How student activism can change the world3 minute read

Busisiwe Catherine Seabe is an author, entrepreneur, and activist. She is a social justice advocate and a student leader of the #WitsFeesMustFall movement at The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), in South Africa. Busisiwe is an ambassador for the Always Keeping Girls in School Campaign by Procter & Gamble, an ambassador for the Wildlife Foundation and Generation Earth and the Co-Founder of PERINE Early Childhood Development Academy.

South Africa, in particular, has a long history of student activism, how can young people be agents of change?

Young people need to first position themselves in line with a struggle that befits their generation. They need to be able to weigh the pro’s and con’s of certain engagements in the name of activism. As young people, our objective should always be to strive for the creation of a cooperative economy that is inclusive, non-racialized, common ownership and shared equity that will largely benefit the poor and marginalized groups in society. Activism presents itself in various forms outside of the traditional, political expression that we are accustomed to. It is able to take a more economic, cultural and artistic nature, to name but a few, and should always strive to engage society in a progressive and decolonial manner.

Looking at the 1976 Soweto youth uprising one cannot ignore that post’ 76 there has been a de-politicization of the youth and the distortion of the political nature and significance of the Soweto uprising. This de-politicization has led to a very dormant and conceding youth demographic post-1994. Young people have accepted the propaganda of a rainbow nation and democratic dispensation in South Africa which makes it difficult to advocate and struggle for change.

What is the connection between the #Feesmustfall movement and the current state of race relations in South Africa?

There is a wave of student activism sweeping the nation. One that calls for decolonisation in part and parcel to the call for Free Education– which entails the dismantling of knowledge systems, ways of knowing and systems of power. Universities have always been able to wield an enormous amount of power on students.

Racism and Apartheid might have ended formally (this can also be contested) however, structural racism still exists. Apartheid took a different form and this makes it difficult to fight it especially when the masses are not conscious because of years of pacifying. This becomes an imperative objective of the Fees Must Fall movement in that we cannot achieve the objective of truly liberating our people through the consciousness that comes with education if we do not tackle the race relations and conflicts in our institutions with the hopes of having that spill over into broader society. Race relations in this country are directly linked to class relations and underpinned by its educational dissemination.

The power which the University wields over the minds of young black people means that we cannot sit idly by when it instills in them overtly white (read: dangerous and Eurocentric) ideologies. Racism is openly practiced but masked by neutral standards. We envision decolonized institutions of higher learning – that resemble the people that it serves, who are mostly the black majority. Opposition to white hegemony in various institutions currently is a representation of the fact that we must employ every means necessary to dismantle the patriarchal capitalist racist system and curriculum that serves to further marginalize and segregate the country as a whole. We reject the liberal oxymoron that radical means being docile, timid or apologetic.

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This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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