There’s no doubt that tweets, likes and comments have helped galvanise awareness of the fees fiasco currently aflame throughout the country. Sharing our real-life stories of tertiary challenges from having to drop out due to financial hardship or working multiple jobs to top up a much-needed bursary or loan has helped add a human voice to the rhetoric. But if you really want to support the movement, it’s going to require more than hashtags. Here are three ways you can be part of the vision:
1. NSFAS Accountability
If you or someone in your network studied through NSFAS, have you paid back the loan? Right now there’s a student who needs your support. They’re marching outside Wits, placard in hand, feet constantly in motion, heart aching with desire. Paying back your NSFAS debt means they will receive the baton of opportunity from you. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes individuals who pay back their loans to educate one.
2. Take a Public Stand
It would be helpful to leave our desks and offices to march alongside the students, adding to the calls of #FeesMustFall. Those unable to do so can spark and mobilise corporate involvement. This can range from using the company social media accounts with relevant hashtags to add to the voice of dissent, to organisational heads lobbying government through appropriate channels. Companies also have an opportunity to be part of the action by offering tangible support. This could be legal assistance for arrested students, refreshments and food for protesters and lobbying government through the appropriate channels.
3. Mentor a Student
Research by the Academic Development Centre reveals that 67% of new university enrollments are first-generation students. Being the first in their family to access tertiary education is a burden they’re often not equipped to handle. Challenges faced in this adjustment period are reported to contribute towards the country’s high university drop-out rate. Too many students are forced to leave their studies because they’re short on options. For those who do make it past the tertiary level, the working world poses a whole new set of challenges. If we can get more students to make it past first year and through all of university, there’ll be a positive impact on the country’s economy. Some students are just not suited to tertiary studies. Rather than force themselves to follow convention or expectation, they need mature voices to talk them through other opportunities, like entrepreneurship. A university qualification does not guarantee career success. Being supported by mentors and people who invest their time and knowledge doesn’t guarantee it either, but it sure can increase the odds.