If you had been on any South African University campus or staying up-to-date with the news over the past couple of days, you would have seen a unified student movement. You would have seen some students rampaging against policemen and -women, others peacefully occupying the streets and campus grounds while most continue singing/ shouting chants of liberty between the explosions of stun grenades.

Students across a number of universities in South Africa have formed movements against a 10% university fee increase. Although the increase was capped to 6%, students are unsatisfied as they continue to demand not only that no increase be made, but that education be made free for all.

They are disruptively raising their concerns not only for their own education and future, but also for the future of South Africa. If students cannot afford to study and get a degree, the chances of getting a decent job that will sustain them in a quivering economy are slim. This will cause South Africa’s workforce to suffer because we wouldn’t have many qualified citizens.

Tshwane University of Technology student, Bongani  Mtswene, feels that this movement goes beyond education. “What’s smart about us as the South African youth is that we’ve come to realise these invisible systems that have been forged against us.”

TUT is one of the cheapest institutions where one can get a decent education and, according to Bongani, it is termed, "the people’s university" because they’ve got the cheapest fees and residence.

While I feel proud that students are acknowledging the importance of education, I am concerned about the economic sustainability of South Africa. If tertiary education is to either be made cheaper or free, would our government be able to afford it and what role would free education play in our economic system 20 or even 50 years from now?

Bongani dares to answer this seemingly impossible question:

“If you look north to the European countries, a lot of them have financial models for how they generate money for everyone to have free transport, free education and accommodation. Hypothetically, if this happens today, it will obviously have a huge impact on South Africa’s economy. There will have to be a lot of money that’s drawn into particular policies to happen and facilitate the kind of change we need such as more teachers.

"We could look at more third-stream income such as lobbying our multinational corporations to give and pay for students, a tax subsidy for everyone who went to university and universities could also charge alumni fees.

"The first thing to do is having this on parliament’s agenda and debated, at least then we know some budget is being allocated. This won’t take a month or two but at least start drafting a policy, debating policy and then implementing policy," says Bongani.

Capitalism has caused education to become a privilege while our constitution states that education is a right. Although tertiary education in South Africa has always been a privilege due to affordability, increasing fees only further marginalises those who already cannot afford it.  

South Africans were promised quality and free education by the ANC pre-1994 and 21 years laters, post-democracy, we still don’t have it, and a lot of people are still marginalised. It is only fitting for students to disrupt conventional parliamentary procedures to hold our governing party accountable for what they promised.

The more conscious or aware people are of their environment and social economic factors that influences behaviour in society, the more, as a nation, we can start bringing people into account about what they’ve been doing with their terms in office. That’s where we can fully understand what democracy is by accountability.

South African youth acknowledges the importance of education, for that I thank them for driving change for generations to come. An educated mind is a powerful mind, so let’s strive for a powerful nation by supporting students like Anele Modanse, a University of Johannesburg student who told eNCA that as long as students are peaceful, they’ll continue to occupy because they want to know what is going on with their fees.

Day 1 in Cape Town, student movement at Parliament

'#Oscar is free, #students are arrested' #parliament #studentmovement #libertywalk

A video posted by Chanté Petersen (@chanterocky.petersen) on

Video source: Chanté Petersen

It's a #libertywalk #studentmovement #parliament

A video posted by Chanté Petersen (@chanterocky.petersen) on

Video source: Chanté Petersen

Day 2, Cape Town

#students in #solidarity day2 #nationalshutdown its a #libertywalk for #education

A video posted by Chanté Petersen (@chanterocky.petersen) on

Video source: Chanté Petersen

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