Why are white professors silent on lack of black scholars?

2014-11-16 15:00

In the ongoing debate concerning black professors at South African universities, Adam Haupt raises an important question in the article “Black professors stalled by policy”.

The silence is about protecting white male privilege, which is under scrutiny in South Africa’s university system.

It is about the privilege of the white membership of the university council and senate, which is not concerned about change to reflect the demographics of the population of the country and the institutional culture that is privileged above the diversities of the cultures that were affirmed by the post-1994 dispensation.

This institutional culture has done very little to accommodate the cultures that did not historically belong to the institution.

We have paid lip service to university curriculums and that is why we have a paucity of black professors at our higher education institutions.

Curriculums must be at the centre of university transformation. What has not changed profoundly is that white, male professors continue to teach the research proposals they accept, support, fund and advise in postgraduate studies at MA, PhD and postdoctoral levels.

When our curriculums meaningfully acknowledge Africa and cease to pretend that our education does very little to serve Africa and African people, our universities will have enough black professors.

Many silent professors do not know Africa and African languages, since their scholarships are not about Africa.

For example, in medicine, health, heritage, arts and culture, black students enter universities with knowledge in the medium of their respective African languages and cultures from their communities about herbs that grow naturally in the vegetation of their back yards.

They also possess a knowledge about their heritage, arts and culture that is not necessarily housed in buildings called museums or galleries, but are carried in their heads and preserved in intangible ways that are then passed on to their children.

Ramoupi is a researcher at the Council on Higher Education

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