Social network analysis of South Africa's student social movement (2015-2016): a case study of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Adigun, Ajibola Owolabi
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Rising tuition fees, government reduction of educational funding to match the increment in university enrolment, and perceived social exclusions in university spaces all contributed to the student social movement between 2015-2016 tagged as FeesMustFall on Social Media. The movement has welcomed historical, descriptive, and analytical lenses in deciphering the movement. At the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where the disruptions turned violent and caused the university the most in damaged properties, and huge collateral damage to staff and students alike. This study investigates the impact and influences of social networks on the concerns, causes and consequences of the different modes of engagement as forms of extra-institutional governance in contrast to the formal, institutional modes of university governance. The study applied a mixed method approach for a network analysis of participants. 100 questionnaires and 10 persons of interest were interviewed on the five campuses of the university with a purposive stratified sampling for the surveys and a purposive, snowballing for the interviews. The findings reveal personal, associational, and racial influences on membership of student organizations and participation in the student movement. There was a strong correlation between organizational ties, personal identification from how the university experience has been and funding type to different modes of protests, participation, and perceptions of events. It reveals the university as a microcosm of a society undergoing transformation and betrays the failure of cooptive governance that have been used to contain civil society agitations. Protests are thus seen as the creation of invented spaces for expansion of dialogue, a departure from politics and governance as consensus but instead as dissensus.