07 June 2021


The panel, which consisted of Culture and Heritage lecturer, Ms Thulisile Bhuda, Dean of the Faculty of Economics, Development and Business Sciences, Professor Vusi Gumede and Research Professor of Education, Professor Sechaba Mahlomaholo, unpacked a variety of issues that ranged from language and culture to how the African continent was able to contain COVID-19.  

The three were speaking during the UMP and RiseFM Africa Day Dialogue, where Bhuda opened up the discussion by saying that many high school pupils and students are reluctant to take up careers associated with Culture and Heritage until they are enrolled at institutions of higher learning.

“When children are still in high school, teachers encourage them to study careers such as teaching, nursing, law and other related studies. So, when you tell them to study culture and heritage studies they ask themselves how that would assist them in life. When you practice your heritage and culture, you become confident and it makes you confident in the world," she said.

“Once they are registered in tertiary, that’s where they start to understand the importance of this career. A degree in culture and heritage is important because a graduate can work as a language specialist and they can also work in museums, the tourism industry and also work as policy developers,” said Bhuda. 

She further explained that this kind of study discipline plays a vital role when it comes to preserving culture and heritage as these people will make everyone understand that African culture is relevant in this 21st century. “We encourage our students to write their assignments in their indigenous languages at the University of Mpumalanga."   

Culture and Language
According to Bhuda, successful countries such as South Korea and China use their indigenous languages in most of the things they do. The lecturer has urged Africans not to take their culture and heritage for granted. African people will not understand where they are going if they don’t preserve the knowledge that “our ancestors fought for so many years to preserve”, she added..  

Professor Sechaba Mahlomaholo, a Research Professor of Education in UMP, who also took part in the dialogue, shared the same sentiments as Bhuda as he called on Africans to be united and assist an African child to get the education that they deserve. 

“The problem with Africa originated in our history as we were supposed to be united people, but we are divided and as a result of colonization that continues. We are still in these post-colonial errors, even our education is still written from outside the continent. The majority of practices in Africa still pay homage to the Europeans. For example, if we can use our African languages without European context, our learners would better understand.

Until such time in which we are going to implement that, we will always come second. There is a discovery showing that if we locate what we learn in our particular habitat with our local experience we can become better. Even if Grade 12 can be written in our indigenous languages such as Sesotho and IsiZulu our learners can improve their performance. Exams have to be set in all languages to have our children understand. They should find their experiences and inspiration from what they learn. African stories, African inspirations should be emphasised. We are in Africa here."


Economic Development 
Professor Gumede spoke about issues that affect economic development and other issues of the same caliber. Gumede said the only way the continent can develop is when the African states can come together. 

“The challenge we face is the approach that we are following in Africa to pursue development. However, all countries face challenges of development because of the approach they take to the socio and economic development issues. I think this is a key issue for the global society, not only for us in Africa. We need to confront this issue, that the approach and the model we used to develop our society is traumatic and did not develop us; it is difficult to compete properly," he added.

“There were times when development was advancing effectively just after the post independency period. We lost track and we need to look at the lessons we can learn from that to ensure that we develop again. The key issue for me is Pan African unity because we cannot operate as an island, therefore we need to go back to the drawing board and come together as Africans and advance the development of the whole  continent.” 

Professor Gumede also mentioned that colonialism, imperialism and other factors also have negative impacts when it comes to hindering the development of Africa.  “We need to liberate ourselves from colonial mentality. There are many people such as Arabs and other nations who imposed their way of doing things on us. Another reason we are not able to advance in Africa is that even our states, especially South Africa, are not designed in a way that allows for development to take place. We must firstly deal with the colonization of the mind of the people because we are not yet free from mental slavery."

Professor Mahlomaholo added: "If we can find a way to come together in the African agenda, we can create a united Africa. Even our education is still offered from outside the continent."


Effects of COVID-19
When talking about the impact of COVID-19 on the African continent, Mahlomaholo said that the virus has negatively affected poor students as it  destroyed the progress that was made the previous years. 

He cited that the heavy lockdown that was implemented by President Cyril Ramaphosa to curb the spread of the virus exposed the inequality problems that exist among the institutions of higher education because well-resourced institutions continued teaching uninterrupted, while many under-resourced black orientated universities struggled with issues such internet connections and electricity cut-offs and others.

Bhuda said that COVID-19 explored the many uses of traditional medicines as the world was trying to find a cure. "COVID-19 has put a strain on our cultures. However, it has also forced us as Africans to reconnect with our traditional medicines."

Professor Gumede added: “Everything we do, we must put Africa first and make sure that most of our resources are used on the continent instead of using them in other continents. Look at how we have dealt with Covid-19. We managed to deal with the impact of what was anticipated. We have done quite well. We coordinated our response quite well."

For the full Podcast,

@ Pictures Cleopatra Makhaga and supplied.