The Fort Hare Autumn School (FHAS) was established in 2011 over several informal conversations between a group that would come to be known as the “founding fathers”: Prof Francis Wilson, former Chairperson of the Council of the University Fort Hare, Dr Petrus Strijdom, Director of Fort Hare’s Centre for Leadership Ethics in Africa and the former Director of FES South Africa, Axel Schmidt.
The founding fathers identified the need to expose young leaders to an opportunity to transform closed system thinking and design. These are often underpinned by flawed assumptions such as – in economics for example – the necessity of free markets and growth and the sovereignty of economics from ethics and politics. It seemed obvious that matters ranging from the simplification of problems to the need for a critical consciousness, distortion and preconceived notions in analysing problems, soundness of argumentation and the practice of proper dialogue can best be tackled by a new generation of aspiring and inspiring young leaders. The Autumn School was designed as an intervention to create a new leadership culture in SA. It is meant to provide for a specific civic education programme supplementing the formal academic curriculum of university students. The participants graduate with significant growth towards greater maturity and political understanding.
The Autumn School aims to sow some seeds of free and critical thinking and an understanding of Social Democracy in promising young students. Such knowledge together with a sound academic formation enables some of the young generation to become active and socially responsible citizens who could lead the country further and closer to the aspirations of a better South Africa for everyone. It is about developing young leaders who will later contribute to and shape the political, economic and social debates of this country.