South African Students Congress

Education is not a privilege, it's a right #FeesMustFall

16 October 2015

The South African Students Congress (SASCO) notes with utter disgust, dismay and distaste the abhorrent acts of drastically increasing fees by Vice-Chancellors and Councils. We believe that this is an attempt to create our institutions as exclusive spaces, with money as a main entry ticket. We believe that these institutions are implementing a resolution of the Higher Education Cartel dubbed Universities South Africa (USA).

It appears that this mostly old-boys country club has taken a decision on further creating institutions of Higher learning in South Africa as ivory towers, which exclude the poor black majority. Habib as the Cartel leader thought it important that he lead his fellow collaborators by being the first to increase fees so ridiculously. We will fight this symbol of reaction, which is not even ashamed of calling itself after an imperialist national such as USA.

Academic and financial exclusion accompanied by poor student services continue to violate the right of students to education. The Ministry has failed to regulate fees and has been sending wrong signals about free education for the poor recently.

Wits University, the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Fort Hare (just to name a few) are all proposing a 10% and above fee increment. This is absolutely ridiculous as the current inflation rate is 5.3%. These increments are over and above the already exorbitant costs of residence, meals, books etc.

We support the resoluteness, determination and vigor of our comrades in Wits and we call on the other institutions to increase the tempo. Clearly whilst these increases are being effected at a campus level it appears that a permanent central solution - such as the regulation of fees - is an urgent necessity.

Our historically black universities remain under resourced, with huge infrastructure deficits and insufficient academic staff. They largely rely on grant funding, which in itself is inadequate. The current financial situation of the University Of Fort Hare is a case in point where student funding is being used to pay staff salaries.

The 2007 Polokwane ANC National Conference resolved on free education, eight years later, nothing has been done. Instead, we are now told that free education will gradually be introduced by 2019. We are now at the end of 2015 no indication that free education will be introduced four years from now.

With inefficient fiscal allocation to funding higher education, exorbitant fee increments and poor funding administration from many of institutions, the poor African child is systematically excluded from accessing higher education.

Government has shown no interest in implementing free education. In fact, we are convinced as South African students that government is not serious about the education of the poor African child.

We note the recent announcement on the task team set up by the President to look into the issue of fee regulation. We demand as a first step -

Transform Institutions of Higher Learning

Racism and racial discrimination continues to be one of the defining features of our higher education system, our universities. The demon of racism is not dead. Racism is rife in our universities affecting in the main, black students and workers. Racism is today disguised as "institutional culture and tradition", racism is a disastrous cancer especially in the historically white institutions (HWI). The events at the University of Stellenbosch a few weeks ago are a case in point of how racism continues to manifests itself in our higher education sector. Black students continue to fall victims of racism at institutions which are preserved for whiteness.

Institutional autonomy and academic freedom continues to be used and abused as a defense mechanism by reactionary universities that refuse to transform. Universities have abused their autonomy and have not been fully accountable. The Ministry has allowed unfettered autonomy in the system. As a result, universities have become islands isolated from the reality of the new South Africa.

As SASCO, we have repeatedly called for untransformed universities to be put under administration. This call has fallen on government's deaf ears. We call for the Higher Education Act to be amended, in particular on "institutional autonomy".

Student victimization

There is widespread victimisation of student leaders by mis-managers in our universities and this happens in various forms. This constitutes a violation of our civil and basic human rights. The victimisation of student leaders is intended to silence the gallant voice of students and thereby turn our universities into conformist dictatorial fiefdoms of unscrupulous vice-chancellors who are mostly incompetent and reactionary

This is evident in the current events unfolding at Wits University were the institution called the police on peaceful student protestors. University and College managers have sought to use the police as their response to student grievances sending a message that it is in fact a criminal offense to fight for your rights as a student in South Africa.

We call for the Ministry, the student organisations, university and college managers to enter into an agreement to end victimization including academic terrorism.

Education is not a privilege, it is a right enshrined in the constitution of the republic of South Africa. We cannot wait another 21 years for the realization of this right for all South Africans. The time is now, the ground is fertile, listen or go home!!!

Issued by the NEC of SASCO

For more information contact
Ntuthuko Makhombothi(President) on 0718752209
Luzuko Buku (Secretary General) on 0718793258