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What #FeesMustFall Taught Me

BY STELLA WAAFRIKA


If you have been following news updates about South Africa, #FeesMustFall has been and continues to be one of the biggest stories in the country. The protests started off with Wits University demanding fees must fall, which later acted as a catalyst for other South African university students to join the protests. It turned into a nationwide protest which saw students demand affordable education; which rightfully so is their constitutional right.

As different scenarios of #FeesMustFall unfolded, there were some highlights that caught my attention.

Media Coverage
a) When such protests happen, we all expect mainstream media to be fully part of the equation. What hurt me the most is media depicting a one-dimension version of the events that were happening at the time. At first they had a portrayal which translated into "angry black students" protesting.  If you watched closely, students of all races partook in #FMF.
b) While protests escalated to various universities, one could not help but notice media privilege. Meaning, the coverage given to "Ivy League" SA universities (Wits, UCT, Stellenbosch, Rhodes) differed from "other' universities (UWC, CPUT, University of Fort Hare etc).
How mainstream media was reluctant to react to #UWCShutDown was rather appalling.

Women Spearheaded #FeesMustFall

This is definitely one of my best moments. It had me thinking of some African countries where educating a girl-child is seen as a liability. Girls are designed to marry, have children blah blah blah. You know that story, right?  Young South African women in their leadership roles were at the forefront of motivating and leading fellow students through solidarity.

Who could forget the phenomenal women who led #FeesMustFall, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa (the incoming Student Representative Council president at Wits University,) and Shaeera Kalla (Wits University's outgoing Student Representative Council president)?

South African Police's apartheid tactics
I was baffled by how in present-day liberated South Africa, Police used apartheid tactics to "restore calm" amongst the students. It is hard to forget the violent clashes between SAPs and students. Police brutality had some students wounded and this of course left a bitter taste.

The Liberator can be called to action
The irony of the youth of 2015 aka Born-Frees demanding their education rights from youth of 1976 was an eye opener; too good to be true. This for me meant that even though the ruling party fought for the liberation of this county; they cannot afford to snooze. They will be held accountable by all means necessary. It reminded me of Nelson Mandela's words, "If the ANC does to you what the Apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the Apartheid government."

The power of social media
While mainstream media was busy feeding us a mere pixel of what was happening, social media was the go to platform for all protest related events. From podcasts to videos clips, we were given first-hand information of the issue at hand. So grateful for the digital era we live in; it has enabled us to become a global village. What a great time to be alive?

Given all the upheavals Born-Frees had to endure in the quest for their education rights, the fight was not in vain, the students won their demand of a 0% increase in tuition fees. Next on the agenda is Free Education.

That said, well done to each and every South African student who took part in the protests. You're one of the most privileged nations on our continent and it was a beautiful gesture witnessing the modern-day 1976 Youth Uprising; you, the Born-Frees standing up for something. Generations before you fought for your liberation and the cycle continues. Power to you!

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