What Now for the Zimbabwean Student Demonstrator? Online Activism and Its Challenges for University Students in A COVID-19 Lockdown

Baldwin Hove, Bekithemba Dube


University student activism is generally characterized by protests and demonstrations by students who are reacting to social, political, and economic challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic revolutionized university student activism, and closed the geographical space for protests and demonstrations. The pandemic locked students out of the university campus, thus, rendering the traditional strategies of mass protests and demonstrations impossible. The COVID-19-induced lockdowns made it difficult, if not impossible, to mobilise for on-campus demonstrations and protests. It seems the pandemic is the last nail in the coffin of on-campus student protests. This theoretical paper uses a collective behaviour framework to explain the evolution of student activism in Zimbabwe, from the traditional on-campus politics to virtual activism. It discusses the challenges associated with cybernetic activism. The paper argues that, despite challenges, Zimbabwean university student activists need to migrate to a new world of digital technology and online activism. In the migration to online activism, students activists face a plethora of challenges. On top of the already existing obstacles, activists face new operational challenges related to trying to mobilise a constituency that has relocated to cyberspace. Student activists utilize the existing digital infrastructure to advance their politics, in spite of a hostile state security system and harsh economic environment, and other operational challenges. 

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v11n2p100


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International Journal of Higher Education
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