Researching the South African Student Movement in and around Johannesburg

In the course of 2018/19 the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) has been interviewing experiences of, and reflections on, the 2015/16 student movement from a diverse cohort of students and former student activists on South African university campuses. It has been both challenging and fruitful.

Challenging because of the scale of this awesome research project – it requires getting interviews scheduled and traveling the beautiful yet vast campuses in South Africa which takes time and money. Fruitful because of the primary data collected  from student activist. This followed along with the tears, fears and cheers of the stories told by former and current student activists.

The story and pictures below are the interview experiences by two social scientists in Johannesburg and the vibrant student activists based in the financial capital of Africa.

Prof. Thierry M Luescher is a Research Director at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC – Cape Town) and affiliated Assoc.Prof in the School of Higher Education Studies of the University of Free State. His research focus is the student experience; student politics; higher education policy; and international and comparative higher education.
Mr Nkululeko Makhubu is a M Com Information Systems student at the University of Cape Town. He is also a researcher at the HSRC involved in their Student Movement project
Nkululeko is quite the digital cadre. Asking fellow student activists involved in the 2015-2016 student movement – for multimedia content at Wits. SA History Online is collaborating a platform which facilitates user generated content based on the Student Movement from #RMF to #FMF
Day 1 of 4 of interviews in the City of Gold. For the #FeesMustFall and history of student leadership project Prof Luescher interviewed Dr Prishani Naidoo (Society Work and Development Institute) at Wits with co-interviewers Mr Nkululeko Makhubu and Mr Ntokozo Thabo “TK” Bhengu from the Council of Higher Education.

This Observatory of Student Politics and Higher Education Research in Africa ( blog keeps you occasionally updated on the Human Science Research Council project – and on opportunities to stay involved and contribute.


Day 2 of 4 of interviewing in Jozi with Nkululeko Makhubu and Thierry Luescher. Heart felt sharing of experiences on #FMF and #NationalShutdown at Walter Sisulu University by Mr. Vuyo Mntonintshi. He is a Candidate Attorney at the Wits Centre for Aplied Legal Studies.

In terms of student interview participants so far: a big Thanks to all who gave their time, energy and shared their narratives from across the landscape of SU, WSU, RU, UJ, NWU, SAUS, UWC, and WITS in a first pilot set of interviews in “Jozi” about the Fallist student movement of 2015/16.

Wits lecturer Kelly Gillespie said that October 6 is an active movement for workers, staff and students to come together to discuss the kind of university they want and “identify the key sides of struggle and need to be worked on in order to create a decolonised public African university”.
Putting up posters at the University of Johannesburg’s student centre noticeboards at their Bunting Road Campus


Business pioneer Sol Kerzner celebrated milestones achieved by the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH) at the Bunting Road Campus, named after him.
Students and members of October 6, an organisation of workers and students, from Wits and University of Johannesburg (UJ) gathered on Monday to discuss increasing security on university campuses. Among the issues discussed was “the right to protest”. Member of Right2Know campaign Palesa Kunene said that “police military” must come to an end at universities as it is infringing on protests.

Qualitative research requires a lot of patiance, attentiveness, travel and logistical planning. UFS, UWC and UCT were almost completed in 2018. After this it’s off to Eastern Cape, Kwa Zulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng again. To all student activists – we are grateful for your efforts, and deeply humbled.

Some FAQs on the project:

What is the HSRC – SAHO Student Movement project?

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) is the largest public social science research organisation and policy think tank in South Africa and indeed Africa-wide. It is like a huge social science, arts and public health research university, but its students are funded interns that are registered in degree-granting universities. The HSRC is based in Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg and Pretoria. As part of the HSRC’s public mandate it has established a project to establish and curate a public collection of research and public submissions on the student movement in South Africa and the 2015/16 Fallist campaigns in particular. The project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Research Foundation (NRF).

South African History Online (SAHO) is the largest independent history education and research institute in the country. SAHO was established in 2000 as a non-profit Section 21 organisation. It is run by an independent Board of Directors, comprising historians and people from the private sector. SAHO’s aim is to promote history and the arts and to address the bias in written history as represented in South African educational and cultural institutions. It’s motto is therefore “Towards a people’s history”.

Together we are aiming to establish a huge digital archive for now and the future and participate in a process of critically examining the learning that can be gained from the student movement. Fittingly, this partnership will allow anyone with internet access to learn about protests campaigns such as:

#RhodesMustFall, #OpenStellenbosch, #FeesMustFall, #EndOutsourcing, #RUFReferencelist, #NationalShutDown, and other campaigns into 2016 and beyond.

Preserving this South African moment of history is crucial in sustaining the fight for Free Decolonised Education.

Click here for More information on the project. For regular updates follow on Twitter @osphera and @HSRCza

Why do we need your help?

Sharing your first hand perspective on the student movement to the world gives a better collective understanding of the challenges that youth in general, and students in TVET and higher education in South Africa, face. It creates the possibility for a more bottom-up, grassroots narrative and to keep the demands and initiatives of past generations of student leaders alive.

In advancing the drive to build an archive on the 2015/16 student movement fit for the Digital Age, the HSRC and SAHO have established a website to collect images, videos, docs, PDFs, audio files, etc. from student protests to archive them and be able tell the multiple narratives. They will form part of the ‘data’ to tell more complete, critical, and student-grounded narratives of the movement.

To upload any pictures, videos, or links via SAHO go to:  CLICK ON THE POSTER BELOW

FeesMustFall poster proof1

Youth Month : Understanding Dynamics in Contemporary Student Movements

29 June 2018

The notable 2015 student movements in South Africa, and how the resultant anti-colonialist development sprouted to be more than just student financial difficulties. The blog looks at notable scholars, but acknowledges that the general public opinion on the decolonisation agenda is important, yet marginalised for decision making. We look at political contention to rationalise this conflict and how it influences the evolution of the key functions of universities. On that note, it is important to applaud the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa. In closing will entice conversation on elitist formations within student and institutional bodies that affect student movements global patterns.


The previous blog commemorated youth month as preserving the vibrancy of teaching and learning through innovative knowledge management structures and systems. We concluded that contentious politics in higher education is based on the lack of established collective understandings. Disruptive innovation in this regard referred to innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts (improves) existing markets and value chain networks. This is one way of sublimating contention for social change, in this case, student movements.



In 2015 and 2016, violent student movements associated with the Fees Must Fall (FMF) movement in South Africa have been a strong reminder of the unique paradox that has characterised the country’s higher education system since the end of apartheid. On the one hand, South Africa’s top universities are the most advanced in the entire continent in terms of their capacity to train doctoral students and the international visibility of their research production.


It is important to note that sublimation from the 2015 Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) protests is similar to the youth-led Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), the idea to decolonise education sprouted from this engagement. Similarly anti-apartheid activism during the mid-1960s came out of the political vacuum of the time, jailing and banning of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress leadership after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. Later we’ll explain that unlike contemporary student movements in South Africa, BCM was the moral compass of past resistance.

New Student Movements in South Africa


Much of the older generation of apartheid activists argue that the leadership and agenda of this new student movements is usually murky which as compared to the liberation leaders, however the speed in which the nationwide narratives spread much quicker due to social media. The RMF campaign occurred on 9 March 2015, when Chumani Maxwele threw human faeces onto the Cecil John Rhodes statue and toyi-toyi’d (protest march) with approximately a dozen protesters at the statue. On 20 March 2015, students stormed the Bremner building, which houses the UCT offices during a speech addressing the removal of the statue by UCT vice-chancellor Max Price. On 22 March, it was reported that the students were still occupying the building and that members of the public were supplying them with food. UCT’s senate voted in favour of the removal of the statue on 27 March 2015, and following the vote, the statue was boarded up pending the final decision from the university’s council.


Also support for the controversial Mcebo Dlamini (then SRC president of Wits) on 25 April 2015, stated in a Facebook post that he “loves Adolf Hitler” and admired Hitler for his “charisma” and “organisational skills.” On the same day media reported that the RMF movement stated that it “rejects the removal of Wits SRC President Mcebo Dlamini.”


Anti-Colonialist Development


Some scholars believe that policy-makers keen on setting the conditions to allow universities to make a more meaningful contribution to their countries’ development agenda and for higher education researchers studying the evolving role of African universities. As Manuel Castells (sociologist especially associated with research on the information society, communication and globalization) reminds the reader, “higher education institutions are essential for both economic growth and social justice. Populist demagogues hate universities because they are, after all, the bastions of critical thinking and legitimate resistance to abuses. Universities also have to protect their mission as beacons of innovation, ideas and equality”.


The ANC Youth League galvanised resistance of the apartheid regime in African nationalism, then later to transformed into a militant to be the centre of political agency. Leadership were older people, through youth needed energy from youth perspective. Boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience and other defiant strategies. Black consciousness movement was the unifying ethos moving forward
Public opinion

Public Opinion of Decolonisation of Education is Important


Language is culture shaping the minds of those who share the language. The youth 1976 protested bantu education, to resist the use of the oppressors language, Afrikaans. Nowadays, the decolonization has murky definitions. It is important that oppressed people rediscover the social identity, but not only that, use the reflection to heal. Having said that, a nationally accepted view of what decolonisation of education is for South Africa is important. Understanding how oppressed learners are positioned by the educational environment. The need to establish how to move forward by understanding the various public understandings. This is not clear and it is dangerous to implement the agenda of decolonising education.


The #FeesMustFall student protest has been the subject of much social research. This research means to be reflective and sometimes prescriptive, notably by suggesting decolonization of education. However, it is important to observe the geography of campuses. We believe that universities symbolise a socio-economic microcosm for the place where a campus is situated. What higher education researchers call historically disadvantaged/black universities, are usually situated in presently disadvantaged residential communities. The same goes for historically advantaged/white universities and their residential communities, this conveniently creates regional development, through higher education outputs. South Africa has its ‘big five’ universities – a term that resonates because of its association with the country’s top wild mammals (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo). Comparatively, the United States of America has its Ivy League, Australia the Group of Eight and the UK the Russell Group, these campuses are typically located in relatively economically affluent residential communities.


The BRICS ranking, first launched in 2013, aims to highlight the 300 of the most prestigious institutions in the five major emerging economies of the BRICS countries, aimed at inter-regional development. Ranked first is the University of Cape Town in the upper class suburb of Rondebosch on the foot of Devil’s Peak; Second is the University of the Witwatersrand located in Parkton near the posh economic hub of Africa; Third is the University of Pretoria, a multi-campus university at the heart of the capital city; Fourth is Stellenbosch University located at the rich Cape Winelands; and then ranked Fifth is the University of Johannesburg, another multi-campus university where the most funded is in Auckland Park where contentious relations lie with those students in the under resourced Soweto township campus since the 2005 merger.


Prioritising multilateral transnational develop through structures like BRICS yields better ranking perspective than a wider global reflection. The trade of resources and establishing multiple economies for social change could happen quicker. Much of independent states are economically crippled by the Bretton Woods financial system. Loan repayments hamper regional development, ironically the repayments benefit the west, economic slavery. In November 2016, MP of South Africa Alf Lees said what Parliament should have been concerned with is not the IMF and the World Bank but the vast amounts South Africa agreed to contribute towards the establishment of the Brics Bank. Africa finding solutions from Africa is often better on paper than on reality. The fact is that International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are “Westernised” institutions, devised in a post-war colonial area with no regard for democracy and transparency


Alan Greenblatt in the article The End Of WASP-Dominated Politics writes: “Social elitism in Ivy League is often associated with the upper class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant community of the Northeast, Old Money, or more generally, the American upper middle and upper classes. Although most Ivy League students come from upper middle- and upper-class families, the student body has become increasingly more economically and ethnically diverse. The universities provide significant financial aid to help increase the enrollment of lower income and middle class students”. Then Robin Hayes in an article Why Ivy League Schools Are So Bad at Economic Diversity, several reports suggest, however, that the proportion of students from less-affluent families remains low. South Africa has the highest family income inequality in the world, sadly having such a wide rich-poor gap within society creates much political contention making harder for rapid regional development.

Political Concepts to Rationalise this Conflict


The violent student protests associated with the ‘Fees Must Fall’ movement in South Africa have been a strong reminder of the unique paradox that has characterised the country’s higher education system since the end of apartheid. On the one hand, South Africa’s top universities are the most advanced in the entire continent in terms of their capacity to train doctoral students and the international visibility of their research production.


Contentious Politics by Tilly and Tarrow say it involves interactions in which actors make claims bearing on other actors’ interests, leading to coordinated efforts on behalf of shared interests or programs, in which governments are involved as targets, initiators of claims, or third parties. Contentious politics thus brings together three familiar features of social life: contention, collective action, and politics.


Contention involves making claims that bear on someone else’s interests. In everyday life, contention ranges from small matters such as which television show we should watch tonight to bigger questions such as whether your sister Sue should marry the man she is dating. But it also takes place in football matches, rival advertising campaigns, and struggles between cantankerous patients and irritable doctors.


South African higher education system has remained one of the most segmented and unequal systems in Africa, despite the efforts of the successive democratic governments to expand access in an equitable manner. Today, even though the black population accounts for 80% of all South Africans, only 16% of black South Africans go to college, compared to 55% of whites.

contentious pols

Findings from Castells in Africa: Universities and Development


Building on the scholarly contribution of great thinkers like Humboldt and Clark Kerr, Castells analyses the evolution of the key functions performed by universities. The first one is ideological, reflecting the traditional role of transmitting the values that help legitimise the existing social order. The second role is that of selection of the elites and formation of networks to ensure social cohesion. Training the labour force is the third role performed by universities in support of the state bureaucracy and the professional needs of the economy. Knowledge generation and dissemination (research) is the last function.


Manuel Castells carefully analyses the challenge faced by universities as they have tried over time to manage these four functions, which can often be contradictory in nature.

The influence of Castells’ writings was not felt only in Third World countries; his work shed light on recent developments in industrial economies as well. He examined how, as a result of global pressures in a world increasingly driven by knowledge and innovation, the role of the state has evolved into what he calls the ‘networked state’, reflecting the need to develop the informational infrastructure for the 21st century and train the indispensable human capital.


If we take seriously the notion that we live in a global knowledge economy (Information Age) and in a society based on processing information – as universities primarily are – then the quality, effectiveness and relevance of the university system will be directly related to the ability of people, society and institutions to develop.


Castells was a pioneer in many respects. He was one of the first sociologists to write about the importance of knowledge generation and innovation, many years before the term ‘knowledge economy’ was coined. He studied how the spread of technology has shaped the distribution and concentration of power in modern societies. He also foresaw the rise of the networked society, long before the invention of Facebook and social media.


Reflecting on global developments in recent years, Castells identifies three trends that, together, significantly affect the situation and the role of universities. First, the 2008 financial crisis has shown the importance and the volatility of global financial markets that are increasingly at the core of national and international economies.


Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa


The Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) researchers adapted Castells’ framework to examine the evolution of Sub-Saharan African universities from four complementary and sometimes contradictory perspectives: the university as ancillary (a narrow focus on training civil servants and professionals), the university as a self-governing institution, the university as an instrument of the development agenda and, finally, the university as an engine of development. Apart from the University of Nairobi and the University of Ghana, the percentage of permanent academics with doctorates increased; and, with the exception of Eduardo Mondlane University and the University of Mauritius, the number of doctoral graduates also increased significantly. In addition, research outputs have risen dramatically at all eight universities, albeit from a low base in most cases. University World News reports that he HERANA project may also be credited with contributing to the launch of the African Research Universities Alliance, a network of 16 leading higher education institutions that aims to strengthen these bodies through capacity-building and through the establishment of a critical mass that can support their knowledge production. However, further empirical evidence on the complex social and political dynamics of research governance in Africa needs to be obtained to map the future and support the establishment of research-intensive universities on the continent.


Elite Formation


One of the main findings of the investigation was that, with the exception of the University of Cape Town, leading universities in other African countries have found it difficult to move away from their traditional undergraduate teaching role and build up their research capacity. This result confirms Castells’ observation that African universities have focused on elite formation rather than striving to make a sustainable contribution to knowledge production.


Castells and other scholars also analyse the absence of science and technology policies in most Sub-Saharan African countries, which sustains resource autonomy of relatively elitist research universities. The lack of alignment between official government declarations about the importance of higher education and actual funding allocations, and the need for increased institutional differentiation to allow flagship universities to deepen their research core. There are two anti elite formation notions to consider here. Firstly the evolving philosophy such as the education decolonisation agenda, as this has disgruntled many students but cannot be defined nor whom is to best implement it. Secondly is the high African Brain Drain crisis, more research has to be done on the influence of donor agencies in relation to capacity building efforts in the African university sector. It is noteworthy that elite formation pleases the few, yet frustrates the majority.


This frustration is to recognize emotions and emotional processes as central to an understanding of contentious politics. In a journal article Emotions and Contentious Politics, Ron Aminzade and Doug McAdam note that the study of emotions was not absent from early analyses of collective behavior and social movements. “This earlier work typically equated emotions with irrationality and assumed that emotions and rationality are incompatible. This often led to a narrow focus on the emotional content of sudden outbursts of crowd behavior”, they claim. The work represented in this collection rejects the false dichotomy of emotions and rationality and adopts a much broader perspective on the role of emotions.


Student Movements Global Patterns


A scholar reviews Tilly and Tarrow: “democracy is used to delineate the rights and protections which the citizenry enjoy in the face of elite power. The primary lesson which any reader should take from this book is the following. When capacity and democracy intersect, they produce specific outcomes. For example, high-capacity democratic regimes, such as those of Australia, Japan and Norway, are a modern and unusual phenomena, where social movements are most prevalent, given the favourable conditions for their enacting”. Spanning human history, the majority of regimes, the authors assert, are low capacity undemocratic, within which contentions tend to result in civil wars. In our quest for a non-violent world, where dissent can be aired and a form of agonistic democracy nourished, we therefore must work to build both the capacity and the democracy of states emerging from, or descending into, conflict.


Repertoire of contention refers, in social movement theory, to the set of various protest-related tools and actions available to a movement or related organization in a given time frame.  Tarrow argues that moments of madness do not transform the repertoire of contention all at once and out of whole cloth, but contribute to its evolution through the dynamic evolution of larger cycles of mobilization in which the innovations in collective action that they produce are diffused, tested, and refined in adumbrated form and eventually become part of the accepted repertoire. It is within these larger cycles that new forms of contention combine with old ones, the expressive encounters the instrumental, traditional social actors adopt tactics from new arrivals, and newly invented forms of collective action become what I call “modular.” Cycles of protest are the crucibles in which moments of madness are tempered into the permanent tools of a society’s repertoire of contention.


Springtime: The New Student Rebellions edited by Laurie Penny and Tania Palmieri draws similarities to South Africa’s 2015 RMF to FMF student movements. A wave of student protests across the UK in 2010, in response to the coalition government’s savage cuts in state funding for higher education, cuts which formed the basis for an ideological attack on the nature of education itself. Rather than a series of isolated incidents, they formed a movement that replicated a phenomenon that has gone global: from the US to Europe, students have been in the vanguard of protest against governments’ harsh austerity measures. Tracing these worldwide protests, the book explores how the protests spread and how they were organized, through the unprecedented use of social networking media such as facebook and twitter. It looks, too, at events on the ground, the demonstrations, and the police tactics: kettling, cavalry charges and violent assault. From Athens to Rome, San Francisco to Millbank, this book looks at how the new student protests developed into one of the most potent movements for change in our time. Really interesting.


Only if societal problems are perceived as problems and if this perception guides practices, can protest emerge. Hence “cognitive liberation” and rebellious consciousness are necessary. Tarrow would agree with the book as, “there are regular variations in political or social phenomena is scarcely a new or surprising idea. Wilhelm Buerklin, for example, writes that “virtually all time series describing and explaining social and political change display deviations or fluctuations of one sort or another”. A cycle of protest will be operationalized this essay as an increasing and then decreasing wave of inter- related collective actions and reactions to them whose aggregate frequency, intensity, and forms increase and then decline in rough chronological proximity.




This blog assessed the student movements in South Africa and how anti-colonialist development narratives sprouted to be more than just student financial difficulties. The blog looks at notable scholars, but acknowledges that the general public opinion on the decolonisation agenda is important, yet marginalised for decision making. We looked at political contention to rationalise contention and how it influenced the evolution of the key functions of universities. On that note, it is important to applaud the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa.

Hopefully the reader can agree that conversation on elitist formations within student and institutional bodies affect student movements global patterns.


Let’s reflect on the above and share the narratives as we conclude the month of June, Youth Month. Assuming that all regional development criteria have led to contention in sub-Saharan Africa’s student experiences and knowledge sharing outputs…


Are there any alternative economies or models that are suitable for continent’s higher education development?



Youth Month: Discussing Disruptor Agencies to Voice Students in Contentious Politics

20 June 2019

For youth month, we will incite higher education innovation discussions to explore the African student experience. The assumption here is that students can indeed steer social change through viable disruption agents.

Disruptive innovation in this context refers to an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts (improves) existing markets and value chain networks. On that point, for blogs to follow we will assess the following areas of disruptors:

(1) Alternative economies; (2) #FeesMustFall student protest aftermath; (3) Africa Day perspective food security. All three to be discussed separately on higher level

Objective of discussion: A disruptor in this context is a simple concept classifying actions with the potential to break normal conventions that foster (social) change. In changing global economics, Africa’s higher education landscape has to meet market demands where the knowledge economy and graduates foster regional (socio-economic) growth. Let’s explore some concepts to discuss.

Problem to discuss: The economically inequitable state of youth, in this case students in Africa, discusses class divisions on campuses which affect academic outcomes when contrassing the haves and have nots. Government investment in Pan Africanist education is underdeveloped, ironically increased brain drain patterns emerge. Contentious politics is the use of disruptive techniques to make a political point, or to change government policy. Repertoire of contention refers, in social movement theory, to the set of various protest-related tools and actions available to a movement or related organization in a given time frame.

The concept of contentious politics was developed throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century by its most prominent scholars: Sidney Tarrow, Charles Tilly, and Doug McAdam.

Student rights are those rights, such as civil, constitutional, contractual and consumer rights, which regulate student rights. These freedoms allow students to reap the rewards of their educational investment. The rights includes free speech and association, to due process, equality, autonomy, safety and privacy, and accountability in contracts and advertising, which regulate the treatment of students by educators and administrators. There is limited research in student rights throughout the world. In general most countries have some kind of student rights enshrined in their laws and proceduralized by their court precedents.

Given the type of government, friction usually lies whilst navagating layers of political representation. Contention spreads from student representative councils, campus authorities, local, provincial, until national government are the market stakeholders. Disruptors affect the effects of citizens representation standards.


How can students voice these disruptors for social change?

In the past few weeks I have had the privilege of hearing various scholars in Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban attempting to answer the issues.

Firstly, a talk by a philosopher of Social Science Prof Howard Richards,
He conceptualises basic cultural structures and constitutive rules. During a Cape Town roundtable, interesting ideas arose for discussion. We explored areas around the regime of economic accumulation as modern capitalism’s only means funding social growth.

Interestingly enough in this book Rethinking Thinking: Modernity’s “Other” and the transformation of the University (2012) by Prof Howard Richards and Catherine Hoppers, a theme developed in early works that modernity has much to learn from pre-modernity. The research attests that by identifying historical underlyings of economic accumulation, can alternative models be tested.

Economic growth for Africa hope lies in youth: Young graduates bring a new energy and optimism to any business, adding diversity, different perspectives, 21st Century skills, and new values and experiences to the workplace.

According to Pieter Bensch, Executive VP at Sage – Africa & Middle East, many recent graduates and school leavers are struggling to find employment. In Ghana, only 10% of school leavers find work within the first year, while 7.9 Million youths in Nigeria remain unemployed.

Assuming personalized learning is a goal, online learning is the technology that makes the goal possible. Disruptive innovation is the economic process that allows the technology to fulfill its promise. Digital disruption is the change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing goods and services. Bensch says that businesses often lament the fact that the education system does not produce work-ready graduates yet they are the solution to that challenge. And with the youth making up the majority of unemployed people, we can all play a small part, to collectively make a massive difference.

Mr Chose Choeu a jury member of the African Excellence Awards says “Africa is all about Ubuntu – defined as meaning ‘humanity to others’ and also meaning ‘I am what I am because of who you are.” Africa needs communicators that are ready to assist and educate on the better use of information and communications technologies, under the Ubuntu ethos.
In South Africa, the source of the cancer that is corruption is deeper than greed. It is the collective relative deprivation, catalysed by the notion: ‘if our representatives can get away with corruption, so can we’.

I am an optimistic South African, noteworthy the last country in the world to gain independence apart from South Sudan who declared independence from war-torn Sudan on the 9th of July 2011. The miracle of still not breaking into civil war comes down to the compassion of the citizen’s will to build through unity, just under the equally compassionate leadership and prudent foreign trade policy and multi-state coalitions (attract developing economy investors).

Trade partners to the resource-rich nation need to use the examples of Malaysia, Singapore, UAE and China who could build relatively equitable social structures, and stable economies in the same time period as South Africa. No doubt white capital monopoly controls all serious macroeconomic apparatus, especially when it comes to the global trade aspect. As a result of decades of a natural resource rape (drilling into the land for lusty non-renewables), SA has the worst distribution of family income, in the world.

All other things being equal, most people would agree that a low Gini index is a good thing. As Matthew Osborne said, inequality can breed social problems. To me, it seems that SA has well-received political freedom, sadly economic freedom is to come. Thus, to economically address the deep social scares of the apartheid regime, the ANC should have used innovative bargaining assets such as nuclear arms, soon after trade sanctions were lifted.

Only one country has been known to ever dismantle nuclear arsenal completely—the apartheid government of South Africa developed crude fission weapons during the 1980s, but were dismantled in the early 1990s. During this contentious time, the national assets, economic land and raw materials were sliced like a pizza back then, so good people have been trying hard to right wrongs, as much as the sub-Saharan region.

A global symbol of soft power, through the benevolent charismatic leadership of Nelson Mandela, first African state to legalise same sex marriages, the most Nobel Peace Prize laureates, a great social delusion. Göran Bolin and Galina Miazhevich describe Nation Branding as a practice used by governments, together with PR consultants and corporate businesses to launch campaigns promoting a certain image of a nation state.

In previous research, it is commonly agreed that this practice occurs in line with the historical moment of neoliberalism.


To answer the question, the prior addresses the zeitgeist within a historical context. The latter envisions the future as a resource. Accepting this, we can say fee-free decolonised education as a result of a historically dismal education system needs to be first understood. Then use accurate Afro-centric knowledge exchange, as a resource.

Vis a vis, political imagination has to be in good effect, this way more equitable higher education development can be envisioned in the long term. My optimism lies in the fee-free education policies within South Africa’s higher education sector. To me this indicates a ‘Back to the Drawing Board’ narrative after generational inequities in education.

Nation building is about the creation of communities, while nation branding is about the production of (intangible) commodities. We have, second, discussed the role of the media in nation branding research and pointed to the importance of taking the agency of the media as organisations and the affordances of media technologies to account the role of the media in nation branding processes.

Above all, the articles problematise the intersection between nation branding, convergent media and transmedia practices, as well as question the mediation of nation branding within a more conceptual approach of simulacra or circulation of ‘sign commodities’. While there is a need for a more theoretical conceptualisation of the relationship between media and nation branding, there are also numerous practice-based avenues for further research in the field. The response to the centralised mediated nation branding initiatives, going beyond strategic campaigns. The understudied realm of popular culture is less ‘orchestrated’ nation branding.

Finally, how transnational media flows and cross-cultural flow of meanings complicate nation branding research. The media plays different roles across a broad range of nation branding practices which engage with the activities of soft power and public diplomacy. To fully understand this complexity, there is a strong need to incorporate an analysis of the media in their capacity as technologies with specific affordances, as well as institutions driven by their own logics and interests. This would be a further step in developing a truly critical cultural analysis of nation branding in an era of a vastly differentiated media landscape.
Dr Olusola Ogunnubi & Olumuyiwa Babatunde writes that the shifting trend of South Africa’s foreign policy toward soft power has equally portrayed ambivalence that challenges its status as a regional soft power state in Africa. Its leadership is often suspect. They state factors that impinge on South Africa’s ability to use soft power to advance its interests. It notes that notwithstanding the seeming optimism of its soft power, South Africa’s capacity to translate this into influence is largely undercut by several factors. South Africa faces the paradox of effectively playing the role expected of it as an international norm entrepreneur while at the same time being conscious of the expectation of its African constituency.

Furthermore, Prof Narnia Bohler-Muller offers an international relations perspective that South Africa’s political and cultural heritage also has the potential to contribute towards BRICS’ growing influence.

The notion of ‘harmony’ (sometimes referred to as stability) in Confucianism, a value that clearly underlies China’s economic reforms and foreign policy framework, is founded on the so-called three bonds, namely those of ruler and minister, father and son, and husband and wife. Similar to Ubuntu, Confucian thinking, these bonds are expected to enhance harmony within Chinese society itself, but this focus on harmony can also be seen in China’s foreign policy.

Secondly, I’ve recently heard three presentations on student politics in South Africa’s historic Fees Must Fall student movement.

Three academic scholars were able to address the issue of leadership from a media, student union, and systemically. In a future blog I will detail the narratives these academics said around interesting notions about student politics and uprisings in the old and ‘new’ South Africa. Political scientist and author of Voices of Liberation: Chris Hani starts us off. He says that youth-led organisations against the apartheid regime had relatively more drive to fight oppression than their parents. He recollects how the 1976 Soweto uprising reached Cape Town strengtened by the Black Consciousness Movement.

Student groups evolve from campus informal groups, formalised unions, to national political parties. The second scholar explores the decolonization agenda by looking at various public opinions in South Africa. In a nutshell, before any irreversible action is done, higher education needs a unified definition and establish common understandings from primary, right through to post-doctoral education. Then the last scholar looks at the University of Witwatersrand and its impact on the city of Johannesburg during Fees Must Fall. The assumption is that the university is like a cultural microcosm for the city. In this case the impact of the student protest envisioned within the economic hub of Africa.

It is sometimes argued that freedom of expression, education and relative economic independence in Western culture is responsible for the scope of various contemporary social movements. However others point out that many of the social movements of the last hundred years grew up, like the Mau Mau in Kenya, to oppose Western colonialism.

Some countries, like Romania, in the European Union, have comprehensive student bills of rights, which outline both rights and how they are to be proceduralized. Most countries, however, like the United States and Canada, do not have a cohesive bill of rights, so students use courts to determine how rights precedents in one area apply in their own jurisdictions.

Spanish sociologist, Manuel Castells researches the information society, communication and globalization. He categorised Occupied Spaces in the book Networks of Outrage and Hope. There are similarities to Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall protests are concerned:

  • His first claim is that they create community, and community is based on togetherness. Similarly, at the University of Cape Town, the Cecil John Rhodes statue which once metaphorically overlooked the peninsula of the Cape of Good Hope began a national student movement. This #RhodesMustFall campaign was a student conscientization movement, where the physical space of the statue extended higher education transformation and decolonization dialogues on virtual spaces too.
  • This nicely agrees with his second claim, Occupied Spaces are not meaningless: they are usually charged with symbolic power of invading sites of state power such as the parliament and the Union Buildings during 2015 and 2016 #FeesMustFall protests, or financial institutions because control of space means the control over people’s lives
  • His third claim, concludes that by constructing a free community in a symbolic place, social movements create a public space for deliberation, which ultimately becomes a political space. The Biographical Availability of students allows the occupation of public space on multifaceted layers of reality. Disruption narratives evolve on virtual spaces, to urban spaces, and mental spaces of autonomous communication.

Castells firmly believes that Occupy should be read beyond momentum, with its counterparts spreading across very different countries and contexts. The reintroduction of the Arab Spring into this conversation, despite the controversies around its real existence, envisions the networked movement as a universal phenomenon. Castells revisits the case of Tunisia; but instead of people, it is Internet organisations that are at the forefront: ‘The connection between free communication on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter and the occupation of urban space created a hybrid public space of freedom that became a major feature of the Tunisian rebellion’.

Furthermore, Manuel Castells sees the clicktivism as an active group of unemployed graduates, secondly the presence of strong cyberactivism culture, thirdly is the relatively high rate of diffusion in internet use. All of which were factors when considering the case of #feesMustFall in 2015/16, especially when considering the months of October in these two years.

Then lastly, Africa day at the University of the Western Cape (UWC),

a historically disadvantaged university which in many ways, is a metaphor to the educational potential of the continent. Food security can also be a metaphor, for ‘food for thought’ in higher education transformation discussions.

The relaunch of Renata Coetzee’s popular A Feast from Nature, presided over by Prof Julian May, director of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security. A seminar by veteran politician Prof Ben Turok. UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tyrone Pretorius, discussed some of the important challenges facing the African continent in his official welcome address, singling out the themes of xenophobia and the oppression of women. “But we can’t celebrate on campus and ignore the fact that African immigrants are treated with suspicion and hatred in South Africa, and that women are regular targets of oppression and violence.

“Africa Day is more than just a holiday in a handful of African countries,” Ms Coetzee said. “It is a chance to celebrate the diversity of cultures across dozens of countries – to reflect on our history and our achievements, and to consider how best to move forward, together.”

Final Word

The Prof Turok lecture at UWC concludes blogs to follow on areas of disruption which reflect on Youth Month. Please share this blog post and follow us on twitter so that I can consider responses in my blogs as we dissect the above mentioned in the coming days.

Celebrating youth month in this regard means to preserve the vibrancy of teaching and learning through affective knowledge management systems. Apart from the above mentioned, perhaps contentious politics in higher education is based on the lack of established collective understandings.

Africa Day

Africa Day

Africa Day is celebrated annually, the day marks the creation of the now defunct Organization of African Union (OAU) (SAHistoryOnline, 2016). The OAU was established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the 25th of May 1963.Thirty-two states initially founded the OAU with twenty-one more joining over the years. South Africa was not initially part of the OAU and only joined after 1994, it became the fifty-third member state on the 23rd of May 1994 (SAHistoryOnline, 2016). It is obvious why South Africa only joined the OAU after it gained democratic freedom as the organization was created to promote anti-colonization and freedom. The OAU was created to promote peace, unity and cooperation in Africa. It also sought to bring about economic and political integration of the participant states. The OAU was dissolved and replaced by the African Union (AU) in 2002 (SAHistoryOnline, 2016). This was done to facilitate a transformation of the formal structure of the organization in order to achieve the organizations goal of a Pan-African Africa (Lisk, 2012).

Seeing that Friday May 25, 2018 was African Day this post seeks to answer the question: has the African Union achieved its main goals? A look at the successes and challenges of the AU will answer this question.


Conflict intervention
The AU has the power to intervene in conflicts on the continent through its Peace and Security Council (PSC) which was created to help manage conflict. The PSC was created in 2004. The AU’s peacekeeping force engages in activities which are similar to the United Nations(UN) (Renwick, 2015). The AU seeks to promote peace security and democracy and has the mandate to intercede when genocide or crimes against humanity are being committed even if the country where the conflict is occurring does not agree to this intervention (Renwick,2015). The OAU had no such power and followed a non-interference policy. A number of conflicts have been abated or resolved by the AU (Lisk, 2012).  Mission which intervened in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast have been regarded as successful, thus saving civilian lives and promoting stability in these regions (Renwick, 2015).

AU has promoted trade within the member states and with China.  The Chinese president, promised $60bn in investment and aid to African countries at his last summit with African leaders, in South Africa two years ago. Chinese companies have built much of the road and rail infrastructure across the continent and more than 10,000 Chinese companies are active in the region, according to the McKinsey report.

“There is no other country with such depth and breadth of engagement in Africa across the dimensions of trade, investment, infrastructure financing, and aid,” the consultancy’s report said.

According to Quartz Africa (Dahir, 2018) China is heavily involved in Africa, with its companies and entrepreneurs conducting trade and investing heavily in African countries. Chinese aid has also been blamed for propping up authoritarian regimes, constructing shoddy roads and infrastructure built by imported Chinese workers, and focusing mainly on countries home to oil, minerals, and other resources that China needs. But China is also cultivating the next generation of African leaders, with Beijing taking thousands of African leaders, bureaucrats, students, and business people to China for training and education.

Africa is progressing in areas of culture and education. However, Regionalization of Higher Education in Africa: The Operationalization of the African Union Higher Education Harmonization Strategy (Woldegeorgis, 2017) makes the most interesting research. Regionalization of higher education in Africa is the least researched topic in the field of Social Science. The study says that the key objective of higher education regionalization is to create common regional policy frameworks that facilitate mutual recognition of academic qualifications, promote student and staff mobility, ensure effective quality assurance mechanisms, create a system for the transferability of credits, and ensure the competitiveness of African regional higher education in the global knowledge system. In this regard of holistic development, it pioneers in terms of exploring both the historical and theoretical dynamics of regionalization processes within Africa raising fundamental questions that focus on context and formation, operationalization and implications, and challenges and prospects of these regionalization processes.



The AU also promotes the role of women and emphasizes women empowerment. The Maputo Plan of Action 2016 – 2030 on sexual and reproductive health remains consistent with Africa’s Agenda 2063 which calls for a Prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development; an Integrated Continent, Politically United, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism; An Africa with people-driven development, especially relying on the potential offered by its women and youth; and Africa as a Strong, Resilient and Influential Global Player and Partner. However, gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in the region. Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making and are also more likely to live in poverty than men. About three quarters of working-age men participate in the labour force, compared to only half of working-age women, whilst women earn 24 per cent less than men.
The AU is based on the European Union (EU). However although the EU only allows democratic countries to become members the AU has no such provision (Auriacombe,C.J, Brynard,D.J &Schalk,B, 2005). This creates a challenge in that different member states with different ideals have to find a way to cooperate. It also present challenges when dealing with the international community. South Africa’s choice to allow former president of Sudan Omar al-Bashir to leave South Africa was met with displeasure from the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, according to AU policy South Africa did not break any laws as the AU provides immunity to member states, heads of state (Moffet,2015).

Certain members are fearful of losing their power by sharing it with the AU. The creation of several regional organizations creates the space for divided loyalty of member states. Public transport and infrastructure remains a major developmental challenge on the continent. Inter member economic trade remains minimal.

Conflict remains an issue. Missions in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, South Sudan and Darfur have not improved stability in these states (Renwick,2015).

Funding According to the AU funding is a key challenge as post conflict reconstruction and development as well as peacebuilding requires funds. The current funding module is unmaintainable and largely funded by donors whose impact has sometimes shifted the AU’s peacebuilding agenda. This threatens the independence of the AU itself (African Union Press Release, 2017).



Makhanya (2018) elequently concludes that. In Africa Month, we say all sorts of sweet things about our continent. The African Union issues statements about continental unity and economic progress. There is dancing and the celebrating of culture. But on the ground, human rights are violated as in any other month, democracy is trampled upon, fiscuses are raided and elites eat big while the poor suffer.

In terms of culture, technology, literature, and many tangible and intangible facets of life do we Africans, look to the West. Everyday is Europe Day or America Day, so to speak.  As a cultured African, how does one spend this day (and all other days in Africa)? Perhaps eating African food insted of KFC, learning isiXhosa or Swahili instead of replicating Hollywood, or asking “how can I know more about Africa?”

There are ways in which Africa Day can be everyday. As Western Day seems to be the case, everyday anyway.



African Union Press Release. (2017). Main successes of the AU in Peace and Security, challenges and mitigation measures in place, from: mitigation-measures-place

Auriacombe,C.J, Brynard,D.J &Schalk,B. (2005).Successes and failures of the organization of African unity:Lessons for the future of the African Union, Journal of Public Administration: Special Issue 2. 40, 496-511

Dahir, AL. 2018. Quartz Africa. China “gifted” the African Union a headquarters building and then allegedly bugged it for state secrets. January 30, 2018. Retrieved from,

Lisk, F. (2012). The African Union after 10 years: Successes and Challenges, from:

Moffet, L. (2015). Al-Bashir’s escape:

why the African Union defies the ICC, from:

Renwick,D.(2015). Peace Operations in Africa, from:https;//

Makhanya. M. 2018. The fantasy of Africa Month. 2018-05-27 Retrieved by,

Woldegeorgis, ET. 2017. Regionalization of Higher Education in Africa: The Operationalization of the African Union Higher Education Harmonization Strategy (Beitrage zur Afrikaforschung). Retrieved by,

The State of Student and Higher Education Politics in South African Universities in 2018

Written by Nkululeko Makhubu

10 May 2018

OSPHERA for this blog, will focus on South African universities and their respective student representative status. The 2015 and 2016 Fees Must Fall student movement was a high point in for active student participation in terms of its offline and online levels of protests of student interests. Student activists and public protest sympathisers across race, class and other social divisions stood up to the Department Higher Education and Training (DHET).

Admittingly, social media organisations (collective activism over campus and national hashtag campaigns) on platforms like Facebook and Twitter are too often anarchically structured to address common offline student grievances on each campus issues. Despite this, it is important for researchers to know the levels of authority for student representation considering the offline paradigms in SA higher education stakeholders.


Founded in 1924 and dissolved in 2 July 1991, The National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) was an important force for liberalism and later radicalism in South African student anti-apartheid politics. Its mottos included non-racialism and non-sexism during the time of the apartheid regime.

According to SA History Online, NUSAS since its inception was awarded over R47 000 in interest-free loans for the needy students and this was payable over a decade period. NUSAS was also active in to other social responsibilities such as educating prisoners about moral of the society, released prisoners, counseling children of prisoners, adult education of Blacks and feeding schemes for the poor of all races.

Notably in this period, “despite its liberal resistance to racially separate organisations in the 1960s, its members, and in particular its leadership, supported the breakaway in 1969, of black student leaders, led by Steve Biko and others, to form the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO), a Black Consciousness Movement student grouping.” Sadly on 1977 October 19, after the death of their leader, SASO and other Black Conscious (BC) organisations are banned under the Internal Security Act.

Presently, Gauteng based South African Union of Students (SAUS) represent all Student Representative Councils across the 9 province country. On their January 2018 Facebook post, it says: “The South African Union of Students SAUS, on behalf of students in general and the disenfranchised, destitute, disadvantaged and suffering youth and families reiterates its stance on welcoming the pronouncement by the President, declaring free education for students coming from poor and working class families with a combined annual income of up to R350 000.

This has been a long held view and struggle of the Union from its inception and believes that it is a step in the right direction in broadening access to Higher Education, increasing the throughput rate and ultimately the transformation of higher education and training, hence our clarion call for access, success and redress.”

SAUS Transformation vision 2025

SAUS understands and considers seriously the context of South Africa’s economic climate which has been in decline for a number of years. During the second higher education in the peaks on the October Fees Must Fall protests, from the 15 till 17th proposed the following.

The SAUS envisions a transformed education sector to be a sector that would have advanced the underlying factors:

  • corruption-free universities;
  • free quality education for the disadvantaged;
  • Councils and senates that are diversified in accordance with the countries demographics;
  • fully transparent Councils that fully account to the public and ministry of higher education;
  • a shift from managerialism towards leadership by university leader-managers;
  • a professoriate that is 27% black;
  • more significant African curriculum and knowledge production;
  • names of all universities across South Africa must represent the democratic ideals of South Africa;
  • all universities must abide by and implement the legislative framework of higher education.

SAUS claim the above should be utilized as a measure of how far the sector has come and what direction it ought to be taking.


On a November 2016 Al jazeera article, a University of Cape Town (UCT) student activist, wrote “South Africa’s educational system is still rooted in the colonial and apartheid eras, and their injustices persist in its structure and financial set-up. Both private and public universities in South Africa charge fees and offer different amounts of financial aid along with a national loans system”, according to renowned activist Brian Kamanzi. Over the years, enrolment in the country’s 26 (now 28, addition to first ever universities in Kimberly and Mbombela) higher education institutions has steadily grown enrolment numbers.

Under the DHET’s watch, enrollment in both tertiary and technical/vocational post-secondary education (TVET) has increased considerably. Enrollments at university-level institutions increased by 13 percent between 2010 and 2014, from 983,703 to approximately 1.1 million students. In the TVET sector, enrollment almost doubled from 405,275 students in 2010 to 781,378 in 2014. According to World Education News and Reviews (WENR), pre 2015/16 Free Fee national protests.  I would be interesting to know what the Free Education enrolment numbers will be in 2018.

Moreso, having more campuses and students to facilitate free education is one thing, the standards of that degree or diploma is an important factor too. Quality assurance in South African higher education involves institutional oversight and program-based accreditation under the auspices of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). As per the current legislative framework, the Higher Education Act of 1997, the CHE is tasked with setting the quality standards which must be met by institutions seeking accreditation, according to WENR.

In the article Progress Made in Implementing Free Higher Education reported by SA News, on April 24, 2018 DHET Minister Naledi Pandor says progress has been made to ensure that the new bursary scheme is implemented successfully. This comes after government’s announcement in 2017 that free education would be implemented to support poor students (undergraduate and postgraduate studies) whose parents’ combined annual income is R350 000 or less.

The Minister also said that while NSFAS migrated fully to the new “student-centred model”, there are still some challenges with finalising the 2017 intake, especially where qualifying students have not yet signed their loan agreement forms. “I am aware that some continuing senior students have not yet had their funding finalised for the 2017 academic year” says the February 2018 appointed minister.

In this transformation post Blade Nzimande (the DHET, now Transport Minister) era, Honourable Naledi Pandor says “students, we are attending to these problems and I urge you to sign your bursary agreements as soon as they are available. Any senior students who have not signed their 2017 loan agreement forms or schedule of particulars must do so immediately. You have a responsibility to ensure that the institution that supported you is paid.” 

On a February 2017 article by The Conversation, Deputy Dean of the University of Pretoria, Prof B Wingfield, makes a good note that for decolonised education to be introduced, the existing system must be overthrown and the people it’s supposed to serve must define it for themselves. To this essay’s understanding, that is to say to ‘Africanize’ would be a more constructive phrase, with intent to assess and then outphase higher education structures failing to transform adjacent social interests of the masses.

Prof Wingfield later states, the challenge for tertiary educations in South Africa is to ensure that the curriculum presented is based on international best practice. We cannot limit the knowledge base of South Africa’s next generations to only regional knowledge and culture. This would be tantamount to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. We must however, be locally relevant and celebrate the research and researchers in South Africa.

Considering a student perspective, a 2016 News 24 article asked a student to explain decolonised education, and why they want it.

“The current curriculum dehumanises black students. We study all these dead white men who presided over our oppression, and we are made to use their thinking as a standard and as a point of departure. Our own thinking as Africans has been undermined. We must have our own education from our own continent. Decolonisation advances the interests of Africans, instead of advancing Eurocentric interests. ‘Eurocentrism’ does not serve our interests culturally, socially, economically. It does not resolve the issues of Africa.”

Education is not neutral, it serves particular interests.

Many thought it was just for fees. Sub Saharan Africa is one of the poorest economies, and certainly the region has the most under transformed higher education landscape, which must change for the masses, not just a few. Under the banner of Free Education in South African Universities, this is possible not just for national, but for regional growth.

Thousands of students across South Africa shared similar sentiments, which called for protest in the months of September through to November exam periods in 2015 and 2017 in particular. It was for a cause that goes beyond short term hurdles, but more importantly, for a sustainable Afrocentric intellectual identity as we have heard from activists, professors and students alike.


Earlier this year Statistics South Africa wrote, “after three years since the #FeesMustFall campaign erupted on campuses across the country. Thousands of students protested over rising tuition fees. On the back of frustration over the lack of funding for poorer students, the movement revived, in a big way, the debate over whether South Africa should offer free tertiary education.”

The socio-economic reality is that many bright, aspiring students fall short of obtaining a diploma or degree due to lack of money. Almost two in every ten potential learners indicated that they could not attend an educational institution (either a school or tertiary institution) due to lack of money to pay for fees, according to Stats SA’s latest General Household Survey.

For most individuals, the return on investment of a tertiary education is high. Take the unemployment rate. For graduates living in South Africa the unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2017 stood at 7,4%. Compare this with those with only a matric qualification (27,9%) and the overall national unemployment rate (27,7%), according to Quarterly Labour Force Survey, 2nd Quarter 2017.

A serious investment in tertiary education is needed. Public universities in South Africa are divided into three types: traditional universities, which offer theoretically-oriented university degrees; universities of technology (formerly known as “technikons”), which offer vocational oriented diplomas and degrees (TVET); and comprehensive universities, which offer a combination of both types of qualification.

A Better view of this Map

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Map Data
Map data ©2018 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google



Thinking TVET development in Africa

By Nkululeko Makhubu

October 2017, Madagascar, in collective agreement that education as key to sustainable development in Africa, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) Better Education for Africa’s Rise (BEAR), UNESCO’s project promoting skills development and youth employment in Africa, is now transitioning to its second phase, BEAR II, which will be implemented from 2017 to 2021.

Five Eastern African countries which will now be reviewed – Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda – will benefit from this second phase of the project. They will receive technical assistance from UNESCO and international experts with the financial support of the Republic of Korea.

It seems Asia-Africa relationships for development has become increasingly popular than development via the West. Perhaps this project is a good case to now asses a year later how Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) are developing.



A developing state with a huge 102,403,196 population according to a 2016 Census. There are two countries in Africa which are considered by some scholars to never have been colonized: Liberia and more notably Ethiopia.

It’s about time that sustainable development yields for the most populous landlocked country (a sovereign state entirely enclosed by land, whose only coastlines lie on closed seas) in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent.

According to All Africa researcher Tsegaye Tilahun, Ethiopia can benefit hugely from linking its TVET program with its industries as experts contend that such linkage improves manpower competency and industries’ productivity.

He concludes “consensus now is to utilize problem-solving industry linkages to improve the economy. Every year several technologies are copied and transferred to small and medium enterprises. Products that are produced by small and medium scale enterprises are also copied and transferred by TVET institutions to small and medium manufacturing institutions” along the Horn of Africa.

As a long-term higher education strategy, “producing competent manpower, TVET-industry linkage help the country become competent internationally, says Sewasew Enyew, an Industry Extension Technology Transfer Team Leader at Technical Vocational Education and Training Agency.



The state declared Independence from the United Kingdom on 12 December 1963 has several ethnic disperses. Although Kenya is the biggest and most advanced economy in east and central Africa, and has an affluent urban minority, it has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.519, ranked 145 out of 186 in the world. As of 2005, 17.7% of Kenyans lived on less than $1.25 a day.

According to Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers, the TVET ACT 2013 was designed to address the job skills issue and, more so, to ensure an increased and sustained enrolment ratio of 20% by the year 2030. A move by the Kenyan Government to revamp their entire education system with a view of making the lives of our youth better.

She concludes, “investing in TVETs is not just about providing a few opportunities for some, TVETs are the only sure way to secure the future of this country, guaranteeing long term productivity, economic sustainability and inclusive growth”.



The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar belongs to the group of least developed countries, according to the United Nations. Malagasy and French are both official languages of the state .

Under long rule of Ratsiraka who was in power from 1975 to 2001, failed to achieve significant improvements in education throughout his tenure.

The Malgachization Policy, coincided with a severe economic downturn and a dramatic decline in the quality of education.

Those schooled during this period generally failed to master the French language or many other subjects and struggled to find employment, forcing many to take low-paying jobs in the informal or black market that mired them in deepening poverty.

Public expenditure on education was 13.4 percent of total government expenditure and 2.9 percent of GDP in 2008. Primary classrooms are crowded, with average pupil to teacher ratios of 47:1 in 2008 says Trading Economics.

Their University landscape needs funding and development too. Since 1988, all branches of the system became independent of each other, and the name University of Madagascar was dropped in favor of more geography-specific titles, TVET development thus being a more viable higher education investment for now.

During the 2017 BEAR ii workshop, UNESCO proposed that the textile industry be the lead sector for the project in Madagascar, following lengthy consultations with country experts. The consultations revealed that the textile industry is a part of Madagascar’s five strategic sectors, but is the only one that has not attracted the support of any international projects.

“With high potential for creating formal employment, the choice of the sector is expected to provide a positive impact on socio-economic development in the country,” said Madagascar’s Secretary-General of the National Ministry of Employment, Technical Education and Vocational Training, Georges Rakotonirainy.


In the United Republic of Tanzania

From 2009 through 2013, According to the World Bank, Tanzania’s per capita GDP (based on constant local currency) grew an average of 3.5% per year, higher than any other member of the East African Community. It’s fair to say that growth is based mainly on export revenue which like most African economies, sadly is higher than import revenue atop IMF and World Bank loan debt.

According to the paper Relevance of TVET market demands: Skills for Employability, by Manyaga and Athumani: “One of the most important features of TVET is its orientation towards the world of work and the emphasis of the curriculum on the acquisition of employable skills. TVET delivery systems are well placed to train the skilled and entrepreneurial workforce that Tanzania needs to create wealth and emerge out of poverty.”

The authors concluded that “TVET curricula should provide different orientation to meet the skills needs of the modern sector and those needed for poverty reduction. Alleviating poverty through the acquisition of basic employable skills without ignoring high-tech skills needed for global competition”.


Then lastly Uganda:

Their Ministry of Sport and Education reports, “The World Bank funded, Uganda Skills Development Project (USDP) worth US $100M is one of the options the Government of Uganda initiated to operationalize the BTVET strategic Plan. USDP is a five (5) year project, which was approved in April 2015 and became effective in October 2016. USDP targets enabling programmes to meet skills needs in key priority sectors of the economy i.e. Agriculture, Construction and Manufacturing, in line with Uganda’s National Development Plan (NDPII) as well as Vision 2040.”

The Bank of Uganda reports that the state has largely untapped reserves of both crude oil and natural gas. While agriculture accounted for 56 percent of the economy in 1986, with coffee as its main export, it has now been surpassed by the services sector, which accounted for 52 percent of GDP in 2007.



From Assessment to Planning: Hope for TVET in Uganda reports: much like the above mentioned states, the landlocked country has much economic potential, the median age in Africa is the 19.4 years old, the youngest in the world. Not to mention having rich minerals, untouched markets and cultural dynamics. These factors lends valid reason to look ahead, optimistically through short term investment in TVET.

One of the major obstacles facing the implementation of TVET programming in post-conflict situations is a lack of data on the needs and skills of the target population. In terms of a strict concentration on the ability of TVET programming to improve the skill-set and employability of participants, this lack of data poses the problem of leading to a mismatch between TVET and the contextual economic opportunities.

The BEAR ii project, according to UNESCO will be implemented in the five above mentioned beneficiary countries over a period of five years from 2017-21 in three phases: formulation phase (2017); inception and implementation phase (2017-20); and closure and scale-up (2020-21).



Southern Africa. In: UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030

Manyaga and Athumani (2010). Relevance of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to market demands: Skills for Employability: Paper presented to the JOINT EDUCATION SECTOR ANNUAL REVIEW 2010, 30 September 2010. Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Hamba Kahle mama we Mzansi Afrika

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Hamba Kahle mama we Mzansi Afrika

– By Nkululeko Makhubu

– 04 April 2018

Leaving home heading to the City of Gold

Born as Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela in the humble Eastern Cape village of eMbongweni, in the Transkei 26 September 1936. She met lawyer and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in 1957. They were married in 1958 and had two daughters. Sadly she left us on the second of April 2018.

It is my hope that Mam’ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is revered as an African anti-apartheid activist and an idol of a strong-willed female politician. Her legacy was truly more than just the ex-wife (married from 1958-1996) of the first black South African president, Nelson Mandela.


Education as a Liberator

There have been mixed emotional narratives over the years surrounding her hard-fought personal and political career. As academics, at the Observatory of Student Politics Higher Education Research in Africa ( we wish to focus on results of her influence on student movements and her anti-white tyrannical pedagogical contribution to the education landscape of not just South Africa, but to global consciousness.

Both her parents, Columbus and Gertrude were teachers. Columbus was a history teacher and a headmaster, and Gertrude was a domestic science teacher. Her mother died when she was nine years old. Despite this family, tragedy went on to become the head girl at her high school in Bizana.

Despite restrictions on the teaching and learning of blacks due to The Bantu Education Act, 1953 (Act No. 47 of 1953; later renamed the Black Education Act, 1953), Mandela earned a degree in social work from the Jan Hofmeyer School in Johannesburg Class of 1955, and several years later earned a Bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Witwatersrand.


Would history recall her as a qualified Social Worker, a Politician or an Activist?

In the mid-50s she became the first black medical social worker at the largest hospital in Africa, Baragwanath Hospital. According to SA History Online, Mam’ Winnie was already politically interested and involved in activism long before she met her future husband.  She was particularly affected by the research she had carried out in Alexandra township, appalled at the high infant mortality.

During her time at Baragwanath, Mam’ Winnie’s reputation began to grow, with stories and photographs about her appearing in newspapers, acknowledging the achievement of this girl from the Transkei who came to Johannesburg and looked to be making a name for herself in the City of Gold.

Under the banner of the African National Congress (ANC) political party of her beloved Madiba, she served on the ANC’s National Executive Committee and President of the Women’s League.  She served as a Member of Parliament from 1994 until her death and was a deputy minister from 1994 to 1996. Madikizela-Mandela was known to her supporters as the “Mother of the Nation”.

Africa’s biggest history archive, South African History Online states Mam’ Winnie had influential presences in her life: chief amongst them were Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph,  Albertina Sisulu, Florence Matomela, Frances Baard, Kate Molale, Ruth Mompati, Hilda Bernstein(who was the first Communist Party member to serve on the Johannesburg Council in the 1940s); and Ruth First.


Her Role in Student Politics

Mam’ Winnie understood that the youth is the future and that her cause envisions a prosperous, free South Africa for all. I believe only through equitable education and active student participation can the country’s mindset break colonial apathy. That well informed visionary student leadership can generate nuance that challenges white oppression.

By the mid-1970s, unrest amongst the South African youth had become increasingly volatile. Steve Biko (also born in Eastern Cape) had founded the Black Consciousness Movement in 1969 as a riposte to what he saw as unhelpful white liberal paternalism. The formation of the all-black South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) followed soon thereafter. The struggle for liberation in South Africa was increasingly being taken up the country’s youth and Mam’ Winnie found herself settling into a new role to as the symbolic mother to this burgeoning student movement.

In May 1976, just a few weeks before the famous student uprising in Soweto, Mam’ Winnie along with Dr Nthatho Motlana helped to establish the Soweto Parents’ Association. In the weeks that followed the violence of June 16, Herself together with and Dr Motlana had their hands full attending to youth and parents who had been arrested, injured or killed in the riots.

In my view, Mam’ Winnie much like Malcolm X at this stage adopted a freedom By Any Means Necessary strategy. A translation of a phrase used by French intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre in his play Dirty Hands. It entered the popular civil rights culture through a speech given by Malcolm X at the Organization of Afro-American Unity founding rally on June 28, 1964.

Black Past recalls his famous words which I am sure Mam Winnie and Biko supported:

“We want freedom by any means necessary. We want justice by any means necessary. We want equality by any means necessary. We don’t feel that in 1964, living in a country that is supposedly based upon freedom, and supposedly the leader of the free world, we don’t think that we should have to sit around and wait for some segregationist congressmen and senators and a President from Texas in Washington, D. C., to make up their minds that our people are due now some degree of civil rights. No, we want it now or we don’t think anybody should have it.”

Standing up for what’s right sometimes needs different thinkers depending on the generation and a shared understanding of the struggle. Depending on what side of the privilege fence one stands, can we decipher what is right, and what is wrong. Who gets what, when and how.


Thanks to Mam’ Winnie the month of April will forever be a Global Civil Rights Movement Awareness period for me

I mean it, the awareness comes from connections with several role models I had growing up.

Firstly, Today marks the birthday of also late American poet and activist Dr Maya Angelou born in 1928.

Fittingly she once said: “You can’t use up creativity,” she stresses. “The more you use, the more you have. It is our shame and our loss when we discourage people from being creative. We set apart those people who should not be set apart, people whom we assume don’t have a so-called artistic temperament, and that is stupid.”

Secondly, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was tragically killed today in 1964.  Fittingly he once said: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Thirdly, April the second Dr Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away. Sadly her own country could not even award her an honorary Doctorate. In January 2018, the University Council and University Senate of Makerere University, Kampala bestowed the honour in a timely fashion. They approved the award of an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree to Winnie Nomzano Madikizela-Mandela, in recognition of her fight against apartheid in South Africa. The SABC only published this the day after her death, whilst New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily newspaper did on the 19th of January 2018.

lastly, in a few days, April 27th marks the joyous Freedom Day. Tata Mandela amongst millions of other black South Africans had cast their votes for the first black President under a post-apartheid democracy in 1994. Internationally, Mandela received more than 260 university honorary awards over a 40 year period.

Needless to say: “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”

mam Winnie Mandela

Caption: Winnie Mandela marches with a crowd of youths in the Brandfort Township (Getty)

May the dearly departed watch over the struggle for black emancipation over white monopoly capital, may their life lessons and teachings reach leadership in Africa, the Diaspora and the world over.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Hamba Kahle mama we Mzansi Afrika. translation: “go well, Mother of South Africa” in isiZulu.











Human Rights Day Question: Is Higher Education Access a Right or a Privilege?

Human Rights Day Question: Is Higher Education Access a Right or a Privilege?
By Nkululeko Makhubu

Is Osphera Africa for you?
No matter where you are in this shrinking world, whether you are a Western thinker or an African thinker, you are first and foremost, human, judicially represented by rights. Most importantly, you have the responsibility to respect yourself. This will allow you to have spined empathy to respect each of your human rights.
As a fellow scholar, I am always thinking of what is the best way to think about research. “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Quoting the wisest of the wisest, Albert Einstein. To take this thought process even further, Sufi poet, Rumi says: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Maybe, this self-reflective manner of thinking ought not to be limited as a right nor a privilege, it just is.
As important as self-respect for self-representation is important, many African students cannot represent themselves. Far too often does their silence lead to consent. To express their challenges, students can use the following intermediaries: campus external researchers and investigators or via campus led Student Representative Council’s and Student Development and Support structures. They can collectively help address neglected student rights at any given campus community.
To become a non-bias, open access, knowledge sharing community is exactly what we aspire for at The Observatory of Student Politics and Higher Education Research in Africa. To be a representation of Afro-centric, higher education, student affairs, student experience related research.

How do you think about Higher Education Research and Development in Africa?
The Observatory of Student Politics and Higher Education Research in Africa ( believes after reading something, it is better to harbour questions that are research worthy, than settling on rigid answers.
Never questioning important answers, often lends a rigid mentality. In this regard, research bias is as unethical as allowing higher education to be a privilege to a few. Sadly, higher education systems in most African democracies cater to a fraction of a given population. Many aren’t even skilled enough to even ask the right questions, and even if they did, the right answers are retained by elitist research and development institutional pillars.

What does Human Rights mean to African Students?
According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible
As South African students acknowledged Human Rights Day on Wednesday, May 21, we are of the opinion that: Higher Education is a Right, Not a Privilege.
You’re welcome to counter argue this stance. However, do exercise the right by questioning your viewpoint of privilege. Hopefully, your self-reflected answer has acknowledged the fact that for various structural reasons, the majority of prospective students are denied access to higher education.
Dr Andre Van Zyl, the director of the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Academic Development Centre and head of the South African National Resource Centre even when access is granted, the first-year experience and students in transition, told journalists at a 2013 press briefing that half of the 18% (national intake capacity) of matrics that register across the country’s institutions drop out.
According to 2017 South African Higher Education: Facts and Figures, Universities conduct around 20% each of all research; the government sector (including the science councils) conducts about 22.8%; while the business sector undertakes 55.9%, a proportion that the Department of Science and Technology (DST) says compares favourably to levels in European Union countries. and University of Free State PhD researcher, Taabo Mugume supports that South Africa under democratic leadership has undergone drastic higher education reforms. While there are challenges, progress is noticeable in the levels of access due to policy changes designed post-1994 to support mass higher education.
Sadly, the legacy of apartheid’s Bantu Education made it harder for the preparation of most of the population to even contemplate tertiary education or for the privileged to pass on the baton, and grow South Africa’s (knowledge) economy as a collective human race.
In his paper, Mugume acknowledges the National Commission on Higher Education of 1996 and the White Paper on Higher Education of 1997, the Higher Education Act of 1997 was the first post-1994 fundamental policy initiative designed to ensure the regulated transformation of institutions of higher learning. To the ends of sustaining human rights, the Act was designed with the main intention of ensuring access to higher education for more students from previously disadvantaged communities and also to avail employment opportunities.
On a global level, neither the UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG) nor the outdated United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights mention higher educational paedagogical and socioeconomic factors directly affecting students in Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges (TVET) and University. However, these MDG’s had to be updated to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to the extent that part of Goal 4 Quality Education: “By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university”. This seems as far too many Human Rights Days will come and go till this is realised. Besides, westernised solutions do not always fruit well in Africa.
The forthcoming era of globalised industry, coined as the Fourth Industrial Revolution comes with new challenges making these Developmental Goals with the possibility of being obsolete also. According to the UN’s Committee on Special Rapporteur on the right to education, “education in all its forms and at all levels shall exhibit the following interrelated and essential features: a) availability; b) accessibility; c) acceptability; and d) adaptability”. It seems that Africa must align its own unique higher education aspirations capitalising on the ease of knowledge sharing in a networked world.
Many would agree that South African’s democracy was built on the heartfelt activism of the oppressed, who feel justice is not served to uphold their human rights.
21 March 2018 was to reflect on this very sentiment as many took a day off to remember the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, March 21st.
As seen in the blog picture, 69 activists were killed, and 180 were wounded by the bullets of apartheid police. Personally, I feel that violence should never be a resort to any rational thinking society.

A society or better yet, a campus community that upholds human rights will not violate them but will welcome different perspectives through holistically inclusive ethical research and development. Higher education rights have to be seen as just that. The privilege ought to be the enjoyment of those rights, right?

What does #HumanRightsDay mean to you?
Is Higher Education a right or a privilege?
Follow @osphera on Twitter and let’s start to engage.first blog image

Dr Thierry Luescher joins HSRC

As from April 3, 2017, Dr Thierry Luescher has joined the South African Human Sciences Research Council in Cape Town as Research Director in the Education and Skills Development research programme. He heads the unit focused on higher education.

The HSRC is a statutory science council established to conduct large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific projects for public-sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. The HSRC is one of the leading African research institutions and think-tanks.

The HSRC’s mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The HSRC includes the following institutes, centres and programmes:

  • Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA)
  • Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII)
    Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
  • Economic Performance and Development (EPD)
  • Education and Skills Development (ESD)
  • HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB (including the Africa-wide research network SAHARA) (HAST)
  • Human and Social Development (HSD)
  • Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation (PHHSI)

The HSRC Press, the publishing arm of the HSRC, is the premier open access academic publisher in the Social Sciences in South Africa, with a wide international reach.


Student Affairs: Standards and Norms for the Co-curriculum

Stellenbosch University’s Division of Student Affairs invites all tertiary institution colleagues to join in a two-day colloquium on “Standards and Norms for the Co-curriculum”. The colloquium will address questions related to the development of tools and standards to ensure higher educational co-curricular activities are fit for purpose for current and future realities.

  • Gavin Henning, PhD. Dr. Gavin Henning, President Elect for the Council for Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS).
  • Jen Wells, PhD., is at Kennesaw State University and leads the development and implementation of assessment and evaluation activities for institutional-level projects, including the university strategic plan and quality enhancement plan.

To register and for more information contact Ruth Andrews: