We spoke to some students who were involved in last week’s #FeesMustFall protests about their personal reasons for joining the protests.
“We’re not rascals; we protest because our parents can no longer breathe”
“It’s impossible to focus on studies when you’re not sure whether you will be returning to varsity next year. It’s also impossible to rely on NSFAS, when you think about those students who have been declined enrollment for a new year due to outstanding debts. NSFAS funded me this year, but I don’t know the life I’m facing next year. Some of us just can’t afford this, we come from poor backgrounds. I joined the movement to fight for mine and others’ right to education. Everyone wants this issue resolved. We protest not because we are rascals who hate education or like causing trouble; but merely because our parents can no longer breathe.” – Bulelani Nkupane (22), a first-year student studying international relations and public policy administration. He lives in Kraaifontein, Western Cape. He is the only one among his nine other siblings currently studying.
“I’m scared of the money burdens I’ll face when I get a job one day”
“They beat us to the ground, trampling our defenseless bodies with stun grenades and cordoned the rest of us into smaller groups so that they could screw us even more. My studies are funded by NSFAS, but that does not mean life is smooth. In a nutshell, I still have that debt hanging. How on earth will I manage that, and have to fork out the money expected from me at UCT in January? I’m not the only one. There are many more students who lie awake at night, haunted by their debts. I joined the movement mainly because I’m scared about the money burdens I’ll face when I get a job one day. – Bulelani Sidyani (23), a second-year political science student at UCT. He was among the protesters at parliament on October 21. He lives with his unemployed mother.
“I wanted government to notice us”
“I just wanted to be part of something to make the government notice us and not to treat us like we don’t have a say in our own country. We have so much to do as the youth of South Africa, so that we can make things right for the people who are going to come after us.” – Ahlumile Mahlinza (23), a third-year public relations student. He lives in Uitenhage.
“When will transformation happen; that’s all I want to know”
“One of the things that terrify me is the government. I feel undermined as a student. Why was that meeting that took place at the Union Buildings on 23 October 2015 held behind closed doors? Where is the transformation? When will it happen? Today, next year or 10 years to come? That’s all we want to know. I come from the Eastern Cape. My parents struggle with my education. They have to get loans and go to loan sharks for my education, it is tiring. – Amanda Matoy (21), a second-year medical student at the Stellenbosch University.
“Enough is enough”
“Both my parents passed away. Having to pay for fees is quite a struggle, from the day of registration to being tormented by the previous year’s debt. Education is a right and we as students fought for what was rightfully ours. Enough is enough. There was partial achievement from the protest. Just like many of my peers I welcomed the 0% increment, but it’s a stepping towards the long-term solution to free education. – Edmore Mlotshwa (mid-20s), doing a masters in development studies at the University of the Western Cape. He is originally from Zimbabwe.
Written by Nwabisa Masiza, Babalwa Quma, Anam Joseph, Lucille Dyosi, Bulumko Gana
Holding image by Onele Liwani