Professor Russel Botman knew very well that changing the present for a better future necessitates a process of becoming. As a student activist and leader for social justice in the 70s and 80s and later in the church, as well as higher education, made him acutely aware of the process of becoming. Recognising that idea propagated also by Paulo Freire, the idea of a “becoming being” calls for continuous transformation. He was acutely aware of the fact that in his becoming and the becoming of our new society, he had to not only listen to the youth but include them as serious and equal partners in the transformation to take us forward.
And so, this year the Russel Botman Bursary Fund pays tribute to the youth who have taken over the baton from the youth of the 70s and 80s.
The Fallism Movement illustrates that the youth can take up social issues and achieve change even if done with different and new strategies and approaches. The movement that started out as Rhodes Must Fall at the University of Cape Town as an act of protest against colonialism at higher education institutions soon became broader.
At Stellenbosch University one of the rallying points was the role of Afrikaans as Open Stellenbosch was formed. The first Russel Botman Memorial Lecture in 2015 happened amidst those protests, where students who came with the intention to disrupt the lecture joined the proceedings, honouring Professor Botman’s contribution towards transformation in the sector. The movement soon spread to other campuses, nationally and internationally. The movement was becoming and addressed further issues like student housing and financial and other exclusion. It became the Fees Must Fall Movement that also grappled with gender issues.
It was all these issues and more: Africanising and decolonising the sector, student housing, access and inclusion that characterised Professor Botman’s tenure. The Russel Botman Bursary Fund was specifically established to grant excluded students bursary opportunities to take our society forward.
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