Talks on the state of curriculum transformation in South Africa took centre stage as Walter Sisulu University hosted its Community Engagement Indaba with Sol Plaatjie University Vice-Chancellor and principal, Professor Yunus Ballim.


Ballim, who is also the former Wits deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) gave an impromptu lecture on the current state of higher education in South Africa, with focus on the call for decolonised education and what that means for the future of academia in SA universities.


“My take on the contribution we can make as academics to the decolonisation project, we need to find new methods of teaching, methods that are inclusive of us all and that are formed on all aspects of the world we live in” said Ballim.


In his initial utterances, Ballim pressed on that the call for curriculum transformation in Higher Education has risen throughout the post-colonial world and with South Africa calling for a de-colonised education through the ‘Rhodes-Must-Fall’ and ‘Fees-Must-Fall’ movement, but chose not to focus on how can the space of Higher Education be decolonised, but rather how can academics and society construct curriculum that can assure a positive contribution to the decolonisation project.


The call for a decolonised education is one that is bigger than what the call for transformation in Higher Education sets it out to be. Total change in the higher educational system would also implicate Basic Education and Early Childhood Development. It would require focus and attention on the formation of a system that meets the standards of the South African demographic, that is African centered and produces fully independently  thinking minds.


Prof Ballim articulated that one concern with the call for a decolonised education curriculum is that it seems to seek to give more authority to the curriculum than what it deserves. He stated that the argument seems to stem along the lines that “our students are only able to think and be what the curriculum allows them to think and be”, and if this is true, the Prof said, then the question must relate to the quality of the academic programme and the ways in which intellectual competence is developed in students.


“If students leave our academic programmes in a condition where they think and be only what the curriculum has allowed them to think and be, such students have clearly been under-educated, regardless of the subject content of the programme”, said Ballim.


The feeling is, thorough change is the goal and direction academia is headed towards, but the change needs not only to occur from policy and curriculum but the manner in which information is given to students. The aim of teaching needs to change, teaching should be made to produce academics that are well rounded with their history, the past and present world.


Ballim finalised his talk touching on a warning that academics and students should caution themselves with the request for de-colonised education, saying that it would seem as if they are removing themselves from the human condition. Whilst he believes they should expand their horizons, find new ways and materials of teaching.


WSU Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Rob Midgley, presented the growth and set plans of WSU. The event was also platform for the University to reach out to business and facilitate talks for present and future partnerships.


The gathering also included talks by various industries that have partnerships with the university presenting their projects, how far they are going and engagements on the prospects of research in the university.


By: Simo Cele


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