Call to revive humanities faculties in universities

2012-08-31 00:00

PAUL Mashatile, the national minister of Arts and Culture, last night bemoaned the fact that humanities faculties in the country’s universities are shrinking as a result of under funding and called for funding restructuring.

Mashatile was giving the annual John Langalibelele Dube Memorial lecture at the Colin Webb Hall on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal on the topic, “John Dube’s challenge to humanities and education in the 21st century”.

Dube was the creator of the Ohlange Institute at Inanda, the founder of the newspaper, Ilanga lase Natal, and, in 1912, a founding member and first president of the ANC, which is currently celebrating its centenary.

“We learn from Dr Dube that there is no substitute for education,” said Mashatile. “We must continue to produce an educated society because of the importance of knowledge in all aspects of human interaction and all aspects of production.”

Mashatile said the “kind of education and society envisioned by Dr. Dube was based on the principles of service to humanity, self reliance, humility and dignity for all”.

Mashatile disagreed with the 2011 Africa Competitiveness Report which argued for a move away from the social sciences and humanities in favour of science, engineering, mathematics and entrepreneurship.

“It is through the humanities that we are able to record our past,” he said, “and, with an understanding of it, make sense of our present and plan better for the future”.

Mashatile supported a study by the Academy of Science of South Africa that recommended a restructuring of funding for advanced degrees, doctorates in particular, through national funding agencies such as the National Research Foundation (NRF).

“There is also a need to accelerate the establishment of prestigious research chairs and centres of excellence in the humanities,” he said.

Mashatile said the humanities are important “in understanding some of the difficult challenges our country faces, such as transformation, violence, corruption, the gap between the rich and the poor, and the issue of race”.

“Humanities equip learners with important skills such as critical thinking, deep and thorough analysis of events, the ability to view various incidences and occurrences as part of a whole. Indeed, humanities contribute to the development of a well-rounded individual.

“We learn from the life of Dr Dube that he saw humanities as part of a broader set of skills needed to enhance an individual’s contribution to society.”

• feature1@witness.co.za

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