The Shackles of Colonialism in South African Universities: An Afrocentric Analysis

Keywords: decolonisation, Afrocentricity, Africanisation, transformation, South Africa


The transition from colonialism and apartheid to democratic South Africa in the 1990s has not been a smooth one. In this context, the argument in this article is that the remnants of colonialism and apartheid continue to be evident in South African society and in universities in particular. In this country, the chains of colonialism (and later apartheid) facilitated an educational system that benefitted the coloniser (Britain) and the white minority. With the promotion of Bantu self-government came the building of historically black universities and their separation from former historically white universities. The former have inherited a Eurocentric educational system that does not meaningfully serve the needs of the majority of Africans. This alienated educational system served as a time bomb for the 2015 Fallist movements such as #RhodesMustFall at the University of Cape Town. This later led to the #TransformNWU and #FeesMustFall campaigns among students and lecturers in the country. Based on Afrocentricity as a theoretical framework, this article seeks to analyse the transformation of South African universities from being the product of colonialism to being an envisaged barometer of African scholarship. In analysing such a transformation, the authors address the following two key questions: (1) Are South African universities meeting the needs of the society they are meant to serve? (2) How far has the transformation of universities in South Africa progressed? In answering these questions, this article relies heavily on the methods of document review and discourse analysis in the broadest sense.

Author Biography

Kgothatso Brucely Shai, University of Limpopo
Senior Lecturer: Political Science