Monday, 25 October 2021

The Aftermath of #FeesMustFall Exhibition goes international!

The University of Botswana, Gaborone, Department of Sociology is hosting the "Aftermath" exhibition from 27-29 October 2021, accompanied by a series of engagements including an opening panel discussion with Prof Thierry Luescher, Drs Angelina Wilson Fadiji and Keamogetse Morwe, Ms Tania Fraser and others; and two seminars on the photovoice methodology and the findings and goals of the project respectively. The exhibition is displayed in the University of Botswana Library Foyer between 9 am to 4 pm. RSVP OR MORE INFO: Dr Mashumba:; Dr Mookodi:


Wednesday, 27 October, 1 – 2 pm:

Opening Panel: “Student wellbeing, to us”-University of Botswana, Sociology, & Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa 

Zoom link: Meeting ID: 996 9371 0773

Thursday, 28 October, 1 – 3 pm: Seminar:

“Photovoice Methodology: Opportunities and challenges for Social Policy research and advocacy”

Zoom link: Meeting ID: 918 8126 8503

Friday, 29 October, 2.30 – 4pm: Concluding seminar

“Purpose and findings of the Study ‘Violence and Wellbeing in the Context of the Student Movement”

Zoom link: Meeting ID: 994 4823 2101


Aftermath: Violence and Wellbeing in the Context of the Student Movement, is a collection of 34 images taken and/or supplied by South African student leaders, which they reflecton as representations of their experiences of violence during the #FeesMustFall student movement - and their search for wellbeing after these experiences. The images have beenselected and curated from more than 100 images that were produced as part of a joint photovoice research project hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) withthe University of Venda (Univen) between 2019 and 2021. The research team led by Prof. Thierry Luescher (HSRC), Dr Keamogetse Morwe (Univen) and Dr Angelina Wilson Fadiji(University of Pretoria), held photovoice workshops with 26 student leaders and activists on five campuses of public universities in South Africa which experienced high levels ofviolence during the 2015/16 #FeesMustFall student movement. Student participants were selected from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town; University of Venda(Univen), Thohoyandou; University of the Free State (UFS), Bloemfontein/Mangaung; University of Fort Hare (UFH), Alice, and Durban University of Technology (DUT), Durban. Thestudent leaders participated in institution-specific, face-to-face photovoice workshops on their respective campuses (except at DUT where workshops were held via Zoom onlinedue to the Covid-19 pandemic). Among the criteria for participation were that they should have experienced violence as part of student protests on their campus - whether asobservers, victims or perpetrators - during the 2015/16 student protests.

In curating the exhibition, a number of themes emerged including: protest and violence, oppressive spaces, safe spaces, patriarchy (and the defiance of it), fear, escape, trauma,unity and wellbeing. The aim of this exhibition is to raise awareness about the high levels of violence on South African university campuses and the impact this has on studentwellbeing. While trying to put pressure on often uncaring and unresponsive university leaders and policy makers, students end up being exposed to unacceptable levels ofviolence, either perpetrated by students themselves or as victims of the violent responses carried onto campuses by police and security services.

The student leaders and activists, whose reflections are represented in the exhibition’s pictures and accompanying captions have expressed the hope that by sharing their photosand stories, an awareness would be created in the public, in government and among higher education policy makers and university leaders. They hope that this awareness willensure that student grievances are taken seriously without the need for protesting. They also hope that student counselling services are expanded to better support students whostruggle with mental health issues.

This exhibition is available online at South African History Online and additional info on the HSRC website.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Journal of Student Affairs in Africa is now hosted by the University of Pretoria


It is with great pride that I can announce that JSAA is now hosted by the University of Pretoria and is receiving an allowance to be able to continue to operate as a fully open access journal. The journal is available at:

The JSAA Executive has also approved a new editorial board structure whereby JSAA will now have a three step structure including at its apex the Editorial Executive, currently made up of Prof Teboho Moja (as Editor-in-chief), Prof Thierry Luescher and Dr Birgit Schreiber. The second step will be an Editorial Board made up of about ten African and South African student affairs scholars and professionals with expertise in different areas of student affairs as Section Editors. This is a new structure. The third step is the International Editorial Advisory Board which is made up of international experts in SAS who are recognised for their support to the Editorial Board as senior reviewers and experts.

Monday, 23 August 2021

Tweeting #FeesMustFall - Chapter in book with Lorenzo Cini, Donatella della Porta and Cesar Guzman-Concha


Any moment now the book "Student Movements in Late Neoliberalism" must be published. It has been a while in the making! In fact, the process started with discussions during the 2017 conference on contentious student politics at the Scuola Normale Italiana in Florence. I was very privileged to give the keynote at that conference, which was organised by the eminent social movement scholar, Prof Donatella della Porta, from the Centre on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS). Two chapters in this book come from South Africa. The one is by Francesco Pontarelli who was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Johannesburg during the #OutsourcingMustFall / #FeesMustFall protests in 2015/16, and the other one is from my team here at the HSRC. 

Indeed, I had the pleasure of leading a whole team of junior and early career researchers to prepare with me this chapter, which comes from an interest that I have had since the early days of the #FeesMustFall movement, namely, the relationship between the online life and offline protesting. We never stop learning. The way we tried to trace this relationship in this chapter is by looking at the number of tweet events over time and the number of protest incidents. There are certainly much more sophisticated ways of doing this, and we are noting some of them. In our case, the mix of interview data, a protest event analysis and twitter data gives us an interesting mix to propose ways in which this relationship plays out. 

My honourable co-researchers and co-authors for this mini-project were: Nkululeko Makhubu (HSRC Master's Intern till February 2021);  Thelma Oppelt (HSRC PhD Intern till September 2020), Seipati Mokhema (HSRC Master's Intern till December 2021) and Zodwa Radasi (HSRC Postdoctoral fellow). 

The full book can be ordered here. And our chapter can be downloaded here


University staff and students experiencing Covid-19: An African student affairs perspective on a global pandemic

Building an African knowledge base for a new sub-field of higher education from the ground up requires ethnographic work, immersion, deep understanding. In the context of an extra-ordinary crisis - the C-19 pandemic - the traumatic 

Extract from the Editorial:
"Over the course of their history, African universities have had to contend with many crises, and they have learnt to quickly adapt to ensure that conditions for teaching and learning, as well as student development and support, continue. Political turmoil, economic downturns, fiscal austerity, social conflicts, staff and student strikes, virus outbreaks and even civil wars have forced universities into circumstances that require difficult decisions in a context of great uncertainty and complexity (Fomunyam, 2017). While such disaster periods and events often have deeply disruptive effects on the university  community, they tend to last a limited time only. However, the choices made during such periods of crisis frequently outlive the crisis itself and come to define a university’s  functioning well after the crisis has passed (Adedire, 2018; Chetty & Luescher, 2021).

In the past, crises that impacted African universities were typically limited to a particular region, nation or institution in their scope. In 2020, however, the global Corona virus disease (Covid‑19) came to affect universities comprehensively and worldwide in an unprecedented manner (Schreiber & Ludeman, 2020). African universities across the continent needed to respond to the global health threat and state-instituted lockdown restrictions.

University leaders across the continent and globally had to decide on various kinds of emergency measures and reimagine teaching and learning and student engagement and support in order to ‘save the academic year’ (Dell, 2020; Moja, 2021). The leadership of Student Affairs and Services(SAS) were typically part of such decision-making from the start (Schreiber et al., 2020; Perozzi et al., under review). The participation of SAS leaders and practitioners in the decision-making was crucial as they often are the first port of call when students are in dire straits and require support, be it social, psychological counselling, academic advising, student governance related, access to resources, etc. And yet, even SAS practitioners were not quite prepared for the unprecedented crisis that was about to hit the higher education environment locally, on the African continent, and at a global level. This special issue provided SAS practitioners with an opportunity to reflect on their work, its appropriateness, and to implement risk-mitigating strategies even as the crisis was unfolding.

As campus after campus closed, leaving only a remnant of ‘essential services’ to continue on site in some cases, learning in most universities was either suspended or moved online in some form of ‘emergency remote teaching’ (Adotey, 2020; Commonwealth of Learning, 2020; Dell & Sawael, 2020). Similarly, most SAS provision either moved online or was suspended if they were considered ‘non-essential’ services (Ayele, 2020). Key higher education actors like the Association of African Universities (AAU) swiftly realised that any form of online learning would potentially exclude many students across the continent who would normally benefit from a campus environment that made up for the lack of a conducive home learning environment or provide other forms of essential learning support (AAU, 2020; Schreiber et al., 2020). Thus, on the one hand, the AAU called on African universities to implement online learning urgently, while also urging African governments to invest in digital infrastructure in rural areas and promote access for all those unable to access online educational services (AAU, 2020; Chetty & Luescher, 2021). Student Affairs practitioners have been challenged to respond in innovate ways to meet the diverse needs of different students, enhance student learning and development, and advance the social justice imperative that underpins and drives SAS work.

As much as most governments issued “one size fits all” instructions to universities, on the ground the Student Affairs practitioners had to contend with their diverse local realities. Universities with international students and those with students from far-flung regions faced different challenges in assisting their students’ speedy return home than others with a more local student body. There are instances where international students were sent home without financial help from their institutions or assistance from home. Some highly resourced universities were able to issue students who did not have electronic devices like a laptop or tablet with such, along with data vouchers and so forth. Some universities who already used advanced online learning platforms were able to expand their use and deliver learning in an advanced online learning environment while others had to improvise (Chetty & Luescher, 2021). Universities who had a student body made up largely of financially needy students who needed to return to their communities, often permeated by crime and violence, needed to mitigate the impact of these factors and support students or bring them back to campus (UNDP, 2020). Some universities, which had faced crisis prior to the Covid pandemic, had experienced Student Affairs staff and programmes that were attuned to crisis and remote contexts (Schreiber et al., 2020).

Considering higher education and SAS in Africa during the Covid‑19 pandemic while moving forward, there are a number of lessons we need to keep in mind. Firstly, the experience of past crises on the African continent and beyond teaches that emergency protocols often turn into, or inform, new standard operational policy after a crisis subsides (Chetty & Luescher, 2021). In light of this, it is clearly imperative to describe and analyse these moments of crisis, the conditions that gave rise to them, the ways the crisis was managed, and the changes in policy and practice that ensued from it, so as to be able to reflect on them, theorise and learn from them.

The closure of institutions coupled with remote teaching, added more pressure on the students and SAS practitioners. The switch to remote teaching laid bare the enormity of the digital divide on the African continent in its starkest and most iniquitous form as students in far-flung remote rural areas were unable to get access to academic programme. Quintana and Quintana (2020) and Händel et al. (2020) indicate that during the pandemic there were many factors that led to compounded anxiety amongst students including “grade anxiety”, absence of adequate infrastructure and overall unpreparedness of institutions and students. There were concerns about the mental health of students and staff and in some instances, institutions added more service and resources to address the challenges (Moja, 2020). Some of the issues that came up for students as a result of being removed from their campuses had to do with them not having appropriate learning spaces and an increased food insecurity as they depended on their financial support that includes expenses related to their living expenses. For a foreseeable future there is a strong likelihood of studies to be conducted to extract more of the lessons learned and the long-term impact of the pandemic."

Extract (pages v-vii) from: Luescher, T.M., Schreiber, B., Moja, T., Mandew, M., Wahl, W.P. & Ayele, B. (2021). The Impact of Covid‑19 on Student Affairs and Higher Education in Africa. Journal of Student Affairs in Africa, 9(1), v‑xiii. DOI: 10.35293/JSAA.v9i1.1721

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

An Anthropology of the Student Movement?

To study the student movement ethnographically shows that protesting comes in many more forms than may be expected. 

Many years ago I came across James C Scott's work on the Arts of Resistance where he showed that there were 'hidden transcripts' in play among subordinate communities to express in thinly disguised ways effective ways of subverting the dominant order and resisting everyday exploitation. 

Among the most memorable parts of this work was to me his description of various art-forms of resistance, like dances and plays; processions; songs and chants; rituals; paintings. 

Chapter 6 of my current book project on #FeesMustFall and related student movement campaigns of 2015/16 also deals with the aesthetic and artistic (but not quite hidden) forms of protesting. South Africa has a rich protest culture. 

Many will know that under apartheid, funerals were often a combination of mourning the death (and celebrating the life) and political protest. Struggle songs, protest dances, and so forth are so common that many a youth knows them intimately. They have been part of their lived reality, their normality, in their communities. 

I also remember reading Barrington Moore’s work in my undergraduate years, making precisely this argument about social movements, or in my case a student movement, arising from the everyday normality. 

For students, this everyday reality is also intimately connected with the digital world; they have digital selfs, avatars, choreographed online persona, that are equally protesting. 

The combination of text, illustration, pictures as well as online content (AR content) in the book will hopefully be able to reflect the rich tapestry of protesting during the 2015/16 South African student movement.

Photos: Name Trees spray-painted during the February 2016 #ShimlaPark protests on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State. 

- Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana)
- Julius Nyerere (Tanzania)
- Winnie Mandela (South Africa)
- Chris Hani (South Africa)

(c) T Luescher

Friday, 21 May 2021

Global Student Affairs and Services: Key to Covid-19 response but first to be downsized

The webinar on the findings of the Global C-19 Student Affairs Survey held on 20 May 2021 showed how central SAS practitioners have been in the responses of universities across the globe to the pandemic. The presentation (done by Drs Brett Perozzi and Birgit Schreiber) attracted a large number of SAS professionals affiliated to ACPA and/or IASAS from across the world. The four researchers who conducted the survey in May 2020, which includes the two presenters as well as Dr Lisa Bardill Moscaritolo and me, who won the 2020 NASPA Excellence in International SAS Research Award (see previous post), have published several articles on the work in University World News, and the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa, with more articles in preparation for publication in journals like Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, Journal of International Students, and Studies in Higher Education. For now, among the worrisome comments from the webinar were those that alerted the global SAS community about increasing reports of downsizing in universities, partially in response to less international students, partially because campus-based student life and education is still restricted in many countries. Apparently among the first departments to get the cut are Student Affairs departments. This will need to be studied in detail and it is clear that more work must be done - on student engagement, etc. - to show the absolute indispensability of SAS work for levelling the student learning and development field in higher education.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

New African Higher Education Book Series Launches - linked to African Union CESA

Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA)—Higher Education Cluster

This post mirrors the one at 

The African Union, in partnership with the Member States and key stakeholders, developed and adopted the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 2016-25) to respond to the multiple continental crises by transforming Africa’s education system. The strategy is in line with the African Union 2063 Agenda and the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The twelve strategic objectives of CESA articulate high-level results that aim to reorient and provide qualitative and quantitative improvements to African education and training systems and provide the continent with requisite human resources for achievement of the African Union’s Vision and Agenda 2063.

Under each strategic objective, a set of intermediate-level goals, called action areas are provided to specify the critical elements and results the CESA 16-25 must accomplish before achieving the strategic objectives. These action areas are the basis on which operational plans for implementing the CESA 16-25 are developed.

CESA also serves as a platform for bringing together all education actors across the continent behind a transformative Pan African agenda for education. It is in this regard that the thematic cluster approach was adopted to bring together various stakeholders in specific fields of education to contribute to meeting the CESA strategic objectives. To date, twelve CESA thematic clusters have been launched.

Implementation of the Continental Strategy will require concerted, harmonious and systematic efforts to deploy all key stakeholders towards realizing the common vision. It is therefore necessary to mobilise all key stakeholders around a shared understanding and anticipated undertaking of the major priorities for education development in Africa.

CESA capitalizes on numerous, and active, players ready to mobilize financial, human and technical resources within national, regional and continental coalitions for education, science and technology. Thus, the Strategy seeks to provide each education stakeholder the opportunity to make its best contribution to education and training in Africa.

The concept behind CESA as a ‘Strategy’ and not a definitive “Action Plan” provides a robust opportunity for a variety of players to participate, on their own and/or in coalition, in the implementation of the continental framework. Every participating agency contributes with its particular strength towards the achievement of the overall vision and mission of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa, within identified action areas.

A partnership-based approach is adopted for achieving the objectives of the strategy and overall implementation through effective coordination, facilitation and follow up. The implementation platform therefore consists of thematic clusters which brings together actors working on similar and related themes to achieve the strategy’s expected results.

Clustering under thematic areas has been identified as an effective tool for enhancing coordination and strengthening partnerships around common themes. This is anticipated to enhance alignment and harmony among stakeholders as well as facilitate the identification and deployment of synergies for enhanced efficiency and effectiveness.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and its negative impact on Africa’s education systems is calling on all education stakeholders at the regional and continental levels to come together to act with speed and scale to implement innovative initiatives that improve the resilience of Africa’s education system and ensures continuous learning. The African Union’s DOTSS approach provides the framework for action and point of confluence for the work for clusters.

The African Higher Education Series is intended to reinvigorate the CESA Higher Education Cluster through research, policy analysis, and publishing evidence-based studies and analytical pieces.

CESA HE: Sub-clusters

Agenda 2063 of the African Union affirms that “Africa’s human capital will be fully developed as its most precious resource, through sustained investments in higher education, science, technology, research and innovation. Access to post-graduate education will be expanded and strengthened to ensure world-class infrastructure for learning and research and support scientific reforms that underpin the transformation of the continent.”

African higher education has recorded massive growth in the last two decades. An estimated 15-20 million students are enrolled in the sector currently with Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria and Ethiopia leading the list. Yet, still the enrollment rate in the continent remains low in an elite category, according to Trow’s classification. The implications of this massive—and sharp—growth which has typically taken place in many countries abound. The CESA HE cluster is intended to contribute to advancing the sector through multiple interventions.

CESA HE cluster is organized under a dozen clusters headed by a coordinator/s. One of these clusters, jointly coordinated by the International Network for Higher Education in Africa and the Association of African Universities, is the Higher Education Cluster. This cluster has the following 13 sub-clusters headed by respective coordinator/s.

  • Harmonization, quality assurance and accreditation
  • Leadership and management
  • Research and graduate studies
  • Publishing and knowledge dissemination
  • Private higher education
  • Internationalization and diaspora mobilization
  • Gender inclusivity, equity and diversity
  • Student affairs
  • The professionalization of the Academia
  • ICT, library and university networking
  • Curriculum, teaching and learning
  • Distance and online education
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship

The sub-clusters are responsive to the significance and implications of COVID-19 on higher education in the continent within the framework of DOTTS as conceived by the African Union Commission. The cluster will be keenly responsive to the key issues of quality, relevance, equity and employability—issues which continue to beset the higher education sector in Africa.


The CESA Higher Education Series is conceived as a strategic intervention in the advancement of higher education in Africa in the framework of the Higher Education Cluster of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa. The Series is intended to systematically produce evidence-based knowledge through a rigorous process of collective, academic and professional engagement with direct implications on informing policy, discourse and actions from continental perspectives guided by the African Union’s blue print compass, Agenda 2063. This initiative is also intended to systematically building the next generation of academics, researchers and policy makers in higher education.

The Themes: Kick off

The CESA African Higher Education Series will publish thematic issues, in a series, along the identified sub-cluster themes noted above. The following themes are identified to kick off the Series:

  • Harmonization, quality assurance and accreditation
  • Research and graduate education
  • Private higher education
  • Publishing and knowledge dissemination
  • Curriculum, teaching and learning


The respective themes of the African Higher Education Series are coordinated by lead editor/s and include:

  • Prof. Juma Shabani: Harmonization, quality assurance and accreditation
  • Prof. Olusola Oyewole: Research and graduate education
  • Asso. Prof. Wondwosen Tamrat: Private higher education
  • Prof. Thierry Luescher: Publishing and knowledge dissemination
  • Dr. Charmaine Villet: Curriculum, teaching and learning

In addition to the production of knowledge which will contribute towards shaping the African higher education discourse, the editors and the respective contributors are expected to contribute to policy pieces in prominent regional and global media such as the University World News and the International Higher Education.

The Series is headed by Prof. Damtew Teferra, as its General Editor. Teferra, who is the Founding director of the International Network for Higher Education in Africa, is the co-coordinator of the Higher Education Cluster along with the Association of African Universities. INHEA is the coordinator of the African Higher Education Series.

The African Union Commission, through the Department of Human Resources and Science and Technology, HRST, is the patron of the Series.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

#WitsProtests #Asinamali #FeesMustFall2021 - Still no Uhuru!


It is shocking what has been playing out in the last few days in Johannesburg. Police have decided to deal with the protesting students from the University of the Witwatersrand as if they were criminals. Like it was in 2015/16 at Wits - every student is a suspect! - but even more so if you are a black student. It is a disgrace for a state that builds its very raison d'etre on a post-apartheid non-racialist, democratic ideal. Meanwhile, the political elite and their repressive state aparatus deals with protesting students that seek social justice in the way any white apartheid regime would have dealt with any black protesting group: riot police, dogs, guns, stun grenades, and eventually, murder. That is what is happening and it is not only deeply saddening; it is deeply enraging.

I feel indeed very upset by this. I read the posts of Fasiha Hassan and many other #FeesMustFall activists from the 2015/16 era now on Twitter and like me they are deeply moved. How, in 2021, do academically deserving students still need to battle financial exclusion? How? I am just so upset by our political leadership who seems so unimaginative, so self-important and self-centred, and seemingly unable to fix all the broken systems and deliver on all the broken promises. 

Since Sunday I am in Phutadijhaba, Qwaqwa, in the Eastern Free State, hiding out here to write three chapters of the book "From #RhodesMustFall to #FeesMustFall" which has been in the making (and in parts published) since 2016. It is abundantly clear that the lessons from #FeesMustFall have not been learnt by student leaders and activists; and they have not been learnt by the political leadership and the police. Or rather: all the wrong lessons have been retained. 

Global Research Award for Covid-19 Student Affairs Study


I am immensely proud and grateful to be working with this team: 

Dr Birgit Schreiber, Dr Brett Perozzi and Dr Lisa Bardill Moscaritolo from Germany, the USA and the UAE respectively, on the Global Student Affairs Covid-19 Study. 

In acknowledgement of our work we have just received the 2021 Award in Excellence in International Research by ACPA, the large American and international association of student affairs professionals. 

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Current projects

And here is what I am currently most involved in: 

The South African Student Movement: From #RhodesMustFall to #FeesMustFall

The 2015/16 student movement known by various campus-based formations and hashtags including #RhodesMustFall, #OpenStellenbosch, #FeesMustFall, #EndOutsourcing, #RUReferenceList and so forth, has been the largest protest movement to date in democratic South Africa and among the most successful ones. It is of tremendous significance for higher education and higher education policy in particular, and political society in South Africa in general. The Student Movement project has three main components: the history of student leadership in South Africa, interviews with student activists, and the impact of the movement on policy, universities and activists’ biographies. The three components are respectively funded/co-funded by the Council on Higher Education, the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, and the National Research Foundation. The Co-PI on the NRF project is Dr Keamo Morwe and Dr Angelina Wilson-Fadiji manages the sub-project. See web presences here at IED and here and  here on SAHO.

Community Engagement in Secondary Cities: The Case of Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley 

The third function of higher education – i.e. community engagement, has been seen for a long time as the minor function trailing behind the teaching and learning and the research functions of universities. Meanwhile, the call for relevance and for ‘engaged scholarship’, as well as the need for viewing universities as among the key ‘anchor institutions’ in city regions, is changing the perception that community engagement is in some way separate from research or teaching and learning. This project, which is a collaboration between the HSRC and academics at Sol Plaatje University, is funded by the National Research Foundation. The Co-PI is Prof Jesmael Mataga of Sol Plaatje University and Dr Sam Fongwa manages the project.

The Imprint of Education 

The Imprint of Education (TIE) project is led by my boss, Prof Sharlene Swartz. The project aims to investigate the impact of university education on first generation graduates  - both their career trajectories and their contributions to family, community and society. The study comprises a number of learning areas: (1) a quantitative longitudinal tracer study over five years that maps trajectories and outcomes; (2) an in-depth qualitative study that focuses on understanding and overcoming obstacles and enablers to graduates’ impact; (3) a study on what it means and what it takes to be a leader on the African continent and that provides resources to African universities to help students develop into the kinds of leaders our continent needs; (4) a wide ranging engagement with experienced scholars and thought leaders on the kinds of universities we need to ensure that we have a continent able to deal with its challenges and take its place in the world; and (5) a study on the structural barriers that may hamper livelihood generation for young people in Africa. I am involved in the learning area 2 where I am responsible for the alumni cohort and collaborating universities in Rwanda. I am also the coordinator of learning area 4 which looks at and imagines the future of African universities. The project is funded by the MasterCard Foundation. Web presence at IED here.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Publish, publish, publishing publisher!

In my early career imaginations, I never really considered anything like a research or teaching profession - well, except perhaps the time when I wanted to become a biologist and environmentalist... hmm... or when I got that Chemistry kit with the microscope that just didn't work so well. From about the age of 12, I also realised that astronaut and catholic priest were for different reasons not viable - perhaps slightly childish career choices. Especially since my choice of catholic priest was mostly based on my admiration for Cardinal de Bricassart, and Switzerland didn't have a space programme to talk of.... I started to be interested in the writing professions. 

By the age of 18, being about to complete a certificate in public administration and commerce at the college of commerce and the municipality of Rohr, I finally settled on what appeared a fitting choice. I wanted to become a publishing editor. The only minor problem about that was that the typical career path of a publishing editor was not via a vocational matric in public administration and commerce but taking the academic high school route, after which the aspiring publishing editor would typically study language for a few years at a local university along with subjects in fields of future publishing interest. Eventually they would add professional development courses and experience and on-the-job developed skills to their expertise. 

So I ended up going back to school - evening school for adults - to get a general matric and gain access to the university to study German, literature, and possibly philosophy or so. Four years later I ended up in South Africa and came to study an undergrad subject combination which could well make an African Studies degree: African language and literature/isiXhosa; Historical Studies (mostly about Southern Africa); Political Studies (in a manner that elsewhere would be called 'political anthropology'), as well as the famed (and immediately discontinued) introductory course to Africa in the Humanities taught at the time by Prof Mahmood Mamdani. 

Years have gone by and I have become a researcher, professor, and author of scholarly works... but one thing I still enjoy greatly: I love helping others realising their research and publishing projects. In the past year I have done so with two books, two journal issues, and several individual book chapters and articles that I have guided and co-written. Moreover, in 2020 two my PhD students completed and excelled in examination. 

What happened for the first time in 2020 and which I was so happy when I saw it is that my first publication reached over 100 citations. For someone who is in a small, peripheral field, straddling Political Studies and Higher Education, and who writes often based on ethnographic work on matters that is not that 'sexy', like student politics, this was such a happy news.   

Monday, 25 January 2021

Student Affairs in a traumatic year - 2020 in retrospective

JSAA Vol. 8 Issue 2 "Deepening scholarship on the first-year experience" was published in December 2020 with the following Editorial by Prof. Teboho Moja, Dr Birgit Schreiber, and I: 

"The year 2020 is a year that we will remember globally in higher education as having been most unusual, indeed, traumatic. If at the beginning of 2020 the year had a hopeful ring with plenty; as it comes to an end it is hard to just try and make sense of the extent that the experience of higher education has been changed so incisively within a short time for both staff and students. And the signs are already there that the post-COVID‑19 period will not be short of new challenges either. Challenges like addressing the increased mental health issues students suffer due to the crisis, illness, loss of loved ones and more. Moreover, there are many student groups whose ability to learn has been severely impacted by the pandemic and lockdown, including students from poor households, rural students, and students with special needs. As we noted in our last editorial, for these students, the campus environment and the services offered by Student Affairs departments is normally able to level the ‘playing field’ of learning. It will require yet another extra effort by student affairs professionals, academics, administrators, fellow students and the communities and families to ensure that these students can catch up and have access to the same quality and quantity of learning opportunities within supportive contexts over the course of their studies as others who have been less impacted.

The first-year experience (FYE) holds for many student affairs professionals a special place. One group of students that has been particularly impacted by the campus and national lockdowns imposed by the global COVID‑19 pandemic have been first-years. For much of the year, COVID‑19 has robbed this cohort of first‑year students of the thrills and fears, joys and cries, of a ‘normal’ first year. In those universities that start their academic year the second half of the year, the impact has been less profound. But in higher education systems like South Africa’s, where the academic year starts in the course of February, first‑year students experienced just a few weeks of induction into university life on campus.

The FYE provides the central theme of this issue of the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa. It is the mission of JSAA to contribute to the professionalisation of student affairs inter alia through the development of partnerships with professional organisations in the field. In this spirit we are pleased to host for the third time an issue guest edited by Annsilla Nyar of the South African National Research Centre of the First‑Year Experience at the University of Johannesburg. Her first guest-edited issue titled “The first-year experience, student transitions and institutional transformation” was published as JSAA 4(1) in 2016 and the second issue “First-year experience in perspective” in 2018 as JSAA 6(1).

Indeed, JSAA has been proudly associated with a number of guest editors over the years, starting with “Student power in African higher education”, JSAA 3(1) of 2015, which was jointly guest edited by Thierry Luescher, Manja Klemenčič and James Otieno Jowi. This was followed by “Tutoring and mentoring”, guest edited by Nelia Frade in 2017 and published as JSAA 5(2), and most recently JSAA 7(1) on “Space, language, identity and the student movement” guest edited by Philippa Tumubweinee and Thierry Luescher. A guest-edited issue allows JSAA and the guest editor to focus attention on a specific theme and enables a particular kind of depth of scholarship. It mobilises a number of researchers, employing a range of research methodologies and frameworks to focus on that theme, thus advancing scholarship in this domain. This, too, is what Annsilla Nyar has done with this her third guest-edited issue, and JSAA is proud to be playing a part in developing the scholarship on the first-year experience (FYE).

In addition to the eight research articles and the reflective practice article on the FYE guest edited by Annsilla Nyar, this issue includes a campus report on the Stellenbosch University Experiential Education Conference which explored the intersection of experiential learning with student success. This was a particularly timeous and topical conference as we are moving into an era of distance- and online-learning which raises major concerns about the developmental experiences in the social and community domain of higher education.

As in every issue, we are happy to publish in this issue the review of a book relevant for student affairs professionals in universities in Africa and beyond. Birgit Schreiber reviews Engaging Students: Using Evidence to Promote Student Success, edited by Francois Strydom, George Kuh and Sonja Loots, which was published in 2017 by SunMedia Bloemfontein. With this book, the editors have been able to bring together an impressive set of contributions that illustrate in so many ways the importance of having good data to understand the student experience, enhance student engagement and ultimately improve student success. Schreiber argues: “It is a must-read for Student Affairs practitioners, not only in Africa, but in all contexts that seek to offer teaching and learning opportunities that advance equitable participation of the learning in the learning process.”

Surviving Covid-19


On 30 December 2020 I fell ill and on 4 January 2021 I went for Covid-19 testing at the public primary health care clinic in Claremont, Cape Town. A day later, the result came back positive. By then, my health was already quite strained.

Over the next 10 days I was getting very weak, tired, sore body, fever and headaches. Eventually, also coughing and sore lungs, but I was never 'out of breath' to the extent that I felt I needed extra-help. I sunned myself 30 min per day, took my vitamins BCD, Zinc, Selenium, Calcium and Magnesium, and other supplements, as well as Aspirin and at night flu-medicine. Most importantly perhaps was lots of rest, care, and faith. There were days that I slept 16 to 18 hours. 

Three weeks later I have restarted work - ironically one of the first projects I worked last week is the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa's Covid-19 Special Issue which is expected to be published in March 2021. 


Friday, 4 December 2020

Congratulations - Dr Keamo Morwe

Today I had the rare pleasure to attend a viva voce - an oral examination - of my PhD student, Ms Keamo Morwe, or rather, freshly baked Dr Keamo Morwe. Her grade according to the thesis examination committee: EXCELLENT! The viva voce was held, due to C-19, online.

The examination was done by the main university that Keamo was doing her PhD at, the University of Malaga in Spain. But she is in the fortunate position to have been co-registered at the University of the Free State in South Africa, and will therefore also have UFS co-confer the degree.

This wonderful outcome of yet another supervision process comes on the same day as I receive from Human Sciences Research Council the Award as the Best Mentor of the Year. This is in recognition of my work in capacity development, as formal and informal mentor, and as supervisor at universities. At the same award ceremony, two of my former mentees also received the top awards as junior researcher of the year, Nkululeko Makhubu, and as emerging, early career researcher of the year, Dr Angelina Wilson Fadiji, both of which co-published extensively with me in the last year. 

I am very happy to be able to play a constructive role in so many students, interns and emerging research staff members. While I often miss the formal work in learning facilitation that I had as a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, there are opportunities even in the context of a science council and by my secondary affiliation with the University of the Free State. 

My association with Keamo is far from past. She is a co-PI with me on the "Violence and Wellbeing" project of which the previous post about the "Aftermath" exhibition is an outcome.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Aftermath: Violence and Wellbeing in the Context of the Student Movement

I would like to proudly present to you:

The exhibition, Aftermath: Violence and Wellbeing in the Context of the Student Movement, is a collection of 34 images taken and/or supplied by student leaders, which they reflect on as representations of their experiences of violence during the #FeesMustFall student movement - and their search for wellbeing after these experiences. 

The images have been selected and curated from more than 100 images that were produced as part of a photovoice research project hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in the course of 2019/20. The HSRC research team held photovoice workshops with 26 student leaders and activists on five campuses of universities which experienced high levels of violence during the 2015/16 #FeesMustFall student movement. Student participants were selected from University of the Western Cape (UWC), University of Venda (Univen), University of the Free State (UFS), University of Fort Hare (UFH) and Durban University of Technology (DUT) and participated in institution-specific, face-to-face photovoice workshops on their respective campuses. Among the criteria for participation were that they should have experienced violence as part of student protests on their campus - whether as observers, victims or perpetrators - during the 2015/16 student protests. In curating the exhibition, the themes that emerged were protest and violence, oppressive spaces, safe spaces, patriarchy (and the defiance of it), fear, escape, trauma, unity and wellbeing.

The aim of this exhibition is to raise awareness about the levels of violence on university campuses and the impact this has on student wellbeing. While trying to put pressure on often uncaring and unresponsive university leaders and policy makers, students end up being exposed to unacceptable levels of violence, either perpetrated by students themselves or as victims of the violent responses carried onto campuses by police and security services. 

The student leaders and activists, whose reflections are represented in these pictures and accompanying captions, have expressed the hope that by sharing their photos and stories, an awareness would be created in the public, in government and among higher education policy makers and university leaders. They hope that this awareness will ensure that student grievances are taken seriously without the need for protesting. They also hope that student counselling services are expanded to better support students who struggle with mental health issues.

Information about research outputs and the exhibition-related book can be found on the HSRC website at: 

Research team members:
Prof Thierry M. Luescher, principal investigator - HSRC and University of the Free State
Dr Keamogetse G. Morwe, co-principal investigator - University of Venda
Dr Angelina Wilson Fadiji, project manager - Formerly HSRC; Currently senior lecturer, University of Pretoria
Ms Kulani Mlambo, NRF master’s scholar - University of Venda
Ms Tshireletso S. Letsoalo, NRF master’s scholar - University of Pretoria
Mr Antonio Erasmus, graphic designer and photographer - HSRC

Student leaders and activists who participated in this project: 
University of the Western Cape: Azania Simthandile Tyhali, Sphelele Khumalo, Ncedisa Bemnyama, Asandiswa Bomvana, Siyasanga Ndwayi. 
University of Venda: Bob Sandile Masango, Abednego Sam Mandhlazi, Mabore Machete, Blessing Mavhuru, Frans Sello Mokwele, Conry H. Chabalala, Tshepo Raseala, Anyway Mikioni, Mulaedza Mashapha, Dimakatso Ngobeni 
University of the Free State: Tshepang Mahlatsi, Tshiamo Malatji, Thabo Twala, Sonwabile Dwaba, Anonymous, Kamohelo Maphike, Bokang Fako, Xola Zatu
University of Fort Hare: Madoda Ludidi, Yolokazi Mfuto, Anonymous, Siphelele Mancobeni, Wandisile Sixoto, Akhona Manyenyeza 
Durban University of Technology: Khulekani Ngcobo, Robert Thema, Lesley Ngazire, Siphephelo (Shange) Mthembu, Nomfundo Zakwe, Thalente Hadebe. 

Curator of the exhibition: Carl Collison

This project was funded by the National Research Foundation grant no. 118522 and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant no. 1802-05403.