The Social Consciousness and Sustainable Futures (SCSF) course having emerged out of the #Must Fall Movements 2015 - 2017 which was a decolonial ‘moment’ in South African higher education was characterised by a demand to open access in terms of curriculum, culture and history of the future university. This means SA students demanded to be “visible” in the curriculum and cultures of the higher education in order to fully participate in it. One of the key ways to ‘visibilise’ the students and ensure their success upon accessing the higher education system is assisting the students to be part of the co-production of the curriculum that reflects their history and humanising futures.

 In the Nelson Mandela University, the students demanded a foundational course to which all students can be able to understand the basic social issues tied to justice, fairness, freedom, sustainability, dignity and recognition. This means a number of meetings and discussions by students and a collective of interdisciplinary staff for 2 years (2016-2018) facilitated the eventual piloting of the course on the 06 August 2018 at the Port Elizabeth Main campus.  

 

The year 2020 created a moment of reflection in the higher education space in terms of needing to not only reflect on the technologies that need to be integrated in learning and teaching, however in the stark inequalities that still persist in all sectors of out society.

The Must Fall movement confronted the sector and country with the inaccessibility of university spaces in terms of high tuition fees and lack of transformation in the curriculum, staff demographic and institutional cultures of institutions of higher learning. Most universities headed this call with Nelson Mandel University establishing the SCSF course as a way to reimagine what a collaborative and inclusive curriculum and learning and teaching model would look like.

This continues to be the case, as the SCSF project changes and alters itself to meet the context of the fast-changing contexts and needs of our students and graduates. The questions we ask ourselves within the course, is: can students relate and see themselves in the curriculum? How are we accessing this understanding and are our models of assessment cognizant of the various ways in which assessment can be measured? To What extent are students engaged or involved in creating the curriculum that is being presented to them? 

 

In 2018, the course was piloted with 60 students from different faculties on our Gqeberha campuses. The content of the course was grouped into six themes taught by experts; Prof Nomalanga Mkhize, Dr Nomathamsanqa Tisani, Lebohang Pheko, Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza and Prof Janet Cherry; Varonique Philander; Prof Joanna Botha; Mukhtar Raban and Prof Denise Zinn and students were grouped with peer facilitators/tutors in weekly sessions, reflection on the content ahead of the lecture/plenary.

Every week the facilitators would meet with the coordinating team to discuss the tutorial sessions and work on strategies to better the learning experience, these reflection sessions were also important to ascertain how students were engaging with the course content outside of the plenary. 

 

These questions we interrogate after each academic year or roll-out year as a lens to track the trajectory of the course and establish if it is meeting its mandate by the Must Fall movement, that of creating a space of belonging in the curriculum. 

The realization of the COVID-19 global pandemic led various intuitions of higher education to send their students and staff away from campuses and into their homes, placing learning and teaching online as a way to manage the spread of the virus. What this move revealed was the vast inequality within the sector, with Nelson Mandela University having 35% of the students populace without access to the internet, laptops or smartphones, with “55% of our students have laptops and connectivity and a further 10% could learn via their smartphones” (Foxcroft and Bosire, 2020).