The rights of students who want lectures to continue as usual do not trump the rights of the many young people who are struggling to get access to higher education because of a lack of funds, says a University of Pretoria #FeesMustFall leader.
Final year psychology student Rassie Rasethaba says students who are calling for the resumption of lectures amid national protests for free, decolonised higher education are missing the point – which is to find a way to ensure that all students ultimately get access to studying in such institutions.
“Yes we understand that it’s a right [to study] and that’s what we are calling for as UP #FeesMustFall,” Rasethaba said on Monday afternoon.
“We are saying education must be de-commodified, it must be made free and it must be made a right but we are saying the rights of the few cannot be trumped over the rights of the many that are refused entrance into the university.”
He said those who wanted to go back to class were only a minority and that the #FeesMustFall movement was looking out for the majority.
“In as much as the few want to go to class, there is a majority that is left outside and those are the voices that are silent, that you are not seeing on television, who are not speaking on these platforms.
‘It cannot be an immediate thing’
“They are talking to us and they are saying, ‘You that have the privilege to be in these spaces, help [us]… so that we can also be given this space’.”
Rasethaba maintained that the fight was for higher education to be made free, a basic right and for the syllabus to be decolonised “for all South Africans who deserve and have the capacity to be able to come to university”.
However, Rufaro Mavunga, who is studying towards her doctorate in child labour law, said it was unfair that the movement was willing to risk the 2016 academic year.
“For us to hold this academic year is completely unfair. It doesn’t work. It affects employers, it affects a whole lot of people, students that are coming in from matric, people that are completing their studies. It doesn’t work for us to hold studies completely.”
She said she understood and sympathised with the cause, but suggested that protesters exercise some patience.
“It cannot be an immediate thing, I think it’s a gradual process, you have to consult all the relevant stakeholders.
“The commission that was established, I think we should consider their recommendations and wait. It can’t be an immediate thing, it doesn’t work immediately. It will take time, but let’s not destroy the tertiary education system that is already existent,” she said.
More on education