Again we see an up-rise of student protests – this time even HOPE Cape Town is not allowed into or even out of its own offices at Tygerberg Campus of the University of Stellenbosch – patients are barred from entering – and police is standing by, not sure what to do. While students seems not to be engaging in reasonable debate but enjoying the freedom of being unruly to the point of being aggressive, until now Tygerberg Campus was not involved in arson, destructive violence like many other universities. Trying to get our HOPE Cape Town staff in or out and reasoning with students only lead to the comment that the students only take orders from the “central command” which somehow is a reminder of the EFF structure, but they were opposed to the violent student protests. So nobody could tell who the “central command” is.
I guess the “FeesMustFall” movement has lost any credibility after libraries were burning and classrooms demolished. Unfortunately we don’t have a government being honest in saying that a fee free study for all is not financial viable in our days. The announcement of the minister for higher education takes into account the plight of poorer students depending on government while still allowing for a reasonable fee increase for those able to pay.
Fact is that the destruction, the violence and lets’ be honest also the laziness of some students exploiting the chaos lead to a mixture which can’t be tolerated anymore by government. While a meaningful protest is part of democratic freedoms achieved in South Africa – destruction, the loss of meaningful conversations, the “everything-goes” mentality of students who seemingly not value their academic development must stop. Also the from Cosatu toi-toi lent approach to not allow willing colleagues to continue studying but hinder them by all means is beyond the expression of freedom.
Of course – the headless student protests of our days are feeding of the headless society governed by a headless government – it simply filters down that the rule of law can have a back seat for the time being. But that cannot be a reason for denying unrelated employees to go for their work, patients to be treated, destruction of property or fellow students willing to study to deny their right to study. There are rules in a democratic society and the sooner students learn those rules the better it will be for an anyhow fragile society like the South African ones.
So one can only hope that reason prevails, that those wanting to break rules are brought to book and the law takes its course and that the Universities exercise their rights to defend their freedom of science and study up to the teeth. Government must take reasonable steps to ensure that money is not the deciding factor for the chance to study. “Fee-free” for all is not the only answer to this challenge.