On 18 October 2021, Prof Ronelle Carolissen delivered the seventh Russel Botman Memorial Lecture on a Teams Webinar. She told a few stories about Prof Botman, specifically how he has made a difference or intervened in someone’s life that required change. His commitment to transforming lives characterises who he was, caring and influential. The stories she imparted reminded us of the importance of education and how caring for one another, acting in love, and supporting each other proved to enhance education.
In an attempt to critique such affections in education, the idea of colonial power and ethos came to mind. The thought struck me as a possible hindrance rather than an improvement of education. The statement made me wonder whether the person who imparted these notions of colonial power and ethos was educated or not and when and why those choices were made. I also asked myself, what are the repercussions of those choices? Is there a possibility for building new, transformed relationships between those who could be labelled “colonial” and those labelled “anti-colonial”? Is the engagement even possible? If so, my next question is: why would we in a country like South Africa allow “colonial” universities to continue unchallenged, especially after Fees Must Fall? Are those universities that the critics are associated with completely divorced from colonial influence?
I will not attempt to answer these questions here as the references to their critique also did not explore the origins and nature of their own work and influence.
Suffice to say, the story or stories of Russel are stories of hope that is bringing the future into the present, hope that is critical, and hope that is transforming. Never uncritical or at least unwilling to be challenged or engaged. Not just working towards a future without referencing that future as more equal, but juster, more open, more loving, and more caring.
Thanks to Prof Carolissen and her respondent, Dr Jane Chiroma, for arguing that hope and pedagogy of hope are viable options for the tranformation of higher education in South Africa.