From one poor black student to others: Destroying UCT won't help

From one poor black student to others: Destroying UCT won't help

By Mfundo Radebe

The recent uprisings at the University of Cape Town have reminded us all that we still reside in a country that is divided not only in terms of economic privilege, but also in race.

The #RhodesMustFall movement has broadened its spectrum to advocate for young black people who, according to them, are largely prejudiced against by the administration of the University when it comes to the allocation of residence spaces and by the University still failing to reduce the many barriers black students face in trying to succeed at UCT. 

We all have our views on this issue. Some of us are appalled, and rightfully so, that students would destroy property in the name of seeking progress. Some of us have empathised with the movement suggesting that If the only way to get the University to change is to burn it, then so be it. 

Regardless of where you stand in this issue, acknowledgment must be given to the fact that South Africa has a problem with education.

Acknowledge that we need solutions to it, and that a collective shaking of heads will not suffice. 

Student's gather artwork from UCT's lecture halls and set them alight. Source: Facebook

Here's where I stand
During my high school years, I learnt many very valuable lessons. Not coming from a privileged background is an understatement to my township beginnings. Yet, I knew very well how important it was for me to be educated so that I would be able to build a bright future for myself. That attitude is what got me to problem solving a way to pay to attend a private school in Durban. Even though I was already a top student at my local school and it provided for my right to an education, I wanted more.

I wanted to attend Crawford College. I wanted to matriculate from school with a pedigree pass and to me this school was the best. The only way I could afford to do so was through a bursary.

When Crawford wrote back to me saying that I would not be able to attend from Grade 10, I was upset, but I also understood that for me to challenge the terms that had been set out, I could not proceed haphazardly. I had to bring new solutions to the table; I had to present concrete evidence that I would be a good investment and then, I had to make good on my promise to be that person I told the school I would be.

I didn’t challenge Crawford's 'NO' by burning its buildings and setting faculty cars on fire. Nor did I do it by bullying my way into the private institution. I negotiated peacefully, acknowledging that regardless of what came off the discussion, Crawford did not have the responsibility to fund me because there were already other avenues for me to get an education.

And so it is with that same spirit that I feel that we must solve this problem university students in South Africa are having -- the belief that they deserve free education, free campus residence, free lunches, freedom from discipline, freedom from white lecturers, freedom from any sort of criticism. 

Life, simply, does not work that way. These students must realise that regardless of the dire economic situation of black students at university, it is equally up to them to provide PRACTICAL solutions after they have resolved to work their butts off. Hustling hard, as the saying goes, is not a feat to be ashamed of. It's the material that makes you a sought-after graduate.

I am hesitant to use the word ‘entitled’ to describe the current status quo, but as the disgruntlement of the students progresses day by day, I fear it is the only adjective that fits the behaviour I am trying to display.  

No, I am not out of touch when I say this. Many will interpret my opinion as me diminishing off the problem that many black students face or as me taking a "white" stance on the matter; I am not. I’m saying that we each need to look at the part students must play in getting to where we want to go.

It’s the exact advice I would give those who blame the government for all the problems South Africa has. 

It's safe to say Liz Wheeler, a news anchor on One America News Network expertly elaborated on what I mean, when she directly addressed the million student march on her show Tipping Point. Watch  below.

Mfundo Radebe is a National debate champion; Magna Carta International writing and speaking champion; Political enthusiast; and Social Cohesion Advocate. He will be pursuing an education at Harvard University in August. Want to challenge this opinion? Write to the editor:

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