Today we witnessed firsthand some of the struggles that we’ve been reading and studying about over the past few months in preparation for this trip. Shortly after lunch we ran headlong into a student protest on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand to show solidarity with women at Rhodes University in Cape Town, where a list of sex offenders on campus was recently released. Female participants, many sans shirt, had painted themselves with slogans like “1 in 3” and “kill rape culture” to challenge university administrators to thwart sexual assault on college campuses. The issue is one of several that have emerged from the “fees must fall” movement that originally focused on rising tuition but now encompasses everything from education and poverty to women’s and gay rights. While women’s rights were the focus of the protest, the event gave me and Lindsay Castleberry a chance to ask students about other campus issues, such as the fight against the Euro-centric curriculum that is taught on campuses across South Africa. Many students think that they should be educated by studying subjects that reflect their own history and culture (as opposed to topics like Medieval Europe, for instance). We spoke to two black female students who said they believe the push for a more Afro-centric curriculum is not feasible because it would hinder South African students from acquiring basic knowledge that would allow them to be competitive with their peers, globally. The conversation was key for me to appreciate that not every student is on the same page when it comes to campus issues. Here’s to hoping that we find ourselves in the middle of more events like the one we saw today in the coming weeks!
Photo by Caroline Boras