Contextual Factors Contributing to the #feesmustfall Movement

On this page, we discuss the contextual factors contributing to the #feesmustfall movement in South African universities.

About #Feesmustfall Movement in South Africa

The #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa was a student-led protest movement that began in 2015, calling for the end of university tuition fees and the decolonization of education. The movement gained widespread attention and support across the country, with students participating in protests, sit-ins, and marches to demand free, quality education for all.

The movement was sparked by proposed fee increases at South African universities, which many students could not afford. The protests quickly spread to other universities and became a broader call for systemic change in South Africa’s education system.

The #FeesMustFall movement also highlighted broader issues of inequality and exclusion in South Africa, particularly for black and disadvantaged students who have historically faced barriers to accessing higher education.

Video: Everything Must Fall – #FeesMustFall 

Despite the widespread support and momentum of the movement, it was met with resistance and repression from the South African government and university authorities. Many students were arrested and some were injured during the protests, and the movement eventually lost some of its momentum.

However, the #FeesMustFall movement helped to raise awareness about the systemic issues facing South African education and sparked important conversations and debates about how to address these issues. The movement also paved the way for further student-led activism and advocacy in South Africa.

Contextual Factors Contributing to the #feesmustfall Movement

Contextual factors contributing to the #feesmustfall movement in South Africa are High levels of inequality, the history of student activism in the country, government policies, and social media:

  1. High Levels of Inequality

South Africa has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world, with a small percentage of the population controlling a large percentage of the wealth. This has contributed to a situation where many South Africans are unable to access higher education due to financial barriers. The #FeesMustFall movement can be seen as a response to this systemic inequality, with students demanding that access to education be made more equitable.

  1. A History of Student Activism

South Africa has a long history of student activism, with protests and demonstrations playing a key role in the fight against apartheid. This legacy of activism has continued in the post-apartheid era, with students using their voices to advocate for change on a range of issues, including access to education. The #FeesMustFall movement can be seen as part of this broader tradition of student activism in South Africa.

  1. Government Policies

Government policies also played a role in the emergence of the #FeesMustFall movement. In recent years, the South African government has implemented a range of austerity measures, including cuts to education spending. This has led to a situation where universities are struggling to meet their funding needs, and where students are faced with rising tuition fees. The #FeesMustFall movement can be seen as a response to these policies, with students demanding that the government prioritize funding for education.

  1. Social Media

Social media played a significant role in the growth and spread of the #FeesMustFall movement. Students used social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to organize protests, share information, and raise awareness about the movement. This allowed the movement to reach a wider audience and to gain support from people across South Africa and around the world.

The #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa was influenced by a range of contextual factors, including high levels of inequality, a history of student activism, government policies, and social media. These factors contributed to the emergence and growth of the movement, and highlight the need for systemic change to address issues of access to education and broader socio-economic inequalities in South Africa.

What has #feesmustfall movement in South Africa Achieved

The movement gained momentum and support across the country, and it soon became one of the most significant protests in post-apartheid South Africa. The protests were marked by clashes between students and police, vandalism of university property, and disruptions to the academic calendar.

After years of protests and negotiations with the government, the #FeesMustFall movement achieved several notable successes. Here are some of the achievements of the movement:

  1. A Zero Percent Fee Increase

One of the primary demands of the #FeesMustFall movement was a freeze on tuition fees. In 2016, the South African government announced a zero percent fee increase for the following year. This meant that students would not have to pay more for tuition fees than they did the previous year. This was a significant victory for the movement, as it showed that the government was responsive to the demands of the students.

  1. Increased Funding for Education

The South African government also responded to the #FeesMustFall movement by increasing funding for higher education. In 2016, the government announced that it would allocate an additional R17 billion (approximately $1.2 billion) over the next three years to support universities and students. This funding was intended to address the financial challenges faced by universities and to ensure that more students had access to education.

  1. Expanded Financial Aid Programs

The #FeesMustFall movement also helped to expand financial aid programs for students. In response to the protests, the government announced that it would increase funding for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which provides loans and bursaries to students from poor and working-class backgrounds. The government also announced that it would expand the eligibility criteria for NSFAS, making it easier for more students to qualify for financial aid.

  1. The Decolonization of the Curriculum

The #FeesMustFall movement also had a significant impact on the South African education system’s curriculum. The movement demanded that universities decolonize their curricula, which meant that they should be more inclusive of African knowledge and perspectives. As a result of the movement, universities have started to introduce courses on African history, literature, and culture. Some universities have also started to review and revise their curricula to include more diverse perspectives.

  1. Increased Student Participation in University Governance

Finally, the #FeesMustFall movement helped to increase student participation in university governance. As a result of the protests, many universities have established student representative councils and have given students a voice in decision-making processes. This has helped to create a more inclusive and democratic university environment.

The #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa has achieved significant successes in its demand for free education for all. The movement has led to a freeze on tuition fees, increased funding for higher education, expanded financial aid programs, decolonization of the curriculum, and increased student participation in university governance. These successes have improved access to education and have helped to create a more inclusive and democratic education system in South Africa.

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