Indigenous Knowledge Exclusion in Education Systems of Africans: Impact of Beingness and Becoming an African

Indigenous Knowledge Exclusion in Education Systems of Africans: Impact of Beingness and Becoming an African

Gubela Mji (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), Rosemary Kalenga (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa), Lieketseng Ned (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), Melanie Alperstein (Cape Town University, South Africa) and Dennis Banda (University of Zambia, Zambia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0838-0.ch003
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This chapter intends to push the frontiers of knowledge production and raise consciousness of indigenous knowledge systems as an essential strategy that can enable transformation and enhance intergenerational approaches to learning for all Africans. The lack of inclusion of indigenous knowledge that is produced through the daily interaction of African children within the home and their environment in African education systems has had a negative impact and is a threat to the beingness of Africans. This does not only have a negative impact on the beingness of the African child but also on the journey of becoming an African. Becoming an African is an evolving concept that requires consistent self-reflection and adjustment according to the context and ongoing changes that occur in that context. African education systems and research can play a transformative constructive role in the revival of beingness and becoming an African person.
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Indigenous knowledge (IK) is an essential transformative instrument that could enhance the beingness and becoming of Africans. African homes are spaces for creating African knowledges with older people being the carriers of validated knowledge and younger generations enjoying the space of apprenticeship. In educating the African child, external forces of colonisation ignored the African knowledges that were lying dormant in African homes. This had a negative and devastating impact on the development of the African person. This chapter situates itself within indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), the lens that will be used by the authors of this chapter and will be based on the conceptual understanding that indigenous knowledge (IK) consists of community knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and technologies that pervade, or are endemic to, a particular community (Zonke, 2005; Mishra, Hess & Luce, 2003). According to Higgs (2002:38), ‘indigenous’ refers to the root of things and hence something natural and innate to a specific context. Kolawole (2005: 1427) defines indigenous knowledge as the technical insight or wisdom gained and developed by people in a particular locality through years of careful observation and experimentation with the natural phenomena around them. Indigenous ways of knowing are based on locally, ecologically, and seasonally contextualized truths of particular natural groups of people. These natural groups of people are characterised by complex kinship systems of relationships among people, animals, earth, and other beings of the cosmology of the universe from which all knowing originates (Hammersmith, 2007). Therefore, due to the fact that these knowledge systems are specific to a particular group of people in a particular location, they cannot be contested anywhere else in the world but, as a speciality, can join and contribute to some of the knowledge and knowing of the world (Chimbala-Kalenga, 2015, Mji, 2012).

Indigenous knowledge gurus such as Barnhardt (1986), Cajete (1986), Battista and Barman (1995) and others describe indigenous knowledge as knowing based on the teachings and experiences passed on from generation to generation. Indigenous knowledge is rooted in the spiritual, health, culture and language of a people and cannot therefore be separated from them. It has a traditional authority system that is dynamic, cumulative and stable. A way of life, where wisdom means using traditional knowledge in ‘good’ ways, and which will serve both nature and the people of that land. It means using the heart and the head together to make decisions that will benefit the whole community and ultimately the rest of the universe. It survives because it comes from the spirit which guides existence in knowing about the continuity of life with no beginning and no end. It is the relationship and code of ethics that governs the appropriate use of the environment. It is recognizing that this code of ethics, which includes rules and conventions promoting desirable ecosystem relations, human-animal interactions and social relationships, tends to be the glue that seals everything else. Hence, human beings have the responsibility of being aware of how they relate to each other and the rest of the beings of the earth, taking into consideration their rightful position and response as humans in relation to the other beings of the earth (Mji, 2012; Some 1994). They thereby lead and forge the direction for either a healthy or a sick earth, because with healthy relationships everything around blossoms while struggling relationships can cause ill-health. If this is not contained and if relationships are not mended, it can lead to community sickness which may ultimately lead to epidemics of global proportion (Mji, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Pedagogy of the Oppressed: The means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality they face. It is an approach to education that aims to transform oppressive structures through the process of transformation and empowerment of those who have been oppressed.

Critical Incidence: Critical incidences are Events that have strong catalytic effects. The events are decisive and influence conduct and approaches. Something of special importance seems to happen, which is either positive or negative, and which might offer valuable new insights into how a practice can be improved. During the incidents, special skills of individuals are outplayed.

Home: The home is classified as a complex terrain, in which closely-related family members live and interact, as well as serving as the locus of shared food and resources. It is seen as an organisational structure that is constructed around a certain hierarchy, and around certain interactions and organisational norms, often containing hidden aspects to its organisational life. Personal and private matters, such as illnesses, are declared in, and contained at, home.

Backward and Forward Movement: The need to connect the new concepts with older traditional concepts to determine what should be integrated and what should be left behind.

Pedagogy of Hope: Rests on the shoulders of those most victimized and least powerful in defining both in its orientation toward the possibility of a better, changed future.

Indigenous Knowledge (IK) Carried by Older People: Indigenous knowledge consists of community knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and technologies that pervade, or are endemic to, a particular community. It is intergenerational knowledge. The term also acknowledges practices and a belief in culture and history, without inaccurately restricting such matters in time, space or extent. The conceptual underpinning of this chapter is based on the thinking that the IK is not restricted to time, space and extent, but keeps redefining itself according to the challenges and changes that the people of each indigenous context experiences.

Critical Pedagogy: Education practices that are informed by a need to transform and self-reflect for change and empowerment using the vast majority of struggling students due to the existing system to become the defining feature for change.

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