Thursday, June 29, 2017

Zimbabwe: Fees must be smashed!

29 Jun


On Monday the 26th of June 2017 medical students at the University of Zimbabwe staged a massive demonstration at the offices of the University Vice Chancellor protesting against a 100% increase in tuition fees. In response, the University management harassed, assaulted students using private security guards. As if that was not enough, about 600 medical students were evicted from the hall of residents and thrown into the street. The Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe (RWG-Z) fully supports the struggle by medical students and all students against all forms of fees. Fees must be smashed and not fall.

This recent demonstration by the medical students puts back onto the limelight the historic and important struggle for free, quality, universal and progressive education in the service of human needs and not for the service of the callous capitalist system in its various manifestations. The call for free education from primary to tertiary level is not an abstract concept in Zimbabwe or the world over. From independence in 1980 and up to the early 1990s government greatly subsidised education up to tertiary or college levels with many the bureaucrats championing austerity measures being beneficiaries of subsidised education. This was a result of the social pressure exerted on the state soon after independence and also as a tactic by the government to build a political base as it struggled to gain a foothold on state monopoly. Education, health and other basic services became accessible to a majority of the poor people in direct contrast to the colonial period where such services were only available and subsidised to the white minority. In a limited way, the Stalinist and radical nationalist measures adopted by the government at independence went a long way in providing basic needs to the poor as well as showing the potential for a fully state controlled state in the interest of the poor masses.

All this was reversed from the early 1990s onwards as the ZANU-PF government embarked on an IMF/WB sponsored liberalisation of socio-economic life under the programme termed Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP).Under this economic plan and subsequent ones, the state was forced to open the industries and public institutions to private concerns and international competition resulting in job losses, unavailability and unaffordability of basic serves like education. Students from Early Child Development classes (preparatory stage) up to University/college are required to pay for their studies. This has resulted in a number of dropouts along the academic path as many cannot afford the fees demanded upfront. The economic crisis in the country since 2000 buttressed by the global recession of 2008 forced the government to attack students and the poor even more as the government embarks on a brutal austerity drive. The education sector is now in shambles owing to massive cuts in public spending and poor remuneration of staff demanded by imperialism.

The attacks on students can only be seen in the context of the general social and international context of austerity measures by states as they try to force on workers and the poor masses the cost of the economic crisis. As such the struggle by students for free education must be linked to the fight against austerity, dictatorship, capitalism and imperialism. Government does not implement austerity or anti poor measures out of stupidity but as a deliberate reaction to a need of the system they serve. They is nothing personal about capitalist brutality. Only a proper understanding of the causes of the attacks on education, jobs and other basic services can inform a correct response to the issues affecting the education sector and society at large.

The fight for free education remains urgent. Ordinary students must not wait for the initiative from elected leaders most of whom become compromised once elected. Neither should they rely on the initiative of oppositional political formations whose various Manifestos seek to deepen and entrench the assault on education. All the talk of being pro students is just but campaign rhetoric that will be easily dumped once elected into office. Apart from ordinary students forcing the leadership or taking independent initiative there is need for ideological clarity on the causes of the state of the education sector so that correct demands and strategies can be posed. As students would say “the struggle continues unabated!”

These demands should be posed:
  • Reinstatement of all medical students into halls of residents!
  • For free, quality, universal and progressive education from primary to tertiary level!
  • Abolition of all fees at all levels of education and for all basic social services!
  • Public works to build schools, colleges and public infrastructure!
  • A living wage and good working conditions to all educational staff and all workers!
  • To provide education for all big and imperialist assets must be nationalised and put under workers control and self-management!
  • For a workers state that defends students, workers and peasants against the local and foreign capitalists!
  • For a workers and peasants’ government on the basis of the armed people to implement decisions that benefit the workers, students and the poor!
  • For an African socialist revolution as part of the international revolution that alone can guarantee a better life for all!
  • For a new world party of socialist revolution based on the transitional program of 1938 to lead the revolution to end capitalism and open the road to socialism!

29 June 2017, Harare Zimbabwe
Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe (RWG-Z)

No comments: