I believe certain institutions of Higher Education are making a mistake if they believe they can operate in a bio bubble. Interestingly these institutions are also the same institutions most affected by the FMF movement, and the struggles of these students at these universities are far from over. It will continue until the core issue in these institutions is dealt with: coloniality and petty apartheid.
This bio bubble sentiment points to a larger problem that persists after abolishing apartheid in 1994, which is a psychic condition I believe to be institutionalization. Like Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punishment, rappers like Tupac Shakur and Kendrick Lamar explain that prisoners stay trapped in the prisoner mentality even after they are released from prison. This aptly describes the mentality of Higher Education in South Africa.
Higher Education institutions should be critical and debunk theories. However, some South African universities adopted the same COVID-19 approach as some countries in the Global North: closing their borders and only allowing a select few to enter, which yielded little results. Yet, Higher Education in South Africa has decided that this bio bubble approach would work best for the sector.
Furthermore, debates around the COVID-19 pandemic and the issue of compulsory vaccinations are not encouraged. The state’s draconian and West inspired approach is the only accepted one. If one’s point of view is different from that of the state’s Western-driven narrative, one is labelled an anti-vaxxer and cast into the abyss. This draconian approach suspends the fundamental premise on which the university was supposedly founded: intellectual freedom. To go against the dogmatic view of the church, state and society.
The bio bubble approach is not working. It is not working for the West, and it will certainly not work for us in the Global South. And more importantly for me, we do not want to copy the West’s Trumpist approach, which is racist. So I suggest we look for a different approach.
I think Basic Education, with its limited resources and which is also a much better reflection of the South African reality, was forced to adopt an approach that accommodates every child in South Africa and, to a certain extent, secures South Africa’s future. Basic Education has been critiqued from day one for its approach have adjusted much better than universities have in South Africa. Their programmes are continuing, and yet not many learners are not vaccinated. They have adopted an approach to live with the virus and not live in a bio bubble.
But, then again, what can you expect from the university’s middle staff who already live in bubbles far removed from the day to day reality of the working class and poor. They can afford to stay in security complexes and can drive to work. They do not have to sit in a taxi, train or bus that is overloaded, and where the state’s COVID-19 protocols make the least sense. To me, it makes complete sense why certain universities opted for the bio bubble approach: they are the petty-bourgeois and want to maintain that status at all cost.