UJ conference to decolonise university curriculum focuses on Pan-Africanism

Crowds protest rising University tuition fees. Source: Twitter
Crowds protest rising University tuition fees. Source: Twitter

Scholars from across the world descended on the University of Johannesburg (UJ) for a three-day conference, making strides towards a decolonised university curriculum.

The conference kicked off today at UJ’s Kingsway campus and is scheduled to end on Sunday.

The conference is designed to contribute substantively to UJ’s and other South African universities’ efforts to decolonise the academic curriculum, and to ensure that the epistemology of the universities’ programmes reflect their African context.

This comes after calls by the #FeesMustFall movement to decolonise education in the country.

Several speakers, mostly academics, will table papers and debate topics ranging from the rise and fall of Pan-Africanism, pioneers of Pan-Africanism, historians, economists, sociologists and activists.

About 35 prominent academics of African descent have been billed to share their academic papers and take questions from the floor as part of debating their relevance in the current discourse.

The scholars are from parts of Africa, the Caribbean, United States, Canada, and Europe.

The conference will also commemorate the Soweto youth uprising of June 16 1976 against apartheid.

UJ’s Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation (IPATC) director Professor Adekeye Adebajo said the conference will help put together a book that will steer efforts in decolonising education.

“The essays presented at the conference will, however, not just be celebratory but also critical in areas where their subjects may have fallen short of their ideals.

"It is important to present a balanced picture of these historical and contemporary Pan-African figures, even while celebrating their intellectual contributions and achievements.

“An edited volume will be produced from the meeting that can be used for courses across Africa and its Diaspora.

"Within South Africa, the book will also be widely disseminated in order to contribute to broader efforts to educate the general public on Pan-Africanism and to encourage South Africans to engage more with their African identity.

“We hope to contribute to knowledge production, to convincing South Africa of its African identity, and to building a strong, revived Pan-African civil society movement,” said Adebajo.

UJ’s internal communications coordinator Collen Maepa said scholars were expected to make significant contributions to UJ’s efforts to decolonise the academic curriculum.

He said they will make assessments of the intellectual thinking and contributions of historical and contemporary figures.

These included ANC founder Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Maya Angelou, Ghana’s first president and prime minister Kwame Nkrumah, PAC president Robert Sobukwe, former president Thabo Mbeki, US human rights activist Malcolm X, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Frantz Fanon, Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko, and musicians Miriam Makeba and Bob Marley, among others.

Maepa said the project represents an ambitious effort to create a “Johannesburg School of Pan-Africanism” that can revive Pan-Africanism as a civil society movement linking actors from Africa and its diaspora.

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