#FeesMustFall campaign to demonstrate dissatisfactions.

#FeesMustFall: The Untold Campus Stories by South African Students

Untold stories of students from various South African universities on what #FeesMustFall is about: The significance of anthropology in history.

#FeesMustFall: The untold stories on campus are stories that the majority of people do not know about. Majority of people think that The #FeesMustFall campaign is about fees only. Little do they know that the #FeesMustFall campaign is much more than that. As a university student, I understand that we are also fighting for a decolonised curriculum that is about us . Through the #FeesMustFall campaign, we insist on an education that makes sense in our context. A curriculum that helps African students to understand the world better so that they can take part in transforming it. The following narrations are untold stories as experienced by students from various universities. 

Account of a Freshman on #FeesMustFall: The Untold Story.

The main campus of the University of Johannesburg where #FeesMustFall took place.

A freshman gives an account of his experiences at a higher learning institution.

“On my first day at the University of Johannesburg, I walked around looking for my lecture venue, getting lost countless times. The place looked scary but I reassured myself I’d get used to it. I never did. After five years at UJ , University of Johannesburg, I feel the alienating coldness of its apartheid structure. The cement and brick buildings never warm up. The Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) symbolism and culture all over the UJ main campus is flagrant. The dominant culture is unchanged from that of RAU. From a residence named ‘Dromedaries’ after one of the mass colonizers Jan van Riebeck’s famous ships, to the Afrikaans stream students, who always get a more detailed exam test scope than the black-dominated English stream” (Mbambo, O. Iron fist and the courage of resistance: Univesity of Johannesburg ).

Mechanism made to exclude students; #FeesMustFall untold stories.

Students  gather to discuss The #FeesMustFall campaign: an untold tale from the student's point of view

The next narration says a lot about the disparities in South Africa’s universities and how these imbalances only affect the marginalized population. 

“At the beginning of the year when students go to apply or register for the first time, some of us are returning students. At this time of the year, the institution becomes a monster waiting to chop out as many students as possible. The university management deliberately decrease the numbers of students. The institution management and government create rules that legitimize the unjust treatment of the poor. These mechanisms are made specifically to exclude us.

After staying in the institution for more than two months waiting to be registered, some students go back home without getting student funding. They spend a whole lot of time hoping and praying for the best, yet they go back home segregated in the land of their own fathers. They go back home hopelessly because most students rely on NSFAS ( National Student Financial Aid Scheme) for funding. If  NSFAS rejects your application , you are left with no option but to quit. Not because we want to, but because we are not financially fit to sustain ourselves in an institution without funding” (Jaza, L. Our story to the World: Walter Sisulu University).

What you need to know about the #FeesMustFall Movement 

Student sought support from the proffesor during the #FeesMustFall campaign .

Although the media paint the picture of The #FeesMustFall movement with depictions of constraints and unruly behaviour, there’s a thin line between what we know and what really defines the movement . Below is a commentary from a university student.

” Students demand that the university be decolonised. This calls for a university to be seen and utilized as a public good. A public good must not only be accessible to all but has to be socially responsive to the context and must benefit the well being of society as a whole. This call essentially rips the university out from its abstract, capitalist, self-affirming structures of merit and value. And grounds it in an empirical demand for utility based on social justice, equity, freedom and prosperity as captured in a call for free, quality, decolonised education. This is the challenge the university cannot respond to and so a deflection to moments of ‘spectacular ‘ violence becomes preferable. ( Motimelle M. Violence has nothing to do with throwing stones: Witwatersrand University )

#FeesMustFall riots – Students Sought Answers from their Professors.

As the #FeesMustFall campaign unfolds, students write  letters addressed to the academy.

From my observations, the higher learning environment, unlike the primary school environment, is a cold place. However, while the students revolt on the streets of Johannesburg, Pretoria, the Free State and other surrounding areas in South Africa, some students seek advice and support from the university professors. The following record  is a response from the professor. 

“We want to teach, do exams and send people off to jobs. And then bring others to teach, do exams and send them off to jobs too.This is very important. It has to happen now, not later. It’s very important and you can’t question that. That’s our job. We know our job.

We aren’t here to think and attend to this social justice stuff directly. It’s not our job. We have an office for that, a chair for that and an award for that. That’s all we can do.We aren’t governments. Listen to us. Challenge government. Don’t challenge us” ( Marawu, Z. Not in our name: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University ). From this response one can tell that university students have themselves to turn to. And it doesn’t stop. Students interact with professors daily. Thus, when in confusion, they turn to them for support. 


Letter to the academy

 The future generation is another reason behind The #FeesMustFall campaign

I have read your application closely.


I have fully underlined the words and sought their definitions.


I regret to inform you, however, that you have failed to meet the requirements for common good. It is a pity. You have so much potential. However, you have been rendered incompetent by your own arrogance.

Words are curious. You see, because they expose us even if our intention is to hide behind them. So, as I sip tea to Anderson Paak, read again and again these two words; common good, I wonder to myself. If you have failed to achieve it, or whether you have achieved exactly what you intended to. And it is rather my naivety that has once again led me astray.

What is your common good? What is common to you? I circle these questions-my brows knitted in focus, a focus only interrupted by pangs of disappointment at just how often I take for granted your ideology. (Nxadi J. Letter to the academy: University of Western Cape).

Students wrestle with a decision to join The #FeesMustFall: Untold Stories

The excellent standard of Wits University structure and The #FeesMustFall campaign

During The #FeesMustFall campaign, some students face the challenge of choosing between joining the riots or not. While other students heed the call, others stay away because they don’t want to face expulsion or, worse, a jail sentence. The following #FeesMustFall untold scripture is an expression of an emotional and mental experience the student went through with regard to choice.

“1976 was the benchmark year for hope. While 2015 was the continuum of 1976. I experienced a lot of fear and did not know what would come out of it. I had the freedom to choose whether I wanted to take part in The #FeesMustFall campaign or not. And although June 16 seemed like a distant memory, the question that kept on hounding me and the numerous other thoughts I had was; ” How far am I willing to go to make sure that someone else gets the opportunity that I got after my high school education? How do I ensure that no other person is silenced by an entity that fights silence; but, in itself, is enforcing silence in the form of ignorance and shaming? How do I make sure that I am safe and not get hurt in the process? ( Matlhare Neo. Encounters with the revolution: University of Pretoria).


#FeesMustFall Campaign: An Untold Tale of Differences 

Basic isiXhosa language is one of the concerns that students raise with The #FeesMustFall campaign.

Several students’ #FeesMustFall untold stories reveal hidden significance about the campaign. These students in their respective comments go deeper and opens a book that reveals untold accounts they experience in the midst of the struggle.

” In all of this we lose sight of the possibility that we all love the university.  We imagine it and its role in different ways. Some of our senior professors want to keep the university the same way that they found it. Their votes in the Senate reinforce a unitary history supposedly founded on justice, excellence and standards. Knowledge and traditions likewise acquire more prestige with age. Our senior professors aspire to hand down these monuments of excellence to the next generation intact and unchanged. 

In addition, the student highlights that: “They pretend that colonialism, apartheid and neo-liberal corporatization did not happen. They don’t offer solutions and don’t entertain any beyond their support of police to maintain business as usual. Even when business as usual brutalizes us all. We condemn both the police presence on our campus and the fires and the rocks. But we believe that stone throwing and fires would not happen if we threw everything we have in transforming this historical dream into historical reality”. 

Most importantly, the student stresses that: ” We need each other for this to happen. We have to suffer short-term losses for the realization of social justice. Digging trenches for a prolonged warfare will batter us all, comprising the university as we know it and shuttering the future we want for the generation of students that does not worry about debt,hunger exclusion and equality in the classroom” ( Canham, H. Through the fires: Witwatersrand University ).


Aspects and consequences of the #FeesMustFall Movement 

Police officers mishandled the students who were running away to safe places

The reality in South Africa is that our education system derives its meaning from a Western perspective. With the dawn of a democratic state that gives people freedom of expression, debates on Decoloniality in various universities are on the increase. Through these debates, university students raise ideas and opinions about our education system in the country. The following narration maintains that language is the source of the African crisis in Africa.

“I wish to talk about the plight of my language isiXhosa in relation to memory in the context of the present emerging process in our lifetime. With the emerging Decolonization debate throughout South African universities and the call to decolonize the curriculum, one simply wonders whether they would be genuine with most erased  or distorted, especially amongst the blacks. 

“As far as possible,  language must be at the centre of debates about decolonization. Our intellect is still intact in European linguistics. In Western epistemology, the belief is that African epistemology can be thought of through European language and memory. This is absurd because it confines and deprives the ideas of African epistemology that have a huge influence on the origins of Civilization”.

In conclusion, the student asserts that ; ” The self-definition of your existence must begin with the language you speak and understand. If as intellectuals we want to be true to the cause of Decolonization and all that goes with it,  we should consider the role of language seriously- the repository of memory, culture and identity” ( Meleni, B. Language and Memory: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University ).


The #FeesMustFall Movement: Reduced to depictions of Control and Coercion

 A student activist who is resolute that The #FeesMustFall was worth it..

As The #FeesMustFall movement unfolds with fires and stone throwing, a university student reflects on how the institutions fail to meet the students’ demands and how violent scenes turn the students’ demands into a mockery. 

” Power here is essentially the ability to act violently in good consciences, to control the institution’s resources and to control the narrative. It distinguishes the freedom fighter from a terrorist,  the democrat from a fascist, the student from a thug and the activist from the third force. Power will not acknowledge resistance because to do so will be to relinquish the hegemony that individuals and institutions have.

The status quo is violent.  More violent than any brick, rubber bullet or any teargas canister. The commoditization of education, the professionalization of management and the relegation of students to the class of consumers has serious consequences for what it means to come into the university space as an activist for free, decolonised and quality education ” ( Motimelle, M. Violence has nothing to do with throwing stones: Witwatersrand University ).

The aftermath of The #FeesMustFall: Untold Stories 

Students made a statement with The #FeesMustFall campaign

The following comment puts to rest what is happening now after the students’ The #FeesMustFall revolt.  

” Activists, however, learned to fight the system from the outside and remain resolute that free education will come. After months of illegal and unfair processes, the university expelled several student leaders,  life continues as if these students don’t exist and FMF, #FeesMustFall, did not happen. Because no one wants to stand up for the expelled students, those who care are afraid and this is exactly what the university wants.

” I am asking myself whether FMF was worth it. The scars, the losses, the exclusion and the trauma. But the 1976 student uprising domino effects are starting to show and the #FeesMustFall fruits are clear now. Because the atmosphere in the institutions of higher learning and amongst the youth is rebellious. Young people are tired of begging for education and they are tired of begging to be accommodated in their own country. I am hopeful that free education will be realized” (Mbambo, O. Iron fist and the courage of resistance : University of Johannesburg ).

Significance of Culture in Anthropology 

The #FeesMustFall campaign is a necessary form of expression. History proves beyond doubt that students from all walks of life have experienced some sort of injustice and discrimination in learning institutions. The injustices unleashed against the students end in protests that have the potential of turning violent, decreasing the student’s demands into mockery. Culturally, protests are the only means of communication used to get the attention of those in power. Therefore, The #StudentMustFall campaign was not a waste but a way forward to free education for all, because education is a human right.

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