“Dreams are visions for which one fights.”
— Paulo Freire
Across South Africa, students are protesting at their respective university campuses against fee increases. These increases amount to students being prevented from developing and advancing their dreams. The development and advancement of dreams has the power to solve South Africa’s and Africa’s most-plaguing problems, but the increase in fees will lock out many of South Africa’s future leaders, educators, scientists, doctors, innovators, engineers, artists, and many other expressions of talents and gifts due to the lack of financial resources to pay for their education.
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The prevention of students developing and advancing their dreams is educational oppression, which seeks to further dehumanize poor students. Preventing students from developing and advancing their dreams is an act of violence, which is the true mark of dehumanization because it asserts the ability of privileged classes to be dreamers and the socially and economically oppressed to be dreamless.
Students who are protesting fee hikes are the oppressed, and the act of raising fees without solutions as to how the most vulnerable can still afford their education is oppressive. Their oppression must be met with support from all individuals in society, from the janitor, educator, pastor, professor, business leader, administrator, entrepreneur, etc.
Without the dreams of the youth, our African continent will remain dependent. Without the dreams of the youth, Africa will always be the victim of the social and political ills of yesterday and today.
As a lecturer at the University of Cape Town — Graduate School of Business (GSB), people might assume that the problems of the students across the nation are not my own. This notion is wrong! The students’ grievances with fee hikes reveal that the people from disadvantaged backgrounds of South Africa will be prevented from entering the university.
As a member of the African diaspora who returned to Africa to aid in the rebuilding, restoring, and renewal of the continent of my ancestors who were kidnapped and sold as slaves in America, I believe that a threat to students developing and advancing their dreams is a threat against my work as an educator – and every educator’s work. For without the youth, who will I work with to aid in the development of a better Africa?
Our struggle at GSB is a struggle to make Africa better, which means we have to align ourselves with the oppressed students across the nation. The alignment with students means we must call out the oppression that lurks in our institution. We must non-violently resist our oppression just as our younger brothers and sisters have done!
Within the context of the GSB, an illustration of resisting oppression involves resisting the dictatorial rule of Prof. Walter Baets (pictured). As the dean, he has cut the jobs of people from disadvantaged backgrounds under the guise of “restructuring.”
He has allowed the wealth of one department to dictate the internal policies of the school and placed profit over people and educational access.
He does all of the aforementioned under the guise of positioning the GSB as an elite university, which is a euphemism where only wealthy members of society pay.
In 2014, Prof. Baets decided to abolish the Associates of Management (AIM) Program, which served people from disadvantaged backgrounds. His reason for ending AIM was that it was not profitable, but a committee of academic and PASS staff found that the program actually covered costs.
In addition, this program’s focus was not to maximize profit; rather, it was meant to aid individuals who wanted to make themselves better through personal development, learning management concepts, and applying those concepts to their daily work life.
When Prof. Baets cut the program, he shut the door on people from disadvantaged backgrounds who wanted to learn, develop and advance their dreams of individual fulfillment and social transformation.
Should an educational leader who cut a program that served people from disadvantaged backgrounds remain as dean of the top business school in Africa? No!
In conclusion, the struggle of students across the nation is our struggle as a GSB campus as well as every individual’s struggle who desires to get an education to develop and actualize their dreams.
We must stand against educational leadership who place preference on maximizing profits at the expense of people from disadvantaged backgrounds. We must stand against educational leadership who cut a program that serves people from disadvantaged backgrounds and replace it with a program that allows the university to charge higher fees to students.
We must stand against educational leadership who use power to enable the well-funded departments to dictate internal policies at our school. In sum, the struggle of students across the nation is our struggle and we will win!!!
Forward Ever, Backward Never!