23 October 2015
Over 800 students and student groups from 200 international institutions have signed a statement of support for the #FeesMustFall protesters.
We are South Africans and/or alumni of South African tertiary institutions studying abroad at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), King’s College London, University College London (UCL), Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, New York University (NYU), City University of New York (CUNY), UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Michigan, Georgetown University, Boston University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Sydney University, University of Toronto, Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Zhejiang Normal University, Brown, Australian National University, Columbia, Cornell, London School of Economics (LSE), Leeds University, Leiden University, Maastricht University, Lund, Massey University, New School for Social Research, New South Wales University, Goldsmiths, Princeton, Peking University, Rutgers University, Sciences Po, Seoul National University, Stanford, St Andrews, Trinity College Dublin, Universidade de São Paulo, University of Bologna, University of Barcelona, University of Chicago, University of Edinburgh, University of Amsterdam, University of Glasgow, University of Toronto, University of Vienna, University of Warwick, University of Utrecht, University of York, Yale and many other institutions.
Each of us stands in solidarity with the students, staff and workers protesting in South Africa, at parliament, universities and institutions of higher education. They are making history on streets and campuses across the country.
We are outraged by the use of violence from police and private security companies against protesting students. Both universities and government have the duty to protect students - not to persecute them when they demand justice from the state and its institutions. Our right to protest was won through generations of struggle and must be defended.
No unarmed and nonviolent group of students should be dispersed with stun grenades, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, or shot at. All should be equal before the law, and we condemn the targeting of black students by the police. We call for the immediate release of students who have been arrested or detained in the context of peaceful protest action.
We are also appalled by the aggression, racism and violence shown towards protesters by some, predominantly white, students, lecturers and members of the public.
Across the world, access to affordable higher education is being eroded by governments and universities. In recent years, student movements in Quebec, Amsterdam, Chile, Germany, and the United Kingdom have taken to the streets in response to the imposition of prohibitive tuition fees and the commodification of higher education. It is becoming clearer that funding for education is not a purely economic question, but also a deeply political one.
Power concedes nothing without demand. In this global struggle for educational justice, the actions of the students in South Africa are a powerful statement that cannot be ignored.
Higher education enables the exploration of the self and the pursuit of freedom, and plays a crucial role in achieving a just and egalitarian society. Unaffordable fees are exclusionary and perpetuate the extreme economic and social inequalities in South Africa. This marginalises precisely those groups for whom higher education is an essential tool to escape poverty. In South Africa, this burden falls disproportionately on black, working-class families, those historically placed in a situation of structural exclusion, particularly from higher education.
We all have a stake in the provision of higher education in South Africa. The quality and accessibility of tertiary education will shape the future of the region: either by reproducing historical and systemic inequalities, or by overcoming the legacies of the past and offering future generations the possibility of living in a better society.
We endorse the demands made by the protesting students, staff and workers. We call upon the South African government, university management, and society at large to accede to these demands.
A luta continua
Views expressed are not necessarily GroundUp’s.