Dissecting issues related to Africanising higher education
AFTER the success of its 2016 Teaching and Learning Conference, the University of Zululand (UNIZULU) once again held this significant conference with a focus on Africanisation of Teaching and Learning: Creativity, Innovation, Invention, Information andCommunication Technologies and Student Participation.
The conference, held over three days, acknowledged the critical importance of national debates on africanisation and decolonisation of higher education. The debate has been significant and relevant since the 2015 #feesmustfall movement.
Presenters at the conference framed and focused their presentations in highlight of UNIZULU’s historically and predominantly disadvantaged background. Dr Yasmin Rugbeer, the Director in the Vice-chancellor’s office at UNIZULU, gave an opening address on behalf of the Vice-chancellor, Professor Xoliswa Mtose. Rugbeer said the University has made significant strides in realising its vision of becoming a leading comprehensive university providing quality education and wishes to cast its attention on curriculum transformation within the African context.
“Africanisation is seen as an approach of surpassing individual identities in a quest for cohesion as well as a way of acknowledging and accepting ‘otherness’. Africanisation can be understood as the adaptation of the subject matter with teaching methods geared to the physical and cultural realities of the cultural environment. By doing this, we might be able to form an association with the broader African experience and this would assist us in the designing curricular that knit us together. The institution will now focus on curriculum transformation within the African context. We need to develop meaningful curricular,” said Dr Rugbeer.
Sibusiso Mchunu, the Dean of Students at the University, spoke about the advantages of a co-curricular programme for students, saying that students are partners in the learning process and they don’t enrol into higher education for academics only.
“Learning is not merely an academic pursuit. The whole university environment should be a learning environment. The greatest impact appears to stem from reinforcing academic interpersonal involvement that is relevant to the particular educational outcome,” he said.
Professor Sandile Songca, Deputy Vice-chancellor invited academics to initiate activities that will reflect on their teaching.
“We can’t take our teaching for granted as if it is business as usual. It is a space for innovation. We need to start doing things better and differently. Students also need to come forward and take part in their learning,” he said. THE University of Zululand (UNIZULU) hosted a symposium on disabilities in an effort to empower and inspire its students living with disabilities.
The symposium was organised by the UNIZULU Student Services Department (SSD) under the theme, Access and Success for All, in keeping with the University’s values on the promotion of diversity as well as its commitment to creating equal opportunities for all students.
Both abled and disabled students formed part of the conversation. Sibusiso Mchunu, UNIZULU’s Dean of Students, pointed out that the South African Constitution stipulates that all citizens should be respected regardless of colour, race, social status or background, adding that the number of students with disabilities has hugely increased at the University.
“One has to acknowledge the fact that the institution lags behind when it comes to accommodating students with disabilities. However, we walk this road as we build it and we cannot be perfect at this stage. The fact of the matter is that we have started and will get there soon with the efforts from different colleagues and sections within the institution. That means that we are really committed to seeing that students with disabilities are accommodated at this University,” said Mchunu.
Executive Director of Institutional Planning, Nhlanhla Cele, said that all students, regardless of their ability, should have a sense of belonging at the University.
“Students, as well as members of staff with challenges, should be perceived as people in the world not as people with disabilities. We should deal with issues of discrimination as part of institutional culture and also educate the entire university community about such issues,” he said.
Dr Anlia Pretorius from the Disability Rights Unit at Wits University said several South African universities still have a long way to go in improving access for students with disabilities.
“Having said that, it’s important to acknowledge that South Africa has come a long way and that more and more students are finding it a possibility to go and further their education. It’s important to ensure that students are not only supported with their formal university or institutional programme, but also in social and sporting activities. We still find it very difficult to manage with that because people are just not ‘thinking disability’ and it’s important to see disability as part of transformation,” she said.