Was Fees Must Fall a Success in Addressing Students?

The Fees Must Fall movement, which emerged in South Africa in 2015, was a student-led protest against the increasing cost of university education. The movement aimed to address the financial hardships faced by students, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, and called for a decolonized and affordable education system. This article assesses the impact and success of the movement in addressing students’ concerns and shaping higher education in South Africa.

Highlights

  1. Halted fee increases: The Fees Must Fall movement successfully halted proposed fee increases for universities, providing immediate relief to students and addressing the financial hardships they faced.
  2. Engaged in dialogue for transformation: The movement sparked discussions on decolonizing the curriculum, institutional culture, and student support services. This led to policy changes and initiatives aimed at promoting inclusivity and addressing historical inequalities in higher education.
  3. Revised financial aid system: The movement shed light on the challenges faced by students from marginalized backgrounds, resulting in the revision of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to accommodate the “missing middle” students who did not qualify for full state subsidies.
  4. Empowered student activism: The movement showcased the power of student mobilization and activism, empowering future generations to voice their concerns and demand change. It highlighted the importance of unity, strategic planning, and nonviolent methods in achieving meaningful outcomes.
  5. Shaped the education discourse: The Fees Must Fall movement ignited a national conversation about the accessibility and transformation of education in South Africa. It compelled universities and policymakers to confront systemic inequalities and prompted tangible changes in policies and practices, leaving a lasting impact on higher education and civil society.

Was Fees Must Fall a Success in Addressing Students?

Gains and Achievements

The Fees Must Fall movement achieved several notable gains during its existence. Firstly, it successfully halted the proposed fee increases for universities, ensuring that students would not face additional financial burdens. This victory provided immediate relief to many students and showcased the power of collective action.

Secondly, the movement sparked discussions on the need for transformation in higher education. Universities were compelled to engage in dialogues about curriculum decolonization, institutional culture, and student support services. These discussions resulted in the formulation of policies and initiatives aimed at addressing historical inequalities and promoting inclusivity.

Furthermore, the movement brought attention to the challenges faced by students from marginalized backgrounds, such as inadequate financial aid, lack of resources, and limited access to essential services. As a response, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was revised to accommodate the “missing middle” students who fell between low-income and full-paying categories.

Challenges and Limitations

While the Fees Must Fall movement achieved significant gains, it also faced challenges and limitations. One of the primary challenges was maintaining unity among student leaders and the broader student body. As the movement progressed, different factions emerged with varying goals and strategies. This lack of cohesion hindered the effectiveness of the movement and created divisions among students.

Additionally, instances of violence and destruction of property during protests tarnished the movement’s image. Although the majority of students advocated peaceful protests, a small minority engaged in acts of vandalism, undermining the legitimacy of the movement and providing fodder for critics.

The movement’s demand for “free decolonized education for all” presented a long-term agenda that went beyond immediate feasibility. While aspirations for a transformed education system were essential, the feasibility of fully implementing these demands remained a challenge.

Long-Term Impact and Lessons Learned

The Fees Must Fall movement had a profound impact on South African higher education and civil society. It ignited a national conversation about the accessibility and transformation of education. The movement compelled universities and policymakers to confront systemic inequalities and prompted tangible changes in policies and practices.

Moreover, the movement showcased the power of student mobilization and activism, empowering future generations to voice their concerns and demand change. It highlighted the importance of unity, strategic planning, and nonviolent methods in achieving meaningful outcomes.

However, the movement also exposed some weaknesses, such as the lack of sustainable leadership structures and the need for clear goals and demands. These lessons serve as valuable insights for future student movements and emphasize the importance of balancing immediate objectives with long-term visions.

Conclusion

The Fees Must Fall movement played a pivotal role in addressing students’ concerns regarding the affordability and transformation of higher education in South Africa. It succeeded in halting fee increases, reshaping the discourse on education, and initiating policy changes. However, challenges such as factionalism, violence, and ambitious demands tempered the movement’s overall success.

The legacy of the movement lies not only in the gains it achieved but also in the lessons learned. The importance of unity, strategic planning, and realistic demands emerged as crucial factors in the success of student-led movements. The Fees Must Fall movement undoubtedly left an indelible mark on South African society, forever changing the landscape of higher education and the broader social and political discourse.

Sources

  1. Waging Nonviolence. (2017). “South Africa’s Fees Must Fall Movement: A Powerful New Force in the Making.” Retrieved from: https://wagingnonviolence.org/2017/06/south-africa-fees-must-fall/
  2. Nkomo, M., and Chitiga-Mabugu, M. (2017). “An analysis of the FeesMustFall Movement at South African Universities.” Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/31837026/An_analysis_of_the_FeesMustFall_Movement_at_South_African_Universities
  3. Swarthmore College. (n.d.). “South African Students Demand Zero Percent Fee Increase, #FeesMustFall, 2016.” Retrieved from: https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/south-african-students-demand-zero-percent-fee-increase-feesmustfall-2016

Looking for something specific?


Studies

Related Posts