I’ve been following the “Fees Must Fall” protests in South Africa for a while now and I was behind the students until they started demanding free education. That is so unrealistic considering the state of South Africa’s Economy. Asking for free university education is like asking God to drop money from Heaven.
It’s not about to happen. No one wants to see their tuition or the cost of anything go up, especially if you don’t come from a well-to-do family as happens to be the case for most of us but at the same time, we have to realize that there are some things we can’t get around.
You want good roads and other functional infrastructure? You have to pay something. In demanding a free ride, these students forget that it’s not just about them. A typical university or any institution of learning for that matter employs several other individuals who are also trying to earn a living and take care of their families.
Unless the students are going to run the place, tutor themselves, do all the cleaning and cooking, secure the place and all the other services needed to get things going, they should be ready to pay some money. There are also water and electricity bills plus medical expenses to take care of and these things cost money. Like I mentioned earlier, I understand the struggles parents and caretakers go through to give their children a good education.
There are also some students on their own, without any financial assistance from relatives and it’s hard raising the money for the three or so years it usually takes one to complete their course. Even harder is that there’s no guarantee you’ll get a job once you graduate so it’s a huge sacrifice that sometimes sees people selling off their property just to pay fees.
But setting cars and buildings on fire is not the answer. A more effective way would be getting student leaders to meet with policy makers and authorities to try and find ways of say, availing student loans and grants for those who need them. Admittedly, we all had that rebellious streak at one point and probably felt the system was against us and protests and strikes seemed like the only way to resolve our grievances.
Well, they’re not. At the end of the day, someone has to pay for the damaged property and most likely, it will be those very students. With time, we may see free university education across Africa since several countries have already implemented free primary and secondary school education but it’s a one step at a time thing and it may not be in our best interest to rush the process.
Also while we should commend our respective governments’ efforts to ensure that every child gets an education, we shouldn’t forget the challenges. There’s a big difference between students enrolled in the free system and those attending private schools and at the end of the day, parents have to decide what’s best for their children but I think everybody knows quality education comes at a cost.