Notes by the National Secretary of the YCL Buti Manamela, to the SASCO National Day of Action on Free Education

Category: Speeches

1 September 2004

Comrades, the Young Communist League supports these action by SASCO to take on the on the struggle for Free Education forward. Before we proceed with our message, we would like to indicate that there are those who are working in the Department of Education who still owes the NSFAS huge amounts as a result of interest rates and the costs of learning, and will like to call upon them to join us.

We have identified as the YCL enemies of students and youth in this country. These enemies of students and youth see us as a major source of profit. They are led by enemy number one being the banks and financial service institutions. Banks, for instance, charge exorbitant interest rates on the study loans that many of us have applied for, and later blacklist us because we are unable to pay them back.

They constitute the biggest thugs who prey on the poverty of the poor and working class families, unable to afford study fees. With them are their nephews and uncles in the form of Mashonisas, who charges huge interest rates for profit. We need to intensify this campaign by paying a RED visit to this institutions. We must send them a clear message that because we do not have collateral, as they demand, we will therefore cause collateral damage to them.

The second enemy of students and youth are universities and technikons. This institutions charges unnecessarily high fees, forgetting that they are institutions of learning, and are not in the business of making profit. They have privatised services at Wits University and other institutions, resulting in high fees and poor service. We also do not understand why, in these public institutions, we have varying costs for our studies.

Why does it cost more for students in Pretoria University to do a law degree and less for a student in the University of the North? These is with the sole intention of maintaining the status quo and resist the fight against racial exclusion in this campuses.

These institutions have also created fictitious opening up for black and poor students so that they can get more funding from the government, and then later excludes this students on the basis of finances. As much as we want to see these institutions inclusive of the racial demographic of the country in terms of access, that should also be visible with regard to success.

We maintain as the YCL that the struggle for Free Education is linked with the overall struggle for skills development and that there is a link between this campaign and the broader campaign and agreement on Growth and Development.

Why do we get loans based on the NSFAS means test, of which, of the NSFAS trusts it so much, proves that we cannot pay for ourselves, and then later get penalised for not being able to pay? Why are we expected to pay back these loans when there is close to 41% unemployment in the country and the majority of the unemployed being youth? Why are we blamed for not qualifying for certain jobs whereas we do not have the money to pay for these qualifications? As the YCL we maintain that youth of the country should be doing one of two things, work or study. As long as we still have youth languishing around, we are definite that the future of this country will never be in safe hands.

This campaign should target these two major enemies of students and youth and ensure that we take them to task. We will not budge!

To the Department of Education, we have a clear, short but precise message. We want Free Education, and we want it Now. We call on you to make a study on the cost of learning in the country so that we should know what it will cost you to provide Free Education. We cannot say that South Africa is not ready for Free Education when we do not know how much this is. In your study, we know that you will find much more costs to students as a result of the expensive accommodation, food and transport.

To the National Students Financial Aid Scheme, we say that you must gradually do away with the loan component of your allocation. We further say that you must scrap interest rates from the loans that you allocate to students.

There are many young people out there with degrees and diplomas. They cannot find employment because of the economic situation in the country, perpetuated by capitalism. They are told that they should create small businesses, but they cannot get loans from banks because the NSFAS has blacklisted them. As their burden increase, so is their numbers, because many who are here in the march will be joining them.

Lastly, This is our government, and that is why we are here without fear of state suppression and police intimidation. We know that our government care enough to know what is good for its youth. We will not stop until we achieve our golden goal. This is only the beginning of a long struggle. We will continuously knock in your doors, and if pushed further, we will ensure that we pay you frequent visits. We will not disrupt classes because there will be no classes. There will be no classes because there will be no students. They would have been excluded.

We will travel the road to this building with much more frequency, and much more numbers. We shall not tire.

Amandla!