“The desperation that comes with being a student is unimaginable”

University of Cape Town (UCT) Students march to different parts of the campus during a university shut down.

The recent #FeesMustFall protests at universities across South Africa follow from the September  protests that took place at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN). A few UKZN students shared their thoughts on the nationwide fee protests with LIZEKA MADUNA.

Nompilo MchunuNompilo Mchunu, 20, student, Umlazi
Higher education fees are reasonable. However, when I look at them from someone who cannot afford [them], they are high. The government should continue funding higher education as it is, because the NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] is doing well in ensuring that students get educated. Students should also be honest when applying for funding because some people can afford to pay their own fees, but they choose to apply for NSFAS. People who can afford to pay their own fees should pay and those who are from disadvantaged backgrounds should be exempted from paying fees. Students have shown unity in the recent protests and this show that they know their rights and they care about their education.

Sethabile BhekiswayoSethabile Bhekiswayo, 22, student, Durban CBD
Looking at the fees I used to pay in high school, higher education fees are expensive. I used to pay roughly R9000 per year in high school and varsity costs me over R30 000 a year. The government should be in charge of funding higher education; not only through the NSFAS, but they should find ways to ensure that everyone gets the education they deserve. The criteria for exemption should be amended because sometimes you do get parents who work under the government and the funding scheme criteria does not allow them to get funding. This should be revisited because some parents still can’t afford university fees even though they have a state job. These are some of the things that students protest for, because higher education fees are getting higher and this causes drop-outs and eventually a high unemployment rate in our country.

McebisiMcebisi Sithole, 23, Student, Berea
University fees are generally too high and this is what leads to students dropping out of higher institutions. The government is currently assisting in funding students but it doesn’t seem to be enough as some students are still excluded from getting funding. The government could try harder in assisting students. Students who cannot afford to pay for fees should just be exempted from paying because you still find students who can afford, but still apply for government funding. So I suggest that people [who can afford] should be given an option to get government funding and all those who can’t afford at all should be exempted.

NomusaNomusa Nkosi, 35, parent, Ntuzuma
The tuition fees are unreasonably expensive and for someone like me, taking a child to a university can’t be easy. My daughter is about to complete her matric and if the fees keep on escalating, there is no way she could go and enrol at a university. The government is assisting but it is never enough, especially if the fees increase each year. People who should be exempted from paying fees are those who are financially deprived. The governmental system should be capable of classifying between who could afford and could not afford to pay fees. Funding should be allocated for students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds who have no means to pay tuition fees.

LuvuyoLuvuyo Nondabula, 25, student, Queensburgh
Education in South Africa has become too expensive, there are students who really can’t afford and who become more affected each time the fees surge. My course costs R20 000 per semester and I can only imagine if I had no funding, meaning that I would have to pay R40 000 per annum whilst I cannot even afford registration fees. Deciding who should be exempted from paying would be a challenge because there wouldn’t be a possible way of knowing who can afford and who cannot. The only best solution could be if the government meet the students half way by providing a certain portion of the amount that they will pay for one’s fees. The protests are reasonable and desperation that comes with being a student is unimaginable.

– Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity
– Featured image by Ashraf Hendricks