In 2011, my tuition was R 35,020 for one year including a registration fee of R 3200 but not any of the books, stationary or living costs. Ok, I lived at home, but then again my sister was completing her Masters at the same time as I was finishing the BA, so for 2011 my mother probably had to pay around R70000 to the university. Without achievement bursaries and family waivers and my mother's hard work as a tour guide we probably would not have had the privilege of higher education.
For about a week now my FB feed has been flooded with student protest from all around the country. Friends at different universities repost and provide commentary of what is going on, giving a broader overview than the media has been able to. Yesterday I had a long Skype session with a friend about why the protests are happening now, what the problems at the heart of them were, what this means going forward. Six students in Cape Town have been arrested and accused of high treason as thousands of others today march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to call for a meeting with President Zuma on the shocking price increases of tertiary education.
I am too far away and have been unaffected by any of this as for the past two years I have payed €500 in total as Germany doesn't have tuition fees, just a student contribution. I have profited from a system that highlights education and even provides financial aid through BAföG (a law that allows for a monthly stipend of up to €650 where half is an interest-free loan that has to be repaid 5 years after completing the degree) to those whose parents do not have the financial means to support them. Naturally, the two countries are vastly different and Germany has one of the strongest economies, thus having the funds to support tuition-free learning. For many of the students currently protesting, they might be the first in their family to even get to university, the first to have a chance at something better. And is this not what everyone wants: for those who come after us to do better and to have it better? Instead there is global warming and ISIS and corruption and #BlackLivesMatter and Alaskan oil fields and billions in mismanaged funds and and and.
But this protest back home, man, it stirs something inside of me, somehow the hope that change for the better may come from this, that somehow there has been a small shift in people's attitudes that simply said: no more. We have ignored this up to now, we have laughed about a president that cannot even read his party's membership numbers, we have accepted the crime rate, we have accepted Nkandla, we have accepted the xenophobia, we have accepted the fear of one another, we have all said that something must change but what and how and then gone back to our braai and watching the rugby/cricket/Isidingo/7de Laan.
So perhaps this, this could be it. This, more than petty politics between the ANC and the DA. This, more than bridges collapsing on the M1 or grandmothers still using the 'K' word or Marikana. This, because the born frees have had enough. This could be our June 16, 1976.