The Vrije Universiteit And South Africa ~ Some Trends In South African Academic History: Changing Contexts And Challenges

Seismographic social and political shifts introduced the 1990s: the end of the Cold War, the demise of communism abroad, and in South Africa the official end of apartheid and the subsequent instalment of a new democratic government. Given these developments it is reasonable to expect that historians, who construct their versions of the past in the present, and are at least to some degree influenced by that present, should, in the light of wider contextual changes, re-evaluate their approaches and revise their interpretations. The relationship between societal change and historical production is, however, not a simple one-to-one function.

It is against this background that this paper seeks to identify and briefly explore selective developments pertaining to the dynamics of the historical profession in South Africa and the intellectual correlates that help to define the current nature of the enterprise . The chapter focuses only on certain aspects and makes no claim to have covered the vast and treacherous area exhaustively.

Academic historians and the question of growth
The 1990s were not the most auspicious of times for the profession. Instead of bewailing this fact, it may be more profitable to apply historical insights to the phenomenon and to ask what are the conditions that are particularly conducive for the expansion of the historical enterprise as practiced professionally? This necessitates a brief look at the contextual forces that helped to shape the profession in South Africa.

The profession reached its high point during the 1980s. It was a period when the History Department at the University of South Africa could boast with a staff of 35 historians; today it is halved. The University of Stellenbosch had a staff of eight; today it is almost half that number. Staffing figures at some other universities in the country would tell very much the same story.

To explain the growth up to the 1980s, one has to bear in mind that structurally job opportunities were limited for black people and given the lack of options many gravitated towards teaching (Crankshaw 1997: 23). This helped to swell the number of teachers and of those who included history as a subject in their courses. Moreover, since the 1960s the educational system rewarded teachers who obtained degrees financially and also those who sought to improve their qualifications. This served as a powerful incentive to engage with the discipline. Of course the system was skewed as it was largely whites (because of their higher participation rate in tertiary education) that benefited most, but black people were not excluded. Many teachers used the opportunities to gain higher degree qualifications in a teaching subject such as history. To oversimplify matters slightly – interest in history could be bought. But there were always those individuals who may have enrolled initially for pecuniary reasons, but for whom it also turned out to be an occasion to engage meaningfully with material that otherwise might have remained outside their ken.

The system almost inadvertently provided the opportunity for what can be called ‘creative misuse’, in that educators who were on top of their subject could introduce critical material that ran against the apartheid grain. In this way a mustard seed of doubt could be disseminated far and wide, undermining the spurious historical legitimacy for apartheid. The Minister of Education, Kader Asmal, has recently singled out for acknowledgement ‘the role of many courageous historians, educators and practitioners who refused to abide by the official line at the time …’ (The South African History Project Progress Report 2001-2003: 20). Read more

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The Vrije Universiteit And South Africa ~ Political Studies In South Africa. A Personal Perspective

First, let us consider the discipline’s demography in South Africa. Over the last ten years political studies or political science has been taught in each of the country’s 21 universities. Aspects of the discipline were also taught in public administration courses at polytechnics; several of these institutions are now being amalgamated with universities. Historically, as with other areas of social science, politics as an academic community was sharply divided, socially and intellectually between the English language universities and the Afrikaans medium institutions. Within Afrikaner departments, traditionally, the discipline was influenced quite heavily by American behaviouralist and quantitative social science models and methods and researchers tended to focus their work within the confines of the formal political system (including the structures of ethnic homeland government). At the segregated black universities, departments were often led and staffed by graduates from Afrikaans institutions as well as from UNISA. In English speaking departments, by the 1980s, Marxist approaches had supplanted traditionally liberal ideas about politics and leading researchers concentrated their attention on popular political movements, emphasising those dimensions of their activities and ideas that corresponded most closely with expressions of class consciousness. In this context, the study of the discipline had a strong historical dimension: indeed at institutions such as Wits and Cape Town the boundaries between a ‘revisionist’ history grounded in Marxist conceptions of political economy and the discipline of politics became very blurred indeed. Today, though legacies of these differences between Afrikaans and ‘English’ institutions remain, the distinctions between Afrikaans-speakers and English language practitioners of the discipline in South African are less important, particularly since the introduction of English language courses at Afrikaans universities.

South African politics departments are small – between five and ten full time staff is normal, though Wits with its separate establishments for political studies and international relations employs more than twenty political scientists. Overall at the universities there are around 200 or so politics lecturers teaching about 10,000 students enrolled in undergraduate courses. This has been an expanding student population: in the aftermath of the ANC’s accession to government politics classes grew swiftly, contracted slightly in the late 1990s and once again grew, a reflection of trends in secondary school matriculation as well as optimistic perceptions among students about the subject’s vocational utility. Most first year politics classes (including those at former elite institutions such as Wits and Pretoria) are now recruited mainly from working class districts in African townships, though Cape Town and Stellenbosch represent exceptions to this generalization. Read more

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The Vrije Universiteit And South Africa ~ ‘New’ Scientific Practice In South Africa With Special Reference To Land Reform

…training new generations of scientists and technologists oriented towards the solving of real problems (White Paper on Science and Technology 1996).

The SandT capacity of the country is running as fast as it can, but is still losing ground (National Research and Development Strategy 2000).

Introduction
The landscape of scientific practice and higher education in South Africa has changed drastically since 2 February 1990. The changes that occurred in these fields during the last decade of the 20th century were probably the most incisive in the history of science and higher education in South Africa.
When the democratically elected government came into power in 1994, science was confronted with two main challenges, namely to transform the system so that the welfare of all the inhabitants could be promoted and to make South Africa competitive in a globalising world.
The new government inherited a sound science infrastructure. It was a widely dispersed and uncoordinated system in which scientists enjoyed international recognition for transplanting hearts and for enabling the deepest exploitation of mines in the world. However, the system was mainly directed at the promotion of the welfare of the white community and was strongly focussed on military defence; the provision of energy and food; and the combating of diseases.[i]

In this transformation process, South Africa was very receptive to theories, models and schools of thought. Expertise from abroad was not provided in all instances without direct or subtle influence. There are already indications that certain models, that were applied successfully elsewhere, cannot be transferred without adaptations to the South African situation, where complex issues have to be addressed. The question that arises is whether the government implements the policy documents that were designed by intellectuals who are not part of the bureaucracy.

Two examples are applicable to the aims of this paper. Firstly, the work by Gibbons et al. (1994) entitled The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies and also Scott et al.’s (1995) The meaning of mass higher education have had a strong influence on policy formulation regarding science and regarding higher education (Kraak 2000). Secondly, the World Bank has made significant inputs to the establishment of the policy on land reform. There is at present a widespread debate on whether a shift of emphasis from Gibbons’ Mode 1 (basic) to Mode 2 (interdisciplinary or applied research) has had a beneficial effect on teaching and research in higher education in particular and on science in general. Older academics and researchers find it difficult to switch from Mode 1 to Mode 2. Younger researchers and some faculties at universities have probably embraced this new paradigm and the pursuit of relevance so strongly that it now threatens to smother them. In this regard there appears to be a great deal of validity in Sheila Slaughter’s statement, as quoted by Kraak (2000: 33):
that the commercialization of the academy will lead to a decline of the canonical tradition itself, the weakening of the professorate and scholarly research and the triumph of a managerial mode of control in the university not unlike that of corporate capitalism. Read more

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The Vrije Universiteit And South Africa ~ The Changing Higher Education Landscape In South Africa

The apartheid legacy
In order to contextualise the discourse on the changing higher education landscape in South Africa, it is necessary to briefly sketch the historical origins and thrust of the ideology underpinning black education in South Africa during the apartheid era.

Hendrik Verwoerd and apartheid education laws 1953-59
Black education in South Africa was originally introduced, developed and funded by Christian missions of various denominations. Subsequently and as the benefits to the economy of an educated black workforce became apparent, the government introduced a system of subsidization for the mission schools. The mission schools offered the same content and used the same syllabuses as the white schools, and the successful students received the same diplomas and certificates as the white students. Some of these black mission schools became well known for excellence, such as Lovedale in the Cape (Mandela’s old school), Marianhill and Adam’s College in Natal.

Fort Hare Native College, later Fort Hare University, was established by the Presbyterian Church and drew students from as far afield as east and central Africa. It boasts among its graduates such famous African leaders as Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela.

In the early 1950s, Hendrik Verwoerd was Minister of Native Affairs, and immediately complained that missionaries were providing the wrong kind of education for black people, and were trying to make ‘black Englishmen’ out of them. In 1953, he introduced legislation to remove black education from mission control to that of the Department of the Department of Native Affairs, vowing that:
I will reform it [black education] so that Natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them.

There was ‘no place [for blacks] above the level of certain forms of labour. So, what is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when he cannot use it in practice? Education must train and teach people in accordance with their opportunities in life’. Read more

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Socrates Mbamalu ~ How Can African Languages Be Protected?

An endangered language is defined as a language that is at a risk of falling out of use as its speakers die out or shift to another language. Many African speakers have shifted to other languages, mostly foreign languages and many African indigenous languages are on the brink of being endangered, nearing extinction. How African governments save these endangered African indigenous languages?

In a continent of 55 countries and over 2,000 languages, it is shocking that the official languages predominantly used are foreign languages. It is even worse that the medium of instruction in learning institutions are foreign languages. The marginalization of indigenous languages leaves many of the African languages without a role to play.

For a language to survive, it must have a defined and clear role that it plays in the society. It could be used as the language of the immediate community to communicate, which could as well be the mother tongue. It could be used as the language of wider communication, (a language used by people as a medium of communication across language or cultural barriers), which is the case for example with lingua franca. It could be used as the language of religion, for example Arabic in the Koran.

With the lack of a clearly defined role, a language tends to get less used. When a language has fewer speakers, the language eventually dies (language death). Due to language shift, when speakers shift from using one language to another, either due to economic gains or other reasons, the language becomes endangered, and if not protected, it will eventually die.

Read more: https://thisisafrica.me/can-african-languages-protected/

Read also: Ngugi wa Thiong’o calls for preservation and inclusion of African languages in learning institutions

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Prophecies And Protests ~ Ubuntu In Glocal Management ~ Contents

Savusa Series ~ Rozenberg Publishers ~ 2007 ~ ISBN 978 90 5170 949 0

Henk van den Heuvel – Introduction. Prophecies and Protests ~ Signifiers of Afrocentric Management Discourse
1. Lovemore Mbigi – A Vision of African Management and African Leadership: A Southern African Perspective
2. Luchien Karsten – Manufacturing Management Concepts: The Ubuntu Case
3. Heinz Kimmerle – Ubuntu and Communalism in African Philosophy and Art
4. David Weir – The Scope for Arab and Islamic Influences on an Emerging ‘Afrocentric Management’
5. Mzamo P. Mangaliso & Nomazengele A. Mangaliso – Unleashing the Synergistic Effects of Ubuntu: Observations from South Africa
6. Peter E. Franks – Managing in a Rural Context: Notes from the Frontier
7. Jan Boessenkool & Henk J. van Rinsum – Eurocentric versus Afrocentric Approaches: Management Thinking Beyond Dichotomies?
8. Mzamo Mangaliso & Lisa van de Bunt – Contextualising Ubuntu in the Glocal Management Discourse

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