Kayum Ahmed

Lecturer in Law

Kayum Ahmed

Lecturer in Law

Kayum Ahmed is a Doctoral Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Before joining Columbia University as a doctoral fellow in international and comparative education, Ahmed served as Chief Executive Officer of the South African Human Rights Commission from 2010 to 2015. During this period, he led a team of 178 colleagues to monitor, protect and promote human rights in South Africa, and oversaw the management of nearly 45,000 human rights cases. These cases include access to socio-economic rights such as water, healthcare and education, as well as cases pertaining to discrimination based on race, sexual orientation and disability among others.


Ahmed is the recipient of various awards, fellowships and scholarships including the Nelson Mandela Scholarship (Leiden University), Commonwealth Scholarship (University of Oxford), the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship, the Aspen Institute Africa Leadership Initiative Fellowship, and the Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans Award. He has taught several classes and delivered guest lectures at institutions across the world including Princeton University, Duke University, the University of Oxford, the University of Cape Town, and the University of the Witwatersrand.


He holds various degrees in law (LL.B.), anthropology (M.A.) and public international law (LL.M.). More recently, he completed a third masters degree in international human rights law (MS.t.) at the University of Oxford. Just before relocating to New York and in anticipation of his existential (read: mid-life) crisis, Ahmed and his amazing wife travelled across the African continent from Cairo to Cape Town over nearly 100 days.


Ahmed has several interdisciplinary research interests including human rights, social justice, radical social movements, human rights education, critical theory and decolonization theory. These diverse interests inform his approach to teaching which includes a blend of legal case studies, fictional literature, and even some philosophy. Recognizing that students have a wealth of experience gained both inside and outside the classroom, Ahmed’s courses offer students the opportunity to co-construct the syllabus and rethink the classroom space.


Reading Group on African Law, Literature, and Politics
S. Socio-Economic Rights: Theory and Practice