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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Decolonizing Knowledge in South Africa: Dismantling the ‘pedagogy of big lies’


The colonial and apartheid knowledge systems and Eurocentrism have not been sufficiently questioned, let alone transformed, during the first two decades of democracy in South Africa. The movement to decolonize higher education was launched by students in 2015. The fact that the students are at the forefront of the campaign for decolonization and not the university leaders, academics, and administrators tells a lot about the state of higher education in post-apartheid South Africa and the continued maintenance of the hegemonic status quo when it comes to the knowledge, teaching, learning, and research at the country’s universities. Decolonization of knowledge is crucial in order to rewrite histories, reassert the dignity of the oppressed and refocus the knowledge production and worldviews for the sake of the present and the future of the country and its people, as well as the rest of the African continent. The dismantling of the ‘pedagogy of big lies’ rooted in colonialism and apartheid will require a complete reconstruction of the epistemological model. The decolonized curriculum must place South Africa and Africa in the center of teaching, learning, and research and incorporate the epistemic perspectives, knowledge and thinking from the African continent and the global South and place them on an equal footing with the currently hegemonic Eurocentric canon.

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