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Culture, Reality


by George Kirkinis / Images by Matthew Wareley / 02.11.2015

Why the student protests of 2015 should matter to you too…

Of all the resources that we have at our disposal, the one that is perhaps the least finite and most desperately in need of circulation is knowledge.

When we speak of “knowledge” as a broad term, we refer to a corpus of learning that has taken place generations before our own. A collection of lessons accumulated over the centuries of human existence that have paved the way to the world we live in today.

These lessons help to illuminate how the world works now, whilst also indicating how it may look in the future. The point being not only to identify what we need to perfect or change about the world in which we inhabit, but then further, to figure out by what means these alterations can occur.

There are many forms of distributing knowledge, but one of the most primary is through formal education. An institution that embargos formal education inhibits access to knowledge. And no one, whether it be a government or parent, can be permitted the crime of limiting this most fundamental, basic entitlement.

At the stripped down core of it, the fight for affordable education is a fight for the right to benefit from the learning of those who came before us. And this is a fight that should concern you, whether you can afford a hike in fees or not.


It has become steadily clearer to me over my adult years that being South African often accompanies an inundation of complaints, ranging from politics and police, to crime and corruption. What is less clear, however, is what the ensuing solutions are. The complainants more often than not seem satisfied to murmur their dissatisfaction without casting an eye to how their gripes may be resolved.

And this is precisely the reason why we learn: not only to identify our grievances (as many South Africans seem perfectly adept at doing), but to rectify them as well.

What the student protests have taught us is that this process of rectification is possible. That no matter how firmly clutched the reins of power happen to be, they can still be pried and steered according to the needs of the people, as opposed to the laps of their leaders. This, at the heart of it, is what the fight for democracy has always been about.


Now, one cannot expect every South African to have been in support of the protests. But what cannot be abided is the attitude of those who have smirked at the marches, but have still managed to complain about the country they live in. This is true by simple rational deduction: you have no right to complain about things if you have supported the embargo of the only possible means that they have of being resolved. Anyone seriously concerned with the future of a country should have a vested interest in the state of its education.

The protest class of 2015 need to be commended not only for their bravery, but also for the hands-on manner in which they approached the status quo and, upon regarding it, made the effort to change it, rather than being content to idly sit back and complain about it. I am proud to have been in your midst.

What you did was provide an invaluable service: you gave the rest of us an education. Now it is time for everyone else to follow in the knowledge that you have left by your example.


*Images © Matthew Wareley

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