The past four years proved that students would do anything to fight for that in which they believe. Here are the major movements over the last four years that got the most media coverage:
1.) Open Stellenbosch
Open Stellenbosch began in 2015 when a group of students, who described themselves on their Facebook page as “a collective interested in purging the oppressive remnants of apartheid in pursuit of a truly African University”, organized a protest in order to boost English as the dominant language at Stellenbosch University (SU).
This followed after SU’s council rejected the rector’s management team’s proposal to change 2014’s language policy which stated that English and Afrikaans should have equal status at the university. The group of students wanted the university to change the main language of education to English to promote inclusivity at the university.
Prof Wim de Villiers, the vice-chancellor of SU, and his management team, issued an official statement on 12 November 2015, in which it was stated that language shall “no longer form a barrier to learning opportunities”. De Villiers further stated that the new language policy will implement English as SU’s official language of instruction, and that all learning material will be made available in all other feasible languages, as requested by students.
2.) Fees Must Fall
Fees Must Fall was a country-wide, student-led protest that began in October 2015 at Rhodes University.
On Monday 12 September 2016, Fees Must Fall protesters occupied the SU Library and vowed to stay there until the university’s vice chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, met with them to discuss free education and no fee increases in the following year (2017).
The BA, Commerce and Law faculties were also shut down on 10 October after disruption by protesters made learning impossible. As this was during exam time, the protesters also disrupted test venues. A video taken by Mbedzi Lugisani, posted on 9 September 2016, showed a test being interrupted in the RW Wilcocks building. The video shows tests being ripped apart and protestors dancing on tables. There was also a petrol bomb thrown at the Engineering building on 11 October, but no damage was done. Student protesters all over the country caused damage estimated at R300 million.
Blade Nzimande, minister of Higher Education and Training in 2016, proposed an increase of 8% student fees in 2017. Nzimande stated that universities can independently determine the amount of increase in university tuition, but said that universities should not exceed an 8% increase.
De Villiers addressed protesting students on the Rooiplein on 17 September 2016 and, in response to Nzimande’s statement, said the university will include the 8% increase in tuition for 2017 because a 0% fee increase was not feasible for the university.
3.) SLUT Walk
SLUT is an acronym for Start Letting Us Talk, and the SLUT Walk was created in 2017 to raise awareness on gender inequality, rape culture and gender-based violence.On Wednesday 8 March 2017, a group of approximately 100 students marched down Victoria and Bosman streets.
Prof Amanda Gouws, a political science lecturer at SU, described the purpose of the movement as women who want to “claim back their bodies and sexuality”.
Gouws explained in an article appearing in Die Matie of 15 March 2017, that the goal of the march is to “say that no matter what women wear, or if they walk naked, they are not asking to be raped”.
The event was organized by the Womxn Empowerment Committee of Metanoia residence in 2017, and according to Tegan Snyman, a participant of the SLUT Walk, the idea originated in Canada where the first thing a woman was asked after she was raped, was what she was wearing at the time of the incident.
4.) Move 4 Food
Move 4 Food was born when students in collaboration with the Alumni office decided to help students who don’t have the financial resources to afford food.
The project started in September 2018, and aimed to raise R10 million in financial and non-perishable food donations in 100 days. The Engineering Without Borders society built a giant lunchbox in The Neelsie where students could donate non-perishable food items for students in need.
Cheryl Benade, Donor Relations manager at SU was the coordinator of the event, and said that “food allowances start to run out during the end of the year, and this is even worse because it is during exam times when nutrition is a key factor in success.” This was the reason she decided to organized the event.
The campaign raised money in collaboration with a Cape Town Marathon crowdfunding campaign, where even Professor Wim de Villiers participated, by cycling in the Cape Town Marathon, to raise money for the movement.
A 24-hour spin-a-thon was also held in The Neelsie, where it costed each participant R20 to cycle for ten minutes, and all money raised contributed towards the Move 4 Food funds.