40 Years Later

By Zoleka Qodashe

The backdrop against which the June 16 Uprising unfolded was born out of the sheer desire for an education system to which black students identified & frustration with a system sought to take away the identity of the black child. It is in the same vein that the Fees Must Fall campaign must be perceived, where the youth give direction to issues pertaining to their education. The common thread that runs though both of these revolutionary acts is that is it evident that the black child will continue to oppose any system that seeks to deny him access to education, whether it be through the tongue of the oppressor or through the use of the capitalist system. The commonalities to be found in both of these movements is that they sought to bring down barriers & structures that hinder the advancement of the black child.

Studies indicate that currently, of the hundreds of students that enroll to study at South Africa’s universities, 60% are black students who survive first year but only 15% will ultimately graduate. This, they add, is hardly surprising as the post-apartheid educational system is not founded on what the poor & marginalized need. “This remains the unchanging element of pre & post-1994 South Africa: black youths’ life chances remain significantly lower than those of whites. This is further emphasized by the fact that most students who protest, whether during 2015 or on other occasions, are black.” Therefore, race & class are inextricably linked & lie at the heart of opposition to South Africa’s existing, exclusive university system. This acts as a painful reminder of the disruption of the functioning of the working class & allows the capitalist democracy to more effectively exploit the majority of the poor youth. Student success rate in the public Higher Education system illustrated the dysfunctionality of the system. Less than one third of the sample population completed a qualification in regulation time. Black students formed 75% of the sample population, but accounted for less than 25% of the graduates according to HESA (Higher Education South Africa).

The 40th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising ought to serve as a reminder that access to education should be a primary goal for any society. While we witnessed the birth of the Fees Must Fall movement last year & the sacrifices of the youth of 1976 40 years prior, it becomes evident that there is no substitute for education & it is, in fact, the sine qua non for the development of the black child. It is in this light that students ought to continue charting their own pathway & continue trying to restore the dignity of the black child.

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