Students present demands at mass meeting

21 September 2016 | Story by Newsroom
Dr Lwazi Lushaba addressed a jam-packed Jameson Hall on 19 September 2016.
Dr Lwazi Lushaba addressed a jam-packed Jameson Hall on 19 September 2016.

Under the banners of #BringBackOurCadres and Fees Must Fall, protesting students packed Jameson Hall on 19 September 2016 while UCT classes, lectures and tutorials remained suspended.

Khululwa Mthi, an SRC 2016/2017 candidate, read a list of demands that UCT students and workers had collectively drawn up.

Among the demands were for protection from victimisation for participating in protests, “a clear job description for all workers to prevent exploitation”, “a code of conduct for managers and owners with regards to racism and exploitation of workers”, and a minimum wage of R12 500 per month regardless of whether workers were insourced or not.

Foremost among the students' demands were repeated calls for a Shackville TRC, and that “the suspensions, expulsion and interdict” on students be lifted.

The students' wide-ranging demands included that lecture recordings be made compulsory across the board, that lecture material be made accessible to people with disabilities, “a meaningful interrogation into why black students are most often at the brunt of academic exclusion and [the] establish[ment of] a process of investigating the extenuating circumstances that lead to exclusion”.

They also called for free sanitary towels to be made available at all residences and across the university, for an admissions policy that explicitly used race as a proxy for disadvantage, and for the university to present “comprehensive sensitisation workshops” for UCT workers, staff and students in its efforts to address “rape culture, patriarchy [and] homophobia within the residence system”.

The students also called for the university to “implement a curriculum which critically centres Africa and the subaltern . . . By this we mean treating African discourses as the point of departure through addressing not only content, but languages and methodologies of education and learning and only examining Western experiences as far as they are relevant to our own experience.”

Explaining the reason for the campus shutdown, a student posed what it meant for UCT to operate normally when black experiences were routinely marginalised.

Dr Lwazi Lushaba, a UCT politics lecturer, addressed the gathering.

“We talk about decolonising education. It is not a matter of accumulating capital,” said Lushaba. “If our education remains colonial, our being remains colonial.”

Referencing Chairman Mao, Lushaba told the gathering: “To rebel is just. If you don't rebel as a black person, your life is already damned.”

Lushaba, giving an example of decolonised education, explained Tanzania's post-independence spirit of “Uhuru na Kazi”, meaning freedom and work. He added that this extended to “Uhuru na Utajiri”, meaning freedom and wealth, and “Uhuru Utamaduni”, meaning freedom and culture. Then there was “Uhuru na Elimu”, meaning freedom and education. Tanzanians held these values dear in the aftermath of colonialism.

“So when they ask us what we are going to teach in a decolonised university, these are things we are going to teach,” he said.

Story Yusuf Omar. Photo Michael Hammond.

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