Azhar Vadi | 08 Muharram 1436/21 October 2015
South African university students, all of them – black and white, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jew, rich and poor – have been called on to join the protest action, #FeesMustFall, or at worst stay home as a form of moral support to those out on the streets.
A response from segments within society, a privileged few who could perhaps easily afford to pay fees of up to R80 000 a year, have voiced resentment towards the protests claiming that the action could jeopardise a year of academic study. Some have even decided to continue with their life’s programme – business as usual. This stance, based on selfishness or perhaps a sense of self-preservation of privilege, has been challenged.
“Selective participation is a form of free ride,” explained Pretoria academic and PhD candidate Quraysha Sooliman during a Cii Radio interview. “You expect somebody else to do the work for you and then you gain the benefit for it.”
In the event of any fee decreases all university students will be at the positive receiving end. “It’s against the ethics of creating a better society. If you don’t want to participate, stay away, but do not carry on as if it is business as usual.”
From her vantage of point as both an academic and student still within the South African tertiary education landscape, Sooliman lamented the outdated mentality that exists within sectors of the South African community and in particular the Muslim Indian community from which she emanates.
“We have been brainwashed into thinking that the black person is a violent person, that the black body only expresses through violence and they don’t find alternate solutions. This has been created through the system of colonialism. They (colonialists) created a pecking order where the White was superior to the Indian and the Indian to the Coloured and the Coloured to the Black person. And so in our interactions we are brainwashed into always believing this.”
Sooliman highlight the irony of academic freedom espoused by academic institutions, yet how they simultaneously enforced such tight levels of gate keeping that has made bringing forth an alternative voice and discussion near impossible.
She noted the increased corporatisation of South African universities where institutions received external funding that then dictated policy.
“The raising of fees in universities through the system of corporatisation is effectively, without a doubt, to keep the black students out as they are the majority who will not be able to afford it. It will keep away the education and development of people who were dehumanised and so you perpetuate the cycle of apartheid. A lot of what we see in universities is about the preservation of the white privileged class.”
The Muslim Student Association in South Africa has pronounced its full support for the #FeesMustFall protests.
Nadeem Muhammad, the president of the MSA Union told Cii News, “We stand in full solidarity with students protesting against exorbitant fees. We stand against this because we see this as unjust and as something that will perpetuate inequality in South Africa.” And rightly so, as South Africans and Muslims.