South Africa’s documented student resistance, struggles and battles this year is a little just reward for the student generations before generation 2015. Oppressed learners and students were on the front line of anti-apartheid battle throughout the 70’s and 80’s. And just when opinion seemingly thought that students were an elitist bloc, intent on their personal gratification, the student consciousness consciousness exploded in challenge.
The fierce and courageous student protests have not let up throughout 2015. And now the exhorbitant cost of student fees has been too much to bear and students are protesting against the fee increases.
Most parents and may wonder why the students are ‘throwing away their chance to study’. May the parents who struggle to pay for student costs and feel pride for their child being educated, let them be assured that this protest action is not in vain or without purpose. This student resistance is for all formerly oppressed South Africans who yearned to learn but could not finish primary school. This is for the working class parent who struggles in post-apartheid, neo liberal to give their child a tertiary education. This is for the learner at school to know they will have any opportunity to undertake tertiary studies.
It’s not that parents are reactionary. Far from that! Because they fear for their children’s time at university and the costs involved, parents may give advice and opinion which is against resistance and protest.
This generation of young students, most of them not 21 years old, is giving a powerful voice to those who thought they had no voice in post-apartheid South Africa. It is these students who are putting themselves on the front line so that tertiary education is accessible to all South Africans.
This is the thank you being given to oppressed students who challenged the apartheid regime and its repressive army and security and riot police. Students resisting today have taken their power and agency from the brave, innocent and courageous students of 1976, 1980 and 1985 who dared to challenge apartheid education.
We must never under estimate the power of student resistance. It was students who rocked the apartheid regime and its horrendous security apparatus and it is students who are rocking the post-apartheid, neo-liberal South African government and society.
For those of us who have never stopped calling out elite domination of South Africa and have never stopped calling for social justice, we are invigorated by the brave student resistance to contest elite control and accessibility of tertiary education in South Africa.
The struggle to claim and own the society we want is unstoppable. The year 2015 will go down as the student year of inspiration to resist and challenge the elite and neo liberal South Africa.
About two months I was privileged to be in the company of veteran and legendary women anti-apartheid and human rights activists who spoke about women’s contribution to anti-apartheid struggle in SA. I’m mentioning this here because the contribution of parents to student struggles, was recalled.
One of the veteran struggle stalwarts, Mrs Ragmat Jaffer recalled with admiration ‘the collective role of the valiant women of the eighties who left their comfort corners to protest, at great risk, against the injustices perpetrated against us, the then disenfranchised, by the minority ruling party.’
Women involved in struggle and resistance in Cape Town have the ‘honour’ of making the first night court appearance happen in Cape Town. This occurred in 1990 when women staged a protest march against unlawful detentions of learners.
‘In Wynberg, Cape Town where I lived at the time, women readily joined the United Women’s Congress. The whippings and detentions of their school going children triggered their anger. The mothers were determined to do battle, to fight the fight, although dogged by fear of all powerful security police.
Our ongoing journey for a society existing for ‘the people by the people’ has its roots in the struggles engaged a long, long time ago and which continue to inspire and refuel resistance campaigns today.