Embedding Indigenous Knowledge in Library and Information Science Education in Anglophone Eastern and Southern Africa

Embedding Indigenous Knowledge in Library and Information Science Education in Anglophone Eastern and Southern Africa

Patrick Ngulube (University of South Africa, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0838-0.ch006


There is need to re-examine the inclusion or exclusion of indigenous knowledge (IK) in the university curriculum in sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Western scientific knowledge on which the university curriculum in SSA is mainly based has proved to be inadequate in addressing developmental challenges. Using the curriculum of library and information science (LIS) departments in Anglophone east and southern Africa (AESA) as a case study, this chapter focuses on factors that influence the inclusion of IK in higher education in SSA. IK is recognised for its potential contribution to development by organisations such as the World Bank and African Union. Its inclusive ethos and accommodation of multiple realities also accounts for its popularity. In spite of that, IK has not established a stronghold in LIS curriculum in AESA. This study investigates the factors that influence its integration into the curriculum and makes recommendations based on the findings.
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Indigenous knowledge (IK) should be valued, preserved, revitalised and protected. Higher education has a clear leadership responsibility with regard to the protection and preservation of IK. Higher education should take a lead in its preservation and protection because it is the hub of knowledge production and generator of the leaders of tomorrow (Moahi, 2012; Ngulube, Dube, & Mhlongo, 2015). Higher education must legitimise and validate IK as a pedagogic strategy (Dei, 2000) in order to transform the higher education landscape which has hitherto been dominated by hegemonic Western pedagogic ontologies and epistemologies. Higher education in SSA has failed to generate knowledge to solve the problems confronting society because it lacks appreciation of indigenous ways of knowing (Ndhlovu & Masuku, 2004).

Contrary to the assertion by Maile and Loubser (2003), higher education institutions in Africa have made limited progress in incorporating IK (Ndhlovu & Masuku, 2004; Ngulube, Dube, & Mhlongo, 2013; Ngulube, Dube, & Mhlongo, 2015; Schaffer, Ezirim, Gamurorwa, Ntsonyane, Phiri, & Sagnia, 2004; Tumuhairwe, 2013). The situation is not peculiar to countries in sub Saharan Africa (SSA) as countries such as Australia (Gunstone, 2008) and Peru (Sumida Huaman & Valdiviezo, 2014) once neglected to mainstream IK in their educational institutions.

There is “a growing discourse that demands the acknowledgement and inclusion of indigenous knowledge systems” in education (Higgs, 2010, p. 2414). Consequently, there is a need for universities to rethink indigenous presence and aspiration in designing and interpreting the curriculum (Ma Rhea, 2013). Sumida Huaman and Valdiviezo (2014) strongly recommended the inclusion of IK in education “as epistemological transformation towards social justice” (p. 66). The inclusion of IK in the curriculum of higher education may also expose students, who are bound to be instrumental in shaping a sustainable developmental agenda, to valuable intergenerational experiential knowledge which has been passed down from one generation to another within local communities in a given traditional geographical context. Kaya and Seleti (2013) are of the view that its inclusion in the curriculum may improve its relevance in society. It may also affirm the knowledge of the previously disadvantaged indigenous people and bring about transformation in the higher education system.

Apart from enabling IK to assume its rightful place in the fast-evolving information society and the knowledge economy, the legitimation of indigenous perspectives is a role that higher education in SSA should unquestionably play. The embracing of IK holds hope for the rebranding of universities in the continent to be uniquely African. It provides an opportunity to rehabilitate and reclaim the underutilised, neglected and devalued knowledge base and perspective of the indigenous communities (Yishak & Gumbo, 2012). Professionals in all disciplines including those in library and information science (LIS) have a role to play in revitalising IK in general, and in higher education in particular.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Indigenous: Rights of all Indigenous peoples who are the original inhabitants of a particular locality.

Anglophone Eastern and Southern Africa: Countries which were former colonies of Great Britain including Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania, Swaziland, Southern Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe. Though Namibia and South Africa do not strictly fit into the preceding description of AESA, they are included because English is one of their official languages.

Indigenous Knowledge: Knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, skills and values shared by a community originally inhabiting a certain geographical area for its sustenance and survival.

Curriculum: A social constructed body of knowledge that articulates the needs, values, objectives and aspirations of a society though the teaching and learning process for the accomplishment of desired outcomes.

Professional Education: Preparation of graduates by university for specific professions such as archivists, librarians, teachers, nurses, engineers and doctors.

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