Fees Must Fall protesters want free, quality, decolonised education now. We need to build on the momentum to ensure that FMF does not occur each year to no effect. To put it simply, it’s the children of the nation coming together and all they want is to be educated.
I feel saddened that we have to fight for this in 2016. I am also humbled and honoured to be a part of it. It’s a revolution in the making. To see students rise up, to fight for something bigger than themselves and for the good of the nation is incredible. To wake up in the morning, ready for whatever may transpire in the day requires immense bravery. Fortunately me for me, I have supportive parents who tell me not to get arrested, but who also assure me that everything will be okay if I do. The rhetoric is brought to the dinner table (I knew this the moment I heard “capitalist agenda”), with students letting their voices be heard in their communities.
Among the protesters is where I feel safest. It continues to teach me so much about humanity and I have found friendship and camaraderie here that I would not have otherwise. There are leaders concerned with our safety and med students attending to injured students (police wouldn’t let an ambulance onto campus yesterday).
The brutality I continue to witness from private security and the police is both shocking and disgusting. Trust me when I say that the students are unarmed and hold a majority non-violent stance. We walk with our hands and student cards in the air as we pass police. It’s when we sit down to show our stance that police fire- somebody even got burned by tripping on a stun grenade thrown into the crowd. The force exerted by these men in uniform is undeniably excessive. I can’t help but to still feel fortunate that at Wits, we have media as some kind of buffer. What have the TUT students had? This is yet another way that society continues to reveal it’s ills.
If you watched the news, I’m sure you saw the stone throwing at the Great Hall. Let me give you the context: we wanted access to our place of meeting (Solomon House) which is inside the building. Private security forces blocked entry and were mishandling students (including women). Scuffles between the security and students forced students to retreat down the stairs. What started as plastic water bottles and oranges being thrown in defiance became stones. The security threw them right back into the crowd of students. I’m unsure of what they thought this would achieve, as they had two advantages: height and protection (riot gear). The stone throwing was a truly surreal moment. Police eventually arrived on the scene and we were granted access to the building which we should have had all along.
When I reached the 10th floor on Day 3 in need of food, I looked out the window and saw the police forming a line in front of the university entrance. We watched as students sang and then sat down, unarmed. This was the moment police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas shortly after. Watching from above, I was unable to just stand there as an onlooker. I had to get out, to see if people were okay, to stand with the students in any further assaults. *Not all students moved off campus, which is why I was not in the crowd to begin with. Follow up coming soon.
This explains part of the reason for me choosing to be a student and protester, rather than a student journalist. I feel that I am making more of an important contribution by blogging (documenting from personal experience) and protesting than reporting from on onlookers stand-point like the rest of the media is. That’s not to say that journalists don’t have an important role, as long as they aren’t portraying the protests incorrectly and aren’t simply there for the bylines.
So some roads were inaccessible for a few minutes. So some glass was broken. What of the inaccessible opportunities and people broken by the cycle we have created with this education system? *(Thank you for putting it so aptly Taahir)
Follow my experience of FMF live on Snapchat @shazzycorreia
Photo: my own