The Academic March

23 October 2015

Today I had the honor of supporting the #FeesMustFall and the #EndOutsourcing Movement.

BeFunky Collage

22 January 2016

This post has remained in my drafts for far too long.  I had much to say about this march at the time, but there were so many things to keep up with that I never got the chance to say what I wanted to say about it.

Because this was a (semi)dangerous time and as I previously mentioned, international students were getting deported if they were arrested, I was hesitant to get involved directly with a lot of the activity that was going on at the time.  However, wanting to show my support for the very important cause, I joined the Academic March.

4 February 2016

As I walked up the stairs to the rendez-vous point, I was impressed with how many people were there.  Hundreds of students and faculty members.  Faculty members were wearing red caps and gowns, and they were they because they wanted to stand in solidarity with their students.  They wanted to show that the same opportunities for education they had should not be denied to anyone who wants an education now.  They demonstrated that they believed in their students as the future of South Africa. It is utterly important that we educate the younger generation because they are the future leaders and members of civil society.  If education is such an important asset to have (in order to have a better life), why is it so difficult to obtain?

So, we all gathered on Upper Campus of the university, and we marched all the way down to Lower Campus.  We stopped in front of the Bremner Building (very controversial building), where students and leaders talked to us.

They explained that what they were fighting for is not an isolated cause.  It didn’t spring out of nowhere.  But, students have expressed dissatifaction with the Rhodes Must Fall movement last year, as an attempt to “decolonise education”.  They argued that the there has been a lack of transformation since the apartheid state, and the goals remains the same.

There were 6 demands that students and workers wanted (hoping that I got it right):

  1. The interdict preventing protestors interfering with university operations must be withdrawn and the charges on students and workers must be dropped.
    Far too often, students and workers have been villianized.  They are seen as unlawful and causing disruption, even though they have the right to protest.  Additionally, in order for there to be social change, there must be disruption.  Change doesn’t happen if everyone continues to live normally.
  2. Police brutality must stop.
    Tear gas, agression, stun guns.  All these things have been used on protestors in order to shut down the movement.
  3. UCT executives must be held accountable to removing the interdict.
  4. Academics and students should be consulted on how exams are to be written for the rest of academic year.
    As I mentioned previously, these national protests caused our final papers and exams to be postponed.  At first, it was postponed indefinitely.  There was talk that it would be moved to January, and there was talk that exams would be eliminated completely (as it was in other universities).  But, this is important because at this point of the protests, not many people would have been mentally prepared to write exams.  How could they?  Some people were being arrested.  Some people were worried about their friends.  People’s lives were affected every day.
  5. The university and the government must engage in all stakeholders to resolve the national funding crisis.
    One of the ANC’s arguments for the need for tuition increases and the decline of government subsidies was because the government just didn’t have the money.  This is one of the reasons why implementing a national minimum wage is also controversial in South Africa (where are we going to get that money?).  But, it can’t be the case that the government stops spending on something as important as education, especially since there is a tax base (where does that money go?  And where are all the returns on the money that is spent?).  The government must invest in educating its people.
  6. Transparent financial and budgeting processes.
    Students pay tuition & fees, but how does the university spend it?  This can eliminate corruption but also start a conversation on what is important to university members.

This march was primarily about the students and their opportunities for an education.  But, the protestors didn’t fail to mention that university workers are important too, and they can’t send their children to school.  They also pointed out the hypocrisy of the government that has promised them opportunities and the university management in charge of their education.

At the end of march, the speakers alluded to Mandela and said, “this is going to be a long walk”.

Over and out.

 

PS. I’m really sorry that this post has taken so long for me to write. But, on reflection on my experiences in South Africa, it feels so surreal to me that I was able to be a part of such an important part of its history.  I still try to keep up with the news there, and from what I understand, efforts towards this cause have started up again.

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