The Everyday Politics of Being a Student in South Africa: A History

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Over the past year, student protests under the banners #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall have swept South Africa, demanding the “decolonization” of curricula and greater educational access. This article contextualizes these protests, drawing on a vibrant historiography on student politics under apartheid (1948-1994). In scholarship produced during the antiapartheid movement, it often seemed that the history of student protests was the history of education. The study of resistance has remained integral to the field. Yet, over the past decade, how historians look at student politics has been changing. First, we look at the spaces of politics differently. We move beyond familiar narratives of student resistance because we look beyond the campuses that played emblematic roles in the making of African nationalism and antiapartheid struggle. New vantage points enable us to see different political actors. These youth asked diverse questions about their lives and about the purpose and form of schooling in an unequal society, and they expressed these questions through strategies that included but were not limited to school strikes. Their questions arose out of daily struggles around issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class—struggles that resonate with the concerns of student activists today.

Original Citation

Healy-Clancy, M. (2017). The Everyday Politics of Being a Student in South Africa: A History. History Compass, 15(3), e12375. https://doi.org/10.1111/hic3.12375