Including Qondiswa James, Mbali Williams, Mihla Hanise, Anya Isabel, Kas and Hunter
Hosted by Didintle Ntsie
Filmed 5 September 2020
Broadcasted 6 September 2020
The series premier centers on Student Activism in South Africa and the U.S, around 2015 - 2020. This episode discusses the legacies and generational knowledge being formed by recent student activism, the challenges Black students face in predominantly White and Black universities, the need for Universities to decolonise their knowledge systems and recognise the needs of their diverse student identities, and more.
South Africa’s Load shedding began in January 2008, when the state-owned enterprise, Eskom, began systematically interrupting its power supply to regions in the country. This was done to balance the demand for electricity with the available supply, as there was not enough supply to meet the amount of electricity needed in the country, and this was causing a high risk of “the whole national power system” having to “switch off and no-one would have electricity.”
Throughout the proceeding years promises were made and finances pledged to resolve the energy crises however, a World Bank loan and more than 10 years later, South Africans are still experiencing severe load shedding. This causes major disruptions to the economy and people’s lives. A great deal of research would have to be done to understand the extent to which load shedding has impacted the country.
Rhodes Must Fall
Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) was a popular student movement that emerged in 2015 following the highly controversial protest, where Chumani Maxwele threw human excrement on a statue of the imperial coloniser, Cecil John Rhodes that sat prominently at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. This sparked national debate around issues of decolonisation and lack of transformation in South Africa’s tertiary institutions, while “on the ground” students organised to protest on campus.
RMF was a catalyst for post-aparthed student politics and decolonial/ transformative activism in South Africa. Leadership was largely decentralised, and the movement was intentionally non-partisan. The movement's decolonial strategies and ideologies has had a global impact, as seen in the subsequent formation of Rhodes Must Fall Oxford based in England. Despite its national and global impact, RMF was fractured by 2016, and is no longer a banner officially used by South African students to date.
Fees Must Fall
Within a few months of the formation of Rhodes Must Fall (RMF), a new student movement evolved, with urgent issues that took center stage - Wits Fees Must Fall (FMF), a movement that was about supporting students who were being financially excluded from the tertiary institution, quickly gained national traction and support following their university shut down and sit ins during October 2015. Within days, there was a #NationalShutDown of campuses all over the country. University management teams, the government and the President were forced into negotiation by the sheer force of student activism.
Protests continued into 2016, however the movement also became increasingly fractured over time, and eventually ceased to be an active united front for all students protesting financial exclusion. Fallism remains a popular decolonial ideology in South Africa, with the maxim “Must Fall” also regularly being appropriated in popular culture in ways that undermine its origin, such as the White-led Zuma Must Fall movement that sprang up at the end of 2015.
You Silence We Amplify
You Silence We Amplify was started by past Herschel Girls High pupils, when they called their old high school out for performative and insincere “activism” when the school posted a black square for #BlackOutTuesday on 2 June 2020, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
This had a snow ball effect and many other students came forward and started sharing their stories of institutionally accepted discrimination that they had experienced at the school. This soon expanded beyond Herschel Girls High and “Model C” schools, to many other schools around the country. Teachers, school administration and governance structures were exposed for their racist and/or sexist actions. You Silence We Amplify anonymously collected and shared these testimonies. This led to various schools releasing statements however little has been reported on actual policy change adopted by schools as a result.
In 2020 students from the University of Fort Hare formed a campaign to address the huge disparity of access to education and safety during the Corona pandemic, between students with access to resources and students without. The majority of Black South Africans do not have access to the adequate resources (computers, data/WiFi, workspace) to effectively do e-learning without assistance. The campaign has been calling out government and education institutions to better address the disparity and not further perpetuate inequality.
The New School University (New York City, NY)
The New School, established in 1919 as The New School for Social Research, was established as a space for prominent American intellectuals who were dissatisfied with the limitations of traditional academia to reimagine academia from the perspective of social innovation. The University has since expanded into several schools, including performing arts school, liberal arts, and media studies, school of jazz, and the original school for social sciences. The university has undergone several transformations alongside the political and cultural shifts that occurred in the US throughout the 20th century. This is due in large part to active student bodies who have led struggles to end unjust hierarchy within the university, such as the New School Struggle of 1993, Claiming Our Space Campaign, and most recently, the New School Acadmemic Strike of Spring 2020.
Claiming Our Space Campaign
“SoC Weekly”, a weekly community space for students of color that was co-founded by Hunter Stewart and Adriana Herrara-Peramus, collaborated with other student-run affinity groups across campus to campaign for a dedicated space for students of color to decompress and be in community. The Claiming Our Space Campaign emerged as a collective effort to demand this space and to call attention to the present injustices against international, queer/trans and low-income students of color within the university. The collective lasted between the Fall of 2017 and Spring 2018.
This article was produced for SAHO by Kyla Jade, November 2020