Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Think!Fest: ‘The country can’t afford to have thinking people’

The South African government’s policy on higher education is increasingly geared to catering for ”vocational training in science and technology”, said John Higgins at Think!Fest, a public discussion forum at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Higgins’ talk, entitled Two Cultures or One World?, examined the crisis faced by the humanities the world over.

Higgins — an A-rated professor in English Language and Literature at the University of Cape Town — linked this to the 1968 student protests in France, noting that European governments then did all they could to suppress freedom of thought, universities and student societies.

Higgins said former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher launched a deliberate attack on universities, especially the humanities.

In European conservative circles, the talk was about ‘rolling back 1968”. This global picture, Higgins argued, is being ‘copied in the policy of the South African government”.

He said the government was increasingly redefining what a university should be and was making moves to turn universities in to vocational training colleges on the ‘grounds that the country can’t afford to have thinking people”.

He said this felt like what had happened in past centuries, when literacy was first introduced to ordinary people. Those who opposed it were told the people needed to be literate so that they could read and follow instructions. He wondered whether it was possible to teach people to read without teaching them how to think.

Higgins bemoaned the ”feeble” response of those in the humanities and said, as government moved to privilege the sciences over the humanities, those within the field should pose the important question: ”what did science and technology contribute to the demise of apartheid?”

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Percy Zvomuya
Percy Zvomuya is a writer and critic who has written for numerous publications, including Chimurenga, the Mail & Guardian, Moto in Zimbabwe, the Sunday Times and the London Review of Books blog. He is a co-founder of Johannesburg-based writing collective The Con and, in 2014, was one of the judges for the Caine Prize for African Writing.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Soweto teacher dismissed for the alleged repeated rape of a...

The learner was 13 when the alleged rapes started, and they continued for two years until she asked to be moved to another school

First-of-its-kind rangeland atlas pushes for protection

Rangelands are ‘nature’s gift to humanity’, but have been overlooked, neglected

More top stories

Soweto teacher dismissed for the alleged repeated rape of a...

The learner was 13 when the alleged rapes started, and they continued for two years until she asked to be moved to another school

MKMVA accuse top six of being factional in collapsed meeting

A defiant MKMVA has vowed it is business as usual, after a meeting with the top six ended with the military veterans being kicked out of the virtual platform

Gumede graft trial likely to begin only in July next...

The state has added racketeering to the charges faced by the former eThekwini mayor and 21 others, but logistics are likely to delay their trial until mid-2022

Nigeria’s tech community was booming. Now it’s in shock

The government’s sudden ban of Twitter could jeopardise one of the country’s most promising industries
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×