“Must fall” has become a viral term,. If you are aware of the goings on in our universities, even just from watching the news, you’ll know that things haven’t been sweet nor pretty lately.
Some context for the reader who may not be up to speed on SA protests: Somewhere in 2015, Rhodes Must Fall gained popularity. The protesters wanted to “decolonize the university.” Taking down the statue of Cecil John Rhodes was their most reported on (but not their sole) demand. The movement tore a trail through South Africa all the way to Oxford University in the Queen’s country. This Writer happened to eyewitness a Skype meeting between sympathizers from Oxford and University of Cape Town students in the movement. A little while later, Fees Must Fall rose in protest of academic exclusions and the nature of student loans,debt and the cost of tertiary study in this country. A while after that, a more streamlined movement called Outsourcing Must Fall popped up. Among the gripes of the students, there were also workers in the universities of South Africa that were outsourced. They had no actual job security in this manner and students and workers alike formed increasingly more organized and articulate groups to tackle this issue as well as others. Repeatedly in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape province, Rhodes campus was ground to a halt because of protests. It’s a small town. A scene at the University is the whole town’s business. Their reasons for protest at Rhodes include the ones mentioned above but an additional one that made huge waves is rape. The university was shut down for about 2 days at least because of students protesting, clashing with police or disrupting academic activities. Now we are getting to the meat of the matter.
The protests have disrupted not only the status quo of the relationship between institution and student, but they have also disrupted daily academic life. To put it simply, the protest disrupted the flow of the curriculum. Academic flow, like the weeks spent lecturing and days spent on tests and exams, and things of that nature have been impacted on. The students who occupied lecture rooms to protest and teach about “rape culture” and its evils, are now writing tests on Saturdays to catch up. And who doesn’t love academic assessment on the weekend? They, are the lucky ones. Some students were arrested and wounded during the more heated protests,and have lost the Duly Performed scores which enable them to write examinations. Two tests a day to catch up on missed academic time is not the worst of it. Media slander wars, lawsuits and the still unresolved issues make these disturbances to academic stability a thing that won’t blow over too soon. The institutions are feeling the repercussions and now, so are the students.
It’s going to be a difficult semester for many students. Some have even missed extra-curricular sports activities so as to stick to the books, because their time is now so constricted. Fortunately, there are tools like ERA [please add hyperlink to this] to help the suffering student shoulder the load. Find out more about it and salvage what little time you have left. My fear is that the impacts will be felt too late by some, and by then, no rescue will be possible. But a lot of students are aware that protest has a price. How they pay it, is unfolding as I write this.