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Professor Fulufhelo Netswera, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), hosted an informative webinar addressing Decolonising post graduate studies in Africa, recently, via Ms Teams. 

Welcoming the attendees was DUT’s Dr Melanie Lourens, who gave an overview on the presenters and their topics and introduced Prof Netswera. 

Prof Netswera spoke about the history of decolonisation and how some would argue that decolonisation cannot be recognised. He also gave an overview of his conversation with some scholars from Europe, that they too are talking aggressively about decolonisation of scholarships. 

“Their interpretations might be slightly different to yours and mine but some of their engagements that I had, they indicated that they would love to see literature from the third world and the South and East, to become part of the general curricula in almost all disciplines,” he said.

He further relayed that the tragedy is that through their colonisation in their era, all other histories/cultures had been side-lined whether one had major developments in medicine, literature, of all disciplines were ignored.  He emphasised that a decolonial project is a very important project for everyone because it tells people that one’s contribution to the development of humanity is not only informed first by one’s skin colour and geography but it is informed by one’s intellectual capabilities. 

Addressing the webinar further on the subject was Prof Gift Mheta, Writing Centre Manager, with his presentation titled: Decolonising Post-Graduate Studies (PSG) in Africa: An Institutional Perspective. He gave an outline of what his talk entailed which included sharing more on a linguistic analysis of decolonisation, explaining more on a shared understanding of decolonisation in Higher Education, the theoretical foundations, the language debate and the contribution of internationalisation to the decolonisation of Post graduate studies.  He explained what is decolonisation, what are the misconceptions about decolonisation, and how can we (DUT) develop globally and locally (glocally) portable post-graduates.

He explained on the linguistic analysis of decolonisation saying: “Decolonisation is a process that involves dealing with the effects of colonisation. It is a process that involves careful planning; listening to many voices; reflecting on what is possible in a particular context; and implementing; and reviewing of all actions.” 

Prof Mheta relayed the question how can DUT internationalise PSG in ways that promote the decolonisation process. He said that in this respect partnerships with local and other universities in Africa and other parts of the world such as Cuba, should be strengthened. 

“The current situation in which DUT has more partnerships with universities in the global north only serves to perpetuate Western hegemony. Promotion of cross cultural experiences at PGS level, cannot be overemphasised in this globalised world. DUT needs a much more concerted effort to expose students to diverse perspectives and worldviews through well-coordinated exchange programmes. The university needs to start collaborating on the basis of what it would offer about Africa and not what it can receive from Europe. Channels need to be created for the appreciation, marketing and exportation of the education products created within the university be it publications, innovations or whatever knowledge outputs they are,” he said. 

He further added that in terms of the contribution of internationalisation to the decolonisation of PGS, developing a unique South African education brand that foregrounds Ubuntu (humanism); and developing a PGS curriculum that makes the university retain its best minds, are key.

Giving more perspective on Decolonising post-graduate studies in Africa with an academic’s personal experience was DUT’s Dr Emem Anwana. Her field of expertise is in Corporate Law, with particular reference to corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. She spoke on the decolonisation of university education in Africa, elaborating on the first wave. She explained the Mid-1960s with the first round of military coups d’état and the future of academics diverting to the task of seeking to account for failure of governance on the continent. 

“The military regimes and authoritarian rulers that followed from the independent struggles became suspicious of intellectual independence and began crackdowns on academia. As a result, institutions that would have otherwise been at the forefront of independent Africa’s intellectual revival were forced to revert to their colonial roots. This compelled academia to look more to the West, rather than to domestic settings, in finding solutions to problems,” she said. 

She further relayed that in the search for a desire to build nation states and economies, ideas were borrowed exclusively from the West to the total isolation of historical institutions that existed and were working before colonisation. 

“Traditional governance, traditional dispute resolution mechanisms, trade, healing/medicine, and other institutions were abandoned in favour of the Western systems. Little or no research were conducted into these traditional systems which and existed and governed the African people for centuries before colonisation,” she said. 

Dr Anwana gave more understanding on the university curricula design, saying that curriculum became so rigidly rooted in the political and constitutional structures and cultural assumptions of Western states to the exclusion of indigenous knowledge and systems. 

“With Law; African cultural norms and practices were replaced with the common law which itself comprises of cultural norms and practices of Europe. Constitutions were borrowed from the Western framework, and in most cases, although some would provide for the right to practice one’s culture, it came with a clause called the repugnancy clauses. This reduced African culture to be termed ‘barbaric’ and as such, needed to be cured by Western customs which were considered more superior and humane,” she said. 

She then looked at her academic reflection, speaking on the 2015/2016, South African students protest tagged #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall, which brought another wave of decolonisation. She said that in October 2015 at a Higher Education Summit, Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande beckoned all universities to Africanise/decolonise; and articles started emerging on the topic and were discussed at most DUT forums. 

Dr Anwana also spoke on Indigenising the Law Curriculum at DUT, saying that the law curriculum is mostly based on Roman Dutch jurisprudence, common laws and English Laws. 

“Where there is a mention of indigenous practices, it is based on the premise of a harmful indigenous practices (barbarity). There is hardly a mention of any indigenous laws or practices in the law modules,” she said.  

She also indicated that a survey was done with the Business law students at DUT, with feedback received on what they would like on the curriculum, the consensus was that when teaching legal capacity lobola payment and other customary practices should be included.  The students also said that when teaching contracts and other aspects of law Ubuntu should be taught and mentioned. 

“When teaching courts and dispute settlements authorities, indigenous practices such as lekgotla and Imbizo should be included. Traditional officers such as elders, chiefs and African monarchs should be discussed when teaching the legal systems,” she said. 

Dr Anwana said that there is a need for deep curricula transformation; a need for curriculum developers to include indigenous epistemologies and indigenous legal systems into the curricula; as well as a need to maintain an active research community and improved research funding. 

The last speaker of the session was PHD student, Zamokuhle Mbandlwa, whose topic was on Decolonisation of post graduate studies in Africa- student perspective

He spoke on African scholar’s verses scholars in other continents, focusing on the recognition of African scholars​, colonisation of the special type (mindset colonisation)​, higher education institutions in Africa, and benchmarking criteria of tertiary institutions in Africa.  He looked at research indexing platforms, speaking about the failure of African scholars to create an indexing platforms. ​ 

Mbandlwa mentioned the Scopus which is used to rate the quality of the scholarly work, platforms such as SABINET which are not as popularly used as Scopus. ​He also explained more on SABINET which has been in existence from 2003 but which does not appear in all tertiary institutions in Africa as a recognised indexing platform for academic researchers. ​ He then relayed more on the decolonising research methodology, indicating that research methods need to address the needs of studies being conducted and the needs of respondents. 

“Africa needs to develop a research method that will be friendly to African people. ​Recognition of the African cultures in the formal education mainstream,” he said. ​ 

He also spoke on African books versus European books, saying that the there is still usage of outdated textbooks in the syllabus, authored by professors in European countries. ​ He added that there was a great need for an African hub. 

“An African hub will assist Africa to develop an independent education system​. The Education system must address the needs of Africa, and ​African scholars should stop being copy cats of European systems,” he said. 


Prof Fulufhelo Netswera holds a DPhil in Development Sociology and MPhil in Social Science Methods from Stellenbosch. He is a 2004 Emerging Philanthropy Fellow at City University of New York (CUNY), a former associate professor at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU). Prof Netswera has published extensively in higher education management, governance, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. 

Prof Gift Mehta’s research is mainly focused on corpus development and maintenance, computational lexicography and language technology applications for the development of African languages. One of his recent publications is a textbook entitled, Language, Society and Communication: An Introduction (2nd Edition). He has also published several articles including a co-authored article entitled, Decolonisation of the curriculum: A case study of the Durban University of Technology in South Africa. 

Dr Emem (Emmy) Anwana’s research interest is in the areas of corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, women’s rights and gender equality, women entrepreneurship in Africa and most recently, higher education in Africa. 

Zamokuhle Mbandlwa is a researcher in the Department of Public Administration at the Durban University of Technology. He has published 19 journal articles, he has presented papers in local and international academic conferences. 

Pictured: Professor Fulufhelo Netswera, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), hosted an informative webinar addressing Decolonising post graduate studies in Africa

Waheeda Peters 

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