The Ambit of Ethics in the South African Academic Institutions: Experience of Coloniality

The Ambit of Ethics in the South African Academic Institutions: Experience of Coloniality

Xolani Mathews Shange
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 35
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1249-4.ch002
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The chapter examines possible use of instruments and processes such as ethical clearance in the institutions of higher learning as subtle means of perpetuating inequality and racial prejudice towards the indigenous people of South Africa who had recently emerged from the scourge of apartheid with a hope of democracy ultimately providing not only freedom of association and speech, but also intellectual freedom. Freedom to produce African-based knowledge by Black African intellectuals pursuing their postgraduate studies and academics whose careers are at formative stages. However, their vision of becoming producers of African Indigenous knowledge is thwarted by subtle and invisible activities that are aimed at perpetuate coloniality in the higher institutions of learning. Sadly, ethical clearance process has possibly been utilized to derail research outputs that some of the old guard from historically white universities are uncomfortable to witness, thus continuing to maintain the colonial status quo.
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South Africa was the last country to obtain independence in Africa and the universities underwent changes through the colonial, apartheid and the democratic era. In each period, they had found themselves influenced by the political system of the moment. In particular, colonising forces in the past centuries utilised the South African system of education to engrain a narrow cultural perspective (Beckmann, 2016; Do Vale, 2016, p.600) and in the process propagating racial inequality especially in universities. The existence of colonialism and apartheid became a root course of alienating black African students and academics from academia. The situation has been overturned to consider approaches that include rather than excludes various inhabitants of South Africa, especially in accessibility and academic freedom. There was also recognition that such participation should not only include black students and women but to also guarantee successful outcomes (Akoojee & Nkomo, 2007, p.386). However, there seem to be continuous lack of political will to transform not only the curriculum of the universities, but also the inclusion of African ethics in the educational land scape. Collins and Millard (2013) contend that it is unwarranted for the historical disadvantaged communities to be assimilated into a system that overlooks their cultural values. Therefore, there should be transformation of the education system in order to entrench relevance to the goals of a democratic South Africa (Pinar, 2009, p.318). Although promotion of education for all has been pronounced, the higher education system continues to be engulfed with black African student higher dropout (Strydom, Kuh & Mentz, 2009, p.260) and failure rate coupled with ethical and moral practices as well as standards that are not embracing African values. Meanwhile African governments and institutions have lost their morality and are torn apart by structured inequality and are deeply polarized along ideological, religious, racial, gender and ethnic lines (Suda, 1996, p.72). The situation warrants for stakeholders in education and government institutions to deeply reflect on concrete strategies to entrench sound and liberatory education system for all inhabitants (Beckmann, 2016, p.289; Do Vale, 2016, p.593).

This chapter postulates that ethical research aspects at South African universities derive their practices from the colonial Eurocentric philosophy which continue to co-exist through coloniality and disregard for the African context, norms, values and practices. As Cloete & Auriacombe (2019) concur that “colonial values and mental models were introduced in educational institutions and processes, in most cases as formal substitutes for pre-colonial values and mental models”. Furthermore, the African countries’ research ethics standards have been largely influenced by the internationalisation of research through colonialist history (Ndebele et al, 2014, p.4). In further analysing this matter, an uBuntu framework will be highlighted to reflect on the limitations of Western ethical theory and methods while highlighting strengths of the indigenous knowledge related ethical research aspects (Peltier, 2018, p.2) so as to critically analyse ethical research issues in the South African universities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Coloniality: Is a long-standing patterns of power that occurred ensuing from colonialism. These designs further define knowledge production, culture, labour, and inter-subjective relations.

Research Ethics Committee: A group of individuals who undertake the ethical review of research protocols involving humans while applying agreed upon ethical principles.

Ethical Clearance: Is the process set by higher institute of learning and presided over by the research ethics committee to holistically regulate research projects to ensure their design and execution plan are ethically sound and will render anticipated results.

Ethics: Are considered to be framework for comprehending right or wrong while governing person’s behaviour during conducting of research activity.

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