Belgian Youth visit PACSA as part of an exchange visit to South Africa
On the 3rd November 2016 we hosted an exchange visit between local youth and a group of 13 Belgian youth from St Quirin in the city of Huy, Belgium. The Belgian youth are connected to Entraide et Fraternite a long standing partner of PACSA. The visit and conversation focused on sharing experiences between young people in South Africa and in Belgium.
The South Africans spoke about the experience of marginalization from economic power and their struggle for access to higher education. 4 student leaders from the #FeesMustFall movement at the local campus related that the media paint only negative pictures about what the students are doing. The students are portrayed uncivilized hooligans who are there to take the country backwards. Those in power are not engaging with the fees must fall leadership or the students in general. “We are seen as unworthy. The Vice-chancellor will not even come to our campus to address us. We only know of what he thinks through the media. When asked if they saw any light at the end of the tunnel? The response given was as follows: “it’s not us that will reap the rewards of this struggle but those who are coming after us and as such we need to keep on fighting for what we believe in”
The group from Belgium was able to draw similarities between what the UKZN students were talking about and what they have experienced in their country. They too have high university fees to pay and as results only a few are able to access good quality education. They also spoke about how the media has portrayed the protest as nothing but students taking the country back and making it appear that the protest was unsound and were thankful for the clarification. There was a sense of helpless, from the Belgium youth group. They felt that they cannot do anything to fight the injustice in their country. They also felt that if they were to try, it would be pointless as they will be silenced and “nothing will change anyway”. They also shared on how helpless and unsafe they felt in the wake of the attacks in Brussels.
Beyond these discussions, the group also got a chance to share a meal, music, poetry, participated in different activities and gave each other “South African and Belgium names”. Post the session they also exchanged their social media contact details and promised to keep in touch. Even though they had such deep conversations they were also able to interact with each on a relaxed and social environment.