Leading change

Learning to unlearn in order to re-learn

When it comes to decoloniality, we must learn to unlearn in order to re-learn, said Prof Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Director of the Scholarship Change Management Unit at Unisa, speaking at the Marketing, Advancement and Communication in Education (MACE) Gauteng Regional workshop held at the university on 19 October 2017.

Prof Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni (Director: Scholarship Change Management Unit, Unisa)

Workshop organiser Setlatjile-Mayishibe Setlatjile

When unpacking the concept, Ndlovu-Gatsheni said that it was important to note that the decoloniality of the 20th century was very different from that of the 21st century. The first can be summed up in Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s landmark statement: “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be added unto you.” The second, although it builds on the first, encompasses intellectual, ethical, and political elements simultaneously.

Elaborating on his topic, Race against time: The decolonial turn in South African higher education, Ndlovu-Gatsheni said that colonialism had pushed people out of humanity into a sub-human category, which enabled genocide, epistemicide, and linguicide. The consequence was an alienation that caused people to imbibe another culture and deny their own names, food, clothes, and languages.

How do we undo this?

Ndlovu-Gatsheni said that what was needed was a decolonial attitude based on the principle that you accept all people as human beings. This entails that you then accept that all people are born into valid and legitimate knowledges. It involves acknowledging the equality of knowledges and this implies opening up curriculums, not closure.

There are four practical decolonial pathways towards building a university of the future, he said. They are changing the consciousness of teachers through a re-education process, moving the centre through shifting the geography and biography of knowledge, rethinking thinking itself to transcend the current systemic and epistemic crisis, and the painstaking process of learning to unlearn in order to re-learn.

*By Sharon Farrell