Fees. Must. Fall.

South Africa is undergoing nation-wide wave and revolt about university fees. A national narrative that university #FeesMustFall, students from all walks of life have raised their voices and uniting for their right to affordable education. The entire country is in a #NationalShutDown as students demand a 0% increase in fees.

Parents are plagued by exorbitant fees which they can barely afford. Students on the other hand are in the thick of the struggle as they go through day-to-day hardships of student life, which includes books, food, accommodation and black tax which hangs over their shoulders like a cloud.

The country has seen an increase in students protests this year, it all began with #RhodesMustFall which spread across the country as students demanded that statues of colonial leaders be removed from campuses and other public spaces across the country. Looking back, the 1976 student uprising where students fought for their right to fair education; refusing Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, which they saw as the oppressor’s language hindering their performance. I see the #FeesMustFall protests as a mirror to what happened in 1976. Yes, there were no killings yesterday as students gathered outside parliament but the narrative of freedom and fair, inclusive education is becoming a cry of young people in our country.

As a result of the apartheid regime, we (young blacks) are evidence of the segregation and deprivation that the regime stood for. Every black family that is struggling to make ends meet, as well as provide a good education for their children is evidence of the economic exclusion our parents and older generations experienced.

If education is what will drive our economy to greater heights, why then is it so difficult to afford a good education? I for one know exactly what these students are going through; as some, if not most universities omit your results until outstanding fees are settled for the next year. Every registration period was the same; my family would struggle to get money for me to register and every National Student funding I applied for was sadly declined.

I’ve had my fair share of struggles with tertiary education fees. The university would not allow students who owe fees to graduate. Exclusion from graduation and omitting results means that I could not substantiate my job applications with a solid academic record to prove that I have indeed completed my studies. My efforts to find a job simply fell through the cracks. I knew that I had to pay my fees in order for me to get my certificate, I did so diligently with my internship stipend but I only managed take down the mountain of fees after two years!

I applaud and fully support the students on the movement as it affects each and every one of us, not only are they fighting for themselves but for generations to come. As former students and parents we should join in the movement and stand for education that is inclusive and affordable for all. Yes. Fees. Must. Fall.

Nomfundo Peach

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