International Academic Day is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating academia, but what does academic freedom mean in South Africa.  

According to the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) academic freedom is a right that allows students and lecturers to research, teach and express their views without any fear or interference. 

The Academy of Science states that in the South African constitution, under the freedom of speech clause, academic freedom is guaranteed. This right was reinforced by the 1997 formal document titled: White Paper 3: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education. This document highlights academic freedom as the pillar for transforming higher education after Apartheid. 

The first International Academic Freedom Day, May 20 was announced by Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) in November 2023, with the goal of promoting and defending academic freedom globally through various activities, such as lectures, seminars, and debates.  

For many academia might evoke images of complex theories and debates. For me, however, academic freedom is about the opportunity to pursue knowledge, and exploring the subjects that ignite my curiosity and passion. Whether delving into the depths of physics or literature, academic freedom should empower me to choose my career path and follow it. 

This freedom is more than just a curriculum to me; it is about nurturing my talents and transforming them into skills. It is through the space of academics where my God given talents have been nurtured, and further strengthened. I’ve always known I had a talent for radio presenting but didn’t know how to pursue it. As a student journalist, I’ve realized I can leverage my innate talent as a skill in broadcast journalism. I’ve also developed other abilities like writing and digital content creation in this academic setting. 

Additionally, I believe academic freedom is also about resilience and triumph. It is about overcoming the challenges that come with being a student, whether they are academic, financial, or personal challenges.  

This freedom is about standing victorious and emerging stronger not just because I have completed a degree or passed an exam, but because I have grown intellectually and personally. Academic freedom for me is a constitutional right that has allowed me to explore, grow, and unlock my full potential.