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Prof Simphiwe Sesanti talks about Africanizing the Philosophy Curriculum

On 14 March 2016, Prof Simphiwe Sesanti addressed a packed Rendezvous Café, and highlighted some of the most important issues regarding the current challenges faced by tertiary institutions with regard to transformation and Africanization.

Sesanti, who formerly worked at NMMU, is currently an Associate Professor at the University of South Africa (UNISA)’s Institute for African Renaissance Studies (IARS). He holds a PhD (Journalism Studies) from Stellenbosch University, and has published in several accredited journals on a variety of issues, including African philosophy, gender, journalism and religion.

Sesanti’s lecture revolved around the current state of African philosophy in general, and the urgency to acknowledge the value of African knowledge systems, as well as the upliftment of long negated indigenous knowledge, traditions and wisdom.

One of the main concerns raised by Sesanti, is the fact that tertiary institutions do not reflect the current context in which they are situated, and he suggested that this must be addressed in a productive, non-violent way. In order to transform South African universities, there must be a reclaiming of African epistemology, which must have its basis in African experience. Such a shift must be approached with the intent to both create new knowledge, and to expand on existing African knowledge.

Even though there is a heated debate currently about whether an ‘African culture’ exists, Sesanti pointed out that there are striking similarities between all cultures in Africa. These underlying values must be acknowledged and re-valued. Some of the values that we need to revive in our institutions include a spirit of communality, compassion and tradition.

In response to the DecolonizeOrPerish, FeesMustFall, Black Consciousness and RhodesMustFall movements, Sesanti emphasized that the students involved in these movements, must identify potential allies (of all races) in tertiary institutions, and then they need to take initiative in producing and developing African knowledge and philosophy, in order to ensure the successful transformation of tertiary institutions.

Sesanti also highlighted the central role that gender constructions play in keeping dominant oppressive structures in place. According to Sesanti, we need to start focusing on the importance of female leaders, and the central role that women have traditionally played in African societies.




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