corollary.

The fight for transformation is far from over. The #FeesMustFall campaign is only the first battle – the 0% increase only a minor distraction from the real issue.

But will this victorious middle class continue their solidarity and support the demands for free education?

The absence of urgency demonstrated by political leaders towards the grievances surrounding education signifies a lack of interest in the future of South Africa by the ruling party.

The common preference of importing skills when needed, instead of investing in our own potential, has left South Africans’ powerless. Fears of the student uprisings scaring away our imported labour and foreign investors has allowed for the interests of others to be put before our own youth.

Economists may argue the unfeasibility of free education but outsourcing skills is hardly a sustainable – or ethical - solution.

The South African middle-class – a minority so small that its existence remains debatable – cannot carry the weight of the entire country. Their needs are by no means a priority yet their interests remain a driving force of political policies.

All South Africans deserve a chance at higher education. The possibility of accessing tertiary education gives students hope to strive towards improving their circumstances and actually receiving tertiary education provides them with the skills and knowledge needed to prosper.

If the middle-class accepts their small victory and gives up on the fight now, it would be just another betrayal to the majority of South Africans. The fight is for the voices that go unheard, not those with the privilege of politics.

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