A decolonised curriculum has space for European discourse

05 January 2015

Ramabina Mahapa
SRC President

The process of decolonisation must begin with an identification of the oppressed - who are the marginalised - at the institution. From then on, issues of curriculum must be addressed, because the curriculum gives effect to the culture at a university. One thing that perpetuates the former colonial narratives is the fact that our curriculum is not changing and as a result the institutional culture and our behaviour are not changing. It is important that we not only concentrate on higher education. We must go back and look at basic education, which is where the problem actually begins. For instance, in basic education there's not mention of xenophobia and very little is said about race, particularly in the sciences. By only changing the top layer of education, you are not changing those who are coming up from the bottom, which renders decolonisation an impossible task.

Other aspects that need to be considered are who's teaching a particular curriculum, what is being taught and what knowledge is being created? These are related questions because who's teaching influences what is being taught. Who's teaching also influences the university's decision-making processes - for example, through senate - which in turn influences who is being taught, through the admissions policy. If you only change the curriculum, who's to say ten years down the line, because of the composition of the governance structures and academia, things don't change back to what they were before.

A principle we must allow ourselves to be guided by in curriculum change is inclusivity and diversity. This principle will ensure that new forms of oppression are not instituted with curriculum change. People talk of the dangers associated with Afrikaner nationalism, but black nationalism also holds dangers and could become a reality if we don't interrogate what is being taught through the filter of inclusivity and diversity. There is therefore certainly place for European intellectual discourse, even in a decolonised curriculum.

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Volume 34 Edition 04

25 May 2015

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