In the face of a countrywide need for transformation in academic institutions in South Africa, the Rhodes University Department of Equity and Institutional Culture along with various concerned students and academics set up a two day conference aimed at exploring the relationship between the higher education curriculum and the geographical and psycho-social place in which it is developed.
The conference titled (RE) Making the South African University: Curriculum Development and the problem of place, took place on the 17-18 of April 2015. In attendance were students and Academics from Universities including The University of Witwatersrand, Fort Hare, Walter Sisulu University and Rhodes University.
Things got underway with an address by Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and Student affairs, Chrissie Boughey, “Curriculum change is very necessary,” Boughey said in a separate interview, “the Curriculum has the ability to give access to or limit what students learn and therefore we need to start to change it to accommodate as many as possible.”
Although the conference was about academics presenting their papers on the issues relating to curriculum change the students in attendance took an active stance in being a part of the debate.
“Rhodes University is going through turmoil with transformation, said second year student Siseko Khumalo, “although this conference was planned before these transformation issues were raised we are planning on using this as a platform to combat Rhodes Must Fall, Curriculum change and all other aspects of transformation.
In a discussion titled Excellence in Place with Dr Amanda Hlengwa as the chair, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Professor Crain Soudien presented his paper about putting into perspective the state of curriculum debate in higher education in the post apartheid period.
“We need to talk about the nature of apartheid,” said Soudien, “With that we have to work out what apartheid was, so we can work out what the nature of post-apartheid will be.” Sodien went on to explain that we are in a civilizational crisis right now and as a university it is our job to overcome this. “We have not been able to hear the cry of black pain; I look forward to religitimising the university with the hope that all of us have the platform to speak.”
Following Soudien’s presentation, Associate Professor, Leonhard Praeg presented his paper in which he attempts to look at such a unity of pedagogy of place long before the experience of loss or placeless-ness that gave rise to the need for pedagogy of place.
“Let’s not have academics and scholars theorise about pedagogy,” said Praeg “let’s let teachers who can teach say this is how I want to connect to my students.”
Praeg went on to challenge the theory of excellence, “The way we measure transformation has not been as good as the way we work to measure excellence,” said Praeg, “We don’t take what we do as seriously as the way we want to ensure that we do it well.”
Two days proved too short to capture everything those in attendance had to contribute, although this discussion started at Rhodes University, it can continue on the Curriculum transformation Facebook page or on twitter with the hashtag #TransformYourMind.
Article by: Thandi Bombi