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Unisa online - Africanising the curriculum

From left: Prof VI McKay, Prof C Odora Hoppers, Prof LJ van Niekerk and Ms Rutendo Ngara

Prof Catherine A Odora Hoppers did a presentation for the Unisa CEDU Tuition Committee on 16 August 2012 on the topic of "Africanisation of the curriculum". This is a tricky subject, she said, because nobody knows exactly what this should actually be. There is a risk that Africanisation will become a "cut and paste" job without academics understanding that people's lives are actually at stake.

Africanisation is essentially about African people being given the space to become themselves without duress. Development has played very many tricks on Africa. The goal of the Africanisation drive is to build just and human-centred development for Africa, based on African values.

Hope lies at the centre of that drive; it probes the future and challenges the present so that another vision becomes possible. Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) should form an integral part of this endeavour. Furthermore, we need to interweave all the areas taught at the university, such as law, economics, education and science, into a holistic whole as a way to probe problems facing the African continent.

What is the future for Africa? Africanisation should be wary of being locked in the western gaze like a cobra’s mesmerising gaze. Africanisation should open up new ways of thinking and education should take the lead in this endeavour. It is time to root our thinking in our African traditions and challenge those traditions to help us find the right solutions to problems facing us. We live in a society which is built on ubuntu, and ubuntu signifies belonging. It is different from the western concept of life which is based on a hierarchical philosophy. The fundamental cohesiveness of ubuntu is not found within the South African education system. The qualities of ubuntu are missing at the very foundation of education practice. We need to restructure the education system on the foundation of ubuntu values in such a way that the many that leave the school system, leave it with a sense of belonging to a greater whole, whatever intellectual level they reached; and not with a sense of depleted dignity and powerlessness, which is the high road to a life of poverty.

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