“Amira who is originally from Sudan started by reading from the introduction of Amin Maalouf ‘s book “Disordered World: A vison for the post 9/11 world”. She quoted a poet from the early 20th century who wrote these lines that were chanted during the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia:
If the people one day desire life
It is inevitable that destiny grants it
It is inevitable that the darkness lifts
Abul-Qacem Echebbi
Amira likened the struggle of the UJ students to the Arab Spring uprisings – while being aware that there may be differences in protest being driven by socio-economic and/or political freedom issues. She reminded us that events have far reaching significance and that we here, today have no way of knowing the real consequence of the student protests.
She especially experessed concern that some would call “#feesmustfall or the #governmentmustfall”, quoting the slogan of the Khartoum University students in the 80’s “A FREE UNIVERSITY OR NO UNIVERSITY” and ironically the students were left with ‘no university’ in the sense that standards dropped drastically and student experiences became even more difficult.
Coming from an Architecture background meant that Amira would look at the #feesmustfall in a way that was analogous to housing. The South African, award winning, national housing programme is a massive success in terms of the numbers of houses delivered, yet has inadvertently reinforced Apartheid spatial patterns, disadvantage and segregation. Idenitifable housing for the poor, in peripheral locations, is no doubt the unintended consequence of some noble ideals. So she stated that she is against “free houses”. This was because a give-away house reinforces the notions of “government as provider”, rather than “government as enabler” – a major paradigm shift in housing theory.
However she can again draw parallels in thinking about housing and education where increased government funding is crucial – it is the manner in which that funding is used that can lead to success or failure, spatially in the built environment or in our educational systems.”