Positioning the #FeesMustFall Movement within the Transformative Agenda: Reflections on Student Protests in South Africa





student activism, student protests, FeesMustFall, higher education


This article reflects on the successes and failures of student protests in transforming higher education in South Africa through a Marxist lens. The slow pace of change by the government in addressing structural and systemic inequalities has led to disgruntlement within the student body. In their quest to hasten the process, students engaged in protests across the country, inspired by the #RhodesMustFall movement. This article outlines the problematic areas that have led to the unrest and reflects on the #FeesMustFall movement: the lessons learnt and its impact on contemporary higher education. The reflection further unpacks what it means to be a student in South Africa and how the learning process shapes and is shaped by the student movements within universities. The study reviewed existing literature on the #FeesMustFall movement to better understand the influence of student protests on government policy and to evaluate whether any protest-based changes have occurred in higher education in South Africa.


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Author Biographies

Luvuyo Ntombana, Nelson Mandela University

Associate Professor and Acting Director, Raymond Mhlaba Centre for Governance and Leadership, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa

Asemahle Gwala, Nelson Mandela University

Sociology Master's student and research assistant, Raymond Mhlaba Centre for Governance and Leadership, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa

Francis Sibanda, Nelson Mandela University

Postdoctoral  Research Fellow, Raymond Mhlaba Centre for Governance and Leadership, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa


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How to Cite

Ntombana, Luvuyo, Asemahle Gwala, and Francis Sibanda. 2023. “Positioning the #FeesMustFall Movement Within the Transformative Agenda: Reflections on Student Protests in South Africa”. Education As Change 27 (February):18 pages. https://doi.org/10.25159/1947-9417/10870.



Received 2022-03-10
Accepted 2023-01-11
Published 2023-02-17