Look to African models to fund higher education, says Harvard academic in SA
Harvard’s new Centre of African Studies in Rosebank aims to lower barriers to research for African and international scholars
SA needs to look at models and methods deployed by other African states to decolonise and fund higher education, according to a Harvard professor of African history.
Emmanuel Akyeampong was speaking on Wednesday at the launch of the university’s first Centre of African Studies.
Located in Rosebank, Johannesburg, the centre aims to explore perspectives and experiences from across the continent, including fostering collaboration and lowering barriers to research for African and international scholars.
The clamour for decolonising education was thrust into the public domain by the Fees Must Fall student protests when students across the country’s universities called for reform and the radical inclusion of African experiences and research to curricula.
Akyeampong, who is also faculty director of the newly launched centre, said SA was finally catching up to this conversation, which has been a continental hot topic since the 1960s.
Akyeampong said across the continent universities were facing similar issues and the centre would serve as a platform for collaboration on these issues in order to deepen partnerships between local and African institutions.
"Often South Africans always look to the developed world … they don’t look to the rest of Africa as providing parallels or lessons and insights," Akyeampong said.
"There is a critical conversation on how do we reposition ourselves to look at our disciplines from African perspectives".
The executive director of the centre, Obenewa Amponsah, said Johannesburg was chosen as the locus of the centre because of its cosmopolitan environment that aligned with Harvard’s global vision on citizenship.
"In many ways the city is a crossroads, in the same we would think of London or New York or Rio de Janeiro," she said ." People seem to connect through Joburg all of the time and if we say we are about deepening African relationships and engagements we need to be where people are".
The centre will prioritise student faculty exchange, public dialogue and engagement with community impact programmes.
Since 1979 Harvard has had a fellowship programme running in SA and the institution now has more than 3,000 alumni living and working on the continent.
Harvard has hosted a similar centre in Massachusetts and another in Tunisia, although the Tunisian office has focused mainly on Middle Eastern studies.