#FeesMustFall Too: thoughts and first-hand experiences

(Originally posted on Bret Fish Anderson’s blog)

Highlighting some very helpful thinking when it comes to this #FeesMustFall movement, i just wanted to share some other helpful [and harrowing] posts from yesterday to help people find a bunch of useful stuff in one space. If you find this helpful at all then please share it and tag the people you think need to read this.

The biggest problem i have witnessed in so many white people is the rush to defend and explain and justify and the refusal to simply listen first and hear the issues and the stories and see the people involved as people – If you’re not prepared to listen then this post is going to be meaningless, but if you at least are curious as to why what is happening is going on then start by simply LISTENING and engaging before you prepare a response or a rebuttal or a statistic sheet. Just really try and honestly hear what is being shared through stories and actions here:

My friend Sindile shared a broader picture look at events which i found really helpful, titled Op-Ed: A Moment of Possibility for Universities:

In South Africa we embarked on our own structural adjustment programme in 1996. This is one reason, among others, why there has never been adequate investment in universities at any point since the end of apartheid. When universities have found ways to make up the shortfall they have done so by competing for rich students, for donor money – which seldom comes without agendas, frequently evidently imperial – and pushing academics to become good fund raisers rather than good intellectuals and teachers. Much of this militates against the imperatives to deracialise and decolonise. The decline in state investment in universities, and the increasing pressures to run universities on a commercial basis, has seriously compromised the integrity of teaching and research. When students are customers and companies and donors are clients, the university is often more of a service provider to the powerful than a site of autonomy and critique, let alone a home for the oppressed.

Bringing it a little more closer to home is this article titled, #FeesMustFall: Political failure triggers ticking time bomb:

The trigger of #RhodesMustFall in March to #FeesMustFall now is a mass awakening of the country’s youth, unprecedented in post-democracy South Africa. This uprising goes to the heart of the failure of the political system – the inability to lift the burden of being black and poor in a country that still favours those who are white and privileged.

The issues driving the student anger and rebellion go far beyond the unaffordability of higher education for poor black families. It is having to slot into an education system that emulates the society we live in – a lack of transformation, the perpetuation of inequality and prejudice against the financially weak.

Then breaking it even further down is this mother’s response and explanation of her involvement in the #FeesMustFall movement in terms of just wanting to see her children have the opportunity to be educated – Why We’ve Joined #FeesMustFall Movement:

Kholeka Takani, 45, of Khayelitsha, has been working as the cleaner at the university for 15 years.

“I’ve been working for UCT for 15 years, I love my job and I get to provide for my two children. I have always dreamt of my children studying here because I believe the university offers a good education. But it will remain a dream because the fees at this place are ridiculous.”

She said she hasn’t looked for another job because she believed that her salary would increase one day.

“I earn about R5 000 a month, it is not enough and it will never be enough for my children to study here. I don’t want my two daughters to grow up and become cleaners like myself and be paid peanuts.”

She said even after 15 years of working she still lives in a three-roomed shack.

Lwazi Pakadi, who is studying art at Stellenbosch University, said he “fought against the 11 percent increase” proposed by university management because of his circumstances – and that of many other students.

The 20-year-old SRC member was raised by a single mother who is also taking care of his grandmother, aunt and cousins in Langa.

She works at a restaurant in Tyger Valley, earning less than R3 000 a month. The family’s funds are complemented by his grandmother’s pension of R1 420.

“Our parents can’t afford the steep fees. If I tell my parents that fees are increasing, my degree will gross to R300 000, and that is an amount that they will never be able to comprehend.

“My story inspires me to fight because my family of only women have been able to care for me from primary school. They make a small contribution to my fees and give me an allowance to survive on,” he said.

Pakadi said studying with the help of NSFAS was a burden as students have to repay the loan with “interest and back tax while taking care of their families”.

Then some statuses that were shared on Facebook at various times yesterday, to help give us a glimpse of what is happening in different places:

Abigail Nel: 

I know everyone has an opinion and here’s mine… I say this in love and not in jest. I read this caption on News24 and it struck me: White UCT students have moved to the front of a crowd at a Cpt police station to form a human shield.

This basically means that because of the colour of their skin, those white people, forming a human shield, are less likely to get arrested by our police force. THIS is white privilege. And yes, it is extremely upsetting and not everyone wants to acknowledge it’s existence. But maybe instead of sitting in your Umhlanga apartment and criticising “the way these people go about it,” maybe, just maybe, you should (like those students) consider using your white privilege to guard and fight for the people out there who are actually doing something about the way our education system is run. Maybe you should stop saying “don’t these people understand inflation” when your pocket money is higher than your domestic worker’s salary. Maybe you should join the revolution instead of criticising those who have. Because freedom without opportunity is not freedom one can use.

dan1

Dan:

Sonwa was pepper sprayed directly into his eyes from a few centimetres away by a policeman equipped with riot gear and a shield. Sonwa was asking him not to throw stun grenades on sitting students. This is not an isolated, remarkable incident.

Before you seize to pick the side that makes you feel most comfortable, know each side. Only one is the victim of hegemonic, structural brutality. ‪#‎NationalShutDown‬

Helène:

My parents didn’t have the money to pay for my studies. So I applied for a loan, completed my degree and worked for years to pay back that loan.

BUT, my dad had property and could use that as assurance so that my loan application was successful. I was privileged. White privilege is a thing.

And if this status upsets you, you are probably white and privileged. Which is OK! But how are you using your voice nów to amplify the voices of the less privileged?

Marlyn Faure:

Hey Brett. I was at Parliament today. The students were peaceful and unarmed. Songs were sung that was it. Police used such brute force physical force and stunt guns at the outset. Students were arrested and hurt by police.

Ruth:

Hey Brett, I was at UCT campus yesterday and joined the talks and marches – found them to be entirely peaceful and generally constructive (although it was difficult to hear everything that was said). I didn’t try to drive up to campus (so I don’t know about the barricades etc), but walking around there wasn’t a hint of violence – rather a sense of unity and purpose in the student body (and not in a khumbaya way either). Altogether a stark contrast from what I had expected given UCT’s announcements/general media portrayal of hooliganism, violence and fear.

In the midst of all the validity of the protests there have been some incidents [on all sides] that have crossed the lines of what is good, healthy and acceptable [in my opinion anyways] and while i believe that it has taken something this big and loud to let the government know, ‘Zuma, we have a problem!’ it is important to realise that not all of the means justify the end:

Dave:

Some of my son’s CPUT classmates have been literally flushed out of their dorm rooms this morning by protesters who are using firehoses to flood rooms of anyone still on campus. Apparently they are supposed to either join in the protest or leave campus (where they are supposed to go, when their dorm room is “home”, I’m not sure.

Yesterday he watched a young woman arrive on campus in what looked like a brand new Golf GTI, park it, and join the protest. Now maybe she is trying to be an ally, but the impression created is one of opportunism and ulterior motive.

I’m shocked by some of the reported intended fee increases and there needs to be some focus on making education more effective and affordable, but the hooliganism and abuse of fellow students is not acceptable.

These protests should be outside parliament, or the ANC headquarters, or Nkandla.

Another friend who is a lecturer at one of the non-Cape Town Universities who for obvious reasons asked not to be named:

Hi Brett, I see you have been hosting a bit of a discussion about the strikes. Many interesting perspectives. I work as a part-time lecturer and I am worried about posting anything on social media in case there are repercussions. Here is some on-the-ground feedback from my personal experience. Strikes were scheduled for Wednesday and a colleague informed me on Thursday that the the campus was strike free and that I could go about my business. I went in to the University but was prevented from entering the building to teach. Saw a friend of mine who’d been detained within a turnstile. Tried to reason with the two students basically illegally detaining him. They screamed and shouted at me (White Supremacist etc.). When he pushed his way out after 1 and a half hours they accused him of assault for pushing. They filed a complaint with a security guard. I took photos of the perpetrators (to gather evidence in case a court case is levelled at my friend) and was shouted at by various students telling me I had to ask permission to photograph etc. Meanwhile they can imprison my friend against his will in an enclosed space. I actually supported the strike action but now am disgusted by criminal behaviour. I can only imagine the outrage were the positions reversed (two white males holding a black female in the turnstile for an hour-and-a-half. I consider it a very sad day for the university. I see all of these posts about people being disgusted at being run over and teargassed etc. I have seen what happens on the ground. I have witnessed the powerlessness of the security guards. I don’t blame them for deploying teargas and other means of controlling the intimidation and fascist attitudes of the students who won’t let people peacefully leave campus without the threat of physical violence. Students have been stoning cars, smashing glass doors at Wits etc. I have heard from other students of mine about being chased around campus with the threat of physical violence. Please don’t mention my name in any post on your wall. You can mention an anonymous source on the ground if you’d like. I just think this discussion is biased in the favour of students. A lot of them are behaving criminally, threatening the safety of others.

So there are different stories going around and it really becomes hard to believe what is true. i also have a friend who is a police reservist telling me the police in Cape Town have only acted to his knowledge within the confines of the law and to the best of their ability. So it really is tough.

Brett “Fish” Anderson is a white South African who is married to tbV [the beautiful Val] and loves South Africa. He is passionate about seeing all people working together to make the country the best it can be. Read his work on https://brettfish.wordpress.com/