South Africa’s Student Protests: What’s Left?

2015 and 2016 were marked by widespread protests at South African universities. Under the banner #FeesMustFall, students ostensibly campaigned for the abolition of tuition fees, but were in fact pushing for more far-reaching change: they were calling for the decolonisation of their country’s education system – a quarter of a century after the official end of Apartheid. They wanted to see an overhaul of universities’ institutional culture and curricula, as well as a higher number of black professors. Two years on and it seems the state of affairs remain unchanged –– but the question remains: what has changed? What happened to the demands and dreams of 2015/16? What became of the efforts of these multifaceted movements to bring about the end of the system’s deep-seated colonial structures, as well as the more recent excesses of neoliberal policies, in post-Apartheid universities?


Photograph: Students and staff at the University of Cape Town march on the university’s administration building to hand over a list of demands to management. CC BY-SA 4.0, Photo: Discott, from Wikimedia Commons.
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