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Educational Research for Social Change

On-line version ISSN 2221-4070


MZILENI, Pedro. Informal Education and Collective Conscientisation in the #FeesMustFall Movement at Nelson Mandela University. Educ. res. soc. change [online]. 2020, vol.9, n.spe, pp.15-30. ISSN 2221-4070.

This paper draws attention to the intellectual life of the #FeesMustFall movement, highlighting how it became a student platform for critical informal education. Freire's concept of conscientisation is utilised to frame the social movement as a learning space of dialogue, critical thinking, knowledge exchange, and formulation of practical political action against higher education injustices. The Nelson Mandela University in South Africa is the site under study where informal education, conscientisation, and active learning occurred in its #FeesMustFall uprisings. Although the #FeesMustFall movement broadly took on a national temperament, each university campus had its own local unique experiences of the agitation. For Nelson Mandela University's microenvironment, the movement took on strong student-worker alliance organising principles and solidarities that yielded promising and continuing material transformations within a short period of time for its low-income university workers and black students. As one of the student leaders of this social movement, I provide here a personal activist experience from that period and space, emphasising the debates, knowledges, learning experiences, and theorising efforts that went with the protests that the #FeesMustFall student-worker alliance movement organised. This study contributes to the decolonisation of university learning spaces by centring alternative "classrooms" provided on the university margins by student social movements as pioneering platforms in the sociopolitical rollout of critical intellectual development and decolonisation of higher education.

Keywords : student protests; informal education; FeesMustFall; Freire; conscientisation; university labour.

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