Columns 22.9.2016 04:05 pm

Is senseless protest a first-year module now?

Students march around campus during a protest at Wits University, 21 September 2016. Students are protesting for free education and the decolonisation of education. Picture: Michel Bega

Students march around campus during a protest at Wits University, 21 September 2016. Students are protesting for free education and the decolonisation of education. Picture: Michel Bega

It’s hard to remain sympathetic to students who seem to be more in love with the idea of protesting than of protesting for ideas.

We know university fees are at an exorbitant amount, and that students who have no educational savings or plans in place are likely to be excluded by the high costs. The price to pay to dig oneself out of poverty is one most people cannot afford without financial aid, bursaries or even sponsorships.

In comes #FeesMustFall. It may have started with noble intentions, but has gone too far with hooliganism and thuggery rearing their ugly heads. How can we support potential intellectuals who revert to burning and destroying university buildings? And if universities decide not to increase fees, who will pay for the damage caused during the #FeesMustFall anarchy?

Surely, there are some economics students in these protests, who can tell the rest that “what you damage needs to be replaced, who will pay and how?” What does a parent say when they see their child on the evening news acting in a vile manner?

In all honesty, the reasoning behind the movement is just. But the method employed has me doubting the legitimacy of this whole exercise. I mean, you’re fighting not to be excluded because of your financial background. But when it is time for negotiations, robust communication, and economic and social engagement, you decide you would rather destroy the same school you’re claiming to be desperate to be part of.

In what world does that make sense? You’d rather clash with the same security guards who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep you safe, and threaten the lecturers and administration staff who make your education possible?

Surely this cannot be graduate mentality. So, what exactly are we fighting, who are we fighting and how are we fighting? Do these students really believe they will not be heard if they are not destructive? I may come across as unsympathetic, but this movement lost its legitimacy when it turned violent and criminal elements began to outshine its cause.

Kekeletso Nakeli-Dhliwayo

Kekeletso Nakeli-Dhliwayo

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