Reconceptualising the African University


“The most important weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”-Steve Biko

The lecture titled reconceptualising the African university: identifying the features of the problem was presented by the world renowned and respected Sociologist Professor Kwesi Kwaa Prah who is an author of several books and has published extensively on various issues and many articles on topics around Africa’s History and writing on issues affecting the society and education system was presented on Wednesday, 15 July at the University’s Council chamber and via the webinar link.

Professor Mtose welcomed all attendees to the Vice Chancellor’s public lecture series. She outlined the nature of the lecture as an ongoing university engagement sessions that are conceptualised to be part of the celebrations of the 60th celebration of the University’s existence since its founding.   This lecture is at the heart of what UNIZULU is trying to achieve, for a University to be a truly African University as opposed to be the University in Africa. She alluded that in order to transform our universities will require all of us to think out of the box and dislocate ourselves out of the colonial sphere and paradigm which expect universities located in the continents to be mere clones of those of previous  colonial masters. This lecture further  series seek to point out how these should unfold in identifying the problem and features in order to truly experience and transform  our institutions into an African university.

“The University of Zuluand have deliberately redefined ours to be a University Restructured for Relevance, we understood it this way as ours should be a centre of strategic reflection and insight for it to be relevant” – Professor Mtose, Vice-Chancellor

The lecture is a flow from the work done by UNIZULU academics in March at Salt Rock, the task of the group was to produce a series of thoughts and ideas with regards to the challenges that UNIZUU and other university in S.A and all over Africa with regards to their mandate, purpose, object to structure the content of their offerings as Universities face. This is a response to the fact that post colonialism in Africa and post-Apartheid in South Africa in 1994 the process of dismantling the educational system and installing a new education system which is more answerable to the broader sections of the community has not been achieved. It is this realisation that we face a challenge to ourselves to be able to fashion an educational system  which is substantively meaningful to the lives and upliftment of Africans Professor Prah mentioned that that in South Africa there has been a habitual way at looking at a crisis from a historical perspective of advantaged and disadvantaged institutions lens. We have to realise that this is not a realistic way of looking at a crisis because all institutions are born from colonial experience.

Professor Kwah is also an editor of a book, Knowledge in Black and White, which is a sample of the academic thoughts across South African spectrum varying from Historians from various institutions it was clear that it was time to reassess the baggage the institutions were handling. In the 90’s the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Institutional Support,Professor Seepe also published a book on transformation in higher education in this way they were trying to eliminate issues that persist even in modern times. The UNIZULU has  agreed to start as soon as possible to identify clearly the components that hinders the success of a university idea in Africa. African Universities like the idea of a university to reproduce and replicate the institutional forms that have been inherited from Colononial powers and these standards have been set and maintained from outside and that we create the theatre of the observed by exposing students to foreign language that are not used locally e.g. Latin and Greece in African Universities said Professor Prah

“Even in this generation there are lots of people who think that spending a stint in an abroad institutions that spending a time in those institutions like Oxford, Harvard etc. gives you a particular competitive edge over competitors and colleagues who are derived from our local institutions”-Professor Prah.

The priority solution is that African University should be appetised by African concerns and interests, and seek to provide proper aligned African solutions. Our African history at the moment is an extension of Western history and it is not surprising as it was written by colonial powers hence the distorted version of our society. In essence the University of Zululand can start by creating a centre for African languages, develop a unified Nguni Dictionary, African to cross-reference each other and forming a consortium of Universities in order to improve the curriculum offerings are some of the immediate solutions that are achievable stated Professor Kwah.

The first respondent, Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Professor Kgaphola, stated that the Salt Rock discussions that Professor Prah alluded to resulted in the publication of the book titled: A UNIZULU Conversation “Reconceptualising the African University”. This is an important milestone in the context of UNIZULU, 60th . The preeminent question is how do we reclaim our intellectuall sovereignity, 25 years into democracy and look at what has been achieved and not achieved. Further the University of Zululand looked at how much effort do we put into what concerns us otherwise we become an appendix in someone’s else agenda hence the language issue is important.

Publication Patterns are that we disregard our indigenous instruments, how deep are our African roots, the inherent roots, how are we connected to the rest of Africa consciously.what has been

The second respondent , Acting Deputy: Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Arts, Dr Shamase response was around the denial of our identity which has resulted in the Western education promulgation.  The decolonial ideas cannot continue to reign in our language, tradition and song .A university has to be culturally closer to society in which it operates and that the university has to be intellectually linked to the wider scholarly values of the world of learning. The university must take an active part in the social revolution that is promoting African consciousness