As the SA Congress of Students (Sascoc) called for a countrywide shutdown of 26 universities this week, students spoke out about their pain and stress from #asinamali and #feesmustfall protests, with some saying they are close to giving up, while others are vowing to fight on behalf of those in need.
Faatima Laher, a former University of the Witwatersrand SRC member and LLB student, said though she has never experienced financial exclusion she joined to fight for a free decolonised education.
“I am privileged enough to say I have never had to face financial exclusion but this is why this is my chance to continuously fight for those that have been, because I simply cannot continue in a system that continues to oppress those who are black, those who are poor.
“I have never personally been put through that, so everyone should be in my position,” she said.
Laher said during her year as an SRC member, she witnessed too many students battle against too many odds.
“We have been fighting for free education for the longest time. And it was something that was in the Freedom Charter and it was something that was promised to students by the government. There was a policy that was supposed to be implemented in 2013 in regards to free education and its now 2021 and it has not been implemented yet.
“The issue always comes down to free decolonised education.
“It’s a fight we should not stop because education shouldn’t be something that excludes.”
I thought I had healed from the trauma of Fees Must Fall, but as soon as I saw what happened at Braamfontein, it took me right back to the dark and emotional place I once was in.
Student Yonela Ngaleka
For Yonela Ngaleka, 22, the protests and the murder of 35-year-old Mthokozisi Ntumba have triggered fresh emotions as she was also part of the #FeesMustFall protests which snowballed from 2015.
“I said I had healed from the trauma of Fees Must Fall, but as soon as I saw what happened at Braamfontein, it took me right back to the dark and emotional place I once was in.”
Ngaleka, a final-year BA student at Wits, was arrested in 2016 for her alleged involvement in torching a police vehicle and assaulting an officer during #FeesMustFall protests — an event that has delayed her life and academic studies for years.
Her depression, no money for fees, court dates clashing with classes and a ruptured appendix led to her forfeiting parts of 2017 and 2018. She only returned to campus in 2019 to finish her first-year modules.
“I had a panic attack on Wednesday when this happened, and my parents had to come home early from work because of that,” she said.
Her parents are now paying her fees from their own pockets.
“I didn’t get NSFAS because of the ’middle class’ thing. Too rich for funding, too poor for studying. I didn’t qualify for financial aid because of my parent’s income.”