They were not born free! The children that were born into a democratic South Africa were not born free, not by the standards they were promised. Nothing about their realities resembles freedom, the plight of the students of 2015 and that of students in 1975 is one and the same. One placard in seen in social media read: “Our parents were sold dreams in 1994, we are just here to get the refund”. What a powerful caption for the movement, the students were here to claim what is rightfully theirs. The paradox of education is precisely this: that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine and question the society in which they are being educated. – James A Baldwin
In 2015 the not so free “born frees” took a stand against the proposed increase in fees for many universities throughout the nation. Their fight was much greater than the fees; the premise of their fight was the economic injustices that have been perpetuated too far into an era of liberation. Last week I was at pains to explain to a friend that the matter that the students were protesting about was not only a political matter; this was a fundamental injustice in which we have all participated in through our silent suffering of the insufferable.
What the 2015 students were unnervingly telling South Africa was that the time for real economic emancipation for all had come and it began with education. What this breed of students understands without a doubt is that, education is the one thing that will take them out of the poverty that plagues a vast majority of South African households. It was Nelson Mandela who said: education is the most powerful tool, which you can use to change the world. The class of 2015 justifiably fought for the right to change the world, for the opportunity to change humanity.
May this be the beginning of significant change in a nation were change is long overdue. Economic emancipation shall become a reality in South Africa and it shall be afforded to us by the youth, from students right through to the young professionals. The idea of economic emancipation has already taken root in our minds, and as Thomas Sankara once said; “ It is true, you can not kill ideas, ideas do not die”.
Aluta Continuia – The struggle Continues.
“I would rather die for an idea that is going to live, than to live for an idea that is going to die”– Steven Bantu Biko (1977); and boy is the class of 2015 fighting for the idea of education. Having attended the #FeesMustFall protest and march to the Union Buildings on the 23 October 2015, exactly 1 year before commemorating 40 years of the “1976″ students march…I was pregnant with a belly filled with sweet, sour and spicy emotions.
As a black child of a single parent, who had to sacrifice a lot of her joy to ensure I received what society deems “the best education”, I could relate to the class of 2015 students’ plight. I know all too well that it really is not easy to make it through the cost of higher education in South Africa. I was proud, I was sad, I was scared, I was hopeful and I did a lot of questioning in my mind; I asked myself many questions:
– What have our leaders been prioritising all this time?
-Do they not want the best doctors, lawyers, artists to come be born and “manufactured” in South Africa?
-Amongst other lavishness, do they need to be shuffled around in fancy German vehicles with heavily armed “security”?…
Where there is a questioning youth, a truth seeking youth, a youth that just wants a shot at mental liberation (albeit questionable knowledge systems at times); what I know is those who have been put in place to lead will need to re-awaken their spirit of service and commitment to “a better life for all”. #STAYWOKE
It has been a week of immense pride as well as horrific sorrow for South Africa. Many times I have tried to sit down and write something but my heart breaks. We have all seen the images of the burning tyres, tear gas, and police “hippos” and stun grenades. For me however, this week has been a week about a courageous youth in our nation. Our young people will no longer take things as they are and will demand change. A generation of leaders whom we all thought had passed away with the Biko’s, Sobukwe’s. Young people who have organised themselves, are disciplined in their plight and will not be deterred from their goal, whatever the cost. And after an exhausting day out in the Pretoria heat on Friday, marching to the union buildings, after being tear gassed and at times being in fear of what the police forces next move may be, my heart is renewed. It is renewed by the young lions of our time, the Nompendulo’s of our generation, the women whom we need to ensure history does not forget. Biko lives, and she/he is powerful! Aluta!
In my view 2015 has been a phenomenal year in student politics. From Rhodes Must Fall to Luister and Fees Must Fall- young people in South Africa have forced the nation to take a critical look at our education system and its faults. As a UCT alumnus I applaud the courage of all the students who have actively advocated for the transformation of tertiary education. Quite often young South Africans are negatively branded as apathetic, entitled and with no common purpose. However, I believe that the Fees Must Fall movement has shown that young South Africans from various races and upbringings are very conscious of the inequalities in the country and are willing to challenge authorities for solutions. As an African I wonder what this means not just for South Africa, but for our continent. Africa is the youngest continent in the world, with two hundred million people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. Yet the average age of our political leaders is 61 years old. This oxymoron brings a few questions to my mind: Do the student protests that have happened in South Africa this year have the potential to inspire movements to democratize education across the continent? Will the protests influence African leaders re-prioritise their political agendas and bring youth issues to the fore? Will young South Africans remain as active, radical and uncompromising during elections and remember to voice their beliefs when it matters most?
From Africa is a Country, watch this amazing interview style documentary in the words of the students themselves: Shutting down the rainbow nation: #FeesMustFall
Watch in-coming WITS SRC President Nomphendulo Mkatshwa explain the plight of the students at Luthuli House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrSgJkVRzqM
**All images excluding the first image were taken from Google Images**