Inside view of varsity crisis

Jonathan Jansen
‘As By Fire’ author Jonathan Jansen Picture: Simon Mathebula

Academic and columnist Professor Jonathan Jansen has a significant new book, As by Fire: The End of the South African University, due out this week.

In it, he tries to address issues such as what the real roots of the student protests of 2015 and 2016 are. Is it actually about fees? Why did so many protests turn violent? Where is the government while the buildings burn, and do the students know how to end the protests?

In As By Fire, the former Free State University vice-chancellor delves into the disruption of universities that caught South Africa by surprise over the past two or three years.

Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, led by Professor Derrick Schwartz, is among those which have been affected.

For the book, Jansen conducted frank interviews with 11 of the VCs and, in these, he examines the forces at work, why the protests escalate into chaos, and what is driving – and exasperating – our youth.

As By Fire gives an inside view of the crisis, explaining why the conflict will not go away and what it means for the future of our universities. “A view from the inside of the cauldron . . . Warning: he doesn’t mince his words,” writes newspaper editor Ferial Haffajee of the book. Jansen is a leading South African educationist, commentator and the author of several books, including the best-selling Letters to My Children. He writes a weekly column published by The Herald and other newspapers.

  • As By Fire is published by Tafelberg and retails for R280.

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