“I’ll sit here and study until you shoot me for having a book in my hand”. A student blocks the entrance of the University of Witwatersrand. Photo from @LindokuhlXulu1
The Canadian Federation of Students, representing more than 650,000 students, stands in solidarity with students in South Africa who are fighting for free, decolonized education in their country.
In October 2015, a proposed 10.5 percent tuition fee hike sparked the #FeesMustFall movement throughout South Africa. Students mobilized in defence of public education and won a zero percent fee increase. Last fall, the Federation had the privilege of learning from the first hand experience of #FeesMustFall organizers. Watch Lerato Machaba’s address to the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students here.
On Monday September 19, South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande failed to announce plans towards a system of free education and instead announced that universities would be able to determine annual fee increases to a maximum of 8%. This is not unlike tuition fee frameworks in most Canadian provinces, where governments claw back public funding to colleges and universities and institutions raise fees to the maximum allowable amount. Across South Africa, students are mobilizing to blockade, occupy and shut down universities in response. Students have made it clear that they are fighting for free education, not just the return of a zero percent increase, because the current cost of education is unaffordable and prohibitive for many black students.
The Federation heavily condemns the armed violence and arrest that student activists have been met with by both private security and state police and the use of interdicts that ban students from civil disobedience on campus.
Our struggle for access to public education, for the genuine recognition of education as a right transcends borders. As we mobilize towards #AllOutNov2 for our vision of free public postsecondary in Canada, we take inspiration from students in South Africa. The Federation encourages members to send messages of solidarity using the hashtag #Fees2017 and stay aware of developing needs of activists on the ground in South Africa.