Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
23 September 2020 | Story Prof Theodore Petrus | Photo Supplied
Prof Theodore Petrus is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of the Free State.

As we as a South African nation prepare to celebrate Heritage Day on 24 September, and as we reflect on our heritage during Heritage Month, what stands out clearly is that this year’s heritage celebrations will be somewhat … different. It will not be like previous celebrations because as a country, we – along with our fellow continental and global citizens – have experienced what can be described as one of the greatest health, social, and economic challenges that we as a species have ever faced. The repercussions and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for some time to come. And it is this realisation that may cast a little damper on our celebrations during this #Heritage Month.

But what can our shared heritage as South Africans teach us about who we are as a people, and how can this knowledge help us to adapt to and overcome the long-term challenges wrought not only by the pandemic, but also by the many other challenges facing us? 

Heritage Day is a celebration of our cultural heritage and diversity as a nation. It presents us with an opportunity to reflect on our individual and collective heritage. It is also an opportunity for us to take stock of the cultural and other resources that enable and empower us to take ownership of what we want to be as a nation, as a country, as a people. 
So, in view of the questions raised earlier, here are some ideas on what I think our shared heritage can teach us:

1. The heritage of where we come from

Inasmuch as our past is a painful one – a past that still has lingering effects decades after the transition to a democratic dispensation – it still plays a fundamental role in shaping who we are now, and who we want to become.
Colonialism and apartheid sought to suppress our indigenous cultures and traditions, and had a negative impact on our psyche, self-confidence, and dignity as indigenous and African people. But one positive that came from this, is that if it was not for our shared heritage of colonialism and apartheid, we probably would not have become the nation we needed to become to bring it to an end.  

Instead of destroying symbols of that painful past, we need to shift our perspective to re-interpret those symbols in a new way. The power of cultural symbols lies in their meanings. Symbolic anthropologist Victor Turner spoke about the ‘multivocality of symbols’, meaning that we can ascribe whatever meanings to our cultural symbols we choose. Let us reflect on how we can change the current meanings we ascribe to our cultural symbols that reflect an awareness of how the heritage of where we come from does not keep us trapped in negative and painful meanings of these symbols, but instead inspire us to create new positive meanings.

2. The heritage of where we are now

After 1994, we began the process of creating a new contemporary heritage as a nation struggling to free itself of the burden of a painful past. And while it was difficult, we have made significant strides. Yes, we do still face challenges rooted in the past: institutional and structural violence; race and diversity-related issues; intercultural and intergroup conflicts; crime and violence against men, women, and children; corruption at various levels of governance; and others. We are also faced with ‘newer’ challenges as a country that is part of the globalised world. Poverty, inequality, unemployment, slow economic growth, and ailing infrastructure are all contemporary problems, some of them rooted in the past, others the product of the contemporary context. 

What can we learn from our shared heritage of where we are now that can help us to overcome these contemporary challenges? We need to remind ourselves of what we are capable of as a nation. We have ended an oppressive regime, not once but twice. And, with all of the challenges, problems, and obstacles, we are still here.

3. The heritage of where we are going

This might sound strange, because heritage usually refers to the past and present. Rarely do we speak of heritage in a future-oriented context. However, as a nation, given our past and given our present, where we come from and where we are now determines where we are going. 

As South Africans, we need to ask the question: where do we want to go? Are we heading in that direction? If not, how do we change course so that we do go in the right direction? I have no simple answer. But what I can suggest is that it should start with critical self-reflection, both individually and collectively. We also need to ask ourselves what legacy we want to leave for future generations. Do we want them to still be struggling with the same problems and challenges that we are dealing with right now? Or do we want to leave them a legacy of a nation that stood up to its challenges, took ownership of them, and found a way to overcome them?

A globally devastating pandemic. A painful past. A present wrought with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As a South African, as a child of the soil, I know that as a nation we can overcome, and we can emerge better and stronger. That is our heritage. The heritage of hope.

 

Opinion article by Prof Theodore Petrus, Department of Anthropology, University of the Free State 

News Archive

Faculty of Education hosts global education conference
2015-11-09



The Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State hosted the Annual conference of the South African Education Research Association (SAERA).  From the left are Profs André Keet, Director of the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, Sechaba Mahlomaholo, Dean: Faculty of Education, Carlos Torres, keynote speaker and Professor of Social Sciences and Comparative Education, and former Director of the UCLA-Latin American Center, and Azlam Fataar, SAERA president.

National and global issues, trends, and research were discussed at the annual conference of the South African Education Research Association (SAERA), hosted by the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State.

Considered as the highlight for educators, education researchers, and education policy makers, this conference is linked directly to the World Education Research Association (WERA), and to the American Education Research Association (AERA).

More than 400 delegates from national and international universities, as well as other interest groups such as the Department of Higher Education and Training of South Africa, have submitted abstracts on a variety of topics, spanning the different disciplines in education.

Keynote Speaker, Prof Carlos Torres, Professor of Social Sciences and Comparative Education, and former Director of the UCLA-Latin American Center, explained the importance of global citizenship education.

“The requirements to enable global citizenship education are clarification, bare essentials, principles, teaching methods, and agents. Global citizenship education is an intervention in search of a theory.”

Prof Torres's areas of theoretical research focus on the relationship between culture and power, the interrelationships of economic, political, and cultural spheres, and the multiple and contradictory dynamics of power among, and within, social movements that make education a site of permanent conflict and struggle.

Prof Teboho Moja, policy researcher and policy analyst for higher education in South Africa, spoke enthusiastically about changes taking place currently in higher education, changes that are driven by the recent demands of university students. Her keynote address dealt with equality and equity in higher education in South Africa.

“This conference is taking place whilst ‘something’ is happening in South Africa. This ‘something’ had to happen to achieve equity in higher education. Recent events on campuses left me proud to see the unity amongst students. Will the next phase in transformation and reform see that the doors of learning will be opened to all, as stated in the Freedom Charter?”

Prof Moja has authored articles on higher education reform issues in areas such as the governance of higher education, policy processes, and impact of globalisation on higher education.

“Hosting a conference of this magnitude validated the research work of the Faculty of Education in particular. It also positioned the Faculty positively in the national and international conversations around education research and gave the Faculty the opportunity to showcase its research, teaching, community engagement, and most importantly its organisational skills,” said Prof Sechaba Mahlomaholo, Dean of the Faculty of Education. According to Prof Mahlomaholo, staff (academic and support) in the Faculty have benefited greatly from listening to and networking with outstanding scholars from across the broad spectrum of education disciplines in the world. “These scholars also role modelled excellence in education research, which both our students and academic staff are now working towards emulating and surpassing,” he said.


We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept