The University of KwaZulu-Natal has begun a curriculum decolonisation process, which will bridge the African and Western psychology methodologies. On Wednesday, the school of psychology embarked on a healing tour to uMlambomunye Institute, a school of African healing, counselling, and African traditional wisdom and values, to introduce students to traditional healing perspectives.
Speaking to the students, African healer and author Dr Velaphi Mkhize emphasised the importance of decolonising the curriculum through an ‘integration’ process. He also pleaded with the students to consider African research methods.
“All that I’m requesting you people is to embark on an African based research, forget about Western research,” he said.
There have been many distortions of African healing in the past, and that now was the time to correct that, the spiritualist and published author of nine different editions on Umsamo and Ukuthwasa (Initiation), continued.
According to Mthokozisi Hlengwa, an African psychology lecturer at UKZN, the university is trying to introduce a view in African psychology that students will relate to.
“What we are trying to do is to speak of an Afrocentric view, which is not an extension of Eurocentric view but a stand-alone [ideology]. We are Africans and have African problems, and we ate using Eurocentric methodologies and therapies which do not necessarily speak to the issues that we as black people are facing,” he said.
Hlengwa also said that UKZN is the first institution to introduce Afrikology that speaks of understanding African issues in an African perspective.
“We’re also starting an Afrikology Unit that does not necessarily look specifically at psychology but across all disciplines on how do we decolonise and speak of indigenous knowledge and systems. I think UKZN is the first institution in the whole of Africa to introduce Afrikology that speaks on how we understand African issues in an African perspective,” he said.
Psychology student Nonjabulo Mondlane said it was important for African students to go back to their roots and embrace their traditions.
“I’ve just learned of the importance of looking back at our roots and move our African perspectives forward with the times. I think we’ve been so colonised in terms of the curriculum that we’ve believed our own African ways are less important than that of Eurocentric,” she said.
Mondlane added that introduction of African psychology in the institution doesn’t only ensure reclamation of respect for African traditions but also preserves knowledge.
“Generally as Africans everything is passed on orally but now this means we will be able to have this knowledge on record to ensure that it doesn’t die with the old but it’s passed on to the younger generation in a research form. It will also be regarded as important as that of a Eurocentric,” Mondlane said.
UKZN Professor Zandile Magwaza said that for integration of African and Western healing to work, there should attitudinal change from psychologists.
“It’s fundamental for us as professionals to accept traditional healers and get to know what they do, so that when we go out to practice, we are not judgemental,” she said.