By Venencia Nyambuya
Having lived in South Africa as a student for some time now, it is with sad realization that the whims and cries of the fellow students of the #feesmustfall have reached a level of intolerance from the local community hence exceeding its normalcy.
As a foreigner from a once prosperous country and having experienced both sides of the good and bad of how an economy can turn out to be, I feel South Africans in general, in the region are the most privileged. These sentiments can only be ailed by a person who has experienced what Zimbabwe went through during the 2007/8 economic meltdown. The cry for a free education has repercussions on a number of things bearing in mind that the economy of South Africa cannot sustain such a fallacy.
Having engaged with fellow students participating in this protest, in trying to question their quest for free education I realised most of them simply cannot differentiate between free and quality those two are a juxtaposition, they do not go hand in hand, anything that one gets for free is sub-standard.The call for an outright free tertiary education in South Africa can only lead to the privatisation of education in the country as well as a pull out on student funded projects from local and international stakeholders.This will only afford the rich to attain quality education at these private institutions leaving the state owned institutions suffering in terms of education offered, staff recruited to teach the students probably with less or no experience at all.
There are a number of things one needs to put into cognisance, bearing in mind that South Africa is currently the largest economy in southern Africa, it however, has to be noted that its economy has dropped within the last few months.Politically if free education is to be introduced it will have a strain on the South African government coffers hence an adjustment in the governments budget.Still on this point it is apt to note that government has been and is still paying maintenance fees for children and their medical needs lest we forget to talk about the social grants that are paid out every month to the elderly as well as free education offered at primary and secondary level which makes it look like a joke to demand free education at tertiary level. However, this means the cost will be unbearable hence service delivery is affected therefore political instability.One can argue that this is a political agenda rather than just a march for the fees the protests have lost it’s plot.
Moving from the political side one has to look at the economic arena.The billion dollar question is, does the economy of South Africa pave way for such a fantasy? At this point in time we have countries like Zimbabwe and Nigeria to mention a few, with a surplus of qualified workers who have since engaged in vending and other street businesses hence a punch on the unemployment rates which have escalated to 80%. It is therefore important to note that when a great deal of people are unemployed maintaining basic living standards becomes very difficult and living standards also deteriorate.
Free education was a promise made by the government when it was elected in power in 1992 when South Africa got its independence, but it should not be dismissed that the economy of South Africa can not afford to have outright free education.It is also apt to take note of the fact that the taxpayers will have a percentage rise in their tax so this can be seen not only affecting government but the people as a whole and it takes us back again to the issue of families not being able to afford basic living standards.In as much as I see it as a fallacy I also believe this #feesmustfall is a double edged sword which in turn will see workers marching in the street demanding for pay rise and this will simply bring the country to a war zone where people are always on the street engaging in violence in order to have the government meet its needs.
I strongly believe South Africa is one country which has the possibility of being one of the richest countries on the globe. This can only become a reality for South Africa’s success on the globe if South Africans are cured of the post- apartheid trauma they suffer which I assume should have been cured by now.It is not only South Africa that has suffered apartheid it only becomes the talk of the century because South Africa was the last to get its independence but all countries in the region, if I should say they have suffered the ailments of white brutality and most have put it behind them and looking forward to establishing their country in positive ways that will benefit their families.
Talking to one student filled with anger and fury he promised that after the fees fight they are coming for the land and this left me shocked as I quickly remembered the repercussions of the land grab in Zimbabwe.It has since become a culture that whenever government fails to meet the demands of the people they engage in violence. South Africans locate a scapegoat for all their problems, first it was the foreigner after the realisation that the fight is more than fighting the outsider the blame has since been concentrated on a different structures that make up South Africa. The fees saga has landed the ANC led government into question by the youth who are promising to look into the issue of land grabbing once the fees issue is addressed. l have seen students carrying banners on social media saying once done with the fees issue we coming for the land.This leaves me with a lot to say.
It is time other nations to learn from Zimbabwe it’s time lessons are drawn from this country in order for Africa to restore peace and tranquillity in the continent.Violence is not the solution there are better ways to engage issues of national progress through dialogue not violence. After fighting a good fight for a total wipe out on fees one has to return t the library to use resources to get the education they were fighting for what then will one use when the library is burnt?
From South Africa a culture of violence has been diffused on the continent where a number of examples can be given if one looks at the recent foreigner attack in Namibia, an import ban on goods in Zimbabwe were Zimbabweans called out their neighbours to help them fight the cause.Is violence our way of living in the region? We are better than this.
Lets work to build a peaceful nation as well as a continent….