Thursday, October 22, 2015

#Fees Must Fall

I am part of a Methodist tertiary educational institution - and we are one of the very few tertiary institutions open today. Everywhere across the country tertiary education is on strike. I have a daughter studying at UCT,  and a niece studying at Wits University. I also have friends who teach at Stellenbosch University, Pretoria University, University of KwaZuluNatal and the University of South Africa. As I listen to them, the one common theme is that tertiary education is frustratingly expensive. And that people are unable to pay the increases for next year.

These increases are for a number of reasons, including a weakening economy, a steady decrease in Government funding, and the resultant difficulty of funding an educational institution in our South Africa context. I should know, because we are struggling with this issue here at our seminary. And our students - like students elsewhere - are also feeling the pain of increased financial pressure.

At the same time, allow me to offer one comment:
I find it sad that it takes study fees to mobilize people.
·         We have had xenophobic attacks on foreigners in Durban – and no University Students protested
·         We have seen corruption and dishonesty amongst our politicians – and no university protested
·         Our communities experienced women raped and children murdered – and nobody protested.
But the moment something touches our pockets, then we are on fire:
It is tragic that it takes self-interest to mobilize us.  

In the light of this I turn to Jesus for guidance:
Mark 3:31  Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32  A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." 33  And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34  And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

Jesus is not saying that his mother and his brothers and sisters are not important. What he is saying is that those who follow him ought to show the same compassion that they have for their immediate family for others in their community.  Self interest is when we care for our own family’s needs to the exclusion of others. God-interest is when we are willing to make the whole community our family.

So let us protest the increase in fees – but only after we have protested the plight of other poor people in our community!