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“The Struggles of University Students Are No Trivial Matter” – Songezo Zibi on #FeesMustFall

Raising the Bar“The fundamental question is whether free education is possible, and if it is, what should be done to realise it.”

These are the words of Songezo Zibi, author of Raising the Bar: Hope and Renewal in South Africa, in his editorial for Business Day.

Reflecting on the current #FeesMustFall student protests at tertiary institutions such as the University of the Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University, the University of Fort Hare and the University of Cape Town, Zibi remembers his own student years: “The threat of financial exclusion always loomed and there was never enough food to eat.”

Zibi argues that the countrywide student protests serve to show just how irrelevant the ANC and the DA are.

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I am reminded of this because of the events at Wits University. Some have criticised the students for the stand they have taken. For some it may be out of political self-interest, for others it may be an instance of class ambivalence, while the rest may be suffering from amnesia. Whatever the reasons are, the struggles of university students are no trivial matter.

Worrying about money and food while having to focus on your studies is stressful and debilitating. The frustration comes from a place of desperation. Dismissing their fears and concerns can only produce anger whose outcome is likely to be anarchy.

Of course, Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib is not the beginning of their problems, nor is whatever he says going to be their end. However, he is someone they can deal with as he represents the system that runs our institutions of higher learning.

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