Wednesday, 31 August 2022

The Durban tour: Aftermath exhibition, book launch, colloquium, workshop and project meeting at UKZN

It was a week of great activity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) from 22 to 26 August 2022. Upon the invitation of the Humanities Institute and hosted by the Centre for Create Arts, the HSRC-Univen team of researchers studying the wellbeing and violence in relation to the student movement presented the "Aftermath" exhibition. The exhibition was kindly opened by DVC: Humanities, Prof Nhlanhla Mkhize of UKZN.

It turned out to be a great success. The exhibition was shown on two days in the Shepstone Building and for its opening, we put it up in the Howard College building. On Monday 22 August, Prof Saleem Badat hosted the book launch of #FeesMustFall and its Aftermath: Violence, Wellbeing and the Student Movement in South Africa published by the HSRC Press (2022). The pictures here are from the book launch. It was very engaging. Prof Lebo Moletsane did a beautiful job in her critical appraisal of the book (which we call a 'coffee table book' and she urges us to call a 'visual essay'). The staff and student audience askes good questions and raised critical issues.  I enjoyed doing a reading of the book, I actually literally read most of "Chapter 1: Student wellbeing, to us" to the audience. It is the chapter where we position ourselves and our research with the activists in terms of our commitments and understandings. 

I was glad to find a number of familiar faces among the audience, including the UWC political scientist Lindokuhle Mandyoli. His work in the UWC #FeesWillFall protests, analysing and interpreting it through the lens of Antonio Gramsci's work on hegemony is giving amazing insights. He asked the question, what the role of civil society is in supporting student movements. 

The next day we found ourselves in the same space again, debating the future of the student movement and its impact on higher education at the colloquium organised by the Humanities Institute and Prof Saleem Badat as part of the HSRC event series coming to UKZN. During that time, the exhibition was visited by numerous students and staff members. The colloquium continued until late into the afternoon. Among the presenters were also two freshly baked PhDs from Cambridge, Drs Anye Nyamnjoh and Josh Platzky Miller.  

On Wednesday, Dr Keamo Morwe led a three-hour workshop with student affairs professionals and student consellours from UKZN, hosted by Prof. Ntombifikile Mazibuko, the interim Director, and Dr Saloschini Pillay, the Head of counselling in UKZN's Health Sciences College. 

It was an amazing workshop which started with a session where the UKZN colleagues openly shared their experiences of #FeesMustFall and its aftermath. It was heartbreaking to hear that several of them said that they had NEVER had the chance to actually reflect in the collective of their colleagues on these experiences, which in many cases left their psychological traces. Among the few students who joined the sessions (or must I say gate-crushed :), there was one who mentioned after the first session that this was the first time that he felt the university had a human face. In all his years as a student and activist on campus, he never felt that university staff members cared at all for student wellbeing. It moved Keamo to tears!

Following the first session, we workshopped in small groups the fresh off the press 'student affairs manual' called Restoring Wellbeing after Student Protests: Lessons from #FeesMustFall (HSRC, 2020) which turned out to be a catalyst for difficult conversations. 

Overall, the workshop was designed as a safe space and our colleagues from across UKZN counselling, governance and student leadership development were very appreciative of us. We in turn were just so grateful to have been invited into their space and been given the opportunity to work with them. which turned out to be an amazing collective learning experience for all of us. 

I am incredibly grateful to Dr Keamo Morwe who is my co-principal investigator on the violence and wellbeing project. She has such a beautiful soul, full of energy (never mind her saying "I am tired!", just saying) and a well-trained, sharp mind. I am grateful to Dr Angelina Wilson-Fadiji, who has contributed so much in terms of all her knowledge and research on wellbeing in African educational contexts. Sphelele Khumalo and Thalente Hadebe from the UWC and DUT student groups of photovoice researchers have participated throughout the UKZN events. They have reminded me why I am doing this with their appreciation, commitment, and hope. Together we are pushing the boundaries, advocating for substantive access; access that leads to success where a student can develop the capabilities to achieve their aspirations. I am grateful to Prof Saleem Badat who continues to strike me for his beautiful, razor sharp, critical mind; his ability to cut through a flood of words and pick out that point that was so difficult to articulate. What a privilege to spend a day in his company.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Book launch: African perspectives of university community engagement in secondary cities

The title of the new book edited by Sam, Ntimi, Jesmael and I is very generic as Universities, Society and Development. The book was published by SUN Press, yesterday (2 Aug 2022). The ebook is open access available from my site.

What is much more intriguing and tantalizing is actually the subtitle: 

African perspectives of university community engagement in secondary cities

The subtitle raises several questions: What are "African perspectives of university community engagement"? What actually is "university community engagement" to begin with? What modalities of 'engagement' are there? Who engages with whom or what? To what end? What aspect of "university" is involved in this engagement? How does it relate to the core functions of a university, which are teaching and learning, and research? What is meant by community in this phrase Does 'community' extend to businesses, government, public sector organisations, community-based organisations, or what exactly? Conceptually as well as practically, what is involved in these notions?And what are 'secondary cities'? Is there something particularly different and noteworthy about such engagement in so-called secondary cities? What is signaled by this prominent reference to locality? How does it relate to the idea of 'college towns' and the concept of 'anchor institutions' and 'anchoring'?

The book answers these questions in 11 chapters, certainly not conclusively but with great reference to ongoing conceptual work, academic and policy discourse, and most importantly, reflective cases of locally grounded practice. Overall there are conceptual chapters, normative chapters, empirical chapters and a final policy analysis chapter. It was originally conceived as one of the research outputs of the project “Enhancing University Community Engagement at Sol Plaatje University: Matching Institutional Outlook with Regional Absorptive Capacity” that started in 2018.

Today the book was launched in the Higher Education and Development Seminar at the University of the Free State, and on Friday it will be launched at Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Student mental health focus: Restoring student wellbeing after protests

 Prof Teboho Moja of New York University writes the following about the newly produced 'Student Affairs manual' called Restoring wellbeing after student protests: Lessons from #FeesMustFall and its aftermath:

"The manual ... is a first of its kind and aims at opening a debate on student activism, student wellbeing and their preparation for participation in civil society, and on the role that student affairs and student development plays in this respect. It can serve as a resource for student affairs and services professionals in the field. Although the manual uses narratives from the past as its context, it also provides suggestions on how to remedy the damage caused to students’ wellbeing and provides guidance on how similar situations may be prevented in the future. In the bigger picture, some of the narratives and discussion points in the manual are a call to rethink and reform the values, policies and practices of Student Affairs and Services in South Africa and beyond, calling for both restorative and open-minded approaches to students’ political engagement and wellbeing." 

The manual is freely available to download here and the team of researchers and students involved in creating the knowledge for the manual are glad to provide workshops with Student Affairs practitioners and student leaders on student protesting, governance and student wellbeing. 

Monday, 18 July 2022

Student Activism and the Pandemic: A Global Round-Up

In a first ever collaboration with the amazing Didem Türkoğlu of Kadir Has University in Turkey, I just published the short article: Student Activism and the Pandemic: A Global Round-Up in International Higher Education. Our research shows how student protesting developed over the pandemic years and considers trends and latest developments.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to far-reaching changes in higher education globally, yet student activism continued to be a force to be reckoned with. Key concerns and commitments remained student funding; equality, social justice, and antidiscrimination; political freedoms and democracy; and gender equality. The single biggest cause of protests was, however, the pandemic itself. Recent additions to the protest agenda include climate change, academic freedom, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The article is available at academia and here.

It is a follow up article on the global round-up I published with Phil Altbach in the 2020 Spring Issue termed "Another Student Revolution?" also published in IHE. At the time I wrote the following blog entry: Are-we-witnessing-student-revolution?

Sunday, 8 May 2022

eNCA covers Aftermath exhibition

eNCA - eNews Channel Africa - hosts the "Aftermath" exhibition in an  excellent segment indicating the important message from former student activists. The footage was taken and interview conducted during the exhibition's display at the University of Cape Town in May.

It was aired on 4th and 5th May 2022. 

The YouTube clip is available here.

Friday, 6 May 2022

Cape Argues features "Aftermath" exhibition hosted at UCT

UCT reflects on #FeesMustFall through exhibition

The student-led protest commenced on October 12, 2015, and saw over 600 people arrested, and over R800 million in infrastructural damages. Picture: Wandile Kasibe/Supplied by Siyasanga Ndwayi

The student-led protest commenced on October 12, 2015, and saw over 600 people arrested, and over R800 million in infrastructural damages. Picture: Wandile Kasibe/Supplied by Siyasanga Ndwayi 

Cape Town - Student leaders active in the #FeesMustFall movement have reflected on the violence experienced during the protests and how this has impacted their well-being, through a photographic exhibition. The UCT Department of Student Affairs in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) is exhibiting “Aftermath: Violence and wellbeing in the context of the student movement”, from May 3 -5, 2022, at the Molly Blackburn foyer, UCT Upper Campus.

The student-led protest commenced on October 12, 2015, and saw over 600 people arrested, and over R800 million in infrastructural damages. Protests also led to no tuition increases in 2016, as a result.

The HSRC research team held photovoice workshops with student leaders and activists on five university campuses which experienced high levels of violence during the 2015/16 #FeesMustFall protests.

Over a hundred images and related captions and narratives were gathered during the workshops, with the exhibition comprising 34 of the images taken and/ or supplied by the student leaders.

Human Science Research Council research director Dr Thierry Luescher said the photovoice methodology is an action research method that uses photos taken by the student participants to help them articulate difficult experiences such as violence and how they have regained a sense of wellbeing.

“The exhibition's purpose is not to ascribe fault or ask who shot the first bullet or who threw the first stone but what the experience of being a witness, perpetrator, or victim of violence means to students in its aftermath and the wellbeing effects that this has,” Dr Luescher said.

Co-Principal Investigator from the University of Venda Dr Keamo Morwe said after the #FeesMustFall protests, the ongoing mental health challenges of former student activists and students in general became prevalent.

Curated by Carl Collison, the exhibition comprises nine themes: protest and violence, oppressive spaces, fear, escape, defying patriarchy, safe spaces, well-being, unity and trauma.

“This study sought to investigate whether there is a link between the violence that students experienced during #FeesMustFall and well-being challenges,” Dr Morwe said.

The exhibition is expected to travel to universities across South Africa and neighbouring countries and is available online at South African History Online.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Thinking about the future of higher education and the African university

In the course of 2021, a team of experienced researchers affiliated to the Human Sciences Research Council as well as several top universities and research organisations in Africa have interviewed 35 thought leaders and asked them to 'reimagine the African university'. 

These thought leaders include current and former university leaders, higher education specialists, student and youth leaders, higher education funders, and leaders of NGOs. The responses received are insightful, fascinating and provocative. On their own, every interview presents a vista onto a horizon not too far away. Among the first matters to be noted is, of course, that there is no single kind of African university; the future of African higher education is precisely in its diversity and differentiation. It is in recognising that a diverse society and economy must provide for a diversity of educational pathways and locally relevant offerings. 

Edited transcripts are being published progressively on the website of the project at the HSRC

At the same time, some of the most striking thoughts presented by the interviewed thought leaders are being distilled by UWN journalist and copy editor Mark Paterson and I into articles that are being published weekly in the University World News Africa edition, since February 2022. They are all freely available for further study at the UWN website. 

 The publication schedule for the UWN articles (and transcripts on the HSRC website) is below (and may be subject to change).



Date of interview

Date of publication


Prof Goolam Mohamedbhai

Prof Crain Soudien




Prof Mogobe Ramose

Prof Catherine Odora Hoppers




Prof Reitumetse Mabokela

Prof Relebohile Moletsane




Mr Rekgotsofetse Chikane

Prof Thierry Luescher




Prof Dzul Razak

Prof Catherine Odora Hoppers




Prof Catherine Odora Hoppers

Prof Crain Soudien




Prof Neil Turok

Prof Crain Soudien




Prof Adam Habib

Prof Crain Soudien




Prof Madeleine Arnot

Dr Alude Mahali




Prof Paul Zeleza

Prof Crain Soudien




Dr Tade Aina

Dr Alude Mahali




Ms Lihle Ngcobozi

Prof David Everatt




Prof Saleem Badat

Prof Crain Soudien




Dr Rajesh Tandon

Prof Relebohile Moletsane




Prof Claudia Frittelli

Prof Thierry Luescher




Prof Phil Cotton

Prof Sharlene Swartz




Prof Peter Materu

Prof Sharlene Swartz




Prof Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni

Prof Relebohile Moletsane




Prof Issa Shivji

Prof Crain Soudien




Prof Laura Czerniewicz

Mr Krish Chetty



 and many more to come...