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SAIH

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Together for academic freedom

In the context of Southern Africa, this quality of freedom is more often a dream than a reality. The academic space is shrinking due to limitations of students to associate, speak and think freely. Student welfare challenges, including high tuition fees, a lack of decent accommodation and the limited availability of resources, further impede a progressive learning environment. Attempts to expand the space for engagement might be interpreted as destabilizing and as challenging the status quo - triggering politicization, undue external interference within higher education communities, coercion, and violent attacks. Security suffers, as does the quality of teaching, research and ultimately, education.

Creating space for students

In order to address these challenges, the Student Academic Freedom Regional Advocacy Program (SAFRAP) intends to create a space for students and institutional, national and regional policymakers to peacefully and meaningfully engage towards positive change. The program equips students with the necessary skills to understand their rights and the knowledge to present and communicate the evidence supporting their claims and contributes to higher and tertiary students in Southern Africa being empowered to influence policy, advocacy and improve their access to quality education.

A call for change

In November 2019 the SAFRAP brought together thirty students from eight Southern African countries in Harare, Zimbabwe. They were representing over twenty institutions of higher education for the Student Academic Freedom Regional Advocacy Conference to discuss and work together towards alleviating common cross-regional challenges. The first two days of the conference were dedicated to building student consensus and working collaboratively to develop a Key Ask document that was presented to institutional, national and regional education stakeholders and policymakers on the third and final day of the conference. Highlights of the Key Asks include a call for students’ involvement in curricula formulation and design, a call for independent research funds and funding bodies at all universities, the need for governmental punitive measures to safeguard against the victimization of students, transparency in fund allocation and representation within National Qualification Authorities, as well as a regional Charter for the protection of student rights and standardized fees and curricula across the region.

The 2019 SAFRAP was a critical step in uniting and amplifying student voices across the Southern African region to call for academic freedom and quality education.

SAIH works with its Zimbabwean partner, the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust(YETT) to promote and protect the right to academic freedom.

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