by Ntsiki Jacobs
The senseless killing of Durban University of Technology (DUT) student, Mlungisi Madonsela, is an unnecessary massacre to an issue that is long overdue and which the Government should have prioritised post-apartheid in 1994. The 2015 Fees Must Fall protests gave rise to an issue that the Government had swept under the carpet despite promises of a better, free education for all especially for those who could not afford to pay their University fees.
The manner in which the institution addressed the issue showed that our students are not prioritised. The security measures employed by institutions of higher learning have become a life threat to the students.
These are institutions that cater for more than 1000 000 (1 million) learners according to Statistics SA data of 2016. The Department of Education has also done little to no efforts in addressing these penning issues by students. The positive matric pass rates each year should symbolise the hunger of the younger generation to further their studies and acquire a more skilled qualification as currently the highest paying jobs such as software engineering, aircraft pilot, lawyer, IT manager, medical specialists etc require a formal higher education qualification. With an unemployment rate of over 58%, of which 7.3% are graduates and an unstable economy, South Africa is in a compromised economic state that requires drastic measures to be taken to try to stabilise the economy.
Education is key in empowering the nation and producing more skilled professionals to compete in the global market. This is the space in which the country can gain much-needed Foreign Direct Investments. However it is slowly becoming a diminishing concept in most African countries as foreign investors are becoming reluctant to invest in a dying economy.
If our institutions of higher learning are still failing to address issues raised by the students in a country where majority of citizens are the youth, then we have a greater challenge in our leadership structures which needs to be addressed as clearly someone is not doing their job effectives. The availability of NSFAS only opens doors to unneeded debt that much of the middle class society of South Africa finds themselves in. This is not favourable in a growing economy where the focus should be on the betterment of lives of citizens to ensure that the country moves in sync with developed nations.
It is high time that our focus shifts to important issues instead of petty issues that seem to crowd our media’s focus. The issue of a fair, free education should be a priority of the ruling party and this should take centre stage in the current manifesto of the ANC Government especially in a country where the average household income has declined from R20k to R18k in 2018.
The formal learning institution’s increase of fees by 8% did no justice to an economy that is predicted to shrink to poverty levels due to high increases in basic needs services and declining monthly wages. NSFAS should not be the only solution to the current state of higher learning institutions as the country can shift funds from services that are not as detrimental as obtaining a formal education is to the future of the country.
With the national elections around the corner, this is a crucial time and platform for all parties to view the issue of funding free education at all education levels with the exception of private institutions, which are offered on choice basis. We cannot sit and watch as our future leader’s parish whilst fighting for injustice in a society that has already gone through the strains of apartheid and the 1976 student massacres, which are not necessary in this day and age.
This diminishes any sense of a free and fair election as our country is still under oppression from the current Government who after 25 years is still trying to close the gaps of apartheid and losing focus and direction of where other countries are going. This is the time for South Africa is to hit the ground running, erase the impacts of the past and instead learn from mistakes done by those who were in power during that era and find a healing space that will benefit both its citizens and raise the economy.
We cannot stand on the side-line and watch our children being senselessly killed by the same people who are entrusted with the responsibility to protect them and empower them so that they can be independent professionals whose contribution will have a direct impact to our economy. This is not a case of a bad Minister nor is it a case of bad law implementation but it is a case of strategically planning for an anticipated future and putting plans into action. This is the time of less talk, less promises and more action. We have heard the same promises for the past 25 and these have frankly turned into a dull fairy tale book, where all we hear is politicians high and eloquent lingo but no actions taking place at the bottom of the food chain where cost citizens of this country are located.
To the Madonsela Family, our deepest condolences and our sincere apologies on behalf of our country that has not shifted from the era of senseless killings whenever freedom of speech and expression is exercised. We apologise for the colonised mentality that is not yet ready to follow global trends. We apologise for the bloodshed in a democratic country where blood has already been shed for freedom. We apologise for not being free enough to sit and discuss our issues but always resort to violence and cruel decisions that cause more pain than relief. We apologise for not standing behind the students as a nation and saying until our children are given a free, high quality education for free, we are not voting!