The Coping Strategies of Students who Witnessed Violence during the South African #FeesMustFall Movement



Published 20-02-2020
Keamogetse Morwe


The 2015/2016 academic year was an academic year that saw South African university students and leaders and the state engage in intense negotiations over free quality education. A considerable number of students joined this movement and were involved in or witnessed violence without realising how violence can harm them. This paper uses the interpretative phenomenological approach to interrogate the coping strategies employed by six students (who were part of the #FMF movement), in response to the violence that they witnessed at their campus. The findings reveal that witnessing violence is stressful. At some point, these students felt powerless and employed maladaptive coping strategies to deal with the threat of violence that they faced. The study recommends that university programmes be augmented to help students adopt a combination of the problem-focussed and anticipatory-focussed coping strategies to foster adaptive styles when coping with violence.

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coping strategies, #FMF, attention, university students, intervention