#FeesMustFall: Decolonising education

It really is not the very first time South Africa has observed student mobilisation. Fees protests, campus shutdowns and mass political violence and repression have been held at historically black universities and colleges for any long time.

What tends to make the 2015-16 period distinct is that for the first time our student movement spread on to historically white universities, which opened doors to all South Africans following the fall of apartheid in 1994, but continued to retain their colonial foundations.

With this expansion returned the demand for decolonisation of education, echoed inside the 2015 #RhodesMustFall campaign in the University of Cape Town, as well as long-standing calls free of charge education plus the finish to outsourcing practices for campus workers.

#FeesMustFall in several campuses strategically rejected the vertical hierarchies of student representative councils because the only "legitimate voice" of student demands.
The movement experimented with flat structure and open, direct democracy in the course of mass occupations.

However the movement has also faced a multitude of challenges, including persisting internal divisions and increasingly violent and repressive measures by the South African authorities.

Our 2015 achievement of freezing university charges was only temporary; now the government is back attempting to introduce one more improve of as much as 8 % for the 2017 academic year.

We are out inside the streets once more not just to overturn this decision, but additionally to lay the foundations of no cost decolonised education on campuses across the country.

Why are protests happening?

South Africa's educational technique is still rooted in the colonial and apartheid eras, and their injustices persist in its structure and monetary set-up.

Both private and public universities in South Africa charge fees and supply distinctive amounts of financial aid in addition to a national loans system. More than the years, enrolment inside the country's 26 larger education institutions has steadily grown and in 2017 it's expected to attain 1,053,420.

Even though the intake of students significantly elevated, the government's contribution to universities' earnings decreased by 18.4 %, using the total state budget for public greater education accounting for only 0.74 % on the gross domestic item.
At the moment, a Bachelor of Science programme at the University of Cape Town could expense as much as 50,000 rand ($3,700), a steep price for education inside a nation where the typical annual income is 88,000 rand ($6,600).

This suggests that an overwhelming variety of South Africans have to have loans for education which enslave the operating class along with the historically disadvantaged inside a debt cycle reinforcing the inequalities carved out by colonialism and apartheid.

However it is not only the students that suffer in the unjust economic structures of larger education. In 1999, campus manual labour positions including cleaners, cafeteria staff, gardeners and so on at lots of universities had been transferred to private providers to minimize costs and managerial load.
This resulted in lower wages, much less social safety and harsher function situations. So it really is only all-natural that students and campus workers unite in their efforts against the economic injustices in the education technique and demand reforms with each other.

In their struggle for decolonised education, students have pressed even further and have questioned the socially established part of universities and also the apparent Eurocentric biases in curricula. There happen to be calls for decolonisation since it pertains to what exactly is taught and how it really is taught.

Conversations that had been after relegated strictly for the humanities are spilling more than into other departments, faculties and disciplines in approaches that will hopefully consolidate them inside the future, as repositioning and reconstructive efforts start to take root.

What has #FeesMustFall achieved so far?

Forcing the government to temporarily freeze charge hikes was by far not the only achievement in the student movement.

In 2016, protests managed to convince Finance Minister Pravin Gordhon to set aside 17bn rand ($1.2bn) mainly to cover charge increases for students around the national student monetary aid scheme.

Earlier this year, the #OutsourcingMustFall collective at the University of South Africa won an insourcing agreement for their institution.
Students' engagement with workers' rights has also gone beyond the university campuses. #FeesMustFall has won the assistance of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which declared its intent to stand in solidarity in late September 2016.

Students in the Western Cape have also begun to make connections with agricultural workers' Commercial Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers' Union in an ongoing "Boycott Robertson's Winery" campaign to apply pressure for decent wages and dignified working conditions.

These engagements, and others like it, are totally crucial in creating the no cost decolonised education movement, as we connect the struggles of a number of the most marginalised members of society using the pretty institutions of higher understanding that claim to function for the public very good.

The nature of this connection, when fought by way of joint struggle and sacrifice, is a single that is certainly precisely the character in the decommodified education method the movement strives to assist forge.

What challenges is #FeesMustFall facing?

The protest movement was never totally unified and divisions, particularly along political celebration lines, reflected the diversity of your students' demands in each and every of your campuses.

In 2016 student and worker unions who aligned together with the ruling celebration, the African National Congress, known as for "free education for the poor", whilst non-partisan groups and opposition parties united below the banner of "free decolonialised education for all", asking for the instant implementation of a fee-free model across the board with radical curriculum overhauls.

The announcement with the fee freeze in 2015 exposed these divisions as well as the movement lost momentum. This split persisted even in 2016.
In September, fee hikes for 2017 were announced and this encouraged the movement to come back with each other for campus shutdowns across the country, which held ground at 16 institutions for just about six weeks.

But this moment also coincided with deeper reliance on partisan structures plus the sidelining of quite a few black feminist queer organising blocs inside the movement.

This has been particularly disconcerting, because the discourse on inclusion of black radical feminism and representation of women and queer activists in leadership structures and media encounters has visibly provided strategy to well-known male figures and increasingly centralised leadership.

The state's rising use of repression has also hurt the movement and encouraged perceptions of its violent nature. From my private practical experience, the campus shutdowns had been mostly peaceful but as a result of the usage of force primarily by private security, numerous protests ended in harm and burning of property in retaliation.
The widespread media focus on property harm, in conjunction with the establishment of a security-heavy government process group, signalled to the movement that the state was prepared to intensify the repression.

What followed was mass arrests, internal expulsions and court interdicts, which includes denial of bail in some cases; greater than 830 protesters have already been arrested since February.

At the identical time the media has not correctly reported around the violence against student protesters, which has escalated to incidences of sexual assault by private security as well as the police.

Because the year draws to a close, #FeesMustFall remains entangled in shutdown tactics although public institutions danger losing a complete academic year. Progress in negotiations across the campuses is hard as many protesters are in jail, suspended or expelled.

The good results with the movement shall be determined, I think, by its capability to move beyond the campuses and involve broader society.

Now greater than ever, intense discipline and tactical awareness are essential to stay away from further clashes with safety forces and private property damage, and to win more than civil society, parents, workers as well as the international neighborhood.

Brian Kamanzi is really a Cape Town-based writer and electrical engineering Masters student in the University of Cape Town. He describes himself as committed towards the social upliftment of his fellow persons. He is a budding Pan-Africanist, eager to make contributions to the movement and form cross-cultural connections with other individuals within the struggle. Adhere to his writing right here.

The views expressed within this article would be the author's personal and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.