Hi All,

There are a few things we generally cannot wait for after we finish high school. One of those is finally moving out of our parents’ house to venture to the unknown world of Tertiary Education.

Little do we know that we enter without a dime to our name, expecting to be walking out to dollars being thrown at us for our new acquired skills. To our dismay, we come out to huge bags of university debt on our shoulders.

Free Education

Free Education! For a second there you cringed right. The concept of free education has often resulted in a division of opinions. Friends, colleagues have stood on opposite ends in complete dispute. So, what is it about the free education tag that seems to be trending? If you have followed the news, or seen on twitter the #feesmustfall tag has been trending on social media. This erupted in 2015; when students were fed up with yearly fee increments to an already expensive education system.

What about the costs

Let’s be real, University is not cheap. Approximately, for an average degree, it would cost 27.5% of an average household with an annual income of R145000 ($10399.37). The fees to income ratio would potentially increase between 30%-60%[1]. However, these institutions need to be run somehow right. I can imagine some people in this world are probably upset with what is happening. They just want to graduate and that means completing the year, with as minimal disruptions as possible. If you agreed to this, I’m almost certain that this might cause you to say, “Students are spoiled, we need to suck it up, apply for scholarships and stop whining”. If we do not receive one, then maybe we are not smart enough or cut up for higher education.

The argument though is, what happens if you’re are not “smart enough” or “rich enough” to afford higher learning?

Why should Fees Fall?

We live in a world where over 135 countries have constitutional provisions for free and non-discriminatory education for all. However how many actually provide free education? Only five countries. Namely; Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Germany[2].

You could argue that this constitutional provision is for elementary, primary and secondary schooling. Even so, why is that tertiary education is not included in this bracket? If the world claims to have sound constitutions, claiming that everyone has the right to an education, then tertiary education should be one of these.

Either that or we would have to admit that education is only for the elite, for those who are financially privileged enough to the fortunate, all I am saying is that if something is a right then why is it available to the few. Why is it that a student should sign themselves to a debt sentence in order to have access to this right?

We have all heard and seen the spoken word poems and videos highlighting education as a key and school being the prison walls. What good is a key, if it is only accessible to a few and not the masses? Where is the justice, where is the logic?

Three Scenarios

Imagine three scenarios of three individuals of the same age, from different backgrounds and walks of life each of them with their own story.

Scenario 1:

The first scenario is about a boy, with three younger siblings supported by a single mother, who works two jobs just to get their family through the month. The boy recently completed high school. He is on the verge of going to the University of his dreams and changing his family’s current financial position. He fails to attain a scholarship because he isn’t “smart enough”, meanwhile he averaged a B rating on his finals.

Scenario 2:

The second scenario presents a girl who’s an only child of her wealthy parents. She has never used her financial privilege as a means of getting ahead. She has worked hard, achieved in her academics and extra-curricular activities. She is top of her class and a leader within her high school. She too will head to her dream university. However, she does not qualify for a scholarship because of her family’s financial position, irrespective of her high academic results. She is too “financially secure” to be eligible for a scholarship.

Scenario 3:

This scenario is quite the odd one, a boy with one sibling, seeks to attend his dream university. His parents’ combined annual salary means that he is neither poor nor well off. He is quite lazy. However, has remarkable talent. He qualifies for University with a C average, but not a scholarship. All this because his parents are considered as being in the middle class. His younger sibling still needs to go through pre-school, primary, secondary and eventually tertiary. His parents will therefore take on the burden of all the fees.

From these Scenarios, who would you say deserves “Free Education”?

Actions plans

Violent protests will never settle the issue at hand, but will only cause further division. If education is the key to elevating poverty, perhaps the government should place more emphasis on education. Instead of funding wars, bailing out state-owned entities.

Education is an important tool for the world. Innovations and discoveries are subject to the availability of education. Not saying Einstein, Newton or Galileo went to university but imagine if they didn’t. Their discoveries would be an uncovered mystery.

Should education be free? I don’t know but should students be deprived of their right because of finances? Absolutely not. I hope one day we live in a world where being a student in a university does not result in a debt sentence but results in an opening of opportunities for new graduates, where the world is their oyster.

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[1] https://home.kpmg.com/za/en/home/insights/2016/10/the-economics-of--feesmustfall.html

[2] http://europe.graduateshotline.com/free-education.html#.V_eZCvl97IU