Sonke Gender Justice expresses solidarity with concerned university students, academics and allies across South Africa and internationally with their call for fair, just, equitable and affordable access to education. The #FeesMustFall campaign was catalysed by University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) students last week when they mobilised to challenge the increase in university fees for 2016. Direct action on the Wits campus joins a long history of student activism for affordable education, and rapidly spread to other institutions and constituencies of the country. The concerted, largely peaceful and disciplined protest action against escalating tertiary institution fees is a clarion call for human rights movements, and has far-reaching policy implications for the education system and for academic freedom in South Africa.
The #FeesMustFall campaign resonates with Sonke’s values as a civil society organisation that promotes equality, dignity, human rights and justice for all – irrespective of race, gender, class and income. We acknowledge and are inspired by the energy, the courage and the determination that student activists have shown in the #FeesMustFall campaign, and trust that it will infuse broader struggles for social justice in South Africa and the continent.
“We believe that the call to free education cannot be a struggle for students alone. All social justice activists must join hands and strategise on how to use this historic moment strategically. Lack of education is a key issue for South Africa, and is linked to other social injustices such as gender based violence, crime, economic stagnation, political immaturity, poverty, and so forth”, says Sonke’s Director of Structural and Social Drivers unit, Desmond Lesejane.
Sonke demands the immediate release of all students who have been arrested during peaceful protest action. We note with deep concern the violent actions and disproportionate means used by police towards civilians when they express their frustrations.
Itumeleng Komanyane, Sonke’s manager of International Partnerships and Networks notes: “As these protests continue, we urge government, the South African Police Services and private security to refrain from unnecessary force and from brutality when dealing with protesters”.
“This is an opportune time for the government, leaders of tertiary institutions, the private sector and civil society to come together to seek a solution to the education crisis and to widening inequalities in South Africa. It is vital for the development of the country’s youth for future growth, prosperity and social justice”, says Dean Peacock, Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice.
FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES CONTACT:
1. Desmond Lesejane, Director: Social and Structural Drivers Unit.
Tel: 011 339 3589
2. Itumeleng Komanyane, Manager: International Partnerships and Networks.
Tel: 011 339 3589