There may be room for The Bard and African literature in a decolonised education

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga recently announced plans to ensure the inclusion of more African and South African writings as part the department’s curriculum review.

In response to a parliamentary question last month, Motshekga said "Therefore, the consideration of the works of Shakespeare is an aspect of the overall literature review process targeted for 2020 and thus concrete work on this shall only begin in 2018,"

The department has requested submissions from publishers where selected books will be screened and included in the curriculum.

Associate professor for the English Department at Wits Chris Thurman and Dr Deborah Seddon Senior English Lecturer at the University Currently Known As Rhodes debate the issue.

Seddon says the conversation around whether Shakespeare should be taught is a ‘smoke screen’.

When people talk about teaching Shakespeare they say that people should know these stories or the beautiful language, but what they are talking about is the kind of cultural capital that you can’t be a fully-fledged human being unless you have this capital.

Dr Deborah Seddon, Senior English Lecturer at Rhodes University

And that is embedded into the history of colonisation around the world and how Shakespeare travelled with the English around the world and was presented to peoples of other cultures as the pinnacle of their artistic achievement. That colonial cringe is with us.

Dr Deborah Seddon, Senior English Lecturer at Rhodes University

Whether or not we teach Shakespeare , the real conversation as to be around whether or not we want to continue to participate in that culture.

Dr Deborah Seddon, Senior English Lecturer at Rhodes University

Associate professor for the English Department at Wits Chris Thurman he would encourage the department to allow schools and teachers to contribute to these changes.

I am loath to commit to a view that says you should have a particular familiarity with a writer.

Chris Thurman , Associate Professor at the Wits English Department

I would err on the side where possible, of giving students and learners choice, or in the case of the department of basic education them allowing a certain autonomy for teachers and schools to make choices so that we can feel there is a sense of coverage where it’s not either or, it can be both….

Chris Thurman , Associate Professor at the Wits English Department

Listen to the full debate below…


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