Decolonising the Geography Curriculum in post-apartheid South African public secondary schools: a critical evaluation of approaches to decolonising knowledge

Mushagasha, Balungile
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Education in South Africa, under colonialism, especially the epoch of apartheid, was used as means to advance the colonial logic through enforcing segregation and white supremacy. It achieved this through perpetuating the dominance of Europe-America in knowing, thus rendering subjects of colonised societies unable to think. This status quo gave birth to cognitive injustice which educational reform prioritized reversing, since the advent of democracy in 1994. Curricula (the Revised National Curriculum Statement Grades R-9, the National Curriculum Statement Grades 10-12, and the current curriculum, the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements) implemented in post-apartheid sought to get rid of colonial logic through aligning aims of education with human rights, social justice, inclusivity and valuing of indigenous ways of knowing. However, though, a wave of students‘ protests that ripped through the country recently, calling for the decolonisation of education in South Africa revealed that despite the curriculum having gone through numerous reforms, it continues to run along colonial lines. One of the outstanding features of this colonial character is content knowledge which continues to erase the local community and their geographic space from knowing. In the geography curriculum (encapsulated in CAPS), this has been traced to the absence of theories originating from local ways of knowing. What the reforms have been able to achieve, so far, is the recognition of indigenous knowledge which does not extend to the practical inclusion of local perspectives in the content for Secondary schools. By implication, the current curriculum for geography is colonial. The purpose of this conceptual study was to critically evaluate approaches to decolonising knowledge in order to identify an approach that would transform the current curriculum for geography into a policy document that effectively tackles cognitive injustice created by a colonial curriculum. It engaged six approaches to decolonisation, proposed by Jansen (2017 a) in Ammon (2019). They are decentring of European knowledge, critical engagement with settled knowledge, encounters with entangled knowledges, the repatriation of occupied knowledge (and society) and the Africanisation of knowledge as a potential tool for transforming the curriculum (Ammon, 2019). It puts forward the Africanisation of knowledge as the best suitable approach for transforming the geography curriculum, within South Africa‘s current context of learning.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education in Curriculum Division, to the Faculty of Humanities, School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, 2021