Education has been identified as one of the powerful sources of colonial imposition on Africans since the beginning of imperial conquests in Africa. Institutions of higher learning thus become a site of struggle to emancipate the minds of students from neo-colonial Euro-western modes of thought, teaching, learning and knowing.
Activists and academic alike were caught off guard by the intensity of the wave of protest that swept across South African universities in late 2015.
The nation had not seen anything like it since the mid-1980s. And in those days, the student movement had been acting in concert with a bigger national liberation movement, as a small and relatively privileged part of that movement.
Now, students were self-organizing for a change in their own circumstances, to force the institutions of higher education and the government to respond to their demands. After 22 years of democracy, the next generation’s time had come.
With the exhilaration came other, less positive, elements: intolerance, lack of discipline, racial polarization, coercion and a certain level of violence — all these accompanied by some desperation and trauma, and real losses to some students amid the substantial gains that were made for most students.
The legacy of fallism will not be one of completed activisms, but fallists can achieve a great deal of progress in moving forward the agenda for global decolonisation. One particular achievement of the fallist struggle so far has been the success of its consciencentising campaign; South Africans are becoming more aware of what the fallist student struggles are about.
While the “Fees Must Fall” movement led to a halt in fee increases and a revision of the NSFAS system to accommodate the “missing middle,” are these gains enough to satisfy the minority of students. The bigger question is: Was the long-term agenda of complete transformation of the education system achieved?
On June 16 (Youth Day) the Apartheid Museum will host a discussion entitled: Did the Fallist Movement Fail?
The panelists for this debate are: Nomfundo Walaza, Asanda Ngoasheng, Ntokozo Qwabe, Busisiwe Seabe , Funzani Mtembu and it will be moderated by Eusebius McKaiser.
The time is ripe to ask – Were the leaders co-opted by the State, political parties and corporate South Africa? Or was the movement a success? What is its legacy and is the legacy continuing or has the radicalism been deflated?