#FeesMustFall campaign a ‘big success’
The goal at the time was to stop the hike in student fees, as well as to increase government funding of universities, and enforce the right to free and decolonised tertiary education.
Different stakeholders, public entities and government departments gathered for a seminar to recall the occurrences of that year at the Human Sciences Research Council.
The seminar also sought to reflect on changes in the higher education sector, the state and future development of higher education policy, and further exploring broader questions of social transformation.
It kicked off with the screening of the #FeesMustFall documentary which built up conversations and deeper insight into current policy developments from different departments.
The documentary is about the protests that broke out across different institutions and spread fast across the country. The story is told by student leaders at Wits University and vice-chancellor Adam Habib.
Producer and director of the documentary Rehad Desai said: “The impact is massive; we’ve heard that about 600000 of the more than a million students are now on full bursaries which is something big.
“Even if you earn over R350000 that doesn’t make you rich or middle class, because the R120000 must pay for accommodation, transport, fees, books and so on; that’s how much it costs parents to keep a child in university each year,” he told the Pretoria News.
He said the movement had birthed confident leaders who made a change. “The movement itself has bred many confident activists who are now doing different things with their law degrees and have shifted career paths because they can see the power of movement and protest actions.”
In March, the Department of Higher Education and Training allocated an additional R967million to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to settle historic debt owed to universities by 52514 students.
The documentary also sparked complaints, with some saying #FeesMustFall became a success only after the concerns were raised by Wits students. The critics said students at other institutions had been calling for free education for some time.
In reaction to the documentary, participants said the police did not have to fire rubber bullets and stun grenades at the students.
They also said the system was created to fail the black child; there was higher unemployment of black graduates.
The students who participated in the movement were commended for their bravery and going ahead with the protests despite the threat to their lives.