Ntokozo Qwabe, a South African student who is campaigning to have a statue of Cecil Rhodes removed from a building on campus at Oxford University, says that the English university must address the structures of exclusion.
On Tuesday, students at the Oxford Union, world’s most prestigious debating society, voted to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes with 245 voting yes and 212 voting no, according to the Telegraph.
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”.
Qwabe, a former law student at KwaZulu-Natal, received the Rhodes Scholarship to further his studies at England’s Oxford University, in 2013.
Attending the debate, he rejected criticism branding him a hypocrite for taking money from the Rhodes Trust. “We are here to take back the money. We are here to at last have some dignity.”
“I will not be told that I’m a hypocrite for taking money that was stolen from my people.”
Qwabe 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.”
Oxford University’s chancellor, Lord Patten said that students who cannot embrace Cecil Rhode’s legacy as part of history “should think about being educated elsewhere”.
He said that, at the end of his life, Rhodes left his whole fortune to a scholarship programme which has helped to ensure that Oxford University manages to be a university for the whole world.
“But if people at our university aren’t prepared to show the generosity of spirit which Nelson Mandela showed towards Rhodes and towards history… then maybe they should think about being educated elsewhere.”
Patten suggested anti-Rhodes students go study at a Chinese university, “where they are not allowed to talk about ‘western values’.”