By Rasha Rehman
Leaders of the South African Fees Must Fall movement spoke to Ryerson students about freezing tuition fees on Tuesday.
“We want the new generation of South African students to say, ‘My mother was a worker but I’m a CEO.’ This is what we want. And it’s not going to happen with the current education system,” said Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, President of Wits University Student Representative Council.
Mkhatshwa and Karabo Marutha, treasurer of Wits University Student Representative Council, led thousands of students in demonstrations against tuition hikes in Johannesburg. Mkhatshwa and Marutha spoke about institutional discrimination discouraging students from participating in social movements and graduating school.
“At the end of it there’s a whole lot of black kids graduating but not the same amount that entered. There’s a whole of women who make it in the intuition, there’s a whole lot of them that graduate but it’s not the same amount that came in to the institution. Because the conditions aren’t allowing for one to thrive and flourish,” said Mkhatshwa.
The Fees Must Fall movement is about attaining free education, fair working conditions for university workers, and eliminating racism. It began in October 2015 at the University of Witwatersrand where a tuition fee increase for 2016 was proposed.
Mkhatshwa and Marutha gathered students together through social media, word of mouth, and door to door canvassing. Weeks of demonstrations led to South African President Jacob Zuma not increasing 2016 tuition fees.
The panel was organized by the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR), Community of Action Centre of George Brown College, Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), and Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS)
Rabbia Ashraf, CESAR’s vice president internal was one of the organizers of the panel who wanted to raise awareness of this issue closer to home.
“I think it’s really relevant for Ryerson students because it doesn’t matter what faculty you’re in, it doesn’t matter what background you come from, tuition fees is a problem for every single student,” said Ashraf.
Ontario universities have the highest tuition fees in Canada and Ryerson University had its own campaign to tackle this issue. Freeze The Fees is similar to Fees Must Fall, except it targets international tuition hikes. Members of Freeze The Fees protested in November 2014 on Ryerson campus.
On Thursday, the Ontario government announced students from families who make less than $50,000 per year will receive free college and university tuition after changes to this year’s provincial budget. The grant system, Ontario Student Grant, will start in the 2017/2018 year. Tuition will also be made more affordable for middle-income families and mature students.
Mkhatshwa and Marutha encourage Ryerson students to work together and advocate against tuition fee hikes.
“It starts with you realizing, “I’m paying way too much to get something that’s a right and not a privilege.” It’s not a privilege to be here. You must be here,” said Marutha.