“Seize the day, seize the hour!” Mao Zedong.
On June 16, 1976 at or about 8am Tsietsi Mashinini disrupted the Morris Isaacson school assembly and consequently led the first contingent of students on the streets that started the Soweto uprising involving 20 000 people. He worked closely with Khotso Seatlholo during this period of resistance. The protest was directed at apartheid’s anti-black education system. Before Tsietsi we had Onkgopotse Abram Tiro whose legacy served as an inspiration for the Soweto uprisings. He politically groomed Tsietsi Mashinini who later became one of the great leaders of the Soweto uprisings. During his historic speech at the 1972 university graduation ceremony Tiro boldly condemned the white supremacist Bantu education system as being anti-black. He was consequently expelled from university. All these student leaders along with many more (600 killed during Soweto Uprising) who died through the bloody hands of white supremacy – their blood shall not be spilt in vain! This is just a sneak preview of the rich revolutionary legacy of past student struggles. The FeesMustFall campaign must honor this beautiful legacy of past student struggles and raise high the banner of Free Quality Education, an end to outsourcing and an end to all student debt.
When the first students at WITS barricaded the entrances of the university, the symbolic nature of closing the doors of learning only sought to exemplify the lived experience of a black child growing up in occupied Azania. It’s interesting to note that the structure of these universities are designed to keep black people out. An institution of higher learning, a space that should be the playground for cultivating the future of this country, is designed to keep people out. A physical construct to bar youth from engaging in the possibility of learning to develop a new society. Such is the nature of oppression in South Africa that it seems to be the first thought, even when creating education facilities, “how can we stop people from accessing this institution?”, “how can we stop people from learning?” “how can we stop people from gaining knowledge that could possibly alter this oppressive society?”. This possibility of physical exclusion was capitalised on by the students, who were dealing with the question of continuous economic exclusion. Hence when the students decided to close the university, it was simple and very possible to fulfil the mandate of the design of these institutions, which is to keep people out.
Two weeks later a national crisis resulting from a national shutdown – the country is gripped by student protest marches to campus administration, Lethuli House, Union Buildings and Parliament which resulted in state sponsored police brutality against protesters, around 200 incarcerations, charges of high treason, a sellout of the #FeesMustFall campaign by PYA (which comprises of ANC aligned ANCYL, COSAS, SASCO and the YCLSA)
What is this deep fascination that the people of South Africa are having with writing examinations (exams)? What do these exams do for the students? How will these exams alter the oppressive experience endured by the black child? These institutions which are structurally designed to keep people out, and then sustained through economic control, now want learners to come into them, and write exams?
There is no thought to the readiness of a student who is engaging in the societal questioning of the commodification of education as well as the reduction of humans to economic chips on the capitalist poker table – it is just instructed end your struggle for free quality education and an end to outsourcing and “go and write exams.” This narrow, insulting and whipping of the students mind, again seeks to reduce the learner to a robot that must go through the system which oppresses this very same being, in order to justify the systems existence.
By not writing the student therefore implies that the education system is a failed system, that society is a failed society. But let’s be frank: Is this not the reason why the students blockaded on the first, second, and third day and why UCT, TUT and WITS students mobilized themselves into activism and pledged not to stop until their legitimate demands were met? Is this not why we blocked the roads, marched, drank up that teargas and stormed the fence? Did we not do this, because we are fighting against the oppressive society that uses education as a tool to oppress? Did we not say Fees Must Fall, because we recognize that students each year are economically excluded, only to end up in some call centre or retail establishment becoming the very cog in the system we are trying to change?
At what point did we agree that we are engaging in some cheap national thrill that seeks to draw attention to ourselves and then move on with life? Must Fees NOT Fall so that the child in Diepsloot, Mannenberg, Sterkspruit and in other concentration camps can begin to dream again? Or must their dreams be postponed so that we can write exams and become part of the oppressive system, that renders that same child non-human.
We remind the students of WITS, UCT and all institutions that when they decided to lead this noble cause of Fees Must Fall, they each took up a responsibility not of a celebrity but of a revolutionary, to strive for the achievement of Free Quality Education and hence give hope to the black child. To now return and write exams would be to renegade on the terms of the struggle – it means that the students of these campuses have sold out!
At this juncture BLF calls for consolidating the gains of the student struggle and taking this fight higher. Free Quality Education and breaking the chains that hold black workers in bondage can only flow from the struggle for decolonization nationally. This struggle for free quality education, end to outsourcing, cancellation of all student debt etc must be read in the context of destroying neo colonialism and white supremacy – to read it otherwise is to welcome anti-black outcomes and settlement within the colonial status quo. Wits and the other historically white campuses who have gone back to “business as usual” and writing exams while UJ, Cape Town students, Walter Sisulu University and other black universities have cast away illusions and are on the ground and continuing the struggle – must evacuate those exam rooms and engage in real struggle! This is the time of the revolutionary student!
BLF calls for:
Free Quality Education For Liberation so as to empower our people to build a fully responsive society and form of governance.
An End To Outsourcing – in line with breaking the chains that keep workers in bondage.
Cancellation Of All Student Debt.
An End To Police Brutality – all charges against those who were engaged in the struggle relating to the Fees Must Fall campaign must dropped unconditionally. Withdrawal of the police force from protest sites. Medical services to be deployed wherever protests are in process.
Unconditional release of all arrested and detained persons in relation to the Fees must Fall campaign.
Vigilance of All Students In The Demand: No Free Quality Education, No Exams!
Principled united direct protest action at all centres of power – Parliament, Union Buildings and Lethuli House until all the student demands are met.
ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL COORDINATING COMMITTEE OF THE BLACK FIRST LAND FIRST MOVEMENT
8 November 2015
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