Student riots force university fee freeze

<img src="student riots.jpg" alt="Student riots" width="300" height="199">

Student riots  – our future leaders?

Responses from leadership positions:

  • President Zuma did not comment on the violent scenes that played out on the lawns of the Union Buildings while he was discussing the impasse inside. “Government understands the difficulties faced by students from poor households and all those affected,” Mr Zuma said.
  • UCT vice-chancellor Max Price said: “While I believe the interdict (issued) on Monday was an appropriate and necessary action to take at that time, it has been misunderstood to be a charge against individuals and organisations, whereas it is in fact only a requirement that people act lawfully. … It has also become encumbered with connotations of brutality and police action. This was certainly not intended, as its purpose was to protect the rights of those writing exams and wishing to access the campus.”
  • “Students are rightfully angry about university affordability. They expressed concern about how the South African Police Service has dealt with protests. The police ombudsman investigation is an opportunity for students to come forward with their complaints. …The community safety department also has … teams monitoring all court cases involving student protesters,” Ms Zille said in a statement.
  • Adam Habib said: “It would not compromise the books of the university, it would not (push) the institutions into financial problems. I think the government responded appropriately in this regard.”

What are the implications?

  • President Jacob Zuma announced that there will be no university fee increase for 2016. Wonderful! His election strategies are excellent. The student vote is guaranteed.
  • Students have succeeded in forcing the government and universities to agree to a moratorium on fee increases for the next year after shutting down universities and protesting for more than a week.
  • A wide-ranging process will continue to deal with issues raised by students, a.o. transformation and living conditions in university residences.
  • Universities SA chairman and University of the Witwaterstrand Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib unequivocally said the impasse over fees would not compromise the financial viability of the institutions. Good to know! So the universities CAN work smarter with money. The students were right in assuming that fees are needlessly high in spite of government cutting subsidies.
  • The exam period will be extended to allow students to catch up and prepare.
  • University of the Western Cape (UWC) students are planning a march on Cape Town International Airport as part of anti-fee hike campaign, saying the campaign for “free education is just beginning”.
  • Earlier on Friday Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was escorted from a student protest at Stellenbosch University. Protesting students reportedly turned on her and shouted: “V*****k, you aren’t here for us! Leave!” The premier was quickly whisked away in a police van.

Lessons learnt

If one disrupts, destroys, and does damage, one gets rewarded. A culture of protest is firmly entrenched in the psyche of our country. Violence is effective! Although it certainly is time to re-think several issues regarding university education in South Africa, the effectiveness of the protest action may have far-reaching negative consequences alongside positive ones.

This discussion is far from over!