Research into the contentious #FeesMustFall movement earned Ms Mellisa Muchena a master of arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Muchena, a programme assistant in the culture section of UNESCO’s Southern African regional office for Southern Africa, said her research delved into ‘hashtag activism’, contributing to growing research on cyber activism.
‘I used this concept, and the concept of social curation, to explore #FeesMustFall in more depth. I looked at how the hashtag was used on social media, specifically Twitter, as well as the different social groups using the hashtag and whether the debate was a form of rhetoric public sphere,’ said Muchena.
She hopes her research will contribute to understanding how the youth are contributing to society’s social issues. ‘Often times it is a group that is side-lined for not taking politics seriously or not engaging in topics that affect society. The social activity that surrounded #FeesMustFall, specifically on social media proves that the youth can critically debate social issues, and have their own unique way of doing so,’ she said.
Muchena thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support, love and sacrifices. ‘Everything that you have done for me has resulted in me receiving this degree, and for that I will be eternally grateful.’
She advised other students to, ‘Keep pushing. The seeds you sow today will give you a fruitful harvest in your future.’