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Oxford Students Want 'Racist' Statue Removed

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  • Cecil Rhodes
    British businessman, mining magnate and politician in South Africa (1853-1902)

A group of students at Oxford University has called for a statue to be taken down because it is claimed to symbolise racism and colonialism.

The statue of Cecil Rhodes - dubbed by some the founding father of Apartheid - is more than 100 years old and sits in a Grade II listed building at Oriel College.

The group wants the university to follow the example of the University of Cape Town which pulled down its statue of the white supremacist in April.

Annie Teriba is a member of Oxford University's Rhodes Must Fall movement. The second year history and politics student told Sky News the statue represents institutional racism.

"It's a reminder, more than being a statue, that when this university was built it wasn't built with us in mind it was built off the back of exploiting labour and the colonial project and it's something that still gets celebrated in the form of a statue. That's something that students of colour really take seriously.

"There's a violence to having to walk past the statue every day on the way to your lectures, there's a violence to having to sit with paintings of former slave holders whilst writing your exams - that's really problematic."

She and other members of the movement take inspiration from fellow students in South Africa. In April they successfully campaigned to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Cape Town University.

In life, Cecil Rhodes was ruthless in his pursuit of the British Empire. In 1888 he launched De Beers consolidating mines in southern Africa. There, policies he fought to implement paved the way for racial segregation. Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - was named after the diamond magnate.

His estate currently endows one of the world's most prestigious awards, the Rhodes Scholarship.

The postgraduate award brings students - which have included former US president Bill Clinton - from around the world to study at Oxford University.

Oxford student Brian Kwoba says Cecil Rhodes' legacy can be redeemed by his financial contributions.

"It wasn't Rhodes' money, it was money taken from the labour of southern African miners, who he exploited, that created the wealth that now endows the scholarship that is in his name," he said.

"Similarly, at All Souls College there's a library called The Codrington Library [which is] named after a slave owner who had plantations in Barbados in the Caribbean and exploited that labour and then took the money to then endow the library that exists.

"As soon as we start raising these issues a natural question becomes who should actually benefit from these scholarships."

A spokesperson for Oriel College told Sky News: "When Cecil Rhodes died in 1902 he left 2% of his estate to Oriel College, where he had been a student.

"His legacy helped to fund the construction of a new building, opened in 1911, which is now Grade II* listed. The building frontage included a statue commemorating his benefaction.

"Now, over a century after the building was constructed, Rhodes is thought of very differently. The College draws a clear line between acknowledging the historical fact of Rhodes' donation and in any way condoning his political views.

"Oriel College is committed to being at the forefront of the drive to make Oxford University more diverse and inclusive of people from all backgrounds."

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