By: Charmaine Blose and Esethu Matetu
Port Elizabeth- There was a conference held at the Nelson Mandela University North Campus Conference Centre from the 22nd to the 24th of August, held by the faculty of Arts in partnership with CANDRAD. The conference was titled under the theme Being Human(E) in the 21st century and the legacy of Madiba at Mandela University.
Decolonising education is a massive topic among universities in our country. The Nelson Mandela University is no acceptation, through social semiotics which are now playing a role to acknowledge and perhaps correct effects of pre-colonial ideologies in their institutions. Through critical discourse in what is defined as public art, one would remember when the Rhodes statue was taken down, how UCT African students erected shacks at the university to identify black space within the institution and the public art at the Nelson Mandela University will be the Madiba shirt and the recently erected Mandela Bench. These two public art monuments are critically portraying the transformation within South African universities to include African leaders’ achievements as intellectuals.
One of the panel speakers Viwe Ndayi elaborated on how our institutions do not assist the black students. “African students can’t locate themselves in the institution as Africans when you look at the architecture, curriculum, interior design and the people surrounding you. Which leaves one very frustrated and sometimes overwhelmed”, she said. So now universities including the Nelson Mandela University are using public art to find identity and create their own African presence and also as another way of decolonizing education at institutes of higher learning.
Pedro Mzileni said,“In characterizing the type of university we would like to have when its named after Nelson Mandela as a leader of the student movement 12 months ago I emphasize the following, number one as this generation of students and young people we are inspired by the young Nelson Mandela who got arrested for being the commander in chief of the struggle. Number two, I emphasize that naming a university after Mandela that its children of apartheid victims as students carries a serious obligation on the side of the university leadership to do everything in its power in daily lives to practically change the living and learning conditions of the students and the working conditions of its lowest rated labour force. I emphasize number three that the ultimate destination of the revolution would be the higher education system that can be accessed for free which as an Africanized curriculum that reflects the true identity of its African communities, it must have a curriculum that offers a self punctuating content that a black child can see themselves in, a graduate of that curriculum must be able to use it as a liberating work point to unlock their true potential for preparing future for their selves, family and community.”
He concluded by saying that in other words the higher education named after tata Mandela should be about human condition.