African Indigenous Knowledge Systems debated at Symposium
UKZN’s School of Applied Human Sciences (SAHS) hosted its 4th Annual Students’ Conference which concluded with a symposium generating rigorous debate around the implementation of Indigenous Knowledge Systems within the College of Humanities.
The UKZN panellists were the College’s Dean for Teaching and Learning, Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa, and Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize. The third panellist was Dr Chinwe Nwoye, Senior Lecturer, formally in the Department of Political Science and Sociology at the University of Dodoma in Tanzania.
Hlongwa and Mkhize reviewed the historical development and current status of African languages and indigenous knowledge systems (AIKS) in Higher Education, arguing that in recognition of the plural and multi-vocal nature of the knowledge domain, the project to develop IKS could not be meaningfully pursued without taking cognisance of local languages.
‘It is in these languages that the cognitive, philosophical, and other frameworks of the local people are embedded. African languages and AIKS are indispensable to the transformation of the Higher Education landscape,’ said Hlongwa.
Both professors recommended the entrenchment of African languages and AIKS in Higher Education systems and the College while noting that the use of exoglossic languages created elitism.
According to Hlongwa, in implementing the policy of AIKS the College of Humanities has developed a post graduate diploma in AIKS which was approved by Council last month. The diploma was made possible by collaborative work between the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in IKS and the College of Humanities.
She acknowledged UKZN’s Dr Fayth Ruffin for leading the development of the Programme and said the PGDIP in AIKS would be housed in the School of Applied Human Sciences in Humanities. ‘The other Colleges will follow suit as soon as DHET gives its approval and CHE has accredited the qualification.’
The PGDip is a multidisciplinary qualification with modules from Applied Human Sciences, Education and Religion, Philosophy and Classics. Modules to be offered in the programme include: History and Philosophies of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems; Nature and Patterns of Indigenous Knowledge Systems; African Indigenous Knowledge Systems Research Methodologies; African Epistemology as Philosophy; African Indigenous Leadership Practices; Ethical Issues in African Indigenous Knowledge Systems; Indigenous Healing: Theory & Practice; Indigenous Peace-Building and Conflict Transformation, and African Indigenous Religious Heritage and Research Project in African Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
‘The College plans to offer this programme bilingually in 2017, using isiZulu and English in the modules. As soon as the PGDip is accredited we will develop a masters programme in AIKS,’ said Hlongwa.
Adding further, Mkhize said: ‘There is a misperception that AIKS amounts to a nostalgic return to the past - perhaps even ‘inventing’ a glorious past - and has nothing to contribute towards the future. This is not surprising given the historical marginalisation and distortion of IKS.’
The participants emphasised that AIKS is interested in the past in order to illuminate the future. ‘It is guided by the SANKOFA principle, which seeks to return to the source in order to establish where the plot was lost for the indigenous peoples, so as to be better armed for the challenges of today’s modern society,’ said Mkhize.
The participants also emphasised that, like all knowledge traditions, IKS is dynamic, fluid, and is also enriched by the dialogue with different knowledge traditions. Its holistic, spiritual nature also means that it can be deployed against the racial and gender divisions of the modern world.
In their response to the questions, the participants emphasized that IKS does not seek to present itself as a panacea for all the troubles of the world. Instead, it is a significant voice that ought to be heard if there was to be genuine dialogue.
The participants also called for further research into IKS and the recognition and publication of research outputs that take IKS as their point of departure in mainstream journals.