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African voices on indigenisation of the curriculum

Prof Vuyisile Msila and Prof Mishack Gumbo display their new publication, African voices on indigenisation of the curriculum.

In November of 2017, Unisa professors Mishack Gumbo and Vuyisile Msila released the book African voices on indigenisation of the curriculum, a follow-up to their 2016 book Africanising the curriculum: Indigenous perspectives and theories. Whereas their first joint publication on indigenising the curriculum was almost entirely theoretical, this one offers real-world examples of the practice itself, showing both its flaws and benefits, and how it can be implemented to offer bold solutions to uniquely African problems with education.

From theory to application

“The first was very theoretical,” said Msila, “while this one is, obviously, more about application. The question that is always posed to us when we offer up solutions is: How do we apply this in reality? This book is our answer to that very question with a wide spectrum, looking at technology and the practice of teaching.”

“We find ourselves at a time where universities are called to re-curriculate,” said Gumbo. “We are required to take into account the Africanisation of knowledge that we give to students. It isn’t only a scholarly book, but a tool for us, and for our colleagues, to start with.” The book is informed by work done in the field, a practical setwork that alludes to that very fact. “Some have interviewed the custodians of the knowledge itself,” said Gumbo. “So, we flesh out these ideas for practical use and implement models of frameworks that promote a dual approach from different knowledge systems.”

“The empirical ideas are examples that we gleaned from the field,” continued Msila. “One chapter, for example, gives examples from Zimbabwe as to how to practically use various aspects of technology in the field. The book is partly to prove that when we theorise something, we do not just snatch it from the air.”

Application in a technical world

Msila noted that a great part of the challenge is to conceptualise something that belongs in the world of evolving technology, when looking specifically at African communities. “While some scholars have actually interrogated the vision for Unisa, this speaks to contextualising our business as well,” said Gumbo. “This is the kind of project that actually speaks to that vision. We’re beginning to see a lot of interest in our works. People are becoming more and more aware of us as experts in our field. This can be put to the simple fact that universities know they need to Africanise the curriculum, but they don’t know how to, and we are offering them a solution.”

“The chapters on technology are crucial,” said Msila. “Everyone talks about moving forward. What the world is doing out there, globally. And due to their reflection on how to make technology relevant, most of the chapters here are critical for teacher education. At Unisa, oftentimes we misunderstand our relationship with technology. We cannot perfect technology and think that we have arrived.”

Gumbo went on to say: “Reality testing in South Africa shows that we cannot ignore the realities of students who battle with internet connectivity wherever they are. We have to acknowledge the resources that are locally available to them. How can we solve the issues they are facing? Technology is a delivery vehicle, and it is also a problem solving activity. We need to look at it in that way, to bring solutions to existing problems. It’s important to acknowledge that; the last thing we want is a linear approach.”

“In many instances, one can say that Unisa is losing an opportunity,” said Msila on the topic of technology in Africanisation. “We tend to neglect the rural student, because it is assumed that wherever a student is, so too is Unisa, online and always available. We need to concentrate on the training of the individual. If we have that truly resolved, we will have an open distance learning institution that cannot be competed with.” Gumbo and Msila feel that Unisa, by its very ODL nature, enjoys the advantage of showing how technology can be used to serve and support students in their diversity.

*By Carmen Taxer