Full Professor | University of Washington
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Decolonising African Higher Education: Practitioner Perspectives from across the Continent

Quality Education

This book looked at how practitioners across the African continent write, think, and struggle around decolonising higher education.

References

Book: Decolonising African Higher Education: Practitioner Perspectives from across the Continent (2022)
Peer Reviewed
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Co-authors:

About:

This research used a qualitative approach, combining conceptual analysis, historical documents and structured interviews.

The chapters, written by administrators in African higher education, reflected on their experiences of leading efforts to decolonise, and provided concrete examples of what decolonising looks like on the ground. Chapters clarify decolonial contexts in Namibia, Zambia, Uganda, Djibouti, Ghana, and South Africa.

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Funding:

This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

  • For development
  • For Academia & Research
  • africa
  • anti-blackness
  • anti-racism
  • decolonisation
  • higher education
  • Published: 2023

Key points

  • Higher education on the continent is still colonial and infrastructures reinforce this coloniality. We need to re-define the current situation by investing in local African knowledges if we want to decolonise higher education.

Conversations about decolonising higher education are largely theoretical, conceptual, or historical, with less discussion about what is happening today, in terms of current efforts. Many of the mainstream conversations are Western European or US driven. We wanted to specifically tap into the challenges and opportunities that African-based scholars see, to concretely think about what it really means to decolonise.

This book investigated what decolonising higher education looks like in different local contexts including in Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, and Djibouti. It vocalised these conversations to encourage a Pan African discussion.

Findings

  • Structures and infrastructures of higher education across the continent are still very colonial and white-centric which means that the funding mechanism is directly tied to the UK, the USA, or the European Union.

    For the vast majority of universities on the continent, research funding comes from white-centric spaces outside of Africa.

  • This means that teaching, scholarship, and service, the three fundamental missions of universities, are done in a colonial context.

    Most models, theories, articles and infrastructures are taken from European and Western contexts, even when local universities are trying to teach about how to solve local problems. To decolonise we have to transform the entire university and its infrastructures. This is a challenge because it means not getting funding.

  • Most efforts that appear decolonial, for example by centring African indigeneity, local Black communities, and local Black languages, are very siloed.

    They operate in a vacuum within this larger infrastructure of coloniality. These efforts are powerful but they are not systemic, and they ultimately rely on the work of individuals within a larger system, which is not sustainable.

  • Africans work within institutions that directly contradict the communities from where they come.

    These institutions deny local knowledge bases. For example, Ubuntu is one way of framing African indigenous learning systems. Ubuntu-based education is a collective conversation: individual learning should be shared with and applied in the community. This is contrary to western ideas of learning as an individual pursuit, designed for self-progression. This incompatibility shows how the existing knowledge system denies the existence of African indigenous knowledge.

How to use

  • We have to change the purpose of higher education
  • Locally, people on the continent need to push back against the Western influence of shaping higher education
  • To change the purpose of higher education in Africa, we need to change the funding model
Special thanks to Ramya Zwaal for preparation assistance

We would like to extend a special thank you to Ramya Zwaal, for their invaluable contribution in assisting the preparation of this research summary.

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B. Knaus, Christopher. 'Decolonising African Higher Education: Practitioner Perspectives from across the Continent'. Acume. https://www.acume.org/r/decolonising-african-higher-education/