A strong call for African universities to work together to find solutions for the African continent emerged from the Africa Day celebrations at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University.
On Africa Day, marked on the anniversary of the establishment of the African Union, 25 May, the Faculty hosted a symposium entitled Universities in the African Context: Deconstructing Meaning and Impact, where a variety of speakers, ranging from transformation and higher education experts to student activist groups, gave talks and held discussions on the roles and challenges of universities on the African continent.
The FMHS Dean, Prof Jimmy Volmink, explained that current research trends see the majority of African researchers collaborating with institutions in North America and Europe, rather than other African institutions.
"African scientists don't work with each other, not even with diseases like HIV that affect many Africans – most collaboration is with people outside of Africa. And one might ask who is driving the research agenda?" said Volmink.
In order to increase research between African scientists, he recommends further developing research capacity on the continent, and greater commitment and investment from African leaders and industry.
In their talk entitled Decolonisation of Health Professional's Education in South Africa, Profs Harsha Kathard (University of Cape Town) and Mershen Pillay (University of KwaZulu-Natal) argued that although colonialism may have ended, "coloniality" (a paradigm created by colonialism, such as patriachy) continues to thrive. They called for the creation of knowledge relevant to the African context.
The student activist group, the Decolonise Tygerberg Collective, also expressed their agitation with the traditions and environments that echo the university's colonial past and called for a stronger recognition of the institution's, as well as health professions', African heritage.
Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (SU), the Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation, explored the recent explosion of racially charged exchanges on social media, and expressed her concern at the levels of racism in post-apartheid South Africa - even in generations who never experienced apartheid. She called for the efforts to overcome racism to be stepped up.