A recent video shows the BBC trying to interview a University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) fifth-year medical student about the ongoing #FeesMustFall protests that have rocked our campuses. The video has received thousands of views and comments on social media.
In the video, the medical student, identified as Raheem Meer, tells the BBC reporter, Karen Allen, that there is a possibility of graduating later than expected because of the free tertiary education protests. The video then shows another medical student named Xola Nohaji-Mkoko, who tells Meer that he is misrepresenting the #FeesMustFall movement – her issue seemingly being the fact that Meer is not giving an honest representation of the situation.
This video calls for a number of issues to be addressed. These issues are discussed on a factual basis without discussing the #FeesMustFall movement itself and the merit of this movement. Nor will this article entertain the idea that the discussion that Nohaji-Mkoko is trying to foster is important.
After the incident, Nohaji-Mkoko posted via her personal social media account that she is “open for engagement”. The author strongly disagrees with this point made by the Johannesburg-based student. To be open for engagement would mean that one is willing to listen to diverse opinions, especially those that do not support the side of the argument that you fall on. Secondly, being open for engagement means evaluating the given facts and debating and discussing on these grounds.
Let us then look at the facts. Meer stated that medical students at Wits (and possibly many other universities) could face a delayed graduation. This in itself is true; the possibility does exist.
Furthermore, Meer stated that this delay in graduating is due to the protests that have been taking place. Again, objectively speaking, if it were not for the #FeesMustFall protests, medical students would most likely have been graduating at the end of this year. So far there is not much to factually dispute in this regard.
Nohaji-Mkoko’s answer to these statements is that Meer is misrepresenting the movement. She feels that saying the graduation of students might be held up because of #FeesMustFall is giving a misleading account of the movement. The author would challenge Nohaji-Mkoko to prove the opposite without dealing with the emotions of the movement but with the facts and effects thereof.
A further accusation is made by Nohaji-Mkoko that the BBC is pushing one narrative of the #FeesMustFall movement. She then repeats the words “misrepresenting” to prove her point. The irony of this statement is amusing. By trying to shut down and prevent an interview from happening, Nohaji-Mkoko herself is only showing and engaging with one side of their narrative – a narrative that she and her #FeesMustFall colleagues wish to enhance. This narrative also does not take responsibility for the effects of having fewer interns working in our public hospitals, although it seems a bridge too far to expect a sense of responsibility from students who plainly reject the effects that their movements have on themselves.
Although #FeesMustFall is imperative, according to the Wits student Nohaji-Mkok, it does not make discussions about effects of the movement irrelevant.
If discussing the factual effects of a situation is wrong and a misrepresentation of a movement, one has to start questioning the legitimacy of the movement. At some point, the members of the #FeesMustFall movement will have to realize that actions have effects and that the perceived nobility of the actions does not summarily scrap the implications that follow.