Opinionista Khensani Masisi 22 February 2017

The Budget According to Students

The tears, screams, injuries, oppression and, most important, the academic and financial exclusions that were endured by students fighting for free decolonised education have come unheard and clearly unwelcomed.

The Budget speech by Pravin Gordhan has not only proved that our parents’ struggles and ours have been once again pushed aside. With the lack of understanding by Parliament towards student matters, particularly to fees and infrastructure especially in formerly black intuitions, we have been met with a Budget speech that fails to address these issues to the core.

The R5-billion that has been allocated to higher education and colleges has proven not to be a sufficient move towards free education; in fact, it has rather raised the question of competency in financial planning and rather whether education is taken seriously in this country for a number of reasons.

First, it is not fact that the money allocated to institutions will benefit students who genuinely cannot afford fees and want to enter these institutions but are, however, academically deserving.

Second, what were previously called “Manpower Centres” have not been fully, if at all, functional and have thus created over-population in universities. Where this could have been avoided by maintaining teaching and nursing colleges open and fully functional universities would then have the capacity to open their doors to more students but most importantly allow those who do not have the financial capacity to have other academic opportunities and spaces to enter.

The South African economy has been forced to outsource workers from other countries because there is a lack of skilled labour such as artisans, merely because those facilities have not been functional and have thus created a gap in the economy.

If technicons were still fully functional, the gaps in the economy for skilled labourers and the overpopulation of universities would be partly solved, but the lack of understanding as to what the university space is has not been addressed and hence there is a lot of pressure on the higher education sector. The university space is an academic and intellectual space, thus making it a space where not all individuals are equipped, not because they are not smart enough, but merely because there is hardly any practical and physical training that some people are better at mastering.

With some students raising the argument that the NSFAS and education budgets should be combined and used towards attaining or slowly implementing free education, particularly in previously black intuitions such as Fort Hare where the poorest students dominate and the accommodation and fees issues are urgent, in fact a pilot project was suggested by a student leader from UCT.

Furthermore, the idea of a graduate tax is utterly ridiculous; students cannot be expected to pay a tax for going to school and attaining what is supposedly the key to freedom from poverty. In the same notion this is why NSFAS did not work as a loan because the black child already has a “black tax” to pay, as well as the need to support his/her family, still riddled with poverty due to the inability to address the issue of white monopoly capital.

It is the taxations and the lack of support for black people that perpetuate the cycle of poverty. The “wealth tax” on the supposedly rich that earn “R1.5-million” a year is mockery of the idea of wealth tax and white monopoly capital. As Vuyani Ngalwana says, R1.5-million is not rich. The understanding of rich needs to be clearly thought out and assessed.

The Budget speech undermines the advancement of black progression on many frontiers, socially and economically. The implementation of broadband in rural areas, particularly schools and health facilities, is incredible; however, why spend money on broadband when students do not even have desks, ceilings, let alone textbooks – the logic baffles all students and myself. Has the finance minister forgotten that iPads were introduced to schools, and criminals came and looted them, but more so the weighing of priorities by Cabinet has proven to be a failing task.

Transformation is a critical issue because it is the underpinning issue of all that has been mentioned above; however, how do we implement transformation when black people in this country do not even have access to institutions, let alone education? But more so, black people do not have access to capital and land and that is where true transformation should take place. The placing of black bodies in office that are incapable and unqualified for the sake of colour and transformation rather increases the problems we have and widens the economic gap between whites and blacks, but more so perpetuates racist ideals.

It must be understood what transformation is – it is not just black bodies. Black people are not poster boys and girls for white monopoly capital; we refuse to be reduced to new age modern slaves who make picture-perfect images for the world. We have minds, souls and hearts, we are intellectuals, scientists. The black identity is being lost if it has not already been lost in this transformation process you have created to suit white supremacy.

The ideals or blackness and black consciousness should not be redundant names of dead people that are chanted during the electoral period, they should be lived experiences of the everyday black people and the white people should recognise this. We are not dead faces to be howled at and shown off as if it is Black Friday at the slave auction.

Let us be in spaces that matter and transformation shall transpire; let us be there because we deserve to be there, because there are those of us that deserve to be in those spaces.

The cultural assimilation that South Africa has adopted has created the inability to accommodate black culture and ideals into what were supposedly and still are white spaces. Transformation is not allowing black people into white spaces but it is giving them the opportunity to take their rightful place in those spaces.

And not expecting conformity to white norms and culture in those spaces, but allowing whiteness to participate in the norms and ideals of black people.

It must be understood that our transformation from a black perspective in this country has been to conform and normalise whiteness into our being. DM


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