Breaking academic boundaries

The University of Fort Hare launched a compulsory grounding programme this week for all its undergraduate students aimed at stimulating their thinking beyond the disciplines they are studying and enhancing their understanding of the world, Africa and themselves.

Coinciding with the university’s Mandela celebrations this week, the Life, Knowledge, Action trans-disciplinary programme will cover four core themes — (a) common futures; (b) diversity, democracy and identity; (c) science, technology, environment and society; and (d) inequity, poverty and development. These topics will be presented, discussed and debated in small groups of students and at events involving the wider university community.

Dr André Keet, director of the programme, said the main objective is to allow students to engage societal issues from different perspectives and to “re-link” what they learn to their own lives.

“Students were becoming increasingly alienated from reading, writing, critical thinking and social engagement — both due to a school system that undermined their confidence and a university system that did not fundamentally attract them back into an authentic intellectual project,” he said.

The University of Fort Hare’s grounding programme was mentioned in the Crain Soudien Report on Racism as an example of how institutions could tackle what students learn during their higher education.

It recommended that: “Given the decontextualised approaches to teaching and learning that are evident in virtually every institution, it is recommended that institutions give consideration to the development of curriculum approaches that sensitise students to the place of and the issues surrounding South Africa on the African continent and in the world at large.”

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