Invisible Africa at UCT?

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By Sinothando Siyolo

This article can also be found in the print Edition 3 (Wrap Edition) of VARSITY Newspaper.

 

UCT has always been a space dominated by the West, where the threshold of Africanness only entered in the 1920s; when the first batch of black students were admitted.

Inclusivity can never be attained, as financial difficulties are a persistant hinderance experienced by mostly black students”

UCT has 112 societies which are divided into categories; one of those categories are National or Cultural societies which only consist of 11 societies and 1 organization. The cultural societies are meant to bring Africanism to the campus; they are there for the inclusivity of students from different cultural backgrounds. However, inclusivity can never be attained, as financial difficulties are a persistant hinderance experienced by mostly black students. Thus, these heritage societies struggle a lot as they have insufficient funding for sustainability. This results in them being visible only during plaza week and days like Heritage Day.

The UCT School of Languages embraces and teaches several languages, however, these languages are limited to the select few mother tongues of UCT students. The UCT School of Languages only consists of three main African languages namely, Southern Sesotho, Afrikaans and isiXhosa. The rest are foreign languages. Therefore, a lot of work still needs to be done in terms of bringing in more African languages as, after all, “linguistic decolonialism is one of the primary methods of decolonial thought”- Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Images by Thapelo Masebe, Aaliyah Ahmed and Sipho Mpongo

The majority of faculties at UCT require the teaching medium to be English and very few courses offer translations. For example, in faculties like Commerce one cannot use their mother tongue to write an essay, it must be written in English. In faculties such as Humanities however, the flexible nature of their courses assist in bringing Africanism into the curriculum. Furthermore, residences should be more equipped to provide African food other than the routine samp and salad, because African culture has a variety of foods, that are diverse (to say the least).

“The majority of faculties at UCT require the teaching medium to be English and very few courses offer translations”

Yes, UCT is a free space and anyone can express their Africanism, but UCT doesn’t do enough to promote that.

To promote Africanism, UCT can fund the cultural societies with an amount that can actually sustain and allow them to do as many events as possible to encourage Africanism. Students can also do more to promote Africanism in the institution. Instead of changing the way they speak, walk and dress to conform to Western norms, they can resist these urges and embrace their africanness.

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