African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa

By Cheryl B. Mwaria; Silvia Federici et al. | Go to book overview

5
The New African Student Movement

Silvia Federici

"What meaning does independence have for you?" It was asked of students who were citizens of countries who had recently obtained independence. "Independence, very simply, is life itself," said a student from Gabon. "It is . . . the fulfillment of a nation; the free expression of its being," said one from Upper Volta. And "liberty to wish to live, liberty to wish to die," said a Cameroonian ( Hanna and Hanna 1975b).

"Independence is meaningless and will elude us if it is not linked to our right to free education "(President of the National Union of Ghanaian Students).


WHY STUDENT STRUGGLES IN AFRICA?

It can be easily agreed that if we want to understand Africa's contemporary political reality, we must start from the struggles that people are making, for they express the tendencies operating in the social body, the existing possibilities, the proposed or imagined alternatives to the status quo. It is in this spirit that I look at the struggles that, over the last decade, African students have made, particularly in the universities, against the program of structural adjustment that has been imposed, since the mid-1980s, by the World Bank on their countries' economies and educational systems. 1 My purpose in doing so is first to demonstrate the existence of a new pan-African student movement, continuous in its political aspirations with the student activism that developed in the context of the anti-colonial struggle, and yet more radical in its challenge to the established political order.

Little is known about this movement in North America and Europe where, in the collective imagination, student activism remains associated with countries like France, the United States or China. Both the media and scholarly journals have generally ignored this topic. Between 1987 to present, for instance,

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