MUT staff member provide analysis of implications of social media on student activism in South Africa

Mthoko Ntuli

The implications of social media on student activism has been brought to the fore after an article on the issue was published on the African Journal of Higher Education in 2017 by the University’s Student Development Officer, Mthokozisi Ntuli, and a University of KwaZulu-Natal academic, Professor Damtew Teferra. The article explores the impact of digital networks on student activism. The scholarly literature on social media and student activism have recorded that social networks greatly enhances the strength of student movements. However, some scholars have contended that the resulting leadership vacuum, undermines the achievement of their demands and makes it more difficult for the universities and government to effectively respond to such actions. Ntuli said that the outcome of the study was that student activism has adopted new ways in which students organise and have engaged in protest movements under banners of #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and #OutsourcingMustFall. These movements were organised and mobilised using digital communication media such as Facebook, Twitter and others, to galvanise support. We conclude that higher education institutions and the government need to become more conversant with the implications of digital infrastructure. It therefore recommend that higher education institutions should create an environment that supports and encourages effective use of social media through provision of the necessary infrastructure.