Why The #FeesMustFall Movement Is A Pivotal Moment For South Africans

#FeesMustFall. You probably have seen posts with this hashtag over the past week or two if you’re South African – and maybe even if you aren’t. For those of you who are unaware, there has been unrest recently due to proposed fee increases at Universities across the country – and students were having none of it.

Students from across the country marched and staged peaceful protests to show that they were not going to stand for the proposed 10.5% fee increase. There initially was some concession, with those in power announcing that they would aim for a 6% increase instead – again students refused. They wanted a 0% increase and they were willing to fight for it. There was a small victory won when last Friday (23/10/15), President Jacob Zuma announced that there would indeed be a 0% fee increase in 2016.

Now that you have the gist of the story, I would like to focus on the reactions I have seen on social media during and following it. Over the past few weeks, I have seen varying opinions from numerous people. Thankfully, the majority has been fairly positive and supportive, however, there have been more than a few comments which leave much to be desired.

One of the more bothersome reactions that I have seen is the idea that we, as students, want everything handed to us – that we have some sense of entitlement. This notion is laughable at best and highly dismissive at worst. The fact of the matter is that students studying towards Degrees have to work hard to achieve them, and it’s not that we’re asking for Degrees and Diplomas to be handed out like candy on Halloween – we just want to have the opportunity to be at university and earn our Degrees – where is the sense of entitlement here? I don’t see it.

Perhaps the worst thing that has come from social media reactions is the fact that some people want to make this into an issue of race when that is not even a facet of the movement at all.

If you were to look at the students involved in the marches, protests and those who were showing solidarity online, you would quickly realise that there wasn’t a single race that was not represented – Black, White, Coloured, Indian, Asian, you name it and you would find them – so why then is it that it had to become a racial issue?

It’s because when people have no other way to disparage something, they will sink to using the lowest forms of attack. “Oh these black people keep using apartheid as an excuse. If they just worked harder they’d have the same opportunities as everyone else” – that is a fallacy. If you are ignorant (or pretend to be) about the inequalities that still exist to this day because of apartheid, you desperately need to educate yourself.

The fact of the matter is that these protests were not about race, political affiliations, gender or anything of the sort – students transcended all this and came together as one to make their voices heard and to make education – a basic human right – available to all.

Another thing that I take issue with is the number of affluent people who are critical of the #FeesMustFall movement. I’m just going to say it like it is: Rich people, you cannot identify with our struggle because frankly, you know nothing about struggle. You will not have to worry about whether you will be able to pay registration fees at the beginning of the year, or whether you will be excluded or not be able to write your exams due to unpaid fees, or know that when you’re done studying that you’ll have a mountain of student loans to pay off. You are not sympathetic because you have not walked in our shoes – you will never know what it is like.

It’s VERY easy for you to say “Oh these students just want everything for free!!!” when you are driving your R600 000 BMW, tweeting from your R15 000 iPhone and going home to an R18 million house in Constantia, because you are so detached from what the majority of us have to deal with daily. So in your case, maybe it’s best to… oh, I dunno, shut the fuck up?

People complain about crime, corruption and unemployment in South Africa but then want to decry the notion of free higher education for all. Do you realise that if we educate the masses, that this can only be beneficial? Educated people can find and create jobs, educated people do not have to resort to crime to ensure they can put a plate of food on the table, and perhaps most importantly can make intelligent, critical political decisions.

For everyone who is opposed, nonchalant or indifferent to the #FeesMustFall movement, remember that these students are not only fighting for themselves or for the rest of us who cannot be at protests/marches – they are fighting for the betterment and enrichment of South Africa as a whole. They are tackling fees, systematic racism, outsourcing, corruption and a host of other issues all to make OUR future a better one, for us and for generations to come. Like I have said in the past – it’s a revolution, let’s hope that looking back you won’t have to lie about which side of history you were on.

To my brothers and sisters who are leading and participating in this movement – I cannot begin to describe the pride I feel. They thought they could silence us, they thought we would be deceived like those before but you have shown that we will not take injustice lightly and we will not stand for it. They called us the lost generation but you have shown them the power we possess.

Even though some of us cannot be at protests and marches, know that no matter what, you have our absolute unwavering support.

A Luta Continua but we will not stop until the war is won.

Amandla.