On Wednesday night, the Wits School of Governance hosted an engaging panel discussion to coincide with the launch of the book, Fees Must Fall: Student Revolt, Decolonisation and Governance.
Given the weightiness of the topic, which has been hotly debated since student protests began last year – marked by the establishment of the #FeesMustFall movement – the atmosphere was tense and often punctuated by emotional outbursts from the audience.
Edited by Susan Booysen, a professor at the Wits School of Governance, the book became a point of contention as some student activists took exception to panellists using it as the basis for dialogue in the greater debate about #FeesMustFall. Gugulethu Mhlungu, City Press’ lifestyle editor, led the evening’s discussion. The panel was made up of some of the book’s contributors, namely feminist Darlene Miller, activist Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, academic Vishwas Satgar, and lecturer and dramaturge Refiloe Lepere. Each has written a chapter in the book.
A total of 22 authors contributed to the book’s content by documenting or analysing the past year’s struggle for free tertiary education. Attendees dissected sensitive issues emanating from the topic, often disagreeing with one another about the scope and approach taken.
In his written contribution, outspoken student activist Mpofu-Walsh – who obtained his master’s degree in international relations from Oxford University in the UK – proposed a free education model incorporating various funding options.
Some criticised the book for depicting a “glass house” scenario, given that many of the contributors were not on the ground as the protests took place.
One student voiced her scepticism about the book, after detailing the “downfalls” of the panel members and the respective chapters they contributed.
Miller, a senior lecturer at the Wits School of Governance, emphasised that the book was not just an analysis of the Fallist movement, but was also meant to amplify the discourse about this heated topic.
Audience interest resulted in the debate running over the allotted time.