‘A lack of po­lit­i­cal will’ – stu­dent leader

#FeesMustFall rocked our na­tion and proved the power of SA’s youth. in­ter­viewed out­go­ing Wits SRC pres­i­dent, Shaeera Kalla, to find out how the move­ment con­tin­ues to march for­ward.

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shaeer­aKalla, out­go­ing Wits SRC pres­i­dent, quotes Oliver Tambo when asked if she has ad­vice for SA’s lead­ers: “The chil­dren of any na­tion are its fu­ture. A coun­try, a move­ment, a per­son that does not value its youth and chil­dren does not de­serve its fu­ture.” The na­tion­wide protests cer­tainly ar­rested SA’s at­ten­tion. But what is the way for­ward?

Gov­ern­ment has now com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing the long-term is­sues and de­mands. Do you think they will or do you feel that the 2016 feefreeze is a band aid?

This ad­dresses the symp­tom and not the prob­lem. Un­til gov­ern­ment ad­e­quately funds higher ed­u­ca­tion, you will see that th­ese protests be­come per­pet­ual in na­ture; they al­ready are at some cam­puses. TUT [Tsh­wane Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy], for ex­am­ple, protests an­nu­ally, but be­cause it is a his­tor­i­cally black univer­sity and Wits is a his­tor­i­cally white univer­sity, they are not taken se­ri­ously, which shows how univer­sity man­age­ments and gov­ern­ment pri­ori­tise is­sues in a clas­sist and racist way.

With the 0% for 2016, how do you think the short­fall is go­ing to be funded?

There are two ways: Firstly, gov­ern­ment can use its R1.3tr bud­get more ef­fi­ciently to free up the rel­a­tively small amount that this would re­quire. Se­condly, uni­ver­si­ties need to be more ef­fi­cient and trans­par­ent with financial state­ments. Ex­pen­di­ture needs to be itemised and the au­di­tor­gen­eral should per­haps au­dit state uni­ver­si­ties.

Do you think that those call­ing for free ed­u­ca­tion un­der­stand that it won’t hap­pen overnight, or has pa­tience been ex­hausted and do peo­ple want an­swers im­me­di­ately?

In 1994 a com­mit­ment was made to­wards free and qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. The prob­lem is not financial resources, but rather a lack of po­lit­i­cal will. We want it now.

Do you be­lieve that the long-term com­mit­ments made by gov­ern­ment and uni­ver­si­ties will be hon­oured? What is the level of trust at this point?

If the com­mit­ments are not made, we will go back and shut down the univer­sity. We have shown the power of ac­tive stu­dents and this should not be treated lightly or with dis­dain.

Some think the goal of a 0% in­crease was reached and the mat­ter is over. But it has been in­di­cated that there are more is­sues that will be ad­dressed. How would you en­cour­age stu­dents to achieve both their aca­demic goals and still en­sure the move­ment stays strong?

all blame to the gov­ern­ment, for­get­ting that uni­ver­si­ties run with al­most com­plete au­ton­omy and have failed dis­mally at en­sur­ing [they] are ac­ces­si­ble and em­pow­er­ing for the most marginalised in our so­ci­ety […] As an SRC we en­cour­age stu­dents to ‘Protest and Pass’ […] At this point we must change tac­tics and re­strate­gise af­ter ex­ams; we have man­aged to get the univer­sity to be le­nient to­wards stu­dents who were a part of the protest and they have agreed to an ex­tended exam pe­riod as well as no test­ing of

new ma­te­rial.

“Un­til gov­ern­ment ad­e­quately funds higher ed­u­ca­tion, you will see that th­ese protests be­come

per­pet­ual in na­ture.”

UCT has com­mit­ted to in­sourc­ing, with six out­sourced ser­vices now be­com­ing in­sourced. How is Wits mea­sur­ing up?

The Wits man­age­ment has been drag­ging its feet. They have com­mit­ted in prin­ci­ple to in­sourc­ing – af­ter 15 years of Work­ers Sol­i­dar­ity Protests by work­ers and stu­dents. Ear­lier this year, the vice-chan­cel­lor [Adam Habib] re­fused to ac­knowl­edge the ex­is­tence of the Wits Work­ers Sol­i­dar­ity Com­mit­tee (WWSC), which I have been a part of since my early years at Wits. Only now is he ne­go­ti­at­ing with the WWSC, be­cause of pub­lic pres­sure […] on Oc­to­ber 6 a protest to specif­i­cally end out­sourc­ing took place at Wits. We want – amongst a list of other de­mands that we have handed over to the univer­sity – the univer­sity to adopt the Work­ers Char­ter handed over at the 6 Oc­to­ber protest; this still hasn’t been adopted and a task team has been set up to study how the univer­sity will in­source.

Wits was ad­mired for the unity of its stu­dents. Has that changed as some re­ports would have the pub­lic be­lieve? If so, how has this im­pacted the move­ment?

Shaeera Kalla (far right), former Wits SRC pres­i­dent, and other univer­sity lead­ers lead a protest over the in­crease of tu­ition fees on 19 Oc­to­ber in Jo­han­nes­burg.

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