Pathways to a Free Education: Knowledge Production, Community, and Solidarity



Built in the continuity of the 2015 student and worker movement in South Africa, Pathways to a Free Education has been generating conversations around activism in South African universities, but also more broadly on the African continent. Asher Gamedze describes how Pathways acts both as a publication and a collective.

Toward the end of 2015, the South African student and worker movements became both increasingly fragmented by internal political differences, and demobilized by the repressive apparatuses of the state and capital. As a result, a lot of spaces for debating and strategizing around free education on campuses disappeared. Additionally, a lot of energy got diverted to responding to the tactics of repression: dealing with panic attacks, resting, bailing cadres out of jail, and getting wrapped up in seemingly endless university disciplinary procedures.

Pathways Funambulist1
Pathways pamphlet pinned to a University of Cape Town noticeboard.

The shutting down of autonomous Black educational spaces that were started by students at universities, and the mass-popular nature of the uprisings had led to a situation where the movement wasn’t engaged in the type of critical education work that had initially been its basis. Furthermore, despite some isolated attempts by Black students to  build relationships with progressive organizations beyond the academy, #feesmustfall and #outsourcingmustfall remained primarily centered on universities. As a response to this combination of circumstances, Pathways converged as a group of people who wanted to continue the work to which we had been participating on campus; collectively discussing and planning the non-partisan movement and struggles for free education. We wanted to create space to learn about, participate in, and contribute to the debates around free education, and through that, build relationships with people and collectives working in different sectors who were interested and committed to the project of free education. We had the position that education is something that implicates and affects everyone, and is connected to struggles around wages, disability, land, patriarchy, sexuality, housing, etc.