South African student, Ntokozo Qwabe, has taken the #RhodesMustFall campaign, which calls for the removal of ‘oppressive’ symbols at universities, to one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Oxford, UK.
Rhodes Must Fall – #RhodesMustFall – is a protest movement originally directed against a statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) commemorating Cecil Rhodes that began in March 2015.
The campaign was born out of Chumani Maxwele throwing human faeces onto the statue in protest, and led to a wider movement to “decolonise” education across South Africa.
In April 2015, following a UCT Council vote, the statue was removed.
Ntokozo Qwabe, a former law student at Kwazulu-Natal, received the Rhodes Scholarship to further his studies at England’s Oxford University, in 2013.
Qwabe is the co-founder of ‘Rhodes Must Fall In Oxford’ – #RhodesMustFallOxford – ‘an organisation determined to decolonise the space, the curriculum, and the institutional memory at, and to fight intersectional oppression within, Oxford’.
The group has launched a Facebook page and held its first meeting last week.
Qwabe, who is studying law at Keble College, told the UK Guardian: “A lot of the time when people talk about colonialism they think of it as a past event that happened. They don’t think about it as something that manifests itself in everyday life at institutions like Oxford.”
An Oxford spokesperson told the paper: “It is a top priority for Oxford to identify and address ways in which we can better ensure students feel safe and well represented at Oxford.”
“Senior academics in the humanities and social sciences are working with academics in departments to take forward the curriculum review project with their colleagues.”
“Students have given us a detailed and nuanced account of black and minority ethnic student experiences at Oxford. It showed that while BME students generally thrive and do well at Oxford, there are incidents of insensitivity and some students can feel isolated.”
“The university is committed to addressing this and welcomes the fact that its students can raise these issues in a constructive and co-operative atmosphere.”