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Beating anxiety with knowledge

- Wits University

Professor Crain Soudien urges graduands to use their education to overcome their fears.

South Africans at academic institutions are extremely disorientated, which is no less traumatic than the devastation and grief of some Americans following their presidential elections, says Professor Crain Soudien at the Faculty of Humanities’ graduation ceremony on 6 December 2016.

The student protests on campuses countrywide over the last two years have students questioning themselves about their feelings as they navigate to campus daily.

Many students become anxious as they try to make sense of seething anger when standing directly in front of the threatening inyala, their fears of a fire extinguisher being discharged in their faces in a claustrophobic classroom, and racial prejudice.

“During these trying times we can start by gathering our courage and turning to each other for support,” says Soudien. “We have to be together.”Professor Crain Soudien, guest speaker at Faculty of Humanities' December 2016 graduation ceremony

He urged the graduates not to despair and encouraged them to find a logical moment of assurance in their disorientation by using their Wits-acquired education. 

“This is where our education has to kick in. We have to make our education consequential. It has to work for us. We have to use it to make sense of the world and the people in it. Making sense is hard work. You have to listen carefully. Listen to the grayness of what is being said. This educational moment depends on all we have been taught, conscious and unconsciously.”

He added that the graduates need to become custodians of a commitment to deep thinking that the University has cultivated in them - a privilege Soudien hopes the graduates cherish for the rest of their lives.

“Our hope must come from the assurance that each of us, as products of this University, will for the rest of our live. Without deep thinking, we make ourselves vulnerable to all forms of populism, clichés, ideological seductions and untruths. We simply become blind followers. Our hope is in you.”

About Professor Crain Soudien

Professor Crain Soudien is the Chief Executive Officer of the Human Sciences Research Council and a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town where he remains an Emeritus Professor in Education and African Studies.

His publications in the areas of social difference, culture, education policy, comparative education, educational change, public history and popular culture include three books, three edited collections and over 190 articles, reviews, reports and book chapters.

He is also the co-editor of three books on District Six in Cape Town, a jointly edited book on comparative education and the author of The Making of Youth Identity in Contemporary South

Africa: Race, Culture and Schooling. He wrote the book Realising the Dream: Unlearning the Logic of Race in the South African School and served as the co-author of Inclusion and Exclusion in South Africa and Indian Schools.

Professor Soudien was educated at the University of Cape Town and UNISA and holds a doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

He is involved in a number of local, national and international social and cultural organisations. Professor Soudien serves as the Chairperson of the Independent Examinations Board and is the former Chairperson of the District Six Museum Foundation and a former President of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies. He has served as Chair of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation in Higher Education and is currently the chair of the Ministerial Committee to evaluate textbooks for discrimination.

Professor Soudien is a fellow of a number of local and international academies and serves on the boards of a number of cultural, heritage, education and civil society structures.