In a final consultation before producing a landmark charter on the humanities in South Africa, University of Cape Town sociologist Ari Sitas’s ministerially appointed task team will convene an international workshop in Johannesburg next week.
The team is due to submit its charter to Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande by the end of June.
“The charter will attempt to re-address the importance of human and social forms of scholarship in South Africa — areas that have increasingly been downplayed as a result of the priority focus on hard and business sciences during the last 15 years,” Sitas said in his invitation to the Mail & Guardian to attend the workshop, which will be held at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on June 2 and 3.
“It is widely recognised now that this has had a serious effect on the academic enterprise itself and has, more broadly, impacted on the quality of leadership in government and non-governmental institutions, in the university system and in many key social responsibility areas,” Sitas continued.
‘Humanities have taken a back seat’
Nzimande appointed Sitas’s team in October last year to consider how to “rejuvenate and strengthen the humanities and social sciences”, the M&G reported the minister saying at the time.
“In the past two decades the social sciences and humanities have taken a back seat,” Nzimande said then. “Now is the time for the teaching of and research in the social sciences and the humanities to take their place again at the leading edge of our struggle for transformation and development. They must play a leading role in helping our people understand and tackle the scourges of poverty, unemployment, racism, discrimination and HIV/Aids.”
Sitas’s invitation to next week’s workshop at UJ said the gathering would “discuss successes and failures of humanities and social sciences initiatives internationally”. This would give experts the opportunity “to refine the preamble, the principles and the recommendations for the charter for the humanities and social sciences in South Africa”.