“To win the people, always cook them some savoury that pleases them.”
- Aristophanes, The Knights
When iSithembiso hit our screens, it quickly painted a story of ‘becoming’ as we watched two young people and many others fumble in the deep and dark city, navigating their way through university life, sexuality and society.
Amid personal chaos, perhaps one of the most important things that the first few episodes of this telenovela did, was to shine a light on the national Fees Must Fall movement, whose cause is to bring free education to institutions of higher learning.
#FeesMustFall is a student-led protest movement that began in mid-October 2015 in South Africa. The goals of the movement were to stop increases in student fees as well as to increase government funding of universities. Protests began at the University of Witwatersrand and spread to the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University before rapidly spreading to other universities across the country.
After much struggle, In mid-December 2017, then president of the republic, Jacob Zuma, announced that in 2018 free higher education would be provided to all new first-year students from families who earned less than R350 000 per year.
So have the fees fallen? Maybe not.
Three years after the promise of free higher education, another round of student protests hit South Africa earlier this year, in March. Once again, the protests were initiated by students at the University of Witwatersrand, when students took to the streets to fight for free and quality education. Some of their demands included allowing all students to register despite financial debt and the erasure of historical debt. The unrest resulted in the death of one Mthokozisi Ntumba, a passerby who got fatally injured while the police attempted to disperse students.
During a press briefing, Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande said the department could not afford to write off student debt because their budget had been cut by R24.6 billion.
Bended by the persistence of the protesting students, University management later agreed to allow students to register despite their financial standings with the university.
Do you believe free higher education is a possibility in South Africa and why?
Watch Isithembiso daily on Novela Magic, DStv channel 165. If you want to join our Novela Magic fam conversations on the shows, find Novela Magic on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #NovelaMagic