The #FeesMustFall movement has, since its beginning in 2015, been associated with violence and viewed by many as being unreasonable for believing that free education is possible in South Africa. However what few people know is that the movement has never been just about free education in the sense of not having to pay but also about freeing education from the colonialist roots it has.
Campus TV interviewed Cleo Mutsila, a student at the University of Johannesburg and a member of the UJ branch of PASMA, who is heavily involved in the #FeesMustFall movement and its objective to not only provide free tertiary education but to also decolonise education. “We cannot have free education that is not decolonised,” Mutsila said.
Mutsila went on to say that the #FeesMustFall movement came from #RhodesMustFall which was essentially about leaving behind education that came from colonizers and the legacy of it. A movement aiming to embrace education that is more African based and can benefit African people. This is where decolonization comes in. Mutsila defines decolonization as being about African people finding their identity as well as taking apart a society that is the product of colonialism and neocolonialism and rebuilding it in a way that helps African people regain what they have lost.
The decolonization of education essentially takes the focus off Western ideologies and instead focuses it on indigenous knowledge that, if given the chance, can help African people in a way that institutionalised education has not been able to.
“The knowledge that we are currently consuming is the kind of knowledge that is there to make us protect and guard the current system,” Mutsila said in response to how education is currently a legacy of colonialism. “This knowledge that you are giving us is very problematic because we’ve been consuming this knowledge for many many years but it is not necessarily helping us as the African people to come up with our own solutions.”
Education in South Africa is based mainly on foreign resources by academics who do not understand Africa and its challenges nor its people. The resources therefore cannot help Africans in the long run because some principles may not apply to South Africa and more broadly, Africa. Rather the knowledge reinforces ideals and a status quo that is beneficial to the colonizer countries decades after Africa has become independent.
“I do not find myself in that textbook when I read,” Mutsila further explained.
#FeesMustFall is a movement that goes much deeper than just money, it seeks to help all gain the knowledge that will lead to the betterment of not just themselves or their families but all African people. It aims to help all South African students have access to basic facilities in historically black universities and essentially create a new society.