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On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190


NDLOVU-GATSHENI, Sabelo J.. The emergence and trajectories of struggles for an 'African university': The case of unfinished business of African epistemic decolonisation. Kronos [online]. 2017, vol.43, n.1, pp.51-77. ISSN 2309-9585.

The decolonial departure point of this article is that every human being is born into a valid and legitimate knowledge system. This means that African people had their own valid and legitimate indigenous systems of education prior to colonisation. However, the dawn and unfolding of Eurocentric modernity through colonialism and imperialism unleashed a particularly racial ethnocentric attitude that led European colonialists to question the very humanity of African people. This questioning and sometimes outright denial of African people's humanity inevitably enabled not only genocides but epistemicides, linguicides and cultural imperialism. The long-term consequence was that Western education became propagated as the only valid and legitimate form of socialisation of humanity across space and time. Needless to say, indigenous African systems of education were displaced as the idea of the modern university took root in Africa. This article flashes back to precolonial African/Nilotic/Arab/Muslim intellectual traditions in its historical reflection on the idea of the university in Africa. It posits a 'triple heritage' of higher education, which embraces Western imperial/ colonial modernity and anti-colonial nationalist liberatory developmentalism in its engagement with the contested idea of the university in Africa. The article critically examines the long and ongoing African struggles for an 'African university'. It locates the struggles for an African university within the broader context of African liberation struggles, the search for modern African identity, autonomous African development and self-definition. Four core challenges constitutive of the struggle for an African university are highlighted: the imperative of securing Africa as a legitimate epistemic base from which Africans view and understand the world; the task of'moving the centre' through shifting the geography and biography of knowledge in a context where what appears as 'global knowledge' still cascades from a hegemonic centre (Europe and North America); the necessity of 'rethinking thinking itself as part of launching epistemic disobedience to Eurocentric thinking; and the painstaking de-colonial process of 'learning to unlearn in order to relearn, which calls on African intellectuals and academics to openly acknowledge their factory faults and miseduca-tion, cascading from their very production by problematic 'Western-styled' universities, including those located in Africa, so as to embark on decolonial self-re-education.

Keywords : university in Africa; African university; decolonisation; indigenous systems of education; Western education.

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