Wednesday, 28 October 2015

One-on-one with Lisa Ndlovu:"Fees Must Fall!"

In the quest for more information into the just concluded protests by universities students across South Africa.Olagunju, Taiwo invited Lisa Ndlovu, a law student at WITS to throw more light into the whole panorama.

Lisa is a final year student and she pin-points her contribution, observation and experience in the victory of 0% rise in fees at her university.

She recalls how the protest that supposed to last for two-four hours almost took the nation by storm.

Below is her experience,she and other comrades who fought for a common goal of achieving affordable education and may be accessible one in future:

Q: Can you introduce yourself?

A:  My name is Lisa. I am a final year law student at University of the Witwatersrand and generally a concerned citizen of South Africa.

Q: On that note of a concerned citizen of South Africa, what do you have to say about the recent struggle that happened between the government and the students of WITS?

A: Is something that affects me personally since I am a student of WITS and which is where the "Fees must fall"  movement actually began. Yeah, generally, that's the extent of my involvement.

Q: You talked about the fees, right now?

A: Hmnn..Yeah.

Q: What was the former fee before the latest rise?

A: I can only speak for my particular stand. I can say this year I was paying R58,000 in fees for justice academic year and also a portion of R9750 has to be paid upfront  for registration before I could be registered for my final year of study. So if you don't have that money then you got an issue; you can't be registered and continue with your studies.

Q: Now, with the scrapped out increase, what would the new fees actually amount to?

A:  Well, the proposed increase was at 10.5% so I'm going to go with 10% because, I mean, I am a law student, maths is not my strong point but 10% of 58,000 will be R5,800, so which means every student, I mean, depending on what they are paying.So next year, if I were to be continuing at the university would be paying R5,800 more in terms of fees and obviously this amount would then also affect the initial upfront fee payment that would enable it go up a bit.

Q: Now, what brought about the struggle,the idea behind it?

A: From my understanding, it was the initiative of the Students Representative Council of WITS and of course the issue of fees and the inaccessibility of institutions of higher education has always been an issue. Three weeks ago University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN), University of Johannesburg (UJ) has been striking for the past like Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). So is something that has been in the pipe-line and if I've been honest from the perspective of  (S.R.C.) it was meant to be a strike that was suppose to last for two to fours hours but it gained momentum. It was not something that S.R.C  have planned or anticipated but the students obviously gave a mandate to the S.R.C. since they are students representative council and they do take instructions and hear what the concerns of the students are.

Q: After the whole thing gained a lot of momentum, and you saw there are lots of turn-ups from students and concerned citizens outside like myself, do you think the students did the right thing by taking the struggles to wherever they take it to?

A: Well I don't know if I would be...I'm quite hesitant to engage in a discussion of right or wrong. But these are concerns that have been around for years and the university have failed to engage the students on them. They have not taken it serious and so the protest is a demonstration of how frustrated the students were. It has come to a boiling point because they have been ignored on these issues for such a long time.

Q: With the involvement of all the students in UJ, UKZN and TUT, in the whole struggle, what impact do you think this has brought to the struggle?

A: From the way that I see it because the whole movement began at WITS, the WITS students were able to shut the university down, no academic was going on, people could not teach and so forth. I think WITS in a way empowered other universities to realize the power that they actually have. And I think one of the most amazing things to come out of it is that the students have realized their power, they realized their potential and they are no longer complacent, just sitting back and accepting what the university management is handing down to them and they realize they have the power to and that they must make the change they seek.

Q: What was your psychology experience in terms of how people embrace the struggles when you go from the streets of Braamfontein to Luthuli's house even to the Union Building. What do you see in people, the passer-byes, you know how do they embrace the struggles, if you can tell me more?

A: From my psychological point of view, I think I've just  been inspired by the movement, the changes it has brought about and also while we were marching in the streets, we gained quite a lot of supports, received quite a bit of admirations from people, and of course that's not all that happened. There were some disgruntled motorists. We actually had an incident where a guy on Empire road, was directed by police to move away from the direction of the students that were protesting and he proceeded to accelerate into students and as a result, four students were injured and the students were quite angry by that and an assault happened on the man that was driving the "bakkie.          "I am sure you've seen the picture on the internet ?(Yeah) and his car was over-turned.

The responses that we've bee receiving have been quite different, you get people supporting you fully and whole-heartedly, we have some celebrities, some prominent figures of society that are behind us but also at the same time had people who are blatantly ignorant in terms of the mandate of the movement and people who are just quite racist if I have to put it quite plainly. I think you've seen  in the photos that I sent to you; there was a post by someone,  I have personally on my Facebook, who call people imbecile and baboons and so forth. The response has been varying. It hasn't been a single response that we received from the people.

Q: A flash back to the question I asked if the movement is right I think that's the confirmation if you say psychologically people embraced the struggle, like giving their supports in terms of what you are asking from the government, so I think that clears the cloud about that. Now when you get to.....(she interjects with laughter and said:)

A: I wouldn't speak again a point of wrong or right. If I have to speak from personal opinion, the increase for next year, in whole honesty does not affect me because this is my final year. I'd be done with school I will be entering the working world next year. But for me I know and I understand the struggle some students go through and for me it was call which I have to stand by because is really an injustice because the very same people in 1994 when South Africa became democratic who promised  access to education and now that very promise has become so inaccessible. It was something I couldn't sit back-I could have easily just sat at home, studied and being comfortable because it doesn't affect me personally  but I think something that resonant in this movement which is quite similar to the gospel actually is that sometimes is not about you is about someone else. I think that's for me what is important.

Q: Your movement all the way to the union buildings, I remember you told me that you will be taking the march to Pretoria. How was it? Can you just give us a bit of it?

A: In the morning there was quite a lot of excitement in the air. There were buses that were organized to leave WITS to go to the union buildings and we had gained so much momentum at that particular point in time and we began to see racial diversity in the crowd.

We joined together with the University of Pretoria and students from couple other places and then marched to the union buildings from burger park.

Upon our arrival people have been there for a very long time, remember the president was meant to address  the students at 10 o' clock and we only arrived there at about quarter to12 and the president still not addressed the students and it was in the blazing hot sun, and there was no place to cover people and no water provided. And I think the students felt disrespected by the president, they had to wait two hours for him and he still didn't.

Then violent erupted and in my opinion was caused by a few students and the rest of us were on a peaceful march and after the violence erupted, WITS University and its leaders expressed which had from the very beginning that the march will go on in a disciplined and non-violent manner, began our own march which had a lot of momentum, circled the union buildings and came back, I'd say in that crowd we had  about five thousand people.

From my own personal experience, there were people who were almost wolves in sheep clothing among us who threw stones at police and the police shot tears gas into the crowd of peaceful protesters. If I put it in one statement; It was meant to be something so beautiful, I know we achieved what we wanted but it was meant to be something so beautiful  in that universities in the Gauteng area coming together for one purpose and protesting peacefully but the enemy came, they took,  they pulled the revolution from, right under our feet, they hijacked the revolution.

Q: If I may ask, who were those people (enemy)?

A: I was there personally, it was TUT students; who later after being interviewed said they were upset of the fact that they have been seeking or rather lobbying government and protesting for years on the issues that relate to fees and academics and they had not been taken quite seriously and WITS comes; we just protested for couples of days and all of a sudden is an issue of national importance and they are saying we are elites in the way that we carry ourselves and they take us more seriously because of the class-thing. I don't know. People were quite upset.

Of course, I don't, I must express this, I don't agree with violence and I think those issues should've been taken up to the relevant authorities as uphold to justice to being violent.

Q: Finally, did the president address the students?

A: No, the president did not address the students so what eventually happened was that he did it live in a live news broadcast. So apparently there was a meeting that was held to decide on fees increases; other than the president, and the ministers and the deputy ministers and the education portfolios of government; to my understand; there were no students leaders that were present because our own students leaders were there on the ground marching.So they came with the 0% fee increment on their own.It was then announced on live television broadcast instead of the president coming out as initially planned.

Q: You achieved your aim of 0% fees increase so where are the victory celebrations?

A: Because it is not a victory.The 0% is almost pacifying our pains.I think it just gives us time now to work on the pertinent issues at hand. It just ensures, from what I understand, that next year the fees will not increase but then it gives us opportunity next year while the fees are not increasing to tackle the issues of education and possibly free education as some people have...(I looked at her and she smiled and  she continued with a bit of digression:)

 You look at me like that but apparently the education portfolio of government again in 2012 have looked into the possibility of free education and they haven't released the funding of that, apparently, is a possibility. I'm sure you've seen the numerous numbers of articles on the internet from economists and so forth saying; how fund can be shuffled around to always allow for education to become free.

But again, from my personal point of view, I don't think free education is feasible especially looking at the economy climate, the rate of inflation and so forth; I just think that it needs to be accessible like instead of paying the R58,000 that I am paying perhaps pay R25,000 which will mean that the government has to increase their subsidy into institutions of higher education. I am not saying that I don't want to contribute at all but I'm just saying that they must not put the fee so high that university is not even an option for me no more.

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