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Oxford University Students Have Called For A 'Racist' Statue To Be Removed From Their College

13/07/2015 15:03 BST | Updated 13/07/2015 15:59 BST
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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA APRIL 9 (SOUTH AFRICA OUT): Students celebrate as the Cecil John Rhodes statue is removed at the University of Cape Town on April 9, 2015 in CapeTown, South Africa. After nearly a month of protesting, sit-ins and relentless meetings by students, the statue of British colonialist will finally be removed. (Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Students from Oxford University have called for the removal of a college statue because of its perceived racist and colonial connotations.

After the University of Cape Town pulled down its statue of Cecil Rhodes last April, students from Oriel College have similarly demanded that their college removes its own statue of the white supremacist, who is seen by many as the founding father of Apartheid.

The statue is part of a historical building at Oriel College and is more than 100 years old.

Taking inspiration from fellow students at the University of Cape Town, the Oxford students have set up their own ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, Roné McFarlane said: " Colonial heroes are celebrated uncritically all over the university. We have to emphasise that we are not just talking about Cecil Rhodes here. There are also other seriously problematic figures such as Codrington, who's riches that funded the Condrington library, were derived from the slave trade.

"We also believe serious conversations are necessary around the curriculum at Oxford. It is incredibly important that more diverse voices are included in the curriculum.

"Lecturers and students at the university are still predominantly white. These demographics not only alienate people from marginalised groups, it also provides a very one dimensional experience for students coming to study at an "international institution" as Oxford likes to portray itself."

Annie Teriba, a second-year history and politics student, told Sky News: "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.”

Teriba added: "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."

Cecil Rhodes' legacy at Oxford University stretches beyond the statue. His estate currently endows the university’s prestigious Rhodes Scholarship which invites students from across the world to study at Oxford. US president Bill Clinton was a notable recipient of the postgraduate award.

Oxford student Brian Kwoba has challenged the assumption that Rhodes’ legacy can be overlooked given his financial contributions to the university.

He said: "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.

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

A spokesperson for Oriel College said: "When Cecil Rhodes died in 1902 he left two percent 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."