Daily’s coverage of recent study abroad crisis didn’t include an important perspective

by Emma Dunn

The recent Daily article “In South Africa, University students locked out of classes amid national protests” featured a photograph I took during a peaceful protest on the University of Cape Town (UCT) campus. One of the students’ signs read, “Education is a right not a privilege.” It is also their right to have their perspective told in an article reporting on the consequences of this historic moment in South Africa.

It is difficult to fully contextualize the centuries of historical wrongs in South Africa and to report on it from afar, however. To cover only half of this story is an injustice. Doing so whitewashes the painfully violent and racist structure of former all-white institutions like UCT, and the country at large, that students are painstakingly working to reform. The fight for free and decolonized education deserves to be acknowledged.

The worries and stresses for study abroad students during this time are important. But an equally, if not more important part of the story is the worry, stress, and hardship of our South African peers. As the graphic featured in the article clearly exhibited, a university education places an unimaginable burden on black families. Current UCT fees ($3,616) are a staggering 83 percent of the average black household income ($4,354), while only 13.7 percent of the average white household income ($26,232). Now, imagine an 8 percent fee increase.

There are a broad range of opinions on the #FeesMustFall movement. I’ve had the privilege of listening to many perspectives, which has helped me acknowledge the complexity of the issue. Among UCT faculty, there are diverse viewpoints, which were not expressed in the article. Some of my professors and tutors have voiced complete support for the protestors and their methods, and have refused to teach under these conditions. They cannot continue “business as usual.” Regardless of their opinions, all of my instructors have been supportive and receptive to student concerns during this stressful, but eye-opening, time.

In a few weeks, I will return home and my life will go on as normal. For the students here, the struggle for justice and equal opportunity will continue. I am grateful for the support of my program and the U during a time of unknowns, which has allowed me to confront the deep socioeconomic disparities and consider worldviews other than my own.

These protests may have personally inconvenienced me at [the] time, but the passion and resilience of my South African peers inspired me and challenged my own privilege. While I may be locked out of the classroom, worlds of learning were unlocked in my education in this beautiful and complex country.

Emma Dunn

UMN Student

Editor’s Note: This letter has been edited for style conventions.