OPINION | No use colouring white varsities with black faces

No use colouring white varsities with black faces, says writer.
Students No use colouring white varsities with black faces, says writer.
Image: 123RF/Javier Sanchez Mingorance

The recent appointments of black thought leaders to replace white university managers as chancellors and vice-chancellors, as embodied by the all-female leaders at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, is not only a departure from the old apartheid guard but a welcome signal of the transformative agenda in the higher education sector.

However, the euphoric installation of black faces in these once broederbond-dominated academic establishments should not degenerate into popularised cosmetic exercises of colouring white institutions with black faces.

Such will essentially amount to mere genderised swapping of Afrikaner ties for black middle-class jackets and heels.

In his agitation for the transformation of the African mind and continental consciousness, African-American scholar W.E.B. du Bois counsels us in his Talented Tenth theory that blacks will be saved by their educated, talented tenth across all disciplines of life, and that it is through its exceptional educated leaders that the rest of the African community would also benefit.

The best way, henceforth, is to educate and empower the African student community by not merely having black university managers, but by dispatching classical Afro-centric education, teaching them to become innovative thinkers and leaders of the community.

Nelson Mandela taught us that education is the single "most powerful weapon you can use to change the world".

And this is not because through its enriching knowledge one can stop the reproduction of slaves whose colonised minds are manipulated to serve a nefarious Westernised agenda, but because education inherently serves as an emancipating force to decolonise the mind from the enslaving powers of the oppressors.

Education is equally an important human resource of progress in every society and every family, especially for Africans, the majority of whom come from an average, destitute seven-member family. Tragically, Bantu education, as aptly illustrated by Hermann Giliomee in his book, The last Afrikaner Leader, saw blacks as useful tools of industrialisation.

In executing their responsibilities, the new black university leadership ought to facilitate free Afro-centric radical thought, and protection of the student community against state security capture that sees students as a threat to social cohesion. The new black university leaders, therefore, have a moral debt to dispatch decolonial education as demanded by the university community, especially the Fallist movements such as #FeesMustFall .

Failure to deliver this will point to a continuation of the Bantu education indoctrination of Africans but equally a betrayal of post-colonial dispensations as epitomised by the Fallists and the 1976 generation.

As white ivory towers responsible for reproducing the country's conspicuous middle class, the new black university leaders, from University of Cape Town to University of Venda, have a primary role to decode what is traditionally a white education. They have to change it from a westernised personal passage to material glorification in one of the world's poorest continents, to an Afro-centric universal centre of social change that can decolonise and emancipate the oppressed, more so the African people.

They have an academic moral obligation to teach Africans the ability to reflect and act in the greater good of African nations.

Anything less will be a betrayal of the decolonial project.