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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Now what is interesting to note, the student protests, for some unforeseen reason, on the African continent is always equated with disruption and provocation. Is there something wrong with disruption and provocation? Perhaps not. Now what we have in mind is to apply the idea of critique, looking for reasons and ascertaining as to why these reasons are plausible or valid, or not. And then finding out what the educational implications of these reasons are. So looking at the notion of provocation and disruption, what are the reasons why people behave in this particular way?

Skip to 1 minute and 4 seconds Could it not be that they want to exercise their freedom of speech– the articulation of the equal intelligence that something is wrong in the society, that something is wrong with a situation at an educational institution– and they want to be heard in this particular way? Well, relying on the idea of provocation and disruption implies that people want to take a stand against that which they disagree. Now why do students protest? They protest against escalating fee hikes. In other words, their tuition fees are perhaps too exorbitant to pay, so they have a dissatisfaction that they want to articulate verbally. They are provoked to come to particular understanding.

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 seconds The provocation is that the fees are high, the tuition fees have become too expensive, and they are provoked to challenge it. And when they do that, they sometimes they behave in a belligerent way which others can count as fairly distressful, and they bring to that particular protestation their cultural understanding of what it means to express their equal intelligence, what it means to express their agreement or disagreement or dissenses.

Skip to 2 minutes and 46 seconds So this does not necessarily mean that provocation and disruption is bad within itself, but as long as what is being done is expressed to highlight the inequities and the marginalization and exclusions in their particular institutions. Now what is transpired with the student protests on the African continent is that students acted provocatively and belligerently to make their voices heard in an equal way. They have the right to speak their minds, to come to speech, and they want to inform a broader public of the unfairness, perhaps, or the iniquities, and the inability to respond to a massive hike in tuition fee, because that would exclude them from the pedagogical process.

Skip to 3 minutes and 48 seconds So student protests, on the basis of provocation and disruption, might, perhaps, not necessarily be so disruptive or harmful. It is positively disruptive, but not necessarily negatively disruptive or harmful. So in a way, using the understanding of an African philosophy of education whereby we use critique and a justification for these reasons, and these reasons are based on historical, sociological, reasons of iniquity and exclusion, and these can be used to justify the points of view of these students. So in a way, some students, or students, can argue that the disruptions or the protests might be justified.

Case Study: Critically examining student protests

Applying critical African philosophy of education to resolve student protests, involves identifying reasons that gave rise to the event. These protests are linked to students’ claims about their desired aims for higher education. However, university authorities have not always responded directly to students’ demands which invariably resulted in extended protestations. In short the following procedures should be adhered to in examining the validity of student protests:

  • Find out the reasons behind the protests

  • Examine the historical and cultural backgrounds of students engaged in the protests

  • Investigate the problem of access to quality higher education

  • Determine what the implications of student protest are for university education

Consider the following question …

Now that you have some idea of what a critical discourse means, can you think of a problem in your environment that can be addressed on the basis of some of the features of criticality explained thus far?

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching for Change: An African Philosophical Approach

Stellenbosch University