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Change the world


Student teachers need to be exposed to a curriculum that includes indigenous knowledge in order to develop into multiculturally conscious educators.

“If knowledge refers to how individuals and societies construct and interpret realities based on their lived experiences, histories, belief systems and ways of knowing, a new curriculum underpinned by multiple knowledges will have to be collectively constructed,” says Associate Professor Nokhanyo Mdzanga of the Faculty of Education.

She contributed a chapter about this in a book published by the University of the Western Cape Press in 2021 titled Knowledge beyond colour lines: Towards repurposing knowledge generation in South African higher education.

Prof Mdzanga’s chapter is titled ‘Locating Indigenous Knowledge in a teacher education curriculum’.

“In this chapter, I use Professor Zodwa Motsa’s definition of the terms ‘indigenous knowledge’ and ‘indigenous knowledge systems’ to denote the knowledge that had been in existence in indigenous African societies before colonisers set foot in their communities.” (Prof Motsa is the Executive Director: Leadership and Transformation at UNISA.)

“My research calls for prescribed texts, pedagogies, language usage and the academic theories, philosophies and values that underpin the curriculum to recognise, in dialogue with other forms of knowledge, the importance of indigenous knowledge in teacher education preparation.”

It’s a complex process, she explains, and teacher educators and curriculum designers must be mindful of the complexities and tensions generated by embedding indigenous knowledge in teaching and learning because it is not just about adding a new knowledge area; it requires instilling a whole new critical indigenous consciousness.

She quotes curriculum specialist Dr Hollie Kulago from the Faculty of Education, Pennsylvania State University, whose research focuses on critical indigenous curriculum and pedagogy, who says: “Indigenous knowledge cannot be easily embedded without disrupting Eurocentric hegemony in the content of the curriculum.”

Given the multicultural and multilingual nature of South African classrooms, we need teachers who are conscious of mediating learning and knowledge in diverse classroom contexts. Hence, the whole teaching and learning space needs to encourage students to question their assumptions and beliefs about knowledge. “Perhaps the starting point should be for students to define what they count as knowledge and how they grapple with locating the concept in their teacher preparation curriculum,” says Prof Mdzanga.

“The desired goal would be a curriculum that enables student teachers across all disciplines to be critical educators. Such a curriculum, I argue, would empower teachers to critique the epistemological issues that exist in teacher education and enable them to effect change in what, how and why they teach.

“These critical issues and challenges in education need to be addressed using a multidisciplinary approach. It would be interesting to learn how different faculties think about locating indigenous knowledge in the curriculum and how they address the decolonisation of the curriculum as a student project area in the course.”

Contact information
Prof Nokhanyo Mdzanga
Associate Professor
Tel: 041 504 4564