Thank you Kasturi and HELTASA for this thought provoking piece during this darkest hour of our times. We are indeed facing a period of uncertainty as governments and various institutions worldwide make dramatic and unprecedented measures in an attempt to contain pandemic which is disrupting life on our planet. In our South African context this also entailed temporal institutional/university closures which might be prolonged if the nation fails to flatten the curve as envisaged. As you have rightfully stated, this challenges us academics to think deeper about alternative pedagogies to ensure that the academic project for 2020 is not compromised.
This is a big challenge which requires deep thinking because the academic project is already disrupted (institutional closures). So, what I take to be the essence of your call is that you challenge us to think about ways in which we can ensure (despite these disruptions) that we maximize student’s capabilities by creating enabling environment for epistemic freedom (that which I view to be the ultimately goal of our calling as academics or university teachers). My humble view is that this somewhat a different call from the dominant neo-liberal logic which put emphasis on standardization and teacher-proof curriculum which must be covered and tested at all costs. Theoretical speaking i suggest that we take principles of curriculum development very seriously and one of those (principles) that can be useful here is ‘less is more’ with more emphasis being on depth (epistemic freedom) not breadth (content coverage).
Furthermore, as you also highlighted it seems to be inevitable that the next move will be to consider ICTs (online learning) as a pedagogical resource which can help to transcend space and time during this difficult time. My opinion is that while this is possible and indeed commendable we should also highlight its potential dangers, more especially in context like ours. We should think deeper about technological affordances available for our students in various universities and across/regionally to ensure that we maximize what is available for the benefit of all.
University histories also dictate who gets access to what and such suggests that should challenge university colonial boundaries if the we are to achieve justice for all. At a discursive level, technological tools (just like any other teaching medium) if adopted uncritically might reproduce traditional pedagogies as they might serve as dumping sites for information which must be regurgitated for examination purposes (banking education- Freire). This might further perpetuate colonial epistemic relations of power and therefore not desirable in a contexts characterized by ‘colonial wound’ and ‘epistemicides’ (to borrow from Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni). I am of the view that we can overcome these challenges if we open up spaces for collaborative planning and work across historical differentiated university sites towards ‘ubuntu’ as a pedagogic praxis for epistemic justice for all.
At the end, to draw from the philosophy of the oppressed (Azanian philosophy), in particular work of Ntate Magobe Ramose I want to argue that we are ‘relational beings’. Similar to Bhaskar’s philosophical insights, this simple means that ‘human flourishing each is a condition for human flourish of all’. In our Nguni languages of Southern Africa, sithi, “umntu ngumntu ngabantu”.