Hoisting the “knowledge bank” on its own petard: The World Bank and the double crisis of African universities


Hoisting the “knowledge bank” on its own petard: The World Bank and the double crisis of African universities

Struggle is like education and it just keeps going on.
(DERRICK GWALA of the ‘Kennedy Road Committee’)

For ‘tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard, an’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon.

(SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet, Act 3, scene 4, lines 206-


The ‘double crisis’ that the first issue of the Edu-factory Journal investigates is not new to African university students and faculty. Africans’ double crisis began in the 1980s, when the World Bank and other international financial institutions subjected most of their governments to Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) that tore apart every aspect of their economic and cultural life, leading to an epochal restructuring of the universities. The international financial meltdown of 2008 has hardly changed the academic landscape that emerged over the last two decades. Instead, change has come from the successful struggles African students have made to gain access to university education–internationally promoted as the path to a prosperous life for individuals and economic development for countries as a whole–in the face of opposition from the World Bank that is calling for a reduction of access. These struggles have created a Stalemate in the war between African students and agencies like the World Bank that is rapidly unraveling and heading toward a socially explosive denoument.

This paper will chart the formation of the Stalemate and the consequences of its dissolution. Such an analysis is essential for the Edu-factory project that intends to be ‘a space where struggles connect, a space of resistance and organisational experiments’, for it is important to know what the struggles are that are being connected.1 The connection between African students’ struggle and cognitive labour struggles in Europe and North America poses many of the same issues concerning the meaning of solidarity that were encountered in previous periods. Just because the adjective changes (from ‘industrial’ to ‘cognitive’) does not mean that the political questions posed by a hierarchy of labour powers do not apply.

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