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“Learning from the elderly is a limited model”

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By Kouthar Sambo

In honor of Youth Month and the unsung heroes who made enormous sacrifices for the sake of democracy and the liberation struggle, VOC News spoke to various students to gain their perspectives on the challenges of demonstrating their unwavering support for Palestine, which has swept across campuses in the Western Cape.

Challenges in youth activism

The Chairperson of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF), Anwar Adams, is doing his Honours in Geochemistry and described some of the major challenges experienced while demonstrating his solidarity for Palestine.

“The PSF was about to become dormant and the university admin was about to make the movement cease as a society on campus, so myself and a few friends revived the UCT PSF and got it up and running with new leadership. From then, we have been engaging in activism on campus,” explained Adams.

“This is an unfortunate reality in activism circles against oppression, where people, also known as trend riders, join in on activism only when something major happens. After October 7, the hype on Palestine became huge, the atrocities were amplified and the media coverage was focused on Palestine, so it is hard to ignore,” he remarked.

The selective activities make it difficult for us as the UCT PSF, said Adams because when there is no activism, the group still has to move forward.

Adams further outlined how dealing with other fellow activists on campus can become stressful due to the various backgrounds and ideologies individuals promote and try to project.

“The Zionist presence in South Africa become a huge problem to the UCT PSF because we need to find ways to counter their ideologies and debunk their myths and lies,” asserted Adams.

“It is exceptionally important to overthrow the Zionists’ myths and ideologies because it is the campus structures and space that serve as catalysts to launch unwanted ideologies,” stressed Adams.

Youth as future leaders

Meanwhile, a medical bioscience student at the University of the Western Cape and deputy chairperson of the Palestinian Solidarity Association (PSA), Hajer Ahjum-mature, said the youth are the leaders of, not only tomorrow but starting today as the time is now. She stressed the importance of speaking up for the truth regardless of age, ethnicity, and gender.

“Where our leaders and those in positions of power, such as the private sector and institutions (academic) have failed, it is young people that have stood up and driven revolutions. We are catalysts of change and youth activism doesn’t abide by any rules and regulations, it acts and thrives in the name of social justice and inclusivity,” expressed Ahjum-mathee.

She explained why it is important for the youth to continue to maintain this vigorous energy and passion for speaking up for the truth.

“The youth have the numbers, the drive, and energy, it is the youth that rises and drives change. While it is this drive and energy that has gotten us this far, we also need the support of other stakeholders, which brings us to the challenges and pushback we face,” reiterated Ahjum-mathee.

“It is a shame that it took a genocide for the youth to showcase this level of unity as we share a common ground – the liberation of Palestine.”

“Learning from the elderly is a limited model”

Furthmore, an Associate Professor and Senior Researcher at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Professor Lee, relayed some of her experience with the ongoing activism towards Palestine.

According to Lee, UWC was the academic center for the liberation struggle and is known as the “home for the intellectual left.”

“I have never received any pushback for my views or beliefs around Palestine. On the contrary, colleagues and partners have been extremely supportive of the struggle because UWC has a recorded history of supporting Palestinians,” declared Lee.

She continued to delve into the history of youth uprising, citing various circumstances and situations where youth have proved to be the lifeblood of pushing back against social injustices and striving for liberation.

“South Africa has a record of being led into paradigm-shifting social, and political changes, because of the commitment of youth to changing society for the better. We see this in the activism of the youth in 1976, the Fees Must Fall movement and the cause for decolonized education in South Africa,” outlined Lee.

She further highlighted that while there is wisdom and value in those who have previously lived through the struggles for freedom and liberation, the dynamic of the elderly being the only teacher also has its limitations, which she refers to as a “limited model.”

“Youth have driven the conscientization of communities, societies, and countries in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. There is a dominant discourse in society that encourages an aged base hierarchy, older or younger, we learn from.”

“I am not dismissive of learning from the elderly but we need to have radical shifts in society and these shifts will break down that age-based hierarchy. We need to look at how young people are using the tools of their generation to maximize their activsm,” added Lee.

Photo: Pexels

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