Many people claim that African students must take pride in institutions of higher learning, however, avoid the fact that we need financial access first in order to claim this pride. The Russel Botman Bursary Fund is a true reflection of manufacturing the hopes of the poor into a reality on our campus.
The bursary fund is no different from the role played by Prof. Russel Botman who took it upon himself to establish a recruitment programme that helped students like me get exposed to the higher learning environment.
Many of the students I was recruited with are victims of the previous oppressive language policy of this institution. The day I stood in a practical theology class and requested that the class be presented in English and be interpreted to Afrikaans for a day, I became a victim of this cruel system. Some students and officials of the institution claimed that we were against the Afrikaans culture. To be honest, our battle was never against Afrikaans. Instead, we were fighting for justice in the academic space and not only in Stellenbosch but throughout the country. The best results we could get was nothing more than 60%, meanwhile those who studied in Afrikaans were getting above 65%. This was not the result of not studying enough, but a system that made it impossible for us to perform to our best abilities. Through willingness to learn and walking in the footsteps of Prof. Russel Botman, we remained unshaken and ready for the challenge until the recent ruling by the high court. A lot of money was wasted over what many looked at as an attack without trying to figure out how we got to where we were. The solution was simple; however, fear overruled humanity and justice. If we were hooligans and wanted instability like many claimed, we could have supported comrades who wanted innocent statues to be removed on our campus. Students who learnt from Prof. Russel Botman rejected becoming national pawns by removing historical statues because our battle was for justice and not for nursing our own egos.
It has become a norm in our country that hope and justice for the poor is always delayed by those with privileges. Fees Must Fall can attest to this fact – poor students like myself advocated for free education for the poor meanwhile the rich wanted free education for all. This misguided demand by the privileged resulted in a delay for the poor to be ushered with free education by our government.
The biggest animal amongst ourselves today is: What are we doing to help manifest the hope of others?
To the Russel Botman donors and executive members, please continue extending your hand and reaching out to the poor. The role that you play is very significant to the lives of those whom poverty has taken hope away from.
As I conclude, I would like to express my faith in the people of Stellenbosch that we shall build the foundation of peaceful coexistence in our campus, by quoting Prof. Ntsanwisi, the first Chief Minister of the Gazankulu Bantu State.
“What is needed for peaceful coexistence in South Africa is to my mind immediate action because time is swiftly running out for all responsible people in South Africa to make a choice between peaceful change and violent change.. I am a prisoner of Hope”
Author: Jeffrey Ngobeni