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University Fees Must Fall

Updated on December 19, 2016


During the past week in South Africa the #FeesMustFall movement overshadowed all other news. Thousands of students, incited and supported by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) (the 3rd largest political party in SA), and other important institutions, took hands and demanded free higher education, forcing universities to suspend all activities. Although the students claim to protest peacefully, distancing themselves from the property damaging spree, labelling it “thuggery coming from rogue elements who wish to hijack their genuine struggle,” the public sees only aggression and violence on TV and social media.

This is a movement that started 20 years ago, when the ANC government, during their election campaign, promised free education to all. The fact that “free education” as described in South Africa’s Constitution doesn’t mean “cost-free”, but “available to all”, did not cross anyone's mind. The students, who were all babies or toddlers 20 years ago, demand cost-free education NOW. They call themselves ‘the generation fighting for free educations’ like their parents’ generation fought for demolishing of Apartheid.

Free education (as in cost-free) is something that the youth has been calling for over 20 years. "We want more black students to be able to attend university in order to have a better chance of participating in the economy," said Busisiwe Seabe, a leader of the Fees Must Fall movement at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

"We want more black students to be able to attend university in order to have a better chance of participating in the economy," said Busisiwe Seabe, a leader of the Fees Must Fall movement at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

Footage of the FeesMustFall protests, October 2016

Footage on television and social media displayed -

  • Aggressive young protesters ignoring laws regarding demonstrations of protests. Marching down the corridors of universities, removing all who are working and studying from classes and offices, they violate the interdicts obtained by the universities in an effort to protect people and property. Some students are arrested and charged, but this enforcement of law and order only aggravate the crowd and send them marching to the nearest government quarters. As far as they go they leave a trail of burning tires, burning rubbish, looted shops, and even a burning public bus.
  • An executive member of the University of the Western Cape being held hostage by protesting students.
  • Students throwing stones and bricks at the police – stones and bricks they must have collected elsewhere and carried all the way to the university grounds with the intention to wreak havoc and to leave the police with no option but to respond forcefully with teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. Many of the students don’t look like intellectuals, but like thugs who were invited to participate in the protest in order to form an intimidating crowd. All of this looks like a war between students and the police.
  • Topless female students showing their naked breasts to the police, trying to prove that they are vulnerable and merely participating in a humble course to the benefit of future generations.
  • Injured and traumatized students and supportive adults, raging against police brutality.
  • More tires, books, vehicles and buildings on fire, allegedly torched by thugs. Inside one of the buildings two security guards find themselves locked-up and, at last, rescued. As I am writing this, 3 fires at the University of the Witwatersrand are keeping the fire brigade busy.
  • Petrol bombs discovered by the police in the quarters of protesting students, and two days later, police being attacked with petrol bombs by students hiding behind mattresses.
  • Tremendous damages done by the end of the week - a bus of the SABC (South African Broadcast Corporation [national TV]), which carried most expensive equipment, completely burnt, and yet another public bus in flames.
  • More students and non-students are arrested, among them a former leader of the Student Representative Council, Mcebo Dlamini.

This is but only some of the highly upsetting footage that was presented to the public by the media and individuals during the past week.

Thanks to this comment of one of my young friends, I managed to keep my judgmental mind open -

".... most of the students protesting in the #FeesMustFall movement are not the ones who went on to burn and destroy things. The media has highlighted the few radicals among the protesters and now that is all people see. Most of these black kids are the sons and daughters of parents juggling multiple minimum wage jobs so that they can afford their kids an education, so that their kids don't have to follow in their footsteps. Most of these kids also have part-time jobs. They're the youngsters at Mr. Price, Checkers, Exclusive Books, and Musica; working so that they can help afford themselves an education. A few thousand Rands, even a few hundred Rands, could mean the difference between affording to go back to varsity next year or not. It's a big deal!Meanwhile, the country's government spends their budget on obscenities. It is ridiculous!" said Maja Dežulović.

"Let's just be clear. Most of these kids are not imbeciles and reckless fools with a sense of entitlement. Most of them are intelligent, non-White youngsters who just want equality and access to higher education. Yes, there are reckless fools who behave atrociously among them, but they are the exception, they do not represent the whole!" - Maja Dežulović

Footage of the FeesMustFall protests, October 2016

FeesMustFall protest at the University of Cape Town
FeesMustFall protest at the University of Cape Town | Source
FeesMustFall 2016
FeesMustFall 2016 | Source
FeesMustFall protest 2016
FeesMustFall protest 2016 | Source
#FeesMustFall protests, South Africa Oct 2016
#FeesMustFall protests, South Africa Oct 2016
FeesMustFall 2016
FeesMustFall 2016 | Source

Is the FeesMustFall movement in South Africa a racial issue?

Necessary to mention is the fact that 99.9% of the students participating in the protest are black. I don’t mention this to turn this into a racial issue, but to comprehend the absence of the expected number of white students. After all, they are supposed to represent 10% of the South African population.

Perhaps a fear of racial conflict keeps them away or perhaps feelings of anger and despair, as they are facing a wasted academic year and dare not air their true opinions.

The following statement of Verashni Pillay describes the difference between white and black students in South Africa –

“… most white South Africans’ parents or grandparents were able to buy and own property and businesses or shares in business (during Apartheid). They were able to pay off their properties or expand their businesses thanks to preferential treatment and employment.

They were then able to leave the proceeds of this wealth to their children, our contemporaries, as either an inheritance or a financial jump-start in life.

Most black South Africans have no such jump-start. They stand and fall on their own efforts alone and there is very little safety net if they don’t make it. Family wealth is already thinly spread to cover those who have nothing.

When my black friends say they’re broke, it means family debt, circling loan sharks and the horror of truly going under. When my white friends say they’re broke it usually means they may have to dip into their savings or swallow their pride and ask their parents for help.”

Not that white students are completely absent! During the previous protests in October 2015 they actually formed a human shield to protect black protesters from police. However, through the eyes of this white middle-aged woman and mother of two, those participating in demonstrations of this nature look like rebels indulging in dangerous adventures blissfully unaware or aware that they are torturing their parents or whomever guardians had filled them with grudges.

Before turning the FeesMustFall movement into a racial issue, have a look at the successful student protest in Germany, as well as the violent protests in London in 2010.

FeesMustFall demonstrations, South Africa, October 2016
FeesMustFall demonstrations, South Africa, October 2016 | Source

The Government’s response to the FeesMustFall movement -

Last year, after equal violent and devastating student protests, the government forbid universities to raise fees more than 8%. Last week, obliged to satisfy students threatening to close the doors of universities until free education is approved, the government simply distanced themselves from the issue and saddled universities with the responsibility.

Now, after experiencing the current protest, President Zuma announced the establishment of a ministerial task force comprising of eight ministers to find a solution to the crisis. Sadly, he didn’t include the Minister of Finance, and this silent rift between the president and the minister of finance is another upsetting phenomenon that will explode by the end of this very week, on Saturday, 16 October. (This will most certainly be next week's most upsetting news!)

President Zuma also stressed that free education for ALL is not fair, as those who can afford fees should help government to support the poor. He condemned the violent acts leading to the destruction of property and urged all students to return to class while “solutions are collectively sought to the challenges of higher education”.


In South Africa tertiary education is provided by universities, colleges, and technicons to students who have passed matric (Grade 12) with the required marks. Passing matric is rewarded with a National Senior Certificate, the basic requirement for admission to a bachelor's degree at any South African university. At present, however, it is the equivalent of finishing high school and GCSE exams in England, and of obtaining a GED certificate in the USA.

Basic education, comprising Pre-Primary School (Grade RR - R [4-6 years old]), Primary School (Grade 1-7 [7-13 years old]), and Secondary School (Grade 8-12 [14-18 years old]) are already free in all public schools (excluding private schools). However, all public schools may charge fees determined by their school's governing body, which is composed of elected parents of the school's students. This governing body has the right to sue parents for non-payment of school fees.

The government's current responsibility is to pay the salaries of teachers. Unfortunately they limit the number of teachers according to the number of students in the school, allowing for most of the subjects in the curriculum only one teacher per 42 students, and so they compel a school's governing body to appoint more teachers in order to deliver quality education. The government also provides handbooks, but also limited and often delayed, forcing a school's governing body to spend a large percentage of their budget on legal and illegal teacher's resources. An extra monetarily grant to cover running costs like electricity and telephone depends on school fees. The higher the school fees, the less the grant from government.

At present the South African government spend only 21% of the national budget on education, of which only 10% goes for tertiary education.

Since 1996 children of poor parents are legally exempt from some or all school fees. This enables a poor student to attend any school of their choice. No poor student may be refused by a so-called 'rich' school. Middle-class families don’t benefit at all from this law. Their income simply exceeds the government's definition of 'significant income'. Considering the outrageous salaries earned by members of the government, this matter has become a grievance ready to explode.

Higher education could be five times higher than school fees.

And just for the record - a poor white student is, like all whites in South Africa, considered to be 'privileged' and will by hook or by crook NOT qualify for a government's grant or a bursary provided by one or another trust.

This comment of one of my friends justifies the grievance of many whites, coloureds, and blacks with "white" surnames -

"Yes, there are bursaries, but you won't believe how rigged the system is. Last year my sister was denied a bursary because her name wasn't "black enough". She's a top student, leader in her community, and non-White. But because she happens to have my dad's white Eastern European name and not my mother's black name, she was denied any help from the State or sponsors." - Maja Dezulovic

Fact is, in spite of grants and bursaries offered to the poor by government and other institutions, and in spite of student loans at a low interest, school fees as well as university fees are an enormous challenge to meet for the better part of South Africa's citizens.

Nevertheless, according to the outdated statistics of 2011 among the South African population, 41.7% of the total population has completed an education of high school or higher, whereas 8.6% of the population aged 20 years and older has not completed any schooling. I am still searching for statistics of only higher education, while suspecting that only 10% of the 41,7% who has completed education of high and higher, has obtained a degree at a university.

Police and members of the media at the entrance of WITS university
Police and members of the media at the entrance of WITS university | Source
The ordinary white, female, South African (OWFSA)
The ordinary white, female, South African (OWFSA)

The humble opinion of an owfma-sa

Sadly, I have to mention the color of my skin, as this really matters in South Africa. Being a privileged product of Apartheid, I have perspectives and perceptions that prevent me from comprehending many of the current happenings in my country. In order to keep my mind intact and open, I have to air my opinions, and hear and ponder the opinions of others.

Of course, I would love to live in a country where quality education is free of charge to all from pre-primary to tertiary level. In spite of the fact that educated people don’t necessarily have respectable and admirable characters and personalities, I believe that life in South Africa would be much better if all citizens possessed significant knowledge and skills.

Although I do not agree with some of the points students provide as justification for this FeesMustFall movement, I admire their vision and efforts to bring the government and all stakeholders to the point where the importance of education and the fact that the majority can't afford it have to be acknowledged and addressed.

I do believe that the government has an obligation to make education, including higher education, AFFORDABLE to all. Providing even more bursaries and loans to students on the condition that students pay it back either with money or by working as a fully paid employee for a certain number of years for the company/institution who had granted the loan, could be a solution. This was, in fact, what happened in my time. Police, nurses, teachers, technicians and many others obtained diplomas at colleges that were sustained by the specific institutions. However, a diploma has a lower academic value than a degree, and the latter can only be obtained at a university.

I do NOT admire the students’ modus operandi. Their promise to protest peacefully, and their claims that they are peaceful, are not honest. Their true intention is to 'fight' for what they want comes hell or high water. The aggressive nature of their protest, and the violence incited by their protest, are repulsive and very upsetting. Disappointing, too, is their incapability to realize that their goal of 100% cost-free education is irrational and not feasible in the current economic status of South Africa. I mean, Germany, where tertiary education is cost-free, is the world’s 4th largest economy, while South Africa is the 30th largest and currently only one notch above Junk status. (Thanks, Leon, for reminding me of this.)

Another human tendency to be considered: Attitudes of entitlement, ingratitude, and an insufficient sense of value, are often the result of getting precious assets, including intellectual assets, without paying for it. Okay, I hear those screams: “But we are going to pay a lot for cost-free education. With our precious time, physical and emotional energy, and brain-power, we will surely pay, and then by investing our knowledge back into South Africa, we will pay for the rest of our lives.” So, I guess I don’t have to fear spoiled future generations.

Also bothering me is the fact that black students, and in particularly the EFF, call the universities in South Africa “colonialist institutions”. Their demand that universities be “decolonized” and changed into “African knowledge centers” is still beyond my comprehension. What exactly entails "African Knowledge"? This report by a formidable developer of universities, R.W. Johnson, scares the living daylight out of me.

Fortunately, and thanks to technology, hundreds of online courses from top international universities are available to anyone who wants to learn whatever they want to learn.

By the way, an owfma-sa is an ordinary white, female, middle-aged South African.

In addition to the FeesMustFall protests

While the #FeestMustFall movement gave thugs the opportunity to destroy not only property, but also the general public's sympathy with the current batch of students, the highly respected Public Protector of the past 7 years, Thuli Madonsela, reached the end of her term. Apparently she is not at all surprised that President Zuma as well as Minister van Rooyen obtained (or still have to in the case of President Zuma) interdicts preventing her from releasing her last report - an extremely interesting and important report about the Gupta family alleged ”Capturing of President Zuma cum Capturing of the State”. This entire issue explodes on Saturday, 15 October when the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, opens the can of worms that contains the truth about the politically powerful family Gupta, their doings of the past 4 years, and their relationship with President Zuma.

The opening of this can of worms was clearly the result of ordering the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, in the beginning of this week, or was it at the end of last week, to appear in court over allegations of fraud he allegedly committed 6 years ago while he was the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service. Behind all of this one detects a cunning effort of President Zuma to get rid of this important minister in order to prevent him from opening the Gupta-can-of-worms. Nevertheless, all of this immediately inspired investors all over the world to again lose their confidence in the political and economic management of South Africa and, for the umpteenth time, South Africa’s currency, the Rand, dropped steeply against the American dollar.

Never a boring moment in South Africa!

During the past week Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, got himself arrested (again) and charged for inciting crime by encouraging his followers to grab the land that was “stolen” by whites.

Twins were born joined at the chest and at the abdomen in Durban, while the twins in New York, who were conjoined to the head, were successfully separated.

Hurricane Matthew killed almost a thousand people in Haiti, and completely destroyed some regions in Haiti. After forcing millions of people to evacuate the coastal areas of southern USA, it also damaged parts of Florida.

The debates of the candidate-presidents of the USA, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, continued to arouse fear and disgust all over the world while King Bhumibol Aduly of Thailand died at the age of 88.

And, at last, 21 of the 275 girls/woman kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 were released after a series of negotiations between the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Swiss government, Boko Haram and the Nigerian government.

Oh, and this is so terribly sad, the devastating war in Syria is still going on, and now labelled as a Russian-American conflict.

In conclusion

Hooked on news – history of the future – this ordinary white, middle-aged, female South African compares herself to a sport-fanatic hooked on a ball and its players. But while a sport-fanatic follows only one ball and a couple of players at a time, the balls in politics are like pouring hail, and players are trying to keep a lot of them at the same time in the air.


So, what's going to happen next week?

Let's hug! An experiment of Rynaard de Goede at the University of Potchefstroom, South Africa


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    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Hi Peg, I believe peace and war depend on people's concept of justice, and we all know that a concept is a general idea inferred or derived from specific instances. No government will ever be able to please all the people it is supposed to govern. In the culture of baboons the leader becomes a challenge for all potential leaders. He will be challenged day in and day out until he makes room for another leader. And then it starts all over again. Behind these students is a political party trying its best to bring the ruling party to a fall :(

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 20 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      It's interesting to learn about the challenges and newsworthy events of your part of the world. Seems like there is so much political, educational and racial unrest in all parts of the world. No matter what the background or cultural heritage, I will never understand looting and burning as a solution to the issues. It seems like many people have been "filled with grudges" toward their situation. Someone once told me, "Come to me with a solution, not merely a complaint."

      Your reporting of these happenings was incredibly rational and objective with a glimpse from both sides of the problem.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      True, Shanmarie! All issues have more than one perspective :)

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 20 months ago

      Very true, Martie. I guess I'm coming from a different perspective, though. While money is not my motivation in life, when one can not really live even paycheck to paycheck, it becomes a necessity and not merely a luxury. And in those instances, the prospect of a better education is also more than a luxury.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      @ shanmarie – Of course, we want to obtain degrees because we believe it will open doors to well-paid, top-positions, but what about the other benefits of a proper education? (Psychological (ref: self-esteem), physical (ref: brain, knowledge, insight, vision).

      The moment money motivates our decisions and activities, we create future disappointments and complexes that will deprive us from the joy we will experience when we develop our talents to their full capacity just because we can.

      Unemployment seems to be a crisis in most countries :(

      @ Faith Reaper – Too many South Africans have the mentality of people who lived in the 17th century and prior.

      I believe in genetic memory. What I knew, or rather what my instincts/ inherent aptitude were when I was born, were all the knowledge, or rather mentality and patterns of behavior my ancestors had at the time they have passed their genes on via reproduction. In other words, what I have learned until the time of reproducing myself, was absorbed by my genes, which were already enriched with the knowledge/awareness of my ancestors. Sadly, the better part of my knowledge (and wisdom) is a waste for the next generation, as I obtained it after I have reproduced myself.

      Okay, the evolving of humans is a bit more complicated as merely the transferring of genetic memory, but I think you have grasped what I tried to explain.

      The same here – we have free education, and because it is free, the institutions depend on grants, and those grants are not enough to provide high quality education. The majority of black teachers in our country seem to lack a vocation for teaching. They do it for the money, and that’s that. They are the first to demonstrate their greed and carelessness about the education of children when their trade unions suggest a strike.

      I believe education should be part of a government’s first five priorities, and not the 18th on the list, as it happens to be in SA.

      Thanks for those needed hugs, dear Theresa!

      @ Nadine May – Now that is a proposal I will most certainly promote. Can you imagine how many students are going to enjoy a free holiday for a number of years if free education doesn’t require a specific achievement? We already know many privileged students wasting their parents’ money by regarding their university as a jolly adventure.

      I also feel VAT should be increased with 1% or what, but on the condition that it goes for education and nothing else. Then we will all contribute what we can afford. The rich, spending so much more, will then naturally contribute the most. Donations to universities are already tax-deductible, but perhaps SARS should add some incentives to these specific donations, encouraging the wealthy to pay indirectly for the education of their own children and some more. I am curious to see the outcome of this FeesMustFall movement. But oh, I wish those thugs and tsotsi’s among the students could fall off this earth. They are an embarrassment! Oxygen thieves!

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 20 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      What a fantastic article Martie. Gosh you could have made two articles here. You said it all. A while ago I read a very good proposal about the free education idea. I cannot remember who wrote it, but I remember that for a start every student who has high matrix marks ( 100% )no matter who they are ( black, white, rich or poor) earned one free year bursary at any university. The following year, depending on the marks achieved a bursary will be adjusted accordingly. If a student reached an 80% score, then 80% bursary is offered and so on.

      Students who keep a high score will automatically pay less than students who do bother to work at it and so on. I wish I could find the article. it was so well written. A lot better than I have just now. You might have read it? I will share your post...well done.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 20 months ago from southern USA

      Dearest Martie,

      Thank you for reporting of all of this and giving us an eye-opening view into what's going on there in South Africa. It boggles my mind that in this millenniumn the world/society is still so violent and brutal in their means of solving conflict ...I surely thought by now we would be much more civilized for lack of a better word, but alas ...

      Here we do have public schools where it is free, but the quality of education may not be so great, but there are exceptions depending on the teachers. I am thankful my granddaughters are attending public schools that have really good teachers. There are also "Magnet" schools which are public schools geared towards those students who are gifted in certain areas, which is good.

      There are no simply answers, but education is the basic necessity in my mind for a better world.

      Peace, blessings and lots of (((Hugs))) coming your way

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 20 months ago

      In my opinion, Martie, it has to be more than just access to the higher education. Here, even those who have higher degrees do not get paid as much as they should. Either they are using their degree, but still aren't able to live in the kind of financial freedom one would expect with a decent paying job, usually because they are still paying for the cost of obtaining that degree with all its interest or they are unable to use the degree because the opportunities aren't available. Still another scenario is that jobs requiring that degree do not pay well enough. Me, I never could finish because of monetary reasons and complications with that issue between the college I was attending. I'm in the process of trying to go back to school. ..after its' been held up for years on end. Still is, really. I have to start over from scratch even though I only had one year left. But. ..I guess the point I'm making is that it's more than the education. It's being able to utilize it fairly and for what it's worth after the fact. And I'm a little hesitant to get my degree even now because I wonder if it will really make much of a difference. Or if I should instead choose some field I know I am not that interested in or passionate about just to ensure job security.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Dearest Nellieanna, I've read some articles today about the life style of the elite. I don't want to promote communism, but when one look at the salaries of members of our top-heavy government and of other managers in state-owned enterprises, and not to talk about their extra income via shares in private companies, and one look at the mansions they are living in, and the luxuries they enjoy, one feels the anger that triggers violence. Decrease top salaries, and free high education may very well be possible.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      mckbirdbks, it would be wonderful to live in a country where education from primary to high is free. Why, I wonder, is it not a government's first priority? Why is it necessary to force a government to do this via devastating demonstrations of protest? Cut the outrageous salaries of ministers and top management, would be the right thing to do.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 20 months ago from TEXAS

      Dear Martie. Yes, sigh. Those scenarios seem to mirror what becomes more prevalent everywhere. Perhaps too many messages on media & among each other constantly suggesting, depicting and demonstrating impatience with, demands & impositions upon and creation of various kinds of violence for anyone who isn't conforming to their personal, selfish wishes of many of the current generations who may have lacked gentle examples and training when younger about respecting others' legitimate rights and views is the culprit.

      But the result is that now, when those people do not receive all they wanted and felt entitled to have, based on their personal or group terms as rights, there is a consequential lack of understanding of where their preferences & rights are/end and others' begin/are and vicious assaults on 'the others'. The attitude is that if it's their view, that's the standard and rule, so others' are obviously wrong and deserve no consideration & worse. This is so often depicted on media as giving cause and permission to simply lash out and destroy at various levels, that they do so in their own realms and by their own means without a moments' hesitation.

      And - oh, yes! When their unconscionable actions provoke the keepers of the peace and the law, they scream 'brutality' and lash out at those people.

      Yes, I'm positive-minded AND fed up with barbarisms at all levels and degrees, too. I am, as I've claimed, both a realistic optimist and and optimistic realist. One cannot manage on a blindly positive, rose-colored cloud. These conditions ARE correctable and I hold to the hope that they will be more balanced as civilization goes forward. Of course, it's taken quite awhile for things to reach the current point and it will surely require quite awhile to get it back into the civilized balance. In fact, I cannot see civilization going forward 0therwise. So that IS the reality and choice facing this planet. What may have to happen to turn the tide may not be all that desirable, though. But, you know as a student of history, this is not the first such challenge civilization has faced and managed to survive.

      I do appreciate your intelligent and passionate concern about real matters, dear CD! Hugs!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 20 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Martie as I read this I noted the inequality in your educational system as in our own. My reading tells me that higher education is good for a nation and should be supported. There is a general feeling that the elite of the world have mortgaged our past and now they want to hold the debt of the future (our children). The message sent by those in the street is quite clear.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Nellieanna, one thing is for sure - the youth demands changes, and in SA many changes are indeed necessary. But typical youth, they want to demolish everything to the ground and start all over again, inventing the wheel. So, the adults and wise have to prevent the demolishing of what is truly precious and essential for future generation to know and enjoy. This scenario is as old as the human race. I am, however, positive, although fed-up with barbarism; I look forward to see the hopefully successful outcome of this chaotic protests. One of the leaders was killed yesterday - hit by a car. Due to rocks in the road, put there by the students, the driver lost control and ploughed into the crowd. Another leader is still in jail. Allegations of police brutality by students who deliberately provoke the police, are quite upsetting!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 20 months ago from TEXAS

      I can only imagine the frustration of what is happening there. We have our own situations here currently and it is a strain on us all. As you say, there are aways two sides (at least!) to a story. And, as you so wisely correlate it, nations made up of individuals with all the myriad of different personalities face a multiplicity of challenges of seeing others' perspective and respecting their boundaries.

      The students are easily influenced at their ages and have plenty of stamina to force that 'thug mentality' on others, no doubt, without being self-govenred and reigned in by awareness of others' rights and perspectives. So if it's fanned by unscrupulous influences, it's explosive and dangerous.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Hi DDE, I am sure you will love all the changes and hope with all my heart you experience nothing of the negative :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 20 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi MartieCoetser you shared a lot about my SA and I know so much has changed there. My trip end of this is going to be a surprise for me.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Dearest Nellieanna, we all know that a story always has two sides, and every character in the story has a unique personality, a specific way of conducting themselves, a specific perspective, interpretation, expectation, specific physical and psychological shortcomings, etc., etc. If two people find it difficult to meet each other halfway in order to move on without grievances, imagine how difficult it must be for a government to meet the expectations of the kind of students we see on TV. Sadly, too many of the students we see on TV have a thug-mentality and no ability whatsoever to comprehend and accept the position and abilities of the government. I am not the only one who are climbing the walls with frustration. and disgust. The sympathy I have had with the students no longer exist. I feel sorry for those who suffer because of the foolishness of their leaders. Thanks for your profound and supportive comments :)

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      shanmarie, i was quite naive when I was younger, and my behavior and actions clearly displayed my hunger for recognition. Too many painful experiences eventually got me out of that phase. So, I have empathy with the young me I sometimes see in others. Just keep in mind that what I see is only my own reflection, or interpretation based on my personal perceptions, and not necessarily the truth.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 20 months ago from TEXAS

      Martie, there was a time when it was rare in this country that a student who had been promoted from the former grade to the next one came into it without at least a passing knowledge of all that had been taught in the prior grade, so it was rather uncommon for there to be a classroom with so much contrast and disparity in basic knowledge as there seems to be now, when students are promoted on to the next grade without mastering the current one, year after year, until they’re literally so far out of sync that it’s a huge contrast with any students who did master what was given to learn, grade-by-grade or who sought their own paths to knowledge.

      Of course, there are always people with superior intelligence who are way ahead of their peers and who must find outlets for their interests and knowledge which may not be provided by public schools, which is actually not as much those schools' purpose as to teach the basics in language, literature, math, history, civics, and all those progressive subjects which everyone needs going forth. But those are the subjects seeming to be slighted much more often and intensely. It's no surprise that many, many students graduate without the slightest knowledge of most of those basic disciplines, while self-starters, who always would find their own paths to knowledge are frequently frustrated and disgusted.

      Most of my natal family have been teachers (even I) and at some point it became obvious, especially to the one sister who was a career teacher, that educational focus was shifting. The officials pushed different objectives and teachers were expected to conform, in fact.

      Well, this is only one of the very significant points and issues in your article's discussion. But it does seem to be rather basic to much of it. In both our countries, there have been efforts to keep parts of the population more ignorant, and therefore, more helpless and limited, in the 'big picture’. There are repercussions for doing that, it seems very clear. Protests, often including violent, almost insane behavior are sometimes part of the repercussions, depending on the ways those at the top handle inequalities and irregularities . No perfect examples seem obvious and none I know about, but there are variations in results.

      Your thoughtful closeness to what is happening there in SA at its present stage is advantageous. It's why your articles about it all are especially informative for the rest of us. Thank you for sharing and being who you are. Hugs, my dear CD.

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 20 months ago

      My sister was the rebellious one - most of the time. ;) I made my foolish mistakes in other ways. And I'm sure you are aware of some of them I likely made since you told me once I reminded you of yourself when you were younger. LOL. But I do understand what you're saying. Wisdom comes from experience.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Shanmari, you are so right. Also keep the rebellious character of the average teenager and young adult in mind. They believe they know everything, and they believe they can change the world. Eventually wisdom is obtained, then comes the regrets and the knowledge that you've been a fool.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Our standards have dropped tremendously since 1994, Nellieanna. When I look at the curriculum of today's Gr12's, it reminds me of what I've learned in Gr 8 in 1970. Schools may no longer put above-average students in separate classes, where they can add subjects to their curriculum and excel. They have to bore themselves to pieces while waiting for the below-averages in their class to comprehend what they have to comprehend. Go figure! Something is terribly wrong with this rule. Fortunately, most above-average students develop their talents with the support of their parents at private academies after school hours. I can identify with your Swiss friend.

      Hugs to you, dear Nellieanna :)

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 20 months ago

      I suppose you're right. The violent protests do often bring about change even if it is not in the immediate throws of protest. I understand what you are saying. But perhaps "the parents" should not tolerate such outbursts, and I suppose the law enforcement does their best not to tolerate it. I guess it just never has made any sense to me how destroying one's own property solves anything. It's not the destruction that brought about the change. I've made many remarks to my children about consequences for their actions whenever they've had to pay the price for some sort of angry outburst. It's not the anger that's the problem, it's the consequences for their actions while angry; i.e. hitting a sibling or destroying a sibling's property. My children definitely get a more understanding ear from me when they handle they control their own reactions. Otherwise, before long, they're all in trouble . Then again, maybe comparing violent protestors to children is an apt analogy. They don't know how to find constructive outlets for their anger or else don't think it through first. In many ways, the protests involving violence work against the actual cause and, as you stated in your article, draw attention away from those who are trying to bring awareness to the cause without utilizing violence.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 20 months ago from TEXAS

      Thanks, Martie, for your very understandable reply. And I'll read the full comment thread and your other replies, as you suggest. It's such an important subject with many facets.

      What you said above to FlourishAnyway, about the role of tertiary education is extremely important. Smiling a little bit, though. While it truly has become important for people to be more able to pursue their educators on beyond secondary levels, there seems to be a certain lowering of basic educational standards at primary and secondary levels (at least seems to be over here) so that more is needed to catch people up. Will that happen at the tertiary level when it's become more available and taken-for-granted, so that, then, standards will suffer and people will need to go on to even higher graduate levels in order to finally fully learn basic skills, some of which were taught from primary levels and built upon a very few generations ago?

      In many countries, the standards at every level seem to have been so high that one was impressed with people with 'only' secondary educations! I knew a lovely Swiss woman who exemplified this. She and her children had followed her husband to the U.S. where she was judged by having “only” a secondary education and accepted a dead-end position beneath her knowledge. She had to work to care for her children when husband left her with nothing, so she sought whatever work reachable via public transportation. She was well educated, much more knowledgeable and refined than her bosses. She had the keen precision which Swiss education teaches. Yet she was a foreigner and just wasn’t aware enough to demand her due because of her qualifications, though the employers exploited her expertise, which outshone everyone else's with whom she worked. At the least, she deserved a supervisory position.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      @ Shanmarie, I believe these kind of violent protests have always been the triggers of change in this world. Remember the revolutions in Europe. Anger, bottled up for years, and even worse, from one generation to the other, most certainly drives people to a point where they will rather destroy everything than continue living in the same circumstances. Divorce is a good example. Although couples don’t burn, they surely destroy the marriage and sometimes even their children on a psychological level. Just by contemplating the actions of an angry child, we can get an idea what anger does to a person’s mindset.

      I guess countries take turns coping with this kind of thing, as if governments just don’t have the vision to prevent this. I am sure if my forefathers – those who had established Apartheid, were able to see in the future, they would have established equality from the very beginning.

      @ FlourishAnyway – I feel it is time for governments to regard tertiary education in the same light than primary and secondary. The only difference should be that tertiary education is not compulsory. Will we ever keep violence out of protests, unless Mahatma Ghandi’s ways become the model.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Always Exploring, while the Dutch and British colonialists built schools and provide teachers for the whites, missionaries established schools in the villages of the indigenous people since 1737 – 85 years after the first European settlers set foot ashore. Of course, they didn’t reach all villages.

      The standard of education for all the people was since the beginning not on the same level. The children of the colonialists were favored until the Afrikaners (white’s born in SA) established their own republics. Two of my own forefathers were actually involved in the establishing and development of schools for Afrikaners in the Republic of Transvaal in the beginning of the 19th century.

      Unfortunately, when the National Party of the white South Africans finally came into control in 1948, they established 2 systems of education - a high standard for whites and a low standard for blacks, preventing blacks to acquire the knowledge needed to become more than merely labourers. This ended only 22 years ago. Since 1994 the standard of education is the same for all - unfortunately a standard between the previous high and low, and sadly closer to the low than to the high. I believe in time the standard will improve. So, no tension at present regarding equal education.

      When it comes to inequality the tension down here is between poor and rich, and the fact that in spite of the 80% black / 10% white population, more whites than blacks are wealthy.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 20 months ago from USA

      Violence is never an answer to an educational issue in particular, and I wish they could see that. Where is the reverence for MLK and similar leaders who advocate nonviolent protest? Education should be free and equally accessible at least up to a secondary level. Tuition and other college costs should be kept reasonable.

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 20 months ago

      So they think that by destroying the school property and by pulling students and professors from class they are proving something? What is the point of destroying what they want to protect? Do they think that those people are somehow against their purpose because they are paying to be educated? That's counter-productive. Much like protestors here killing police officers or destroying their own town because they feel it proves something. There are protests for change all over the world it seems. Perhaps it has always been this way, but some people never learn how to effectively protest. Years from now, we'll look back at the events occurring in our countries and around the world from a different perspective that may or may not have altered drastically.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      Dearest Nellieanna, your profound comment correlate with my explanation: "Being a privileged product of Apartheid (and not an unprivileged product like the non-whites), I have perspectives and perceptions that prevent me from comprehending many of the current happenings in my country."

      Being able to burn books, expensive property, or anything but wood and coal for heat and cooking, one has to be stupid or mentally ill. No person with common sense, except perhaps a terrorist or soldier task to destroy, could be able to destroy valuable assets like books, cars, buses, buildings, etc. According to the students thugs are responsible for the destruction. But remembering the students' previous protests - the RhodesMustFall protest and the fees-may-not-rise protest - and the way they have behaved, I am afraid I have to believe that there are a lot of thugs pretending to be students.

      I think my previous reply will answer more of your questions.

      Lots of hugs to you, my dear CM :)

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      MsDora, I believe that the political force behind these students is the real scoundrel. Exploiting the youth, using them to bring the leading party to a fall, is a typical tactic of the EFF.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 20 months ago from TEXAS

      Thankful for the Hug-Me conclusion. I'm feeling that need a lot with what's going on here, too, which is virtually consuming. So hugging is welcomed!! Hugs!

      Your article is so detailed, and is with such unfamiliar material, it will require more study by me to make an intelligent comment on much of it, but the overall impression is vivid. It is obviously a very explosive situation.

      Education is a major factor in a nation's and a people's grasp of truth, including their own national and personal value. I confess that I wished for more explanation of why the protestors were throwing books (or other documents) on the fire, if their objective was education. Perhaps I'll see the explanation when I study all the article further.

      But, on the sight of it, it looks contrary to a sincere quest for knowledge. I think protecting books should be an impetus for educational freedom and the personal quest for it. What does that say about destroying books? Every historical example of which I'm aware when books were burned or destroyed was to protest knowledge which would be uncontrolled and really 'free', (and might give people more desire for freedom.) Books are viewed as sources from which individuals are free to draw their own conclusions, and so to question and/or to throw off tyranny. It is hard for me to see a correlation with the quest for knowledge in the picture, even if the books were contrary to their beliefs. Freedom isn't for obscuring the other 'sides' in question. It's for presenting the facts from which to see what is being expounded.

      I so admire your courage, passion & dedication to exploring and exposing the current political and social issues which surround you in SA. You continue to amaze me and make me proud of you! Again - HUGS!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 20 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Martie, this was interesting and I knew little about the educational struggles in SA. We have increased tension here in America for equality. And, of course the laughing stock around the world, due mostly from our political arena. I do believe education should be free to all who want it. It should be part of the budget. The slaves here in America were beaten if caught with a book. The white slave owners knew education would free their hold on them. It seems your situation is dire since the white population is outnumbered dramatically. I will say that burning and looting takes away any sympathy one might feel for them. I am glad you informed us through this article. I hope a solution can be reached that is agreeable to all people...

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 20 months ago from The Caribbean

      Like you, I cannot condone the way the students respond to the ordeal, but I think I understand their frustration. Still, that response is not likely to solve the problems, and they may find other ways to tackle the problem if they keep trying. Thanks for making us aware of the situation.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 20 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Martie...I searched several different ways in vain to find the hug video link. Do you have one you can send us please??

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 20 months ago from South Africa

      @ Nell Rose – I believe we stay balanced when knowing what’s going on in other countries (and in other people’s lives). Otherwise we believe we are living either in heaven or hell. Lol!

      @ marcoujor – Oh, I just had to add the hug-me video. Potchefstroom University (PUK) is only half and hour’s drive from me, accommodating the people of my valley. I am so proud because they didn’t participate in this feesmustfall protest, although they have been intimidated and threatened by the leaders and kie of this movement. Dangerous to oppose the masses down here! Last year they came with buses from the more radical universities to “assist” with the protest, which was against the rising of fees. Ugh! Demonstrations of protests seem to be the national sport down here, more popular than rugby and soccer. Thanks for the encouragement, dear Mar. Signed: OWFSA

      @ sallybea – I remember the same scenario when we lived in the Orange Free State – we had to buy everything, and those handbooks were very expensive. When we moved to Transvaal, we got handbooks which we had to return at the end of the year. Those days the provinces functioned individually, and even the curricula were not the same. Let’s face it, the school fees of today, and especially university fees, are way too high since the establishment of the new democratic SA, and the establishment of governing bodies at schools and universities. But all discussions bring us back to the government. They have to spend more than only 21% on education, and more bursaries and affordable student loans should be obtained. However, the way students try to get what they need and want is totally unacceptable, although I believe the government is supposed to prevent this kind of revolutionary behavior. I look forward to the solution of this crisis. I also believe that online-courses (virtual universities) are going to become more popular.

      @ fpherj48 – Oh, your compliments are so sweet, and truly needed. As I’ve said, comprehending these kind of events – violent demonstrations of protests - is not easy, as I was and still is a privileged white. Anger and grudges were never installed in me to grow and become this hell of a collective force that turns people into vandals, arsonist and all kinds of criminals. Oh, Paula, we can but only hope that SA as a nation will grow into a respectable nation, and that we don’t become another Zimbabwe, or Africa country where civil- and domestic wars keep people uneducated in poverty. Thanks again for being so nice!

      @ billibuc - Oh, you've made me feel better. We are not alone! Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Pretty much the same issue here, although our percentage of blacks is considerably lower...still, you raised all the salient points being raised here for the past few months. Interesting article, Martie!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 20 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Martie. What a masterful & professional news story.

      To see the destruction of course, is quite a stunning revelation that these unfortunate events occur throughout most parts of the world. They are not tolerable especially in view of the original intention of the majority who go about their quests in civil, appropriate ways.

      I applaud your knowledgeable grasp of this situation and your keen awareness of the politics, issues & potential solutions. Martie, you are one incredibly beautiful, bright woman and a prolific writer~~better than some of the famed journalists we know!...Hoping the best of solutions for South Africa and it's people, my heart is with all of you.....Love ya girl, Paula (The HUG video made me cry!!)

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 20 months ago from Norfolk

      I have been watching all of this with dismay. The strange thing is I grew up in what was know as Zululand in South Africa with a family with 6 children.

      My parents were still paying our fees up until the end of each school year. I can remember pleading with my mother to pay so that my name could be removed from the list on the board of children who still had not paid their fees.

      Our Education was not free, neither were the books we had to buy each year. I can remember going with the book list to a local shop. Not only that, I was a twin so it meant having to buy two books which were the same for both of us.

      I don't think it ever crossed our minds that we should have it all for free in spite of the hardship it caused our family.

      Times are a changing, so sad that places of education are being burned up before the public can be education. It makes no sense at all.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 20 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Ordinary? Middle aged? ... not so much!

      Relevant, unbiased, fearless reporting of the facts? ... yes, indeed!

      You've incorporated photography and quotations that add to the depth of this complex issue. While there are no simple answers, you are raising awareness as you unpeel this onion.

      The Hugs video may be one of the most powerful I've ever seen. I love that message on every level.

      If this is to be a series, I'm in your OWFSA perspective is just my cup of tea! Love you much, mar

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 20 months ago from England

      Interesting stuff Martie, and I love the title of your link! I learn so much about South Africa from you.


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