Dear Prof Ngidi
“The unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.”
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
Just as when I was about to congratulate you on being nominated for the NSTF awards, I realised, when I read further, that you were not the one nominated. Seeing you in the picture, however, brought to mind an unpleasant memory of last year; during the Fees protests. It is unpleasant because of the amount of disrespect you demonstrated, especially as Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning.
I am writing this in between classes; so be assured it’s going to be a short one. Nevertheless, I here wish to state my position on decolonisation and my disappointment in you.
On October 17th, 2016 at the student parliament, when asked to comment on and give possible directives insofar as decolonisation and the decolonial curriculum are concerned, you ascended to the podium and gave a very obscure and irrelevant history to what was going to become an inevitably fruitless lecture on the subject. This was an insult, especially as you stood there, with expensive phone in your hand and googling on what next to say. Hence what was to follow was unavoidably going to be fruitless. As DVC for Teaching and Learning, with a strong academic record on understanding the pedagogical aspects of Psychology, having been Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and, not to mention, taught History and IsiZulu; it would have been appreciated if you took the onus and displayed a more abreast understanding of the subject of decolonisation. We were, of course, not anticipating a Paulo Freire; but you could have put more effort and provided leadership.
Furthermore, I do not think there is going to be enough time for me for me to expand on my position apropos to decolonisation and colonisation. As I explained, I am writing this in between classes. As a twenty-year-old, months before the events of Fees Must Fall of the previous year, I wrote extensively on colonisation and decolonisation, and a few of my articles are available on my blog: https://mbiratafari.wordpress.com. In these articles, I do not provide an Alpha and Omega understanding of the subject, but dwell more on the fundamental tenants of colonisation. These include the fact that colonisation, as a process, is first and foremost destructive in and of itself; and therefore harbours no positive aspects. For instance, one can put it out and point at these buildings we call universities and suggest them as amongst the said ‘positive aspects’, but it will be them being ahistorical. I plan to summarise my argument in two points: 1) there already were academic institutions in Africa before the coloniser set foot here, and 2) the coloniser’s institutions, founded on a Eurocentric understanding of being and being-in-the-world, do more to erase indigenous epistemic understanding of such. As Aime Cesaire also understands: “…between colonisation and civilisation there is an infinite distance; that out of all colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all colonial statutes that have been drawn up, out of all memoranda that have been dispatched by all the ministries; there could come no single human value.”
How then does a decolonised curriculum look like? I am tempted to briefly answer, thus: Giving education human values, the same Cesaire laments about colonialism to have none of. The world, the modernised world, which is deeply rooted in Eurocentric understanding of being, as earlier stated, has redefined humanity and what it means to be human, for the African. The latter therefore threads on, emptied of knowledge of self and baffled by new connotations found in the modern world – the world as we know it.
Bab’ uPhathabantu, to further add to my disappointment, the Vice-Chancellor went and gloated in The Weekly newspaper about how CUT is leading the discourse on decolonisation, even when it is known that this is false. The past two workshops I have seen advertised on campus were invitations to ivory tower, mouth-to-mouth resuscitations of a few academics. This exposes the refusal of the institution to keep doors open for engagement. As Black Space, we will be having a series of public lectures on Black Consciousness, putting into context Vladimir Lenin’s question of “What is to be done?” When there is such an event organised, if not the first, you will be one of the few academics to know about it.
Member of the Black Space, a Black Consciousness formation of students on campuses across occupied Azania (SA).