The Fees Commission has been in session this week but the purpose of the commission is being questioned by students. Students feel the score so far is:
Free education: Dololo
Bureaucratic agenda: 1
The Fees Commission was set up by President Jacob ZumaÂ in response to student protests against the rising cost of tuition. Yet the commissionâ€
For students, however, the question was never whether #FreeEducation is possible, but rather, in what guise a system of free education should be implemented and what exactly the path towards realising it is.
â€œMy feeling is that often these commissions just get set up so that things happen on paper to excuse the institution and kind of derail movements,â€ said Kyla Jade, a student journalist from South African History Online.
It’s absolutely ridiculous that the #FeesCommission is doing this now & throwing around Feasibility on the eve of a new fee increase
â€” Brian Kamanzi (@BrianIKamanzi) August 10, 2016
Commissions are historically seen as means of sidelining issues
There are however several concerns relating to the legitimacy of South African commissions in general. Vusi Mahlangu, a #FeesMustFall activist, points out that our track record of such commissions does not bode well.
â€” Uyanda Mabece (@UyandaMabece) August 10, 2016
Dololo representation of students
As progressive academics have arguedÂ , the official Ministerial Task Team â€“ set up parallel to the Fees Commission to advise Nzimande on a way forward â€“ is made up entirely of economists. This further raises questions about the legitimacy of the commission, as this task team is advising Blade prior to findings from the commission being put forward.
It also leads us to the question of how those who are directly affected by fees not included in the decision-making process that determines it?
â€œI think we need to be very skeptical of whoâ€
Fears surrounding student debt
In the first sitting of the Fees Commission, Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib, along with his panel of academics presented their â€œHybrid Modelâ€ which proposed more options for school leavers away from university. According to their presentation, reservations about student loans to fund educations are unfounded. In Habibâ€
The possibility of crippling student debt must, however, be given due consideration as the reality of â€œdebt slaveryâ€ that many US students currently face, could prove disastrous here. Many students who do not have economic privilege will have further costs weighing over them after graduation. These costs of having to pay back loans impact their social mobility and thus add to the entrenchment of systemic inequality.
In a country such as ours where unemployment continues to cripple development, it seems academics – like Habib – are once more willing disregard the voices of students in order to protect the economic status quo.
â€œ[Student debt] is something that is geared off of global capitalism, which is born in a sort of western framework and doesnâ€
Academics and students question who would bear the brunt of student debt, saying that it would mostly disenfranchise those from rural backgrounds, the majority of our black working class and our most vulnerable communities. All of this, of course, further perpetuates South Africaâ€
The collective voice of youth towards the #FeesCommission and Bladeâ€
So. Are still pretending that this #FeesCommission is going to be fruitful?
â€” BeyoncÃ© Pad Thai* (@PearlPillay) August 10, 2016