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Reflecting on the psychological impact of student protests

11 November 2016 12:14 PM
High levels of militarisation by security on campuses has caused post-traumatic stress disorder among the university community.

A peace agreement between the University of Cape Town (UCT) and students was reached last week, but there is a great deal of work that still needs to be done to take the university forward.

Friday Stand-In Nomfundo Walaza was a part of the mediation process which led to the signing of the treaty.

However, Walaza says that institutions needs to address the psychological effect and implications that the protest had on students, staff members, parents and other citizens.

She says much of the discourse has focused on the infrastructural damages of protest, but not enough priority has been given to the trauma experienced by many.

Senior UCT Psychology lecturer Dr Shose Kessi says it has been difficult watching the consequences of militarisation and securitisation of campus.

Kessi says it has been equally challenging to witness student arrests and the strained relationships with a divided academic staff.

She explains that there's a great deal of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among students because of their experiences of the campus space, in addition to police interventions and private security.

It's been a long protracted movement. People are tired and exhausted.

Dr Shose Kessi, Senior Lecturer at UCT and transformation advisor to the Vice Chancellor’s office

Kessay advises that the real work of rebuilding institutions will have to start now, in order to begin moving beyond a point of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, student activist at UCT Khanyisile Mbongwa, says that students have long been mobilising against the oppression of black and other identities.

She says that there have been various forms of oppression, from the curriculum to conversations with lecturers, within campus spaces.

Mbongwa describes how challenging it's been to function as a student and engage in campus spaces where certain bodies have been made invisable, particularly black bodies and other marginalised groups.

If the institution does not recognise racism as violence on people, how do you report that to your HOD? How do you continue to participate if your being isn't recognised?

Khanyisile Mbongwa, UCT student activist who was part of the Fees Must Fall and Occupy movements

Should I continue to silence my own pain because you refuse to recognise that the system protects you, as a lecturer?

Khanyisile Mbongwa, UCT student activist who was part of the Fees Must Fall and Occupy movements

Several affected listeners called in to contribute to the conversation:


11 November 2016 12:14 PM

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