It's about that time of the year again where the "fees must fall" protests in South Africa begin again as the final exams start. This movement has not been a recent development, students have been protesting since 1994 against the rising university fees, mostly at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Fort Hare University and Tshwane University of Technology. These protest efforts were largely ignored and rarely made the media until 2015 when universities like Wits and UJ joined in the movement led by Shaeera Kalla. The movement has made headlines globally and serves as a reminder of the economic inequality of the country.
Since 2015, there has been a protest every year thus far without fail. It has accumulated to R600 million in property damage, not to mention the hundreds of injured bystanders, protesters, and policemen.
Accusations and criticisms have been flying around since the start of the protests regarding the protestors behavior as well as the way the police have handled to protest, accusing them of being violent for no reason. Classes are raided and students are held hostage, causing the universities to shut down despite the presence of security.
As the year comes to a close, we wait in anxious anticipation for the beginning of violent student protests once again. UCT has allegedly been discussing an 8% fee increase in order to cover all of the university's costs and break even for the financial year. Planning has already begun for Wits students and UCT students have already publically threatened to shut down the campus. Lectures were interrupted at UCT after students made demands for free education and the removal of financial barriers for registration and results. The memorandum was presented to the UCT Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Max Price, who stated that all decisions regarding university fees have been postponed.
The UP SRC leader stated that: “The SRC rejects any form of increase if provisions aren’t made for the 'missing middle' and NSFAS students‚”. Although steadily increasing fees pose as a problem for a large portion of the population in South Africa, funding is a necessary evil to ensure the quality education that the youth receive.
The tension between the university boards and the SRC could be cut with a knife in anticipation of the annual fee announcements.