College of Human Sciences

Afrophobia, a result of colonialism and global capitalism

The College of Human Sciences at the University of South Africa is saddened and appalled by the Afrophobia incidents which sporadically manifest themselves on the South African scene. We  believe that the roots of this unwarranted and irresponsible targeting of our African brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent, lies deep in our South African history of colonialism and apartheid. In order to address the problem, it is the view of this College that ongoing serious and genuine conversations should be held with the objective of infusing attitudes of unity with Africa as behoves any African country on the African continent. We stand by the injunction of the revolutionary Burkinabé leader Thomas Sankara: “Never be ashamed of being Afrikan”. We unreservedly disavow South African exceptionalism and its associated hierarchies of privilege. We are aware, as Franz Fanon had observed in his, The Wretched of the Earth that, the divisions manufactured by the West, of Africa and her subjects, are now being perpetuated by the same Africans who are themselves victims of the inequalities of colonialism, capitalism and the lingering effects of apartheid.

The College of Human Sciences also notes that the current nervous condition that the majority of black people are experiencing in townships and urban areas across South Africa, is precisely as a result of neo-liberal policies which are proving to be pernicious for the most vulnerable in South African society today. We hold Sankara’s observation as axiomatic when he noted: “Under its current form, that is imperialism-controlled, debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa, aiming at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules.” Never before has neo-liberal global capitalism weakened African states more, such that the heat of class contradictions, unemployment and poverty is felt in the unnecessary territorial battles of Africans pitted against Africans for space on the continent.  We decry this spectacle of Afrophobic conflict and, in the same breath, those who exploit it for their own gain.

The Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, broadly speaking, act as the conscience of society and cannot ignore these challenges when South Africa is poised for regional integration in Sub-Saharan Afrika. It is the opinion of the executive management within the College of Human Sciences that this disaster can otherwise be averted when South Africans are made to understand that the real problem is not our African brothers and sisters, but the very system that seems to sustain itself by exploiting the most vulnerable in society.  

Aligned to that of the University of South Africa, the vision of the College of Human Science is to become the African College of excellence in the arts, humanities and social sciences by making a continuous and positive contribution, shaping futures, in the service of humanity. The College of Human Sciences is a people–centred community of learning and practice committed to fostering a culture of excellence in learning, teaching, research and service with the intent of helping individuals and communities improve the quality of their lives.

To achieve this, the College of Human Sciences at Unisa has adopted an extensive curriculum transformation framework that seeks to both Africanize and decolonize the curriculum and the activities of the College.  The notion of curriculum in curriculum transformation deliberately includes all aspects of the students’ engagement with the College, from the point of access, through student learning and engagement, to the assessment of individual modules and the throughput to graduation. The notion of curriculum critically includes both subject matter, as well as pedagogy. The notion of curriculum also includes research methodologies, areas for research and writing practices for research proposal modules and research reports, dissertations and theses in higher degrees. The notion of transformation as it relates to the curriculum is to actively and consciously bring to the centre, alternative and marginalized epistemologies and pedagogies, so that both the form and the substance of the curriculum transcends Western standardized normativity. The journey to transformation means that it is not only about ‘doing what is right’ in a mechanistic way, but ‘being in right relationship’, and that one therefore, after transformation, being in open and mutually respectful relationship, has nothing to protect from one another. This also highlights how we have to view our relationship with our fellow African brothers and sisters from outside South Africa.

As a point of departure for curriculum transformation, we acknowledge that academic disciplines in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences are both value-based and scientific disciplines, and as such they have the potential to contribute significantly to how we understand ourselves as human beings. These disciplines are, however, rooted in Western culture, which shapes our thinking in subtle ways and also limits its creative possibilities. When people study academic disciplines in a Westernized university, they are expected to take its shape and to allow themselves to be limited by its standards and methods. The value of true curriculum transformation is to give students and scholars who have not been fully initiated into the ways of traditional Westernized disciplines a legitimate voice to question the standards and methods of a Westernized Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum, and to re-imagine (re-shape) what it could and should be. Africa offers worldviews (ontologies) and knowledge systems (epistemologies) that are due to have a significant and transformative impact on both theory and practice, particularly in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The Africanization of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, has an agenda that far exceeds mere importation into and adjustment to Africa.  Africanization should also aim to export African ontologies and epistemologies to the world, reaching far beyond the coastlines of this continent. Similarly, pedagogies rooted in African ways of doing, such as the narrative and the communal, should be explored and valorized. This is an agenda that requires energetic and dedicated action and most of its achievement lies in the hands of our future scholars, that means Unisa’s current students, in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

* Compiled by the College Management of Human Sciences under the leadership of the Dean, Professor Andrew Phillips.