Six out of ten British people say that a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University should not be taken down, as requested by South African student, Ntokozo Qwabe.
Qwabe is the co-founder of Rhodes Must Fall In Oxford – “an organisation determined to decolonise the space, the curriculum, and the institutional memory at, and to fight inter-sectional oppression within, Oxford”.
The campaign was born out of the Rhodes Must Fall – #RhodesMustFall – protest movement originally directed against a statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) commemorating Cecil Rhodes that began in March 2015.
Qwabe, a former law student at KwaZulu-Natal, received the Rhodes Scholarship to further his studies at England’s Oxford University, in 2013.
He said that Oxford University must address the structures of exclusion. He stressed that the struggle goes beyond a statue. “The statue is an emblem. We find it deplorable that only 24 black British students were accepted last year into undergraduate body. It’s not just about the statue.”
Last week students at the Oxford Union, world’s most prestigious debating society, voted to remove the statue of Rhodes with 245 voting yes and 212 voting no; however, Oxford University’s chancellor has stated publicly that the statue outside Oriel College should stand.
A recent poll conducted by YouGov, showed that 59% of Brits say the statue of Rhodes at Oxford should not be taken down. Only 11% say it should be removed and 29% are unsure.
The respondents were told that Cecil Rhodes was a rich figure largely responsible for Britain’s colonisation of Africa, who funded a trust for overseas students at Oxford but who is considered by some as a symbol of racism.
YouGov previously found that British people tend to say the countries that were colonised by Britain are now better off for it (49%) rather than worse off for it (15%). And 34% even said they would still like Britain to have an Empire, while 45% said they would not.