Change the world

News

02/04/2019

“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” This poignant African proverb – to which literary giant Chinua Achebe expanded on to say that writing “is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail; the bravery, even, of the lions” – served as a fitting underlying theme at the launch of Nelson Mandela University’s quarterly student journal.

There is an undeniable shift in the higher education space, with conversations around the deepening of transformation in the sector having gained renewed vigour. At the centre of it all have been the students, who have been key participants and contributors to these conversations, as witnessed during the campaign for access, transformation and decolonisation in recent years.

Their agency and activism has made immense contribution to the country’s history – one worthy of capturing and formally documenting.

That is what The Perspective Online journal, launched at the University last week (29 March), has begun achieving. The journal features articles, columns and creative work by students on the deepening of transformation, decolonisation and Africanization of higher education.

It aims to achieve a number of objectives, such as hearing and collating the student voice with regards to transformation issues while developing and inculcating a culture of writing.

The inaugural edition is sub-titled The Morphology of the #MustFall Movement and features contributions from under- and postgraduate students and staff across all faculties; as well as some external sources who have been vocal on such issues over the years.

The Perspective Online editor Pedro Mzileni, who is also a PhD sociology candidate at Mandela University, said while he was excited about the launch of the journal, he was also “nervous about the enormous task ahead”.

“I hope it meets the expectations of students and staff who are committed to the Africanisation project of the sector,” he said.

The journal is spearheaded by the University’s Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET) in partnership with the Office of the Dean of Students and Student Governance and Development.

It is premised on the notion that deep change in universities is a collective project that is driven by social activism and thoughtful and productive contributions to advance academic, pedagogical and knowledge renewal within the university.

It seeks to develop a culture of disciplined writing to bring to the fore a particular social consciousness among university students, underpinned by robust engagement, radical contestation of ideas and critical scholarship.

“This journal is important for students because it encourages writing, which is at the heart of scholarly enquiry,” says Mzileni.

“The beauty of writing is that it does not happen unless someone is reading. Therefore, learning becomes the centre of the whole activity of writing and reading.

“Readers will see wonderful work from this project. The imagination of young people is beyond comprehension and I believe that the best potential of our youth in this sector is going to come out, especially when it is set free from the limits of the classroom.”

Speaking at the launch, the acting deputy vice-chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Prof Cheryl Foxcroft, reinforced the importance of writing as an integral part of the intellectual project.

“Writing is a prestigious profession, so most authors who are in this journal now are part of a prestigious group of people. It is great that students are writing… and gets other students to respect writing when they see their peers writing,” she said.

Dean of Students Luthando Jack said the production and reproduction of knowledge was important for sustaining or reinforcing particular paradigms, whatever they may be.

“The labour of mind is very important in either carrying forward or retarding the development of a particular society,” he said.

“We therefore have to focus on this area of ideas and encourage out students to love and value ideas – and the contestation thereof – and the production and reproduction of knowledge. We have to be passionate about knowledge, love ideas and be creative in producing our own theories.”

“We are committed to producing the calibre of leaders who are dedicated to renewal and development of the African continent. That is why we are partnering with progressive academic entities within the University, such as CriSHET, as well as the newly launched Centre for Philosophy in Africa and, externally, progressive thinkers and institutions.”

Articles and columns are to have a social justice orientation that can contribute to the efforts to transform, decolonise and Africanise universities, with contributors called on to consider the following themes:

  • Protests, legal architectures of higher education, legitimacy and alienation
  • Violence, racism, sexism, homophobia
  • Teaching, research, and learning
  • The political economy of higher education
  • Gender
  • Representation, student activism, elections, community engagement
  • Funding, academic and financial exclusion, access, redress, success and excellence.

While the journal is largely student centric, a part of the publication is reserved for submissions from members of Mandela University staff as well as the community. They are equally encouraged to submit thoughtful, considered and analytical pieces that meet the general criteria of conversational-academic writing.

The journal is accessible from https://crishet.mandela.ac.za.

Editorial contributions can be sent to Pedro.Mzileni@mandela.ac.za or The Perspective Online Journal, 14 Bird Street, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, 6001.

Contact information
Mr Pedro Mzileni