The High Cost of Free Education

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Rehad Desai Director/Producer: “This film has been in the making since late 2015 and is one of the most rewarding and inspiring projects I have had the pleasure to work on. It is a story of hope, disappointment, anger and a new generation that has entered our political arena. It is the story of Fees Must Fall told through the prism of Wits University, my old university, one of the country’s elite universities, adding some unique layers of complexity.”


An unflinching look at the #FeesMustFall student movement that burst onto the South African political landscape in 2015 as a protest over the cost of education, and morphed into the most militant national revolt since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. The story is told by four student leaders at Wits University and their Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib, a left-wing, former anti-apartheid student activist. When Habib’s efforts to contain the protest fail, he brings 1000 police on to campus. There are dire consequences for the young leaders: Mcebo Dlamini is arrested and charged with serious offences, Shaeera Kalla is shot 13 times with rubber-coated bullets; others, fearing the involvement of the state security agencies, are forced into hiding.

At the heart of the film sits an intergenerational conflict connecting us to an important contemporary discourse on the conceptualisation of higher education as a public good. To date, there have been unprecedented numbers involved, three deaths and 800 arrests. By blending dramatic unfolding action with a multi-protagonist narrative, much of the drama lies in the internal struggles the activists have around the weight of leadership. Threaded through the film is a pulse of anticipation, shared across the generational divide, that somehow these youth have reached breaking point and won’t back down until they achieve the kind of social transformation that previous generations had long given up on.

Everything Must Fall Impact Campaign

This campaign supports the fight for

  • Universal fee free education
  • An end to outsourcing of campus workers
  • Drop all politically motivated charges against student activists

The goals of the campaign are to

  1. Provide a platform for dialogue to take place within the student movement
  2. Bring wider society into the fight for free education
  3. Share the film and its campaign with international student movements

How Can You Take Action:

Organise a screening in your home, community, workplace or campus.

Donate to the legal fund.

Sign up to the film campaign so we can send you updates.

Community Feedback

  • “I am a person who struggles with mental illness… and 80% of it is linked to the trauma that I experienced from Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall. And despite [the fact that], every time, I get retraumatised rewatching this, it is still worth it.”

    UCT Fallist Mowbray, Cape Town February 28th, 2019
  • “The story must continue. It must inspire others like how 1976 inspired us.”  “We must continuously tell the FMF story so that the next generation may perhaps push the boundaries further.”

    Wits Fallist Mowbray, Cape Town February 28th, 2019
  • “Ours now is to focus on the decolonial project in its entirety -- not as university students. Our identity starts as black people, and that is where we must centralise it. Go to Langa. Go to Khayelitsha. Go to Mutubatuba. Go to Alexandra. Go to Soweto, and fight with the people”

    CPUT Fallist Mowbray, Cape Town February 28th, 2019
  • “Seeing this film invoked in me the images of our struggle against apartheid and the violence we suffered at the hands of police. What I saw reminded me that, in reality. we are not yet free.”

    Female ANC veteran Tosunga Baninga Women’s Group, Everton March 2019

Impact Screenings

Coming Soon

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