CityPress - - News - AVANTIKA SEETH avantika.seeth@city­press.co.za

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.

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