This is a letter written by my Computer Science lecturer, Craig Reynolds. He was an academic for most of the time that I knew him and at some point moved into the business world, first working for Sun Microsystems and later Oracle Corporation in Dubai. He also graciously wrote a recommendation, which helped me to receive a full scholarship from the Chinese government for my MBA degree.
You were surprised at my views on supporting the student protest, especially as I’m an ex-academic and solicited further explanation. Here goes:
I am of the option that education (at all levels) should be heavily subsidised by government. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that education, including tertiary, should be free.
An educated society is a strong society and this is particularly true for societies with high levels of educated women (but that is a discussion for another day.)
For the good of society as a whole I don’t understand why capable people should be excluded simply because they are not able to pay. The whole point of education is to lift those people from poverty, not so? Likewise I don’t understand why you should spend years recovering from debt which has been forced upon you in order to educate yourself.
So, I agree with the students that there should be no fee increases, I’d say they need to take it further and demand no fees at all.
But they are protesting to the wrong people, it is not the universities that are at fault. In my view it is the South African government, and in particular the ANC, that is the guilty party. They have stolen, squandered and mismanaged the country’s resources for their own gain and so have not provided the universities with appropriate funding, hence the universities have not choice but to raise fees to keep the the lights on.
The protesters should be barricading Luthuli House and Parliament. They should be demanding explanations from Blade Nzimande, not vice-chancellors. They should be preventing ANC members-of-parliament from leaving/entering, not their fellow students and their lecturers.
The fact that SASCO leaders are wearing ANC colours when it’s the fault of the ANC that the fees are a) very high and b) increasing says one of the following: The students don’t understand that universities are reliant on government for funding, or they are being orchestrated to target university management, probably because they are white and so an easy target.
In addition, I am deeply suspicious that this is being orchestrated by the ANC itself to direct attention away from their own failings. I’m also wondering if this isn’t part of of the wider ANC/SACP strategy (going back to 1976) to keep supporters out of education to ensure that the population remains uneducated. An uneducated populace is easily controlled, educated people ask too many uncomfortable questions. This is a typical communist strategy and I would not be surprised to find Cronin & Nzimande, die hard communist dinosaurs, at the bottom of it all. If so, I hope it bites them in the ass.
So, in short: I support the protests. I don’t support the violence. The protesters are protesting to and about the wrong people.