“Another University Is Possible”: Thoughts on Student Protests and Universities in Postcolonial Africa

Desiree Lewis

VARIOUS COMMENTATORS, both in and beyond South Africa, are currently documenting and interpreting the waves of student protests in this country. These protests initially focused on the Higher Education and Training Minister’s announcement of massive fee increases, but the student call to reject the fee increase from 2016 has morphed into a broad-based movement focusing on South Africans’ constitutional rights to social justice and equality. At the time of this writing, student groupings at several campuses are continuing to act on the call to challenge University Management, the Education Department, and institutional arrangements that sanction inflated HE fees, the exploitation of outsourced workers on campuses, and the non-transformation of universities curricula, staffing, and student admission arrangements.

In my own effort to understand these movements, I’ve begun to reflect increasingly on regional and continent-wide processes. I have been reminded of two in particular: on the one hand, the use of crowdsourcing citizen journalism that culminated in Ushahidi (literally, “testimony” in Swahili), originally an activist movement that gathered knowledge from below in the wake of the violence in Kenya during 2007; and on the other, the centrality of student protest, also driven predominantly by crowdsourcing and ICT activism, at the core of the Egyptian revolutions from 2011.