Decolonizing Higher Education in South Africa

Work thumb

Views: 64


The call for decolonization in the higher education sector in South Africa took another turn with the emergence of the Must Fall movements. These calls for decolonization have come to mean different things to different people. While some have seen it as the eradication of everything white in the higher education system, others have considered it to mean a blend of both local and foreign practices. However, the contextual realities in South African universities make the decolonization process in these universities a unique one due to the difference in both student and staff makeup, and the institutional architecture, culture, and resources. This article therefore sets out to theorize decolonization in South African higher education from a contextual perspective with the aim of advancing the decolonization discourse. Designed as a qualitative case study, data was generated for this paper using debates and open questionnaires. The data generated was coded and categorized into themes. Critical theory was used as a lens to give meaning to the data, while the data itself was analyzed using grounded analysis. The data generated revealed that decolonization in South African higher education centers around five key areas; changing the nature of knowledge, reviewing the curriculum, deconstructing teaching and learning, institutional identity, architecture and culture, and Africanization. From these themes, it can be deduced that the decolonization project may never be complete if one is handled without the other. It further revealed that the decolonization process needs to be championed from a contextual perspective if meaningful transformation must be made. The article recommends that the university needs to enable access not only to higher education, but also to knowledge by creating access to and understanding of the knower and the known. By delegitimizing certain codes of knowledge, and creating new codes in the knowledge systems and subsystems within the university, decolonization would be ensured in the higher education system in the context of the institution, as well as the formation of a decolonized individual.