An open letter to Stellenbosch University lecturers

Stellenbosch University student Farai Mubaiwa has some questions for her lecturers.

I remember sitting in class on my first day of first year looking at my lecturers in awe. I saw you as individuals who were passionate about developing future leaders in different faculties. Some lecturers even actively maintained positive relations with various students in class – calling them by name amidst the hundreds of us.

And now I need to ask you, does your responsibility to us as your students end once we exit the classroom? Is our pain, suffering and lived experiences put on hold once we enter the classroom? Is the context of the country no longer relevant in the context of the Stellenbosch colony?

Protesters are students in your classroom. Students who will no longer be in your classroom if fees increase. Some of these students are the heads of their households. Some are from remote areas who, despite challenging circumstances, managed to push their way through to tertiary level and are the first in their family to be in such a position.

Within the context of Stellenbosch, there isn’t a day that black bodies enter your classroom space without having had a confrontation about race, or without having had to defend our race against slurs in supposedly safe spaces like residences and faculties. There isn’t a day that womxn enter the classroom without having experienced some form of rape culture.

What do you feel or think when students walk into class after coming from a rape culture protest, an end outsourcing protest, a Fees Must Fall protest? How can you continue to lecture knowing that campus is militarised, knowing that there are 30 Men in Black outside the lecture venue? How can you continue to lecture knowing that black students are being denied access to your classroom on the basis of our black skin and the assumption of us being protesters?

This movement is bigger than all of us. You say you continue to lecture to protect the rights of those who want to exercise their rights to education, and yet you fail to recognise that the current inaccessible education denies millions of South Africans of their right to education.

In a university of 30, 000 students, how we there only be one lecturer who shows their solidarity with the FMF movement? How can there be only two lecturers who show solidarity with #EndRapeCulture protests? What makes you different from the lecturers at UCT and Wits who have shown solidarity with the greater movement, who have listened to the voices of poor students and who have committed themselves to a responsibility to students that is not confined to classroom spaces. A recent piece by UCT staff and postgraduate students writes as follows:

“As support staff and post graduate students, we are committed to a decolonised education project and to our students. Thus we see it as our responsibility to ensure a safe learning environment. Such a safe environment is one where students, and all those who support them, do not have to suffer the trauma of surveillance, the constant threat to their physical bodies, or the brutalisation of their psyche and spirit through a curriculum and pedagogy that dehumanizes them, and fails to address the most immediate needs of their communities, and the society as a whole.

We will not return to such a toxic climate, and in doing so support an institution which only speaks in the language of violence. We cannot return to teach at a university that continues to be silent and inactive on the issues that matter – free, decolonial education.”

I ask that deans, lecturers and other university staff have these matters of introspection. If you can listen to the cries of students who ask you to postpone tests due to their Rocking the Daisies commitments, then you can surely heed the voices of poor black bodies who are asking you to stand in solidarity with calls for accessible education.

Our lived experiences cannot be ignored simply because we are no longer in the classroom setting.

Farai Mubaiwa is a BComm Honours student at Stellenbosch University. She is also the SRC chairperson of Womxn Empowerment.

Featured image by Ra’eesa Pather

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8 Comments

  1. Estuar says

    Oh please. I am sick and tired of walking on eggshells because of your skin colour. Save your sad stories for someone who gives a shit. After what your beloved protesters have done to campuses and buildings, dont expect anyone to listen to you anymore. The fees are out of hand. I wish to study further while I’m studying but i cant afford it and the company refuses to pay, so yes, i understand, but your justification of whats happening shows your toxic and selfish state of mind. These open letters are beginning to anger people more, and what you dont understand, because of your delays and violence, there is a possibility that matrics of this year wont be able to study, many of whom already paid thousands of rands in deposits, and those who have to pay extra to study further next year to finish their degrees. I feel sorry for the silent people who are in dire states and desperately want to study further but cant, YOU ALREADY ARE STUDYING!!!! So stop your ridiculous complaining!

    1. TheYouth says

      And I quote

      “there is a possibility that matrics of this year won’t be able to study”

      I study at UCT, our academic year this year started mid-February. The plan management has sent out states we will begin the 2017 academic year one month later in mid-March. The lost time will be borrowed from the June holidays- yes it is an inconvenience. The protesters are in support of the mini semester which will be held before that.
      So matrics will be able to study next year… if they can afford to.

  2. sinudeity says

    Boohoo. So entitled, with a dash of perpetual victim complex.

  3. Ana Maria Diaz says

    Sweetie, indeed, the lecturers’ only responsibility towards students is teaching their classes and marking their assignments.The only people who are responsible for students are students themselves.Come on guys, you are no longer in high school.You are adults.If you really are struggling to pay your fees, then why don’t you get off your hineys and get part-time jobs like millions of other students around the world?

    1. TheYouth says

      Please proceed to read the comment I posted on
      October 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Please, answer it to the best of your abilities. I really am curious.

  4. Angry Adult says

    I personally know of plenty of white people who cannot afford to go to university. They do well in matric yet cannot further their education due to lack of funds. I also know of white people who have been denied acceptance into university because of the colour of their skin. For generations now, only a small percentage of matrics go on to study at university. Many people accept their fate and go out into the workplace to earn a salary. A student loan is commonplace the world over. Most university students struggle to pay their fees and work throughout their university years to make ends meet. The problem of university being unaffordable to many is not a new problem, it has been around for generations. This generation have an unfounded sense of entitlement that has done nothing but create havoc in our country. Grow up. Accept your fate and deal with it maturely. Our government is not going to pay your fees no matter what they promised or how many buildings you destroy. All you will achieve is our universities will become useless, our degrees will become meaningless and then what will you do? Your children will have no tertiary education available to them at all. You are at university because you care about your future. Well, this behaviour will destroy your future and the future of your children and your country. It is a privilege to go to university, not a right. If it was a right, they would have to accept everybody that applies and that surely is not the case.

    1. TheYouth says

      Please proceed to read the comment I posted on
      October 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Please, answer it to the best of your abilities.

      To reply to your remark on Students Loans, it is common place for families who qualify for them. Most poorer families the protesters are trying to stand up for can barely qualify for a short term loan worth a few thousand, much less a few hundred thousand.

  5. TheYouth says

    There’s lazy idea that I’ve seen many white people say (even in these very comments),

    “Well I worked (x amount of) jobs while I studied to pay for my fees. You people are just lazy.”

    This is the laziest opinion out here because if you just stop to think about the implications of this “fix” you’d quickly realise it’s about as helpful as telling each student to build themselves their own little university and then teach themselves.
    You have to be ignorant – living in South Africa, where unemployment is the norm and particularly youth unemployment is a major problem. And suggest that thousands of poor students find thousands of non-existent jobs to support all of them through their tertiary education.
    I personally know that places like restaurants and bars are extremely discriminatory in their hiring practices. They want;
    someone with prior experience
    someone who is absolutely fluent and well spoken in English (and Afrikaans in many places)
    and very often someone who has their own transport.
    There aren’t enough jobs at the supermarkets or even supermarkets themselves for these inexperienced, nonfluent, non-eloquent, public transport using students to find jobs at either.

    It’s easier to find employment as white people. White people generally (thanks to our history) have social capital… People’s parents know people, who know people who know of jobs and opportunities. Poorer and previously (read: currently) disadvantaged students don’t have that.

    So this solution posted here must happen how, exactly?

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