Personal reflections from your VP Education on decolonising curriculum and the black student study experience.
I first heard the term “decolonising the curriculum” in 2018 when I came to the UK for my Master’s degree. Back in Nigeria, I had always heard discussions on why we need to embrace and celebrate our culture and values in all we do, so it is safe to say the term decolonising has existed for a long time and the notion of decolonising the curriculum has existed since 1900. There have been various movements towards this cause and it has been a major topic of discussion in various institutions but to date there has been little or no action made towards this.
It was great to understand what decolonising the curriculum meant to the various groups represented on the panel. To understand the process of decolonising, we must understand that the word in itself is almost impossible because there are deep-rooted issues that need to be addressed before the curriculum can be decolonised. Panelists described decolonising the curriculum as being more than fixing our reading lists, it is a process that starts from changing our mindset. Essentially deconstructing ourselves and the society.
Professor Gus John, the keynote speaker, described the process of deconstructing as “deconstructing oneself from their own identity formation, national origins, cultural assumptions, value base and level of essence. Students and academics must get rid of the fact that whiteness is the standard, if it is not white or from whites it is not good enough. The system was not designed for us in mind so changing it can be difficult. We need to understand the systemic problem or else we will keep talking about the same thing in years to come."
Decolonising goes beyond the white institutions and still remains a problem in black institutions thanks to duplication of the white curriculum where British institutions have been seen as the standard. Decolonising is not only for white people or white institutions but also for those who are yet to get away from mental slavery. We have seen an increase in black lecturers in white institutions, however, this does not present a solution to the problem. To solve this systemic problem, decolonising should be the goal of everyone, we don’t just need black lecturers and leaders but those who understand the problem and are ready to take bold decision and make sacrifices. If you do not understand the problem of racism, you cannot understand how to solve the problem.
The HE sector is proving slow in addressing this problem: collective actions must be taken by academica, black leaders who have the knowledge and understanding and disrupt the hegemony of class, caste and ethnicity and whiteness in particular as Prof. John has rightly put it in his keynote speech. It takes sacrifice and dedication and the black populace can only take advantage of the power we have to make a demand. As black people we have to deal with our consciousness and understand the problem starts with reconstructing our thoughts and making demands not for selfish reasons but for a better society, you must not take the lead in the movement but take advantage of your circle of influence.
In Barack Obama’s words, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
As a young black leader, we all have a responsibility in changing the narrative and this will start with deconstructing mindsets and educating oneself on your history and the problems of your community and being prepared for sacrifices that need to be made.