MCEBO DLAMINI: The struggle for free education must not be betrayed


The South African government hates young people. Otherwise how do you explain its consistent sabotaging of their future? The blatant refusal to make education accessible is nothing short of tying young people to poverty.

The majority of young South Africans come from poor backgrounds and without education, there is no hope of escaping poverty. What this means is that they will be trapped in a whirlwind of perpetual suffering. Both universities and government know this, so why then do they continue to shoot, sanction arrests and suspend students who just want education? The only rational answer is that it must satisfy them to see young people struggling with no options but to resort to crime and drugs.

The argument that there is no money does not hold and has been proven to be untrue. The ANC gave a mandate to the government that free education must be implemented. Not only this, but there were many different models that were drafted which showed where the money would come from. Clearly what lacks is political will.

The COVID pandemic also demonstrated that it is within the capacity of the government to seek money and find it. Why then does the government not seek money for education, something that will eventually bolster the country’s economy? Failure to fund education suggests that they have no foresight and are not interested in finding sustainable solutions to the problems of this country.

The struggle is not new. In 2015 we struggled for education and the recurrence of the Fees Must Fall movement five years later suggests that we were not victorious in our struggle. Despite the many promises that were made to the students by the government and the universities, the problem persists.

The tactics used must be different if the students are to conquer. The mobilisation must be intensified, the support of general society must be lobbied. But most importantly, students must be united. Any division will weaken the movement.

Narrow political interests must not be entertained. When students are denied access, it is because they are poor and not because they belong to this or that political party.

The older generation of Fees Must Fall activists must allow the new generation to come with their own strategies around how they will wage the fight. It must not impose its own views and ideas, but rather offer advice and support.

The struggle for free education has proven to be a generational mission and must not be betrayed. There have been too many sacrifices made and we cannot turn back now. We must wage the fight from all fronts, come what may, but victory is certain depending on our resilience.

Mcebo Dlamini is a former leader of student protests at Wits University.

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