The #feesmustfall student protests appear to be taking the upper hand as New York students rise up in support of the move.
Reports have it that New York students, as well as workers in the city, plan to march to the South African consulate on Wednesday to hand over a letter to the South African ambassador on the fees increase matter.
According to M&G, the organizers of the march announced their planned march saying a decolonisation movement is beginning to take root in New York universities.
Among the organizers of the march is Kayum Ahmed – a PhD student completing his degree in international and comparative education at Columbia University in New York. He is also South African Human Rights Commission’s former chief executive officer.
Ahmed explained the idea behind the march by saying the solidarity march came from a group of South Africans who are New York students at various universities in the city, who feel the pains of the protesting students in SA and at the same time recognize the struggle to decolonise education in the country.
“As fellow students, we certainly feel the pain of student protesters in South Africa and at the same time recognize that the struggle to decolonise education in South Africa is of course not just a South African struggle, but a struggle that is shared by students in the United States and across the world,”
The student senate at the Teachers College (referred to as the first and largest graduate school of education in the US) has already adopted a resolution to support the Fees Must Fall movement in South Africa which first started in 2015 when fees were hiked by the government.
In South Africa, students have continued with their protest which in some areas have turned violent resulting in students severely wounding themselves while school building and properties are increasingly torched.
However, protesting students have been criticized and defended, with concerns being raised about the completion of the academic year amid university shutdowns.
In New York city, on the other hand, students and workers are to march from Bryant Park to the South African consulate where they intend to hand over a letter of demands to the SA ambassador to the US, Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu.
The demands include that colonial symbols are removed from universities, that primary, secondary and tertiary education is paid for through wealth tax and that workers are treated with dignity and respect.
Speaking on people’s view on the fees must fall protest, Ahmed said the discussion of the matter in the US has been largely influenced by the perception that education is a commodity.
He said though education has a price in SA, the country’s Constitution states that everyone has the right to basic education and to “further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible”.
“Student responses on this side of the world have been varied, primarily because education here is commodified and is seen as a commodity, whereas in South Africa education is characterised as a right,” Ahmed says.
“I think those distinctions between education as a commodity and education as a right has certainly shaped and framed the discourses around the decolonisation movement here in the United States,” he said.
The #Feesmustfall movement aims at pressuring the state government to listen to students and act accordingly.
“We believe that by placing pressure on our government by drawing global attention to the challenges that students face, we will firstly offer solidarity or at least a modest form of solidarity with students in South Africa.
“Second, we hope that students in the US are able to draw inspiration from students in South Africa where a movement to decolonise the US education system is desperately needed in our view,” Ahmed, one of the New York students march organizers said.