An analytical study of xenophobic attacks in South African universities/tertiary institutions with specific reference to the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Durban University of Technology (DUT)
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There is growing concern with xenophobia, an act of perpetuating the violation of human rights. Xenophobia has negative implications on the teaching community. This study explores the nature and prevalence of xenophobia in South African higher learning institutions. The Social Learning Theory adopted in the study explains that xenophobic behaviours practised by the South African communities at large are transferred into the vicinity of higher learning institutions through being socially learned from public members who possess hatred towards foreign nationals. Moreover, the Realistic Group Conflict Theory adopted in this study explains how xenophobia is constituted due to competition for university jobs, scholarships and the perceived threat of foreign nationals’ getting higher marks and recognition than South African students. In exploring the nature and prevalence of xenophobia within higher learning institutions, the study explored the perceptions of Black foreign national students studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Durban University of Technology, South Africa. Using qualitative individual face-to-face semi-structured interviews, the study revealed that xenophobia is a common reality within both universities. The findings further uncovered that the nature of xenophobia within higher learning institutions is often expressed through discriminatory practices and name-calling. The study findings further revealed that university staff and students often perpetuate acts of xenophobia. The xenophobic attacks are either verbal or emotional and not physical as it is often the case with the broader South African communities. As a result, reporting xenophobic attitudes and behaviours becomes problematic. The study recommends that the implementation of laws that relate to xenophobia as an offence can lower xenophobic attacks and secondary victimisation when students attempt to report incidents of xenophobia. Another recommendation is that of establishing a xenophobia helpline in universities through which international students who are victimised can call to report victimisation.