Lesson for this Week: Failing systems will fall
It took a massive protest from students across the country to force government to freeze fee increases at universities next year. But the protest was never about the costs of university tuition alone. Just as it is an injustice for students from poor backgrounds to drop out of university because they cannot afford the fees, it is unjust that workers who spend decades of their lives working on the margins of a university community are denied opportunities in that university for themselves and their children.So it is that the conditions of workers at university campuses and access to higher education for the children of workers have emerged as the strongest grievances of students - after the cost of tuition.University of LimpopoAccording to news reports, student leaders told principal and vice-chancellor Professor Mahlo Mokgalong that the institution "will be ungovernable" because he failed to make any assurances that the university would provide free education and write off debts.story_article_left1At least three students were arrested on charges of vandalising property at the university this week.University management insisted that it co-operated with student leaders and heeded the demands of protesters.Students are scheduled to resume writing exams tomorrow.University of PretoriaAlthough the university reopened on Monday morning, a large group of students met at its amphitheatre to discuss the way forward for the student movement that has come together under the moniker "#UPrising".University management was quick to reassure students that it would review all other demands, such as the rising cost of meals in residences. The most contentious decisionappears to have been made by vice-chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey, who resolved to consult with the senate, council and all stakeholders, including the Department of Higher Education, on the institution's language policy.Wits UniversityThe simmering differences in the leadership of the student movement at the University of the Witwatersrand erupted last weekend, as allegations of bribery and collaboration rang out against the ANC-aligned Progressive Youth Alliance.The university management and the student representative council later reached an agreement to resume the academic programme, with the university issuing a commitment to investigate the viability of some of the students' demands.Yet the SRC was accused of abandoning workers, and a core group of protesters vowed to continue the protest against outsourcing at the university.On Friday, the Fees Must Fall movement announced that the university had agreed to waive fees for children of workers already enrolled at the institution. Another meeting with management was scheduled for today.University of JohannesburgHere, too, there has been some discontent with the SRC's perceived collaboration with management, but vice-chancellor Professor Ihron Rensburg announced measures that he said responded to the students' demands.Significantly, the university has committed itself to transformation, by announcing the inclusion of compulsory courses on African philosophy and anticolonial teaching."In respect of our academic programmes, we have done far too little to examine our knowledge epistemologies, philosophies and contextual realities. We need to establish inclusive traditions, with particular reference to Africa; it is now time to do so earnestly, urgently and with integrity," said Rensburg.On outsourcing, the university has committed "to reviewing the working conditions of outsourced workers" through a task team.story_article_right2University of KwaZulu-NatalThe Commons Students Initiative was launched at the university's Howard campus this week. The small group said the freeze on fee hikes for the 2016 academic year was not a victory, "as the main mission was for free quality education, which would make the mind of a black student to be less colonised". Like Wits and the University of the Western Cape , there is discontent at the University of KwaZulu-Natal over the SRC's perceived collaboration with management . But other students said resuming the academic programme worked to the advantage of students.Student Nokwanda Mseleku, 20, said: "Protests were a good call for a no-fee increment, but the free education movement is impossible; it is not something that can be achieved in a short time. It was considerate of the SRC to decide to resume the academic programme, because we have already been affected academically."Rhodes UniversityManagement and students agreed to go back to class this week with no disruption to the academic programme. Unlike institutions such as the University of Cape Town and Wits, where protests continued, Rhodes does not outsource any of its labour beyond supplementing its existing cohort of campus protection unit guards.While students at Rhodes were fighting for free education, foreign shop owners were subjected to xenophobic protests and looting just down the road. Foreign students were moved into university residences. R eports indicated that the situation in Grahamstown East remained dire. On Friday, a small group of Rhodes students was joined by students from Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu universities in a protest against the xenophobic violence.University of Cape TownXolisa Kula, an outsourced security guard at UCT, told Daily Vox reporter Ra'eesa Pather this week: "We want the benefits other people are getting from UCT, and our children must get 75% discount to study at UCT. We don't have medical or pension funds, but UCT staff have these benefits."Workers such as Kula have been protesting against outsourcing at UCT for years. On Wednesday afternoon, history was made when workers and the university management signed a landmark agreement to end outsourcing. It is a triumph for the UCT Fees Must Fall movement, which persisted with the campus shutdown this week to end outsourcing.One of the aims of the protest against outsourcing is for all outsourced workers to be directly employed by the university. Bertram Wagenstroon, an outsourced security guard who told the Daily Vox he worked in a university but could not afford to enrol his child there, said UCT's commitment to end outsourcing was a triumph.story_article_left3University of the Western CapeManagement at UWC was determined that classes would continue on Monday, after nearly a week of protests. But it was a lost cause. Student protestors marched door-to-door at the university and its residences, disrupting classes and study sessions, until the campus was closed.The students are demanding that student debt be scrapped, that the Kovacs student residence be institutionalised instead of privately owned, and that the university provide free education. At a university where many of the students are poor, their demands directly confront the ongoing inequalities in South African society."We want our people, who are less privileged, to be on par with those who are privileged," Awongiwe Mango, a student protestor, told the Daily Vox.On Thursday, more than 200 UWC students marched to parliament, where they handed a memorandum of grievances to Deputy Minister of Higher Education Mduduzi Manana, who promised to respond.But on Friday afternoon, private security guards clashed with students who had blocked a meeting between the university management and SRC.The university announced yesterday that it had obtained an interdict against protesting students who disrupt the academic programme.