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Alumni Worldwide Release Letter of Solidarity With #FeesMustFall South African Protesting Students Attacked by Police Stun Grenades

The Alumni of several South African tertiary institutions have released a joint statement in solidarity with the South African student protesters. After the unfair and atrocious tuition fee hikes sparked the #Feesmustfall protests among students at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, the protest spread to 15 other South African universities.

On October 21, a week after the commencement of the protests, the South African students called for #NationalShutDown on one day of protest where they made their way to the country’s parliament. Upon arrival, the students were assaulted by the police who fired tear gas and stun grenades at them. The students Occupied the parliamentary grounds, demanding a statement from the country’s higher education minister Blade Nzimande, chanting “Fees must fall” and “We want Blade.”

The video below shows the brutal attack on students by the police with stun grenades:

In response to and condemning the brutal state violence on the protesting students, the statement released by the alumni expressed “solidarity with the students, staff and workers protesting in South Africa, at parliament, universities and institutions of higher education.”

The letter stated, “We are outraged by the use of violence from police and private security companies against protesting students. Both universities and government have the duty to protect students – not to persecute them when they demand justice from the state and its institutions. Our right to protest was won through generations of struggle and must be defended.

No unarmed and nonviolent group of students should be dispersed with stun grenades, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, or shot at. All should be equal before the law, and we condemn the targeting of black students by the police. We call for the immediate release of students who have been arrested or detained in the context of peaceful protest action.

We are also appalled by the aggression, racism and violence shown towards protesters by some, predominantly white, students, lecturers and members of the public.

Across the world, access to affordable higher education is being eroded by governments and universities. In recent years, student movements in Quebec, Amsterdam, Chile, Germany, and the United Kingdom have taken to the streets in response to the imposition of prohibitive tuition fees and the commodification of higher education. It is becoming clearer that funding for education is not a purely economic question, but also a deeply political one.

Power concedes nothing without demand. In this global struggle for educational justice, the actions of the students in South Africa are a powerful statement that cannot be ignored.

Higher education enables the exploration of the self and the pursuit of freedom, and plays a crucial role in achieving a just and egalitarian society. Unaffordable fees are exclusionary and perpetuate the extreme economic and social inequalities in South Africa. This marginalises precisely those groups for whom higher education is an essential tool to escape poverty. In South Africa, this burden falls disproportionately on black, working-class families, those historically placed in a situation of structural exclusion, particularly from higher education.

We all have a stake in the provision of higher education in South Africa. The quality and accessibility of tertiary education will shape the future of the region: either by reproducing historical and systemic inequalities, or by overcoming the legacies of the past and offering future generations the possibility of living in a better society.”

The letter ended with an endorsement of the demands made by the protestors and called upon the South African government, university management, and society at large to accede to their demands.

The statement of solidarity was signed by the alumni of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), King’s College London, University College London (UCL), City University London, Leeds, Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, New York University (NYU), City University of New York (CUNY), UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Los Angeles, University of Michigan, Georgetown Law, the Bush School of Government, The New School for Social Research, Hartford Seminary, Boston University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Sydney University, University of Toronto, University of Pierre and Marie Curie, Maastricht University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Zhejiang Normal University.

The statement is currently updating its list of current institutions expressing solidarity with the campaign and can be read online here.  Students and alumni of educational institutions can add their names and the names of their institutions to express solidarity by accessing the form given here. 

Eye Art Collective expresses solidarity with the dissenting students of South Africa. A luta continua!

Article by Manisha

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