Although the ruling class and their media would babble on about education being a ‘privilege’ that should be ‘earned’, and must be ‘private’, education is, in fact, a social activity that takes place in the social conditions under which it occurs.
So, under the racial capitalist system of Apartheid, a property-owning minority, defined by race and having acquired its property by means of the most barbaric primitive accumulation, decreed that the majority without property, defined by race, shall be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ in service of the minority.
Consequently the indigenous majority were restricted to 13% of the land even though they constituted 80% of the population. As a consequence the ruling minority, using the full resources of the state ensured that the best educational infrastructure in the form of schools, colleges, universities, cultural and recreational facilities was located in the leafy suburbs where the minority resided. The urban space for the majority took the form of dormitory locations provided with only the most basic of educational facilities.
After 1994, the physical and legislative barriers to free movement and access to quality education, recreational, cultural and sports facilities were removed. But the economic barriers remained, and were in fact raised, as those who so cleverly used public resources for their own exclusive benefit in the past convinced the new government and black political elite that the best most efficient way forward would be the privatisation and corporatization of all infrastructure that previously belonged to the state. “People who get things for free will become lazy.” “People must earn their degrees and certificates as education is a privilege,” preached those who used the state and the judiciary, before 1994 to appropriate the land, the productive property and all the education, cultural and recreational opportunities for themselves exclusively.
As a result a trickle up of black middle-class elements migrated to the leafy suburbs, the black political and business elite, and soon adopted the same classist snobbishness of their white neighbours, imitating bourgeois ‘family values.’ There was no migration of any members of the racially privileged minority into the monotonous dusty, drab dormitory locations now called ‘townships’.
Noting that township dwellers bore the brunt of the liberation struggle, a class struggle against racial Apartheid capitalism it was only a matter of time before a movement like ‘#FeesMustFall’ occurred. People are starting to realize that the political elite keeps on demanding that the African majority defer their dreams of freedom, justice, equality and participation in the wealth and resources of the country. The dawn of the realisation that the horizon of a better life keeps on being pushed further and further away has found expression in angry outbursts in the form of protests, while the business and political elite, the ruling class have responded with increasingly militarized private security (the old Apartheid Army and police now in private business making money from misery and torture, using mercenaries from conflict zones all over Africa to keep the hordes out of gold estates, security estates and gated universities.
The business ideology is that “Universities must serve business interests.” This brings us the explosion of student anger. The burning of ‘public’ facilities, running battles with the police and militarized private security, and the moralistic claptrap about family values and ‘civilised people do not burn things.’
You cannot preach “morals” and “family values” when 23 years into democracy you allow the dominant industries of mining and agriculture to continue tearing apart, ripping asunder, the families of the African working class majority in this country through migrant labour, cheap labour, labour-broking and out-sourcing. Husbands, brother, uncles have torn away from their families, press-ganged into the mines by miserable poverty and then having their lungs, limbs and bodies crippled and destroyed before they are dumped back into labour-sending areas to be a burden on their families and die a painful slow death. Then you have the audacity to demand that the same family sends more members to be so destroyed in a new cycle of labour consumption, destruction and discard.
Every mine worker we speak to is desperate for a better wage so that he or she could see their children escape the curse of mining. Yet for the vast majority, 23 years into democracy, their children will be transformed yet again into simple articles, commodities in the cheap labour market to be ground into dust. No wonder the children of the working class are protesting, demanding free access to university education now!