My degree is officially 10 years old this year and although I’m proud to call myself a Witsie, my pride was even more justified when I saw what the students at my old varsity have started.
Last week we were duped by the university’s management into believing that this was just a few hundred students who were disrupting classes but we soon learned that this was the start of a revolution.
I watched my newsfeed on my social media fill up with posts #WitsFeesMust and soon enough #UCTFeesMustFall and subsequently Stellenbosch, Tukkies, Rhodes and other university students joined the moment and here we sit in our #NationalShutDown.
I thought back to my days in varsity and I’m almost ashamed to admit it but I was one of those students that didn’t understand why students would protest and want to bring an institution to its knees to bring such a pertinent point across. I was ignorant and blinded by my own privilege, I didn’t want to empathise – I was only concerned about finishing my degree and getting out of Wits so I can start paying back my NSFAS loan.
I remember the day I came face to face with protesting students, I wasn’t harassed; they walked into the lecture halls and asked us to leave – some resisted and I watched (angrily I must admit) as the protesting students threw water at the resisting students and I was furious. I didn’t understand what their cause was, I was so far removed from what they were going through and felt, like some of the reactions I see around me, that these students are entitled and have nothing better to do than disrupt those of us who are going about our business of attending lectures. But how would I feel if the little stipend I got from NSFAS was used to help with groceries, school fees for younger siblings and other expenses? Instead my stipend went straight into my student account and I still remember my mom and sister saying “lucky you, at least you have some pocket money.” That was it, I still got my taxi fare and pocket money – no questions asked. So how could I relate when my Tuesday afternoons consisted of me waiting for my sister to drive us home while sitting down to my regular of cappuccino and complimentary croissant at The Matrix – how could I even start to get where they were coming from?
I didn’t think that more than 10 years after being confronted with protesting students on campus, I’d witness the students from Wits sparking a movement that has become global over the last few days!
Although the cause has been tainted by racism and violence I applaud the people who are actively involved in ensuring that these students are not discouraged and don’t lose focus of their goal to make quality education accessible to every South African child!
Today I don’t stand behind you grumbling and complaining or in front of you trying to block you, i stand beside you raising my fist in pride!