The Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS) at UKZN hosted, for the fifth time, a cohort of more than 40 Diplomacy scholars from United States of America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, participating in the International Scholar Laureate Programme ISLP) for a colloquium on Advancing Social Cohesion and Transformation through the Democracy of Knowledge Systems, focusing on the role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) in Higher Education.
The ISLP programme provides scholars with the opportunity to further their career development, strengthen leadership skills and engage in a culturally enriching experience in different countries, including South Africa. It also allows the participants with an opportunity to build international networks and share best practices in international diplomacy. The participants were led by Dr Dominique Carter, from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Participants included scholars enrolled in program majors such as International Relations, Dispute Resolution and Arbitration, Political Science and Criminal Justice, among others.
Director of CIKS, Professor Hassan Kaya, provided a brief overview of the relevance of IKS in advancing social cohesion and transformation, particularly in Higher Education. He highlighted the national IKS policy which aims to stimulate and strengthen the contribution of IKS to social and economic development in South Africa. Welcoming the guests, UKZN Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath highlighted the contribution of the Institution’s Research Flagships and other initiatives, including the multi-transdisciplinary nature of IKS to the global community. Ramjugernath emphasised the way IKS cuts across the UKZN’s four research flagship areas.
The keynote speaker Professor Muxe Nkondo discussed critically the challenges encountered by other knowledge systems in a Eurocentric classroom environment. Nkondo said for those interested in social cohesion, regional integration and humanity at large, there was no substitute for ‘poly-epistemic systems’.
He emphasised on cognitive freedom and justice as a process of recognising and extending the possibilities of multiple knowledge systems in a global knowledge economy. ‘Extreme inequalities in matters of race, gender and class are based – in part – on the implicit acceptance that there is no alternative to Western hegemony.’
Nkondo indicated that given the role knowledge would have in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, mutual recognition of different knowledge systems available in the world was ‘indispensable for inclusive growth and development’.
Research Manager at CIKS Dr Mayashree Chinsamy presented the profile, role and the initiatives of CIKS in promoting, protecting and preserving indigenous knowledge through research, student education and training, knowledge brokerage, networking and community engagement.
Words: Sithembile Shabangu
Photograph: Albert Hirasen