The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) offers its students services by an in-house sangoma. Professor Sihawukele Ngubane says this has been in place for about 12 years now.
Prof Ngubane says the idea came about after concerns were raised that many African students who suffered emotional and spiritual difficulties weren’t catered for by the university’s Student Counselling Centre.
“The whole idea was that the in-house sangoma would complement the services rendered by psychologists through counselling students psychosis, headaches and stomach pains, including swollen feet that was believed to caused by ancestral spirits,” he tells Move!.
He says the idea is in line with the university’s vision of an African value-based institution.
The sangoma, Philile Mkhize, popularly known as Makhosi, was selected out of five others who were interviewed by a panel of experts.
She sees about 15 to 20 students a day and Prof Ngubane says the service has been positively received.
The students are diagnosed, receive counselling in their mother tongue, and receive healing for physical and mental illnesses through divination. Some students have identity challenges and would like to know who their biological fathers are and umngoma is capable of divulging this information in the presence of parents.
This service is taken as seriously as that of a professional Western doctor. The professor says a student who comes to Makhosi can receive a letter for their absentia due to something that needed African spiritual healing.
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“In the past students would suspend lectures to go home for this purpose without the knowledge of the institution and there was no evidence of the consultation. With the presence of umngoma on campus, a student’s visit may be tracked and letters are issued in-house by a recognised PR actioner,” he says.
Prof Ngubane is not sure about the cost of a consultation nowadays, but he states it was initially about R20. He says there’s been no stigma towards the service and points out that consultations take place during the day.
“This is a step in the right direction in decolonising our education system and part of the reclamation of our cultures. Indigenous healing is rife within the communities students come from and it is convenient to them to receive such assistance on campus. It saves them time and money to return home for healing. After consultation they can still attend their lectures,” he concludes.