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Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Freeing the mind by changing the way you view language

MEETING OF MINDS: Prof Kwesi Kwaa Prah talks to Dr Bongani Nyoka at the start of the Inaugural Seminar on Decolonisation. MEETING OF MINDS: Prof Kwesi Kwaa Prah talks to Dr Bongani Nyoka at the start of the Inaugural Seminar on Decolonisation.

Prof Kwesi Kwaa Prah, founder and Director of the Africa-wide Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society, was the speaker at the inaugural Seminar on Decolonisation at CPUT.

The talk represents an inaugural seminar, to be followed by a series of workshops around issues of decolonising the curriculum in Higher Education, and Prah deftly sketched an outline of the concept of decolonised education in Africa.

The Fundani Centre for Higher Education Development is spearheading this institutional project. The project is a collaborative relationship with the  Internationalisation and Modernisation Programme for Academics, Leaders and Administrators (IMPALA).  One of the major focus areas of the decolonisation project is on seeking cognitive justice and decentering Western knowledge through curriculum renewal activities.

Prah started off by defining colonisation as a total system that affects all areas of social life of the colonised and then explained how it is in language that the colonial process, past and present, is most manifest, decisive and conspicuous.

Drawing the link between education and language as the key instrument in delivery of education, he then expounded on how the use of a foreign language as the medium of instruction constrains the full participation of the student.

“If the decolonisation of education in our time is to have meaning and a chance of success, the movement away from the colonial languages to home languages and the mother tongue would be essential,” he said.

Prah pointed out that Africa remains the only place in the post-WWII Afro-Asian world where the language of the erstwhile master features as official language and language of instruction in a generalised and ubiquitous way.

“If the decolonisation process is to be realised, then a start has to be made at this point of departure.”

The decolonisation of education will actively require ancillary activities and infrastructure. For example, the use of African languages requires that facilities for the development of scientific terminology and the creation of meta-language be created.

The process of decolonising education has different implications for the natural sciences as distinct from social sciences.

The natural sciences study invariably insensible physical matter and it is possible to study the anatomy and physiology of the human body separate from the consciousness which the physical configuration the body expresses. The arts, humanities and social sciences in contrast deal with what is fundamentally and essentially human, in other words culture and culture-related manifestations, all of which are intricately bound up in language as a means of expression.

The implications of this difference is important to CPUT which is an essentially natural sciences oriented institute.

The study areas know no borders and analytical procedures are not country specific:

“Decolonisation should mean greater voice and means to autonomously produce and reproduce knowledge. It implies that we are better able to produce answers to our own problems and satisfy the needs of our society.

“The confidence to do this cannot come until we are culturally able to stand on our own feet, particularly through the enabling of our languages to become languages of the sciences and technology.”

The next seminar will be on May 25 when Prof Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni from Unisa will deliver the keynote address and CPUT lecturer Siya Sabata will respond by linking Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s talk to the CPUT graduate attribute project, detailing our plan of action towards decolonisation of university structure, space and culture.

Written by Theresa Smith


Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.