n South African Journal of Higher Education - South Africa's Achilles' heel and Phoenixian possibilities : reflections on structured underdevelopment and transformation challenges : initiating the debate




South Africa's education system is teetering on a slippery and dangerous slope. The choice is whether to stay mired in a state of stagnation, camouflaged by a beguiling new vocabulary of change, or to transform a crippling historic legacy through an authentic vision, one fuelled by trenchant, and sustained vigour. The thrust of this article is on the tertiary sector, although, to provide a backdrop, I also refer to the historical poverty of general, pre-university education to explain the enduring effects of a design which has nurtured the debilitating underdevelopment that bedevils the present. The article reflects on the heavy weight of an inheritance that has been transmitted intergenerationally and differentiated through racialised and gendered epistemologies, pedagogies, and curricula; all these are deeply embedded in institutional cultures that are routinely executed by an entrenched staff complement who are socialised with dated attitudes and practices. My reflections are largely informed by the report of the 2008 Ministerial Committee on the Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institution (MCHET). Through identifying emergent trends, I ponder on some nascent trends that could lead to a meaningful and inclusive transformation, one with benefits accruing not only to small segments but to the whole of South African society.


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