This education system is a violent barrier that excludes people by closing the doors of education to poor and black kids

By Koketso Poho

The call for a free decolonised education is generally understood by the vast majority of our society. The movement has been more of a campaign than a struggle. It has had an agenda of lobbying society than of starting a serious battle. This battle seeks to challenge the government which has decided to commodify education and therefore limit access. The government is an extension of white capitalism and racism in South Africa. Therefore, this is a battle to change the racist status quo and infrastructure of apartheid which has been untouched and unchanged by the ANC government.

This struggle is encouraged by the internal battles of the ANC (the factionalism represented by Blade Nzimande, Jacob Zuma and Pravin Gordhan are all at play), but what is important is how we maximise our benefits as students in the attainment of free decolonised  education. This is equally an opportunity of a regime change in the country and is a conversation that affects all sectors of society, including the unemployed youth and workers who signify our parents.

It is important to be cognisant that Wits University only joined the call for free education after a few institutions like UKZN had sparked the revolt, and that Wits only participated after provocation from Nzimande, who announced that there would be a fee increment. With Wits being an enclave of white supremacy, the attention on the battle for free education has been focused on our institution which has a history of selling out from the events of 2015. Moreover, Wits has now become the exemplary institution on how to protest in terms of non-violence and strategies to sustain the movement.

The non-violent position taken at Wits is an anti-thought one which seeks to maintain the status quo through protesting by not protesting. If protest is by definition a disruption of the order of the day, then protesting within the confines of a normal society and not disrupting it becomes non-protest but a mere performance thereof.

What makes me emotional about the non-violent discourse is that it is actually an anti-decolonisation position. Some of us who participate in this movement do so from a point of rejecting the education system as a violent barrier that excludes people by closing the doors of education to poor and black kids, therefore subjecting them to poverty. We participate given the acknowledgement that limiting access to university to a few people with money is an apartheid strategy to subject us to perpetual servitude as the black majority.

Finally, we participate after a conscious acknowledgement that the system and status quo is violent on us already. The violence is evident as our parents are being exploited by white monopoly capital, that we are landless and are squashed like sardines in townships and squatter camps.

It is violent that the majority of our mineral and natural resources do not benefit us in the country of our birth and that a cleaner died at Wits doing the only the thing he was given the opportunity to do.

Now given an acknowledgement of how the system responds to us through exaggerated and unprovoked violence, in defence of white capitalism and racism, it is important to defy how they want us to protest and to defy the image of Wits as an example for the whole country because it puts us in a position to sell out, which will in turn make people follow our example to their detriment.

We have to be violent to the system just as UKZN and other universities are being, because their struggle is no different from ours. And if we are really committed to the struggle for free education, let us go to the [ANC] NEC meeting in Pretoria on Friday where all ministers and the presidency will be, and force them to implement free decolonised education now.

  • Poho is the EFF convenor at Wits