The long walk to decolonisation: Conversations on transformation in higher education

Decolonisation and transformation seem to be the two buzzwords in the world of academia presently. So much so, that colloquiums, conferences and public lectures are held to discuss this ideology and how it will impact the higher education sector as we know it as well as everyday society.

Indeed it was this topic that informed the Vaal University of Technology’s (VUT) recent “The Academic of 2017: Future Realities” conference, hosted by the Centre for Academic Development at Emerald Hotel from 14 -16 November.

Academics, students and well-known speakers gathered for the conference that sought to discuss disruptive technology, decolonisation and transformation.

Popularly known for unapologetically speaking his mind, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Free State, Professor Jonathan Jansen, opened the conference with a powerful keynote address sharing his thoughts on colonialism and the decolonisation of teaching and learning in higher education.

Professor Candace Thille, from Standford University in the US, is the founder of Open Learning Initiative (OLI). This programme offers teaching and learning courses to improve the university environment to anyone around the world, through easily accessible innovative online courses.

Her talk focused on disruptive technology and how it has positively impacted the way teaching and learning takes place in classrooms and lecture halls across the globe. She discussed concepts such as blended learning and the use of technology to simplify the way teaching takes place – this is especially important for sharing knowledge with students who cannot physically attend classes but who have access to the Internet and other methods of communication, such as mobile apps.

Professor Siphamandla Zondi, from the University of Pretoria, is a researcher on Africa’s international relations, African thought and the uprising of the “global south”. He presented a workshop:

“Decolonisation of the university” to a packed conference room where he said that decolonisation is not something that can simply take place overnight and that people should understand that decolonisation and transformation are not the same thing.

The three-day conference’s list of esteemed speakers included: Prof Chris Landsberg, from the University of Johannesburg, Prof Dick Ng’ambi from the University of Cape Town, Prof Allan Munro and Prof Michael Pillay from VUT, Dr Teboho Pitso who heads the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at VUT, Dr Ellen Kornegay, who serves as the Advisor to the Deputy Minister for Public Service and Ms Sthembile Mbete, who is an International Relations lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria.

All these voices contributed to the broader conversation on the long journey towards transformation of the higher education sector in South Africa.

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