It is now widely accepted that the South Africa we have today is a far cry from the one that generations of activists envisioned. This raises big questions about the democratic project and the promise of a better life for all. The complexity of South Africa’s challenges and the disillusionment with nearly 30 years of democracy brings home the urgency to imagine change. In recognition of this, the Fort Hare Autumn School (FHAS) brings together 25 young leaders from four Eastern Cape universities – the University of Fort Hare, Nelson Mandela University, Walter Sisulu University and Rhodes – to grapple with the challenges facing SA society and to imagine alternative pathways out our multiple crises.
The focus of the school is to provide a creative and engaging space for young leaders to grapple with SA’s political system, policy choices and alternatives as well as to look back in time and locate today’s demands for change in a longer moment of struggle against oppression and domination. Organised around the question: “What will it take to attain freedom, justice and equality in a society that is as unequal and unjust as South Africa?”, the school brings together activists, decision-makers, social scientists and practitioners in conversation with young leaders.
Hosted between the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, the school makes use of a range of creative methodologies and techniques, small group work, political games and engaging tasks. Throughout the school, participants use an intersectional lens to see mutually reinforcing oppressions of race; class; gender; sexuality and ability, and to imagine ways to act these intersecting oppressions.
To demonstrate that change comes through agency, participants are also challenged to work together to initiate a project that responds to one of the challenges tackled by the curriculum.
Established in 2011, the Fort Hare Autumn School has an alumni network of over 150 young people.