Students from Social Work and Criminology rise to the Jerusalema dance challenge

Posted on November 27, 2020

This year, first-year students from the Department of Social Work and Criminology heeded President Ramaphosa’s call to participate in the Jerusalema challenge. They were encouraged to do so by their Criminology lecturer, Professor Booyens, who felt that it would be effective to keep the class connected during lockdown. ‘With no face-to-face lectures this year and feeling disconnected from my first-year students, I invited my KRM120 Criminology students to participate in a virtual Jerusalema challenge with me,’ she explained. 

The project is a product of the KRM120 class of 2020 and was produced by ChilliPanda Productions, a production house run by Ellie Kruger, one of the first-year criminology students. To comply with physical distancing rules, the challenge was performed virtually. Please click here to view the final production!

The Jerusalema challenge is a dance routine that involves a popular song by South African artists Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode. The song and dance routine have become closely associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and have an uplifting effect during the difficult times many are experiencing. In encouraging South African citizens to participate in the challenge, President Ramaphosa said: ‘There can be no better celebration of our South African-ness than joining the Jerusalema dance challenge, which has become a global phenomenon.’

The challenge not only celebrates South African popular culture, but also brings together people of diverse heritage to share a little joy in the face of the unknown. The Jerusalema challenge has connected the first-year criminology class of 2020 through song and dance, true to our South African culture. The new, virtual way of learning presented students with an unanticipated set of challenges and the Jerusalema project enabled the members of the KRM120 class to experience a sense of community despite the separation enforced by the pandemic. Precious Maphupha, one of the participants said: ‘It feels as if our first year was taken away from us because of COVID, and this challenge reminded us that UP is still a community, and that our big criminology group too is still a community. Individual students were able to contribute to creating a piece that celebrated their connectedness. The challenge fulfilled its intended purpose by connecting students with their peers, their lecturer and the University of Pretoria community at large.’


Lethuxolo Mathibela, who tutors first-year criminology students, felt compelled to participate in the challenge out of a sense of patriotism and to ‘blow off steam’ after a tumultuous year. According to her, her participation exposed students to the fun side of the academic staff and made them feel ‘comfortable enough to express their creativity’ and developing their own individual ‘free’ styles, as can be seen in the video.


Happenstance played no role in the fact that the students wore matching outfits—they had in fact agreed to wear jeans and white T-shirts for a uniform appearance and to emphasise the theme of virtual solidarity and oneness with fellow classmates. Each video snippet takes us to a different settings as we move from living rooms to balconies and to the outdoors. In one video a dog even takes centre stage, merrily wagging its tail to the tune!


Viewers of the KRM 120 class’ video will discern two themes: First, it shows that life is meant to be shared, both passively and actively. In the passive sense, the KRM 120 class’ group effort can be posted on Instagram feeds and shared in the hashtags that go with the challenge, which is something the class and Prof Booyens would like to ask everyone to do as a first step! But from a more philosophical perspective, we need to actively share our lives with others. Another KRM 120 tutor, Natasha Chapman, confirmed this observation when she recalled the ‘overwhelming emotions and experiences’ of 2020 and how they ‘required people to support one another emotionally, financially and mentally’. The coming together of the class to dance their troubles away and engage with each other despite in the restrictions and challenges posed by the national lockdown was one way of sharing life with others in this active sense. The obstacles presented Chapman and many others with a perfect opportunity ‘to illustrate how innovative we can be with our interactions, going beyond the need of physical interactions, but still achieving the social element’. Whichever approach you prefer, we can hopefully all agree that life is better when it is shared, even if the sharing occurs virtually.


Let us all join in and participate in the Jerusalema dance challenge! Who’s next?  Click here to view the KRM120 video.

- Author Makone Maja and Palesa Mbonde

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