02 AUGUST 2012
African universities urged to focus on developing skills
South African universities and other key educators are urged to move away from a “business as usual” approach in order to preserve and integrate African culture in the education system. As the continent experiences drastic growth, it has become crucial to develop the skills within communities in order to address lingering challenges brought on by the apartheid era.
This is the view of Professor Nomvula Mtetwa who recently spoke at the Africa Day conference at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB). Mtetwa says that as Africa’s economic growth accelerates, role players need to move away from focusing on the ‘woundedness’ of certain African groups. She says the only way to achieve this is by understanding the context of the African cultural environment.
“South African universities, cultural activists, politicians and traditional leaders collectively transformed the mindsets of society and those responsible for running them through the apartheid era. It is now up to these role players to regain their interest in the post liberation struggles and look for ways to help poverty and conflict ravaged communities to use their skills to support themselves,” says Mtetwa.”
“The devastating result of colonisation in Africa, which has since been exacerbated in South Africa by apartheid, has forced many challenges upon Africa’s communities. For one, the skills in our communities are ignored and this has become one of the biggest failures of skills development.”
Mtetwa says role players must look at taking an alternative approach to developing skills and assist communities in growing whatever skills they already have and use them to develop their communities. “After all, people want to learn today what they can use tomorrow.”
According to Mtetwa, the youth especially, need a proper historical base of what Africa has gone through. “Education is key to uplifting societies from within and we therefore need to embrace both formal and informal aspects of education to drive this message. It is also crucial to involve South African adults in the education process. There is a sense that in most of our education campaigns we overlook the parents. Parents tend only to be contacted when things go wrong – and by this stage I believe it is already too late.”
Furthermore, Mtetwa says cultures in Africa have been denigrated. “Steve Biko once said ‘One of the most difficult things to do as an African today is to talk with authority with anything to do with culture.’ For this reason, she says role players such as universities and business schools are needed to encourage communities to have a deep understanding of the different cultures they live among.”