Whatever you take from life, someone has to pay for it. Some will always hope that others pay for it. But by far the many knuckle down and foot their own bills. But what of those without the means to foot the bill themselves?
What is honourable about being so poor that you cannot afford what you need to survive or to prosper or to lift yourself out of poverty, to be denied what others have almost by right? There is no honour to poverty and yes, things have to change. Those rights need to be extended to all.
To address the question of access to education, we need to address the question of poverty, or access to wealth. To continue yelling for free education above all the words of reason is self defeating. To destroy the very institutions of learning that are the means to freeing our society from poverty will not achieve free education, it will merely destroy society’s ability to free itself from poverty and make education in SA inaccessible to all.
Nothing will achieve free education. There is no such thing as free education nor a a free lunch. It is just a question of who gets to pay for it.
Let’s discuss who pays for the free tertiary education that a minority of students are advocating. First of all, not everyone would qualify for nor succeed at tertiary education. So only a very small part of society receive the benefit. But if society as a whole picks up the tab for the free education, those few who receive the benefit are being paid for by the many who do not receive the benefit. In short, people who don’t get to eat the free lunch pay for the people who do get to eat the free lunch. It is policy like that which earns taxation the sobriquet “legalised theft”.
The DDF have a solution, however. Reform education such that we no longer spend from 18% to 20% of our GDP on education (one of the highest rates of expenditure in the world, delivering education that is likely the worst education in the world), and instead deliver education that is affordable and relevant and successful. We would then be able to afford to fund tertiary education for all who qualify for it and want it. Such beneficiaries could then repay what they had received, by way of a progressive education levy on their post-graduate incomes and or by means of service to the state, all affordable and perfectly honourable and no theft involved.
And how the student protesters demands have changed over time. Rhodes must Fall, Contract Staff be Directly Employed, Fees Must Fall, De-Colonialise Education (junk millennia of learning), Africanise our education (Study how to strike down your enemies with lightening) and so on and so forth. What next, we wonder?
But the DDF doubt that a solution is what the protesters want. After all, they are not stupid. They well know all of the above, yet instead on settling for the possible, they continue to protest for the impossible. So what is the motivation for this campaign? Education or the destruction of SA’s education capacity? Perhaps even the destruction of the fabric of society. For when they have (if they ever do) achieve their current goal, who says they will stop there? But maybe they have better sense than that for that would indeed be treason, and sufficient justification for the powers that be to respond in a like manner. Where would that lead? The destruction of our constitution and all the civil rights entrenched therein. But perhaps that is the goal of the fees must fall movement?
DDF policies will lead to fair government and fair tax and an economy based on prosperity for all. You simply cannot beat that.
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