Project

Exploring the integrating of indigenous and Western Knowledges in South African (science) education

Goal: A participatory action research project with science teachers from the Eastern Cape, South Africa

South African learners come from culturally diverse backgrounds. In many homes, indigenous knowledges that differ from school taught Western science are alive. The South African curriculum expects science teachers to include indigenous knowledges into their lessons. However, teachers receive little guidance on how this could be done. This doctoral research project aims to generate practical knowledge on how different knowledges can be integrated into science teaching, what challenges this might entail and how these challenges can possibly be overcome. The project also asks about strengths and weaknesses of indigenous and Western knowledges and what the different knowledge systems can learn from each other.

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Project log

Maren Kristin Seehawer
added a research item
The article aims to contribute to the ongoing debate on quality education with regard to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4. The authors suggest that heterogeneity and plurality of epistemologies in Sub-Saharan African classrooms are not drawbacks, but important resources with regard to both student learning and sustainable development. The majority of Sub-Saharan African children grow up navigating between indigenous and so-called Western knowledge systems, which may be one reason for their low performances in Westernised education systems. Arguing that quality education needs to be responsive to students' epistemically diverse life realities, the authors introduce dialogue between epistemologies as an approach to integrating indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) with Western knowledge in education. This approach allows for critical and constructive engagement of knowledges. The article's theoretical proposals are discussed by means of a case using qualitative data from a participatory action research (PAR) study that explored the integration of IKS in science education in Makhanda, South Africa. Learning to employ, and combine, knowledges is proposed as an essential aspect of quality and sustainable education in the 21st century.
Maren Kristin Seehawer
added a research item
In our paper we contrast the idea(l) of an educaKon that aims at community and planetary wellbeing with the current educaKonal reality in South Africa. Drawing on our iniKaKves to integrate local indigenous knowledges (including use of home language) with the Western curriculum we address the quesKon how to approach educaKonal transformaKon despite and within the given educaKonal context. We do this through telling our narraKve stories as well as reflecKons on our research project geared towards boXom-up decolonisaKon. We offer this paper as an invitaKon to researchers worldwide to engage in scholarly debate around issues on decolonisaKon. boom up decolonisa4on, indigenous knowledges, integra4on of knowledges, science Educa4on, stories, Ubuntu
Maren Kristin Seehawer
added 2 research items
Framed within the broader discourse on decolonising African education, this article aims to contribute to the project of integrating indigenous and Western knowledges in southern African education. Following a participatory action research (PAR) cycle, a team of five South African science teachers and one German researcher explored whether and how indigenous knowledges (IK) could be integrated into the teachers’ regular classes. The article focuses on the first two phases of the PAR cycle and discusses how challenges impeding knowledge integration were solved and how science lessons that Integrated aspects of Western and indigenous knowledges were planned. While the South African science curriculum explicitly invites knowledge integration, it hardly contains any IK and there are no generally available teaching materials. Moreover, some of the participating teachers did not have IK. Yet, integration was possible, for example, through using the learners’ communities as resources, a strategy that worked well in both primary and secondary grades. The article suggests that the very practice‐oriented research process was also a process of intellectual empowerment and decolonisation. Calling on the agency of teachers, parents, community elders, traditional healers, and academics, the article argues for a bottom‐up approach to knowledge integration and to decolonising education.
Maren Kristin Seehawer
added an update
Journalism and Media students from Rhodes University have made this short documentary about our research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuLP5DfaSzc
A short film about integrating indigenous knowledge alongside classroom science in Grahamstown, South Africa. It focuses on a research project started by Maren Seehawer and 5 local teachers aiming to discover how indigenous knowledge can inspire better learning, improve student contribution and make science more relatable. Through the experience of a school learner at Tantyi Primary School this film shows that indigenous knowledge has made a positive impact on his life and future career endeavors. It is an exploration of bringing two worlds, home and science, together.
The film begins with an avid learner, Lithe-tha, who was first introduced to indigenous knowledge in the classroom at Tantyi Primary school in 2015. His teacher, Mr Nuntsu demonstrates to us how he builds the bridges between knowledge at home and knowledge at school. A fundamental role in this knowledge project is encouraging students to bring back knowledge from their elders, parents and siblings on indigenous knowledge. Furthermore, we meet Nomzi who offers insight on indigenous practices and cultural values and why they are important.
Later we meet Maren, PHD student, a member of the research project. She speaks on how indigenous knowledges can serve as a tool which not only offers alternatives to western science but also allow for a practical and relatable take on education. Lastly, Lithe-tha reveals the potential in integrating indigenous knowledge alongside classroom science. He inspires a hope in bringing about a change in the South African science curriculum. Report by Tess Miles, Thingo Mthombeni School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University
 
Maren Kristin Seehawer
added an update
The first article resulting from this collaborative reserach project is finally published!
Title: Decolonising research in a Sub-Saharan African context: exploring Ubuntu as a foundation for research methodology, ethics and agenda
Unfortunately, I could not pay the open access licence, but here is a link to 50 free online copies. You are welcome to make use of this:
 
Maren Kristin Seehawer
added a research item
In all parts of the world, researchers are addressing the colonial legacy of research. This article aims to contribute to the decolonisation of research in a sub-Saharan African context by exploring Ubuntu as an indigenous Southern African research paradigm. Drawing on lessons learnt from participatory action research with South African science teachers and on Ubuntu research literature, I develop, and reflect on, characteristics of an Ubuntu research ethics, agenda and methodology. Understood as humanness, Ubuntu encompasses a dimension of becoming human and being human. Both dimensions are realised through lived community and respectful, caring relations with other living beings and the environment. Thus, ethical protocols evolve around relating positively to others. Ubuntu research agendas contribute to strengthening community and methodologies are community based, relational and participatory. The emphasis of the article is not on presenting Ubuntu research as categorically oppositional to conventional methodologies, but on an approach to research that is grounded in indigenous African epistemologies.
Maren Kristin Seehawer
added a project reference
Maren Kristin Seehawer
added a project goal
A participatory action research project with science teachers from the Eastern Cape, South Africa
South African learners come from culturally diverse backgrounds. In many homes, indigenous knowledges that differ from school taught Western science are alive. The South African curriculum expects science teachers to include indigenous knowledges into their lessons. However, teachers receive little guidance on how this could be done. This doctoral research project aims to generate practical knowledge on how different knowledges can be integrated into science teaching, what challenges this might entail and how these challenges can possibly be overcome. The project also asks about strengths and weaknesses of indigenous and Western knowledges and what the different knowledge systems can learn from each other.