Wits hosted two solidarity marches this week. The march on Monday was dedicated to Kenya and Tuesday was for Nigeria. Even though the idea was to march in solidarity, the turn out differed for each event.
A solidarity March For Kenya
Wits staff and students, led by vice-chancellor Adam Habib, marched in silence across the campus on Monday in solidarity with those affected by the massacre of 147 Kenyan students at Garissa University College earlier this month.
About 700 people, mostly dressed in black and with candles in their hands, marched from the FNB Building on West Campus to the steps of the Great Hall around lunchtime. Violet Molefe, the chairperson of Amnesty International at Wits, one of the organisers of the event, said the purpose of the march was not only to express solidarity with Kenya but also to introduce a new struggle for African youth.
“As we march, we stand in solidarity with the students from Kenya,” she said. “All of the time you see students being angry, this is time to rise up as young leadership, not let the past generations to fix our problems,” Molefe said.
A solidarity March For Nigeria
In the same spirit of solidarity on Tuesday the School of Language, Literature and Media also marched. This was to remember the Chibok girls from Nigeria who were abducted in April 2014. Led by the head of the Media Studies department, Mehita Iqani, to the Great Hall, no more than 20 students attended. They had a moment of silence to remember and remind themselves that it has already been a year.
According to Dr Ufuoma Akpojivi, who organised the march, the main reason the turnout was low was because students think the Nigerian girls are forgotten. He also said the march was planned at the last minute.
“I met a student who said, please just forget about the bring back our girls,” he said. “I told her, let’s forget about whether the girls are coming back or not, let’s create awareness,” said Akpojivi.
Akpojivi told Wits Vuvuzela the objective of the march was to create awareness and this was achieved.
“I am happy with the small turnout, because we managed to create awareness amongst our students,” said Akpojivi.
For Amnesty International organisers, despite having less than a week to plan their Garissa solidarity march, the turnout was bigger. They had a week to organise the event.
“We didn’t expect that much support,” Molefe said.