South Africa

Faces of #WitsFeesMustFall

By Greg Nicolson 22 October 2015

Protests against a 10.5% fee increase at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) began last Wednesday and have since spread across the country. A week in, GREG NICOLSON asked students at Wits why they have joined the demonstrations.

Nolwandle Hadebe, 19: “Solomon Mahlangu's quote on 6 April 1979, 'Tell my people that I love them and they must continue the struggle.'”

Bokang Laobile, 20: “The fee increases are really affecting us because some of us our parents can't afford what we are paying right now.”

Michael Sarkis, 21: “For me it's all about creating equal opportunities for all students, eliminating discrimination based on anything. Intelligent students need to be able to afford an education.”

Moeketsi Mohlakona, 28: “We think that the fee increment must be done away with and the students must get free quality education in our new democratic dispensation.”

Simlindile Mbongwa, 19: “My personal reason for joining the protest is I believe that education is a tool that helps us better our lives and therefore I believe education should not only be reserved for the elite.”

Sbonelo Ntshangase, 21: “I've joined this movement because my mum is a government worker so I'm in the working class. Basically I don't qualify for NSFAS while I also don't qualify for a loan because my mum can't afford the loan.”

Nothando Mbatha, 21: “I joined the movement because I'm not poor enough to get NSFAS funding and I'm also not rich enough to afford fees here at Wits, and if this increase is taken into account I'm basically screwed.”

Lwazi Nxesi, 21: “Being a South African our government has been committed to trying to improve people's lives and they said one of the ways they can do that is through education and I feel that if they were truly committed to improving people's lives through education they should come up with a solution to the current problem in terms of tertiary.”

Ndumiso Manyathi, 21: “Before the strike began I kind of didn't believe in free education but this strike has shown me we can't move further without free education because if you're lower down in the South African population a free education would mean that your parents could make more businesses, more money for them and it'd be better for everyone.”

Darren Blanckensee, 19: “I'm here because no matter what race you are or what your background, the fee increase affects everybody and even if you yourself are not affected it's important to come to support and to join the struggle because other people will be affected and it's not okay to just sit at home and do nothing.”

Keith Witelson, 19: “I think it's important for people to be here because part of the solution has to be representation by everybody and if you don't have people here the problem is just going to get swept under the carpet.”

Uyanda Mphunga, 19: “I'm one of the fortunate students to have a full scholarship. Also I've met a student, a white one, who uses NSFAS. So for me I think the strike is more than just racial because poverty is not universal. So I'm just here to voice out my support for those who are suffering and less fortunate.”

Sonwabile Nzeke, 21: “Free education basically. When people, my brothers actually, come here they come because they are smart and they have the right to be here. And I think education, especially for people who are not privileged, shouldn't be seen as a blessing it should be seen as a right.”

Tanya Mashiane, 21: “I was effected by the NSFAS crisis during January. I didn't get my results for the whole of December. Other students even had to go home. I can just imagine: if these fee increases happen it is going to be an even bigger crisis come January. We can't have that.”

Peace Makhubele, 22: “I was actually a victim of financial exclusion last year. I had to go and work, basically to save up for these fees that are prevalent today. And this year what they're doing is they've made an increment of 10.5% and I'm still struggling to pay my fees for this year and the fact that they're making an increment again is going to have an impact on my education.”

Simamkele Nogemane, 21: “Students are being taken off financially. Those who are academically qualifying are actually being excluded. So regardless of your background, we are here to support each other.”

Mahlatse Mojapelo, 24: “I'm here for the future of this country because I am the future, I am this country.”

Theo Gaelejwe, 23: “I'm really concerned about other students who are going to come into tertiary institutions in the future. That's why I'm supporting the movement. I'd like to say to those who are giving false reports about what's going on here, please stop it because we are the guys who know the narrative so please take it from us or just come on campus and see for yourself.”

Sydney Ndlovu, 22: “It's quite imperative for us to be here in person rather than rely on social media just to post comments and say things about Wits while we are not experiencing what is happening here. It's quite important for us as students to stand up for our rights.”

Kate Joseph, 31: “I'm here because I support the student protests. I think economic discrimination is a problem and education is a right and people shouldn't be barred because of that.”

Thavha Tsiwana, 20: “I've been financially excluded before and it was a rally bad thing for me and I just want to fight for others. I don't want anyone to be financially excluded.”

Ntshembo Vuma, 23: “People like Solomon Mahlangu died so we could get freedom and it's for us to continue the fight and make sure free quality education is accessible to all.”

Nonkululeko Mntambo, 20: “I mean I guess (Frantz) Fanon says it the clearest when he says revolt simply because for many reasons we cannot no longer breathe. That's basically what's happening here. The cycle will continue unless someone stops it.”

Khutjo Diphofe, 23: “I come from a village that is very impoverished and in standing in this protest I'm standing up for those kids that are supposed to come up after me but won't be able to due to the situation that they're in.”

Thato Mokoena, 21: “I think education is always going to be something that people need and the fact that fees continue to raise is an unsustainable thing. It can't continue to happen because at some stage it can't be afforded.”

Lebogang Shikwambane, 23: “I'm here because I'm interested in the decolonisation of the curriculum and a conversation around the epistemology in universities and pedagogy in universities right now and a protest like this one is just one way of starting a conversation that matters.”

Carin Luiters, 20: “I'm here to stand up for those who are trying to break the cycle of poverty that they come from.”

Naeemah Dudan, 18: “The first part is that I plan to study journalism later on and the way the media has depicted the situation isn't good. Secondly because the fee increase is totally ridiculous.”

Eyaaz Matwadia, 19: “I feel that if people can't afford education next year then someone who is becoming a criminal lawyer will then just become a criminal. So I'm here to help serve the country.”

Mukhtaar Osman, 19: “Basically I'm just proud of the students because last week Wednesday when it started there were like 10 students who were just blocking off the entrances and now the whole country's universities are shut down.”

Zahara Essop, 18: “I'm here to defy the notion of Indian privilege.”

DM

Gallery

In other news...

July 18 marks Nelson Mandela day. All over the country, South African citizens devote 67 minutes to charitable causes in memory of Madiba. It's a great initiative and one of those few occasions in South Africa where we come together as a nation in pursuit of a common cause. An annual 67 minutes isn't going to cut it though.

In the words of Madiba: "A critical, independent and investigative free press is the lifeblood of any democracy."

Every day Daily Maverick investigates and exposes the deep rot of state capture and corruption but we need your help. Without our readers' support we simply won't survive. We created Maverick Insider as a membership platform where our readers can become part of our community while ensuring that we can keep doing the investigations that we do and, crucially, that our articles remain free to everyone that reads them. Sign up to Maverick Insider this Mandela Month and make that meaningful contribution last longer than 67 minutes.For whatever amount you choose, you can support Daily Maverick and it only takes a minute.

Support Daily MaverickPayment options


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.

PLAY IT AGAIN, MBONGENI

Mbongeni Ngema removed from ‘Sarafina’ set after more allegations of sexual harassment

By Marianne Thamm

"Sometimes the best way to help someone is just to be near them." ~ Veronica Roth