This week we salute the class of 2015 for uniting and standing firm in their fight against fees increases at universities. In October students from different universities around South Africa embarked on a protest against fees hikes, which led President Jacob Zuma announcing a 0% fees increase for 2016 on Friday 23 October.
Using the hashtag #FeesMustFall the students took to the streets and social media platforms to raise their voices against the high price of education. South Africans at home and abroad got behind the students, protesting in support, using the hashtag, posting pictures of themselves with placards, and also sharing images of the students. Parents and members of the general public also marched with the students, and some helped by supplying water, refreshments, food and various other forms of aid.
Corruption has played a part in the fees and funding crisis, as has deeper problems such as a government that seems to be increasingly out of touch with the struggles of ordinary South Africans. The students who so remarkably showed their unhappiness with this situation, while corruption might not have been uppermost in their minds, are our heroes of the week.
The protests began on 14 October at Wits University in Johannesburg. Wits students organised a march against a planned 10.5% increase in fees – within days many other universities had joined in the protest, resulting in a complete shutdown of normal activities around country.
Nine days later thousands of students marched to the Union Buildings in the capital city of Pretoria. With an estimated 10 000 people in attendance, this was the largest student protest since the infamous Soweto uprising of 1976. At 14h50, after they had waited for six hours in the blazing sun, Zuma announced a decision that there would be a 0% fees increase.
The class of 2015 did not back down – they did not allow the institutions to implement a fees increase that would have put a university education out of reach for thousands of their peers. While this is a temporary solution and there is much more to be done, our student heroes have taught the rest of the country a lesson about tenacity and courage and fighting for a cause that is right.
• Note: we don’t condone the violence displayed by some elements of the student body or, as some have claimed, by non-students inciting trouble. We do support the bigger cause that the students are fighting for.
• Image: “Do not shoot” by Myolisi, own work – Wikimedia Commons.