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Hendricks workshop on decolonising the curriculum may 24 2016

Presentation by Cheryl Hendricks at a workshop at the University of Johannesburg on Decolonizing the Curriculum

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Hendricks workshop on decolonising the curriculum may 24 2016

  1. 1. OVERVIEW • Role and Composition • Deliberations/Reflections of Task Team • Planned Engagements • Highlights of and Thoughts on Activities • Concluding Remarks
  2. 2. Role and Composition • The Ad Hoc Senate Committee was formed in 2015 in response to student protests. A key part of the student demands revolves around the decolonization of the universities – statues, aesthetics, symbols, language, culture, knowledge, representation, etc. • The Ad Hoc Senate Committee is divided into four task teams (1) dealing with diversity, institutional culture and tradition (2) with the decolonization of knowledge (3) protest and academic freedom and the (4) with the promotion of staff and student access.
  3. 3. • DTT consists of 19 members - 13 have been active participants. • Our role is advisory in terms of generating a deeper understanding of, and process for, decolonizing the curriculum, teaching and learning at UJ; to facilitate space for critical conversation and to lead on agenda setting on this issue. • It is envisaged that the work of the 4 task teams will feed into a comprehensive report to Senate in August this year. • We are not going to decolonize the university or develop toolkits/handbooks for how to decolonize the curriculum. Departments, units, research centers and faculties have to debate these issues and determine what it means in their context, i.e. the specificities thereof and how it will be implemented. You have to do the hard work of revisiting what you teach and how students learn in our current context. • We can only provide a platform for debate and discussion and come up with a few guiding principles for the university. We are not experts on decolonisation – we are all finding our way through practice.
  4. 4. Deliberations/Reflections of Task Team  Determining our own understanding of what was meant by decolonisation.  Clear just from within the Task Team that the meaning of “decolonization of knowledge” is contested and that it needed to be debated at UJ. Needed more organic and deeper and broader discussions on this issue across the university in conjunction with more focused faculty and departmental revision of their teaching and learning – hence the idea of the conversations.  Recognised that the calls for decolonization are broader than that of knowledge, i.e., symbols, aesthetics, language, culture, representation, policies and practices. One cannot meaningfully decolonise the curriculum without a serious renegotiation of the other elements.  Decolonization is not a once off, “add-on” technical exercise. It requires that we fundamentally question and rethink the entire curriculum, teaching and learning in departments and faculties (inclusive of skills, attitudes, values, materials used, subjects taught, assessments, learning experiences, etc ).
  5. 5.  Calls for decolonisation were is part asking us to critically reflect on our courses: what we including and excluding, which forms of knowledge and texts we were privileging and which we were excluding and the reasons for this.  Decolonization is not confined to the social sciences/humanities – all faculties need to undertake this reflection. There should be no early drawing of boundaries of what is considered as universal, unchallenged principles and ways of knowing.  Aware of the presumed tension between a focus on local vs global. Not an either/or process – either Western or African/ universal or local. And that what we were calling for was for a multiplicity of epistemologies/pluriversality.
  6. 6. • If we deconstruct and decolonize we should, ideally, recenter around the local and draw in previously marginalized knowledge, but not in ways that merely seek to replace one with the other and/or are equally exclusive. We must be inclusive, relevant and critically engage with all forms of knowledge production. The goal of curriculum transformation is to ensure the offering of academic programmes that are by themselves transformative, innovative, and globally competitive. • We need broad stakeholder involvement in our engagement and students need to be at the center of this endeavour.
  7. 7.  Decolonization of knowledge at UJ should not be separated from the broader issues of transformation of the higher education system. It should also include a meaningful discussion around combatting inherent racism and the perpetuation of white privilege within the education system as a whole and within UJ in particular.  In our desire to see a paradigm shift at UJ, we must be cognizant of, and participate in, the national and global conversation directed at creating epistemic pluralism. Processes and theorization in the Global South need to be a key part of our engagement.  We need to produce research that is relevant, feeds into teaching and, in significant part, is aimed at addressing theoretical and practical African realities. Decolonization of knowledge also requires that we interrogate the methodologies of teaching, learning and research. .
  8. 8.  In order to ensure continuity, despite changing leadership, decolonization of the curriculum, teaching and learning must be embedded in an institutional strategic plan with clearly defined and measurable indicators over time.  The process of decolonization has to be adequately resourced by the university in terms of both human and financial resources.  The Task Team should not try to do everything and/or duplicate the work of other committees. We need to draw on the work already produced by these committees and harvest from the discussions that are ongoing nationally and globally.
  9. 9. Planned Engagements • We set ourselves the following key tasks: (1) To develop a set of principles/guidelines that will facilitate the process of decolonization of knowledge at the university (today part of that process). (2) To develop a Charter on Decolonizing the University (July/August). (3) Host a series of panel discussions that address the meaning of, and methodology for, decolonizing knowledge, teaching and learning at UJ. We planned for 5: What do we mean by decolonization of knowledge; Is knowledge universal; Best Practices for Decolonisation of knowledge; The relationship between and social justice and decolonization and; The thorny issue of language usage at universities. The intention was to have as wide a debate as possible on these issues at the university (at all the campuses). But, primarily been attended by students and so they remain the ones who are engaged on the topic, yet it is academics that have to be at the forefront of changing their curricula. This disjuncture between student demands and a largely disinterested staff does not bode well for the university. We all need to be on the same page.
  10. 10. (4) Various departments also have seminars and workshops on decolonization and where we can – we work together to amplify these. (5) We recommend that Faculties and departments, and units have their own discussions on what decolonization means for them and how they will implement this. Deans should report on these discussions. (6) A workshop for academics on pedagogical and epistemological concerns linked to the curriculum. We would like to share experiences, understand challenges and concerns and develop a set of guiding principles and values to underpin our academic endeavor (7) There should also be a review of academic programmes and modules offered at the University to ensure curriculum transformation: Focused programme/module reviews/revisions by faculties in collaboration with Institutional Planning and Academic Dev. (8) Task Team noted the short-term possibilities of creating online generic grounding courses for all students. While the task team recognizes that restructuring of the curricula takes time, we need to have some short-term gains – not sure where we are in this process.
  11. 11. (8) Engage with other committees and structures at UJ around conceptual and process issues. (9) Develop a Blog/ Facebook Page/ Platform for Engagement (10)Feed into a comprehensive report that draws on the emerging literature and national debates on this topic, outlines the conceptual issues and provides concrete ways in which the university can proceed. (11) Appropriate knowledge creation: The appropriate structures should also review research centers within the University to facilitate more African centered research projects. UJ should also establish meaningful partnerships with counterparts on the African continent and/or Global South and encourage more exchange visits for staff and students.
  12. 12. THOUGHTS ON ACTIVITIES Panel Discussions:  Panelists emphasised the need to examine the power that certain knowledge has acquired and that what we are aspiring to is more about getting students to think critically and to explore different forms of knowledge.  For Torres “the de colonial turn is about making visible the invisible and about analyzing the mechanisms that produce such invisibility or distorted visibility in light of a large stock of ideas that must necessarily include the critical reflections of the invisible people themselves. Indeed one must recognize their intellectual production as thinking – not only as culture or ideology”  He maintains that decolonializing generates anxiety because it unsettles one's sense of wellbeing and belonging. It calls identities into question, it calls the enlightenment project into question.
  13. 13. • And for us here in South Africa we are at a place of discomfort for we have not come here voluntarily – we have been pushed by students to critically reflect on our teaching and learning – and we do not feel equipped to do so – operating from a position of fear of the unknown. • It manifests in several ways. Many students and staff simply refuse to engage with the debates at all. Some staff ridicule students' demands for a multiplicity of knowledge systems by denying that these systems exist or debunking them as inferior to western theories and systems. Many academics have responded to calls for an African-centered curriculum by saying this would render South Africa's universities parochial. • But, as Desiree Lewis reminded us in her intervention - that it's not enough to simply replace one body of content with another and keep the power relations and teaching and learning processes as they have been. Equally important - decolonisation of knowledge is not about “replacing all existing canons with new Afrocentric canons, if these should be equally exclusive, elitist or authoritarian.”
  14. 14. • Walter Mignolia (not part of the panel discussions)– “There is no one Chief or Executive Committee that determines and controls what can be said in the name of modernity/coloniality/decoloniality.”… “The decolonial is not a universal project that pretends to put to rest in the past everything that is not decolonial, so we would emerge as the Savior Gods, who had the solution of the almost eight billion people in the planet. And so, a new planetary fascism will march like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. If you formulate the question with that very modern and universalistic presupposition, it is obvious that we have not made clear yet what we mean by pluriversality” • For Vineet Thakur (post-doc) we must not fall into the trap of romanticising the past and he noted that "decolonialisation involves continuous critique, a dialectical engagement". • For many of the students participating on the panels – it is about wanting to see themselves and their experiences in the degrees that they are taught.
  15. 15. • Prof Yunus Ballim indicated that knowledge is not universal – the human condition is - and that we should be thinking of the kind of graduate or kind of citizen we want to produce in our academy. • In an excellent inaugural address by Brenda Leibowitz noted that the “consequences of the global hegemonisation of knowledge include: denigration of people’s dignity, violence linked to genocide, complacency and ignorance, the disqualification of people from groups or institutions and the alienation of learners and scholars from their own learning.” And the call was for both social justice and cognitive justice.
  16. 16. Relationship between social justice and decolonisation seminar
  17. 17. • (excerpt from the bloghttp://sotlforsocialjustice.blogspot.co.za/2016/05/decolonizing- curriculum-and-social.html) • The student on the panel said that he refused to accept that decolonization was only about race or colour. But at the same time felt indoctrinated as he knows all about Nietzsche but nothing about his own people, their law systems and histories. In his law studies, mainly American cases were used. Where are the African scholars? What are the African traditions? • For Professor Sakhela Buhlungu - South Africa has had centuries of slavery and colonization but today we see no traces of either. Yet coloniality permeates every aspect of our lives and is reinforced through power and inequality and privilege.
  18. 18. • He expressed an uneasiness about what would happen once the student campaigns dissipate. “Will the project ever go into the deeper recesses of academia?” For example will it affect the way courses are planned, or which textbooks are prescribed and journals are subscribed to or whose knowledge/voice is relevant. He was also deeply concerned by the fact that any move to decolonize the African university is seen as a move to dumb down the quality or standard of our university sector. • Mary Metcalf - Decolonization is about excellence and those who try to relate decolonization to a ‘drop in standards’ should never be listened to – excellence and transformation are indivisible. How things like globalisation are thrown into arguments to muddy the waters. She concluded by reminding us that, “no one owned the debate on decolonization and everyone has a role to play.” • On the panel dealing with languages one of the central questions was why English has become hegemonic?
  19. 19. Other engagements 1. Charter (statement of core principles/aims/framework document) – Our initial thinking is that we have to set aside a week in which we (representatives of all four task teams, executive, students and support staff) spend a ½ day at each campus explaining what we have been doing to date, the need for a charter and obtaining views on what should go into a charter. We can also create a channel for others who have not spoken at the engagements to submit their ideas. There will be rapporteurs at each of the engagements. We could also break into 4 commissions (either on the lines of the 4 task teams -or another set of broad questions) to discuss issues in more detail. 3. Deans and HoD’s have to take the lead in their faculties and their departments to get to the specifics of reviewing their curriculum, the implications of decolonization, the tensions they for see and the targets they will set for themselves.
  20. 20. CONCLUDING REMARKS 1. The task team cannot decolonize the university – this has to be a collective exercise. 2. Need to bring everyone on board – there is still a great deal of resistance out there. We need to ensure that the majority see this objective as something worthwhile and non threatening to pursue. 3. The university must create the support structures that will make this a viable exercise. 4. In the end decolonization is about critical reflection, diversity and restoring humanity and dignity to all, not about exclusion and reversed oppression.
  21. 21. Questions to reflect on • What values underpin teaching and learning in our faculty or our respective disciplines? • What kinds of knowledge do we value? What has become hegemonic knowledge and who has determined this? • How do we make choices about what should go into the curriculum? How do we address questions of relevance? (relevance of texts to contexts). • What kinds of students do we wish to graduate? How can we affirm the knowledge, attitudes and skills that they bring into the discipline? • What are some of the principles that should be guiding us and what process should we put in place for recurriculation?
  22. 22. • THANK YOU!

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  • samuelmbiza1

    Aug. 24, 2018
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    Jun. 15, 2020

Presentation by Cheryl Hendricks at a workshop at the University of Johannesburg on Decolonizing the Curriculum


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