January 17, 2019


Call to decolonise education system

Learning in English oppressive . . . Dr Hleze Kunju

Learning in English oppressive . . . Dr Hleze Kunju

There is so much in our cultures that are slowly dying and I believe that it is our responsibility to develop the African literature, says local academic Hleze Kunju

Institutions of higher learning should take the lead in the country’s efforts to decolonise the education system and promote the use of indigenous languages for teaching and learning, an academic said.

Dr Hleze Kunju, who has become popular for being the first doctoral candidate at Rhodes University to write his thesis in isiXhosa, said tertiary institutions should be a starting point for change.
He noted systems can be put in place to allow for the transformation so that information can be disseminated to lower schooling levels.

Kunju said this recently when he presented a public lecture at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein called “The Decolonisation of the Higher Education Curriculum”.

The lecture coincided with the commemoration of the 54th anniversary of Africa Day.

“For me, learning in English is oppressive,” said Kunju.

“A plan has to be made at university level to ensure that Africans are taught in their preferred languages and are able to access information thereof,” he added.

Before Kunju’s academic adventure with his isiXhosa thesis, no other student had written a thesis in any vernacular language at Rhodes University.

The 31-year-old scholar’s thesis is called IsiXhosa ultimo lwabantu abangesonininzi eZimbabwe: Ukuphila nokulondolozwa kwaso (IsiXhosa as a minority language in Zimbabwe: survival and maintenance)

“African knowledge is marginalised and our curriculum does not respond to what we want. Our languages should be used in teaching and learning at tertiary institutions as there are many African stories that have not been told, and those stories can form part of our curriculum.

There is so much in our cultures that are slowly dying and I believe that it is our responsibility to develop the African literature and universities need to respond to that,” said Kunju, who describes himself as passionate about promoting African languages.

He pointed out that a lot has been said about the need to promote the use of indigenous languages in teaching and learning but sadly, not much has been done. Kunju also warned that there will never be a special time with abundant resources to implement the idea and therefore the best time to start was now.

“Let us start where we are with what we have and move forward.”

Kunju revealed that he faced many challenges including destructive criticism and limited African Literature, adding despite all that, his passion for Isixhosa and amaXhosa, the love for African languages, his experience of growing up in the rural areas and his stay in Zimbabwe where he discovered the amaXhosa population, drove and inspired him to do his thesis.

He said he found it unreasonable to write about the Xhosa people in another language other than their own.

“Today, I am content that I have tried to bring change and will continue to push the change forward with all I have. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in diversity, I believe in multiracial, multilingual and multicultural societies and I also believe in our rainbow nation, but I think that there are colours in that rainbow that are brighter than the others.”

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