University of Johannesburg: Tshimong Talks and UJ Library discuss student activism as a catalyst for change

Student activism has surged in the last decade, with young campaigners calling on leaders both on and off campus to right wrongs, erase inequalities and secure the future of our planet. But this is nothing new: Student activists led the charge during the Civil Rights movement and were early adopters of environmentalism. While peaceful protests and petitions are still important parts of their toolbox, today’s student activists are expanding by bringing activism to the web and social media.

Tshimong Talks hosted a webinar themed ‘Choose to challenge: Why young people should use activism to change society’ on Thursday, 06 August 2021 at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Tshimong Talks is a talk series hosted by Tshimong in collaboration with University of Johannesburg Libraries.

The main speaker, Zulaikha Patel, a South African anti-racism activist, became a symbol of the fight against Pretoria Girls High School’s policy regarding black girls’ hair in 2016, at the age of 13. She and her classmates held a demonstration that led to not only a change in school policy, but also an inquiry into allegations of racism at the school. She took center stage during the webinar and explained what it means to be a student activist and where to find support for certain causes. The webinar also provided tools and guidance on how to create goal-oriented, effective rallies for change.

According to Dr Trevor Ngwane, UJ’s Senior Lecturer in Sociology and a scholar activist noted that activism is how we make change and history. ”Those in power are unlikely to help us achieve this necessary change. Therefore change comes from below, from ordinary people, from the masses and from the youth,” says Dr Ngwane. “The youth is the future and it should be a different future where all forms of oppression, exploitation and domination have been eradicated.”

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