Previous Posts: Reflecting on UKZN

UKZN StrikeI’ve shared my opinions in a couple of other places. I wrote these two pieces about my previous institution, UKZN.

UKZN Crisis – A Letter to Management

And a follow-up piece, when no changes were made:

UKZN Is Failing Its Students

Unfortunately, very little was achieved from the letter I wrote (hardly unexpected). Although many staff and students expressed their thanks and support, and although the letter was circulated throughout the university, management seemed to take little notice. I was dismissed as an annoyance. I am no longer based at UKZN, although I have many friends and colleagues who both work and study there. They tell me that things are much as they were, and that all they can do is to keep fighting and working towards the best interests of the students.

One positive outcome from the experience of sharing these views was that many of the students who I was lecturing at the time read the peace and shared their outrage. It was heartening to see undergraduates take action and recognise their own responsibilities to take action. At a talk I attended, Mamphela Ramphele expressed the view that the problem with democracy in South Africa is that no one taught the people, us, how to be democratic. Democracy is a constant process of struggle, not an end point. People need to realise that the onus is on them to change things, and to fight for that change. If UKZN was (is) a microcosm for the rest of South Africa, the same view can be extended to the students there, and at other universities in the country: they are not taught what it means to be a student in a democratic institution. Being a student means fighting for your own education, taking ownership of your own future, and becoming outraged when decisions are made to curtail your intellectual growth. Bearing witness to that moment of recognition, even if amongst but a few, was a privilege.