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OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: Advancing Science In African Universities Through Integration Experience

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By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

This rather long article is based on the background information to an unannotated bibliography by Oweyegha-Afunaduula, Isaac Afunaduula and Mahir Balunywa (1923) on integration and reintegration of knowledge under the title “The Struggle for Critical Thinking, Genuine Interaction, Sustainability and Future-Ready Professionals”.

The thesis statement of the article is that “Advancing science in African Universities this Millennium can only be achieved through integration experience”

There is overwhelming and accumulating evidence globally that the Second Millennium is the millennium of new and different knowledge production by different knowledge cultures and strategies, which are being weaved to produce relevant knowledge for development in its diverse dimensions to enhance critical thinking, genuine interaction, sustainability and future-ready professionalism. This, however, remains largely alien in African Universities.

By their structure, function and governance, focus in the absolute majority of African Universities – old and new – is still on individual academic growth, achievement and recognition. For them the first decades of the second millennium have been for renewed emphasis on knowledge fragmentation, knowledge acquisition and knowledge transmission in the old way – the disciplinary way.

There has been diminished emphasis on creativity and innovation and more on theoretical knowledge. Our academies for advancement of science, the peer systems, the recognition and reward systems, the teaching and learning as well the educational, science and social development policies are geared towards fragmentation of knowledge and the structure, function and governance of the universities.

In Uganda, newer academic policies are for greater knowledge fragmentation and individual academic growth, while government is inadvertently promoting segregation between the sciences (humanities, social science and natural science), with greater emphasis on natural sciences and natural science-based professions.

There is total ignorance in the echelons of power of the truth that all science is one with interconnected dimensions of the humanities, social science and natural science, which are mutually inclusive and inter-, cross- and trans- fertilizing in modern times, and therefore, demanding appropriate science policy to promote greater interaction.

We talk of tribes in human society, especially in Africa, but there are also academic tribes in universities. We talk of ethnocentrisms in human society, but there are also ethnocentrisms in the academic world. Academic tribes are the disciplines. Academic ethnocentrisms and academic tribalism are responsible for the predominancy of academic hegemony in our universities.

Academic hegemony is the reason why it is not easy to penetrate a certain academic tribe and rise in it if you were not nurtured in it from the beginning. Academic conflict is common the academic hegemony and arrogance of some academics in the disciplines that maty entertain the feeling of superiority. It is not rare to see professors antagonistic to one another because of superiority complexes of some of them. Such antagonisms occlude respect between scholars.

In the history of knowledge, local knowledge everywhere on the globe was one and integrated. It still is one, with just dimensions. The knowledge of ancient philosophers was similarly shaped as one. However, as time went on, creation of knowledge empires (academic empires) led to the emergence of both broad categories of knowledge (Natural Science, Arts or Humanities and Social Science) which constituted one science and academic disciplines within the broad sciences.

In the history of knowledge, local knowledge everywhere on the globe was one and integrated. It still is one, with just dimensions. The knowledge of ancient philosophers was similarly shaped as one. However, as time went on, creation of knowledge empires (academic empires) led to the emergence of both broad categories of knowledge (Natural Science, Arts or Humanities and Social Science) which constituted one science and academic disciplines within the broad sciences.

In the history of knowledge, local knowledge everywhere on the globe was one and integrated. It still is one, with just dimensions. The knowledge of ancient philosophers was similarly shaped as one. However, as time went on, creation of knowledge empires (academic empires) led to the emergence of both broad categories of knowledge (Natural Science, Arts or Humanities and Social Science) which constituted one science and academic disciplines within the broad sciences.

A movement for the reintegration of knowledge is sweeping across the globe. Many University campuses have accepted that it is too artificial to have to sustain separate knowledges in one academic environment. Apparently, there is gender imbalance in the knowledge reintegration movement, women, such as Bammer, Klein and Lyall, dominating it.

It seems, without being active in the knowledge reintegration movement we would be making little progress. Most resistance to the knowledge reintegration movement is by men who have reached the level of professor in their disciplines. These days they are referred to as the slow professors because they are not pen to knowledge reintegration and prefer to continue with disciplinary education and research in the century of knowledge reintegration.

They are mis-training their students for an employment market that requires graduates at all levels of education that are broad enough to fit in and benefit in newer career paths. Such graduates are the new agents for reintegration of knowledge, skills and practices for the 21st century through the new knowledge cultures of interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and nondisciplinarity.

These days they are referred to as the knowledge reintegration sciences or team sciences. We thus have interdisciplinary science, crossdisciplinary science, transdisciplinary science and nondisciplinary science. Together they are the liberal knowledge cultures and when we talk of liberal education or libera sciences these are the ones Each is a liberal movement committed to liberalizing education and research.

They can coexist in a university setting.  Each liberal science now has its own academics at all levels of education producing knowledge and transmitting knowledge beyond the walls of the disciplines. The most liberal movement is that of non-disciplinary science, which does not presuppose existence of disciplines. This is the stance of local knowledge and of the ancient philosophers.

We can define interdisciplinarity as a knowledge production strategy, culture or discourse that involves integrating knowledge and methods from different disciplines using a real synthesis of approaches; crossdisciplinarity as a knowledge production strategy, culture or discourse that involves viewing one discipline from the perspective of another; transdisciplinary as a knowledge production strategy culture or discourse that involves creating a unity of intellectual frameworks beyond one discipline;  and nondisciplinarity as a knowledge production strategy, culture or discourse, which does not evoke or involve recourse to disciplines of knowledge.

We can as well refer to nondisciplinarity as the most advanced extradisciplinary knowledge production and integration culture in the sense that it is free from disciplinary limitations. Cultures and traditions throughout the world remain nondisciplinary. Local Indigenous knowledge on most of the globe is nondisciplinary. Even during the times of the great ancient thinkers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, knowledge production was nondisciplinary because, until Aristotle introduced them, disciplines did not exist.

Nondisciplinary education, such as environmental education, continues to be influenced by disciplinary products and their ways through a process of imposition. Or else it is despised and marginalized yet it is the most integrative of all the sciences.

Multidisciplinarity is a knowledge production strategy, culture and discourse that thrived especially during the early 1980s, in response to the emergence of the other knowledge production cultures at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s. It is glorified disciplinarity. It allows knowledge workers to work together without mixing of the disciplines or meeting of minds from the different disciplines.

It only reduces the gap between the disciplines. It allows a multiplicity of disciplines to coexist but remain independent of each other in the strongly and rigidly disciplinary academic milieu.  People from different disciplines work together but do not influence each other in any significant way.

Even when they write a book together, the themes are not integrated but stand out as different entities (Chapters) reflecting different disciplinary orientations of the writers. The graduates in the different disciplines may never meet in practice or have their different lines of thought and research cris-cross, even when working on the same problem.

They provide separate suggestions as a result of their work towards a solution but the solution will consist of separate mini-solutions. Although the assumption is that if the mini-solutions are put together they constitute a mega solution as the whole solution, it is not true. They collectively become the new problem. With their narrow bases of origin, they will be completely helpless towards tackling the so-called wicked problems of the world. According to Wikipedia, a wicked problem is a problem difficult or impossible to solve.

The culture of integration and reintegration of knowledge is indeed sweeping the academia globally, although most universities in Africa are still resisting integrated knowledge and the processes of knowledge reintegration in the 21st Century. They are continuing with the outmoded culture of disciplinarity, producing “narrow knowledge” and passing it onto their students who are now largely unemployable.

Makerere University in Uganda is a good example of an African University actively resisting knowledge reintegration. Early this Century Makerere University, with the support of Ford Foundation, almost became the first university in Africa to embrace knowledge reintegration under a project in the then Faculty of Law called ITHPEP (The Interdisciplinary Teaching of Human Rights, Peace and Ethics Project in Makerere University).

The Project designed a policy for interdisciplinary education and research in the 21st Century. The policy was adopted by the University Senate and approved by the University Council. However, it was destined to abort because the University simultaneously made a new academic policy called Akiiki Mujaju Policy, which re-entrenched the University’s commitment to disciplinarity and multidisciplinarity.

It rendered the policy on interdisciplinarity a non-starter because it made it optional and would, therefore contribute to the upward movement of academics in their careers. In fact the policy emphasized that interdisciplinarity would not contribute to an academic’s career development.

Thus, Makerere University completely ignored the wind of change ushered in by the current of knowledge integration and reintegration. It failed to seize the opportunity to lead academically in Africa in the culture of integration and reintegration of knowledge.

Accordingly, the knowledge cultures of interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity and non-disciplinarity remain alien to the academia of Makerere University in this 21st Century of knowledge integration and reintegration. When the University recently celebrated its first 100 years of existence, it was more or less celebrating how far it had gone with disciplinarity.

In effect, with the Akiiki Mujaju policy, it decided to go beyond 100 years with disciplinarity. Even most of the old and new African universities are stuck on the disciplinary road at the wrong time when interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and nondisciplinarity are making inroads into the largely non-integrating academia.

The only African University, which embraced the knowledge culture of interdisciplinarity early in the 21st Century was Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST). However, there is a growing current of interdisciplinarity in Kenyan Universities. The knowledge cultures of non-disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity transdisciplinarity and crossdisciplinarity remain largely alien to the academia of Africa in a century of new knowledge production, integration and reintegration.

The Century of new knowledge production, integration and reintegration requires educating to go beyond well into the nondisciplinary realm; the extradsciplinary realm – the beyond hierarchies. This should be the way forward for every institution of higher learning in every country on the globe. Every individual in higher learning centers needs to be exposed to the new knowledge market of new knowledge production (e.g., Gibbons, (2007).and the new marketplace of interconnected ideas.

Later will be too late. Those who arrive late will be the academic and intellectual dinosaurs of the century. Their minds will belong to the 20th Century or before and they will be just bodies with minds that do not fit in. If they are teachers, they will be an unwanted burden of the century misteaching the young generation of learners to fit in the past, not the future.

According to Gibbons, et. al. (2007), with new knowledge production, the dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies are changing. On the other hand, Peters (1992), cited by Oweyegha-Afunaduula and Mahir Balunywa (2019), tells us not to ignore Cyberspace corporations, which will be very fast-acting, transient and composed of bright, creative, high-tech nomads who will coalesce into work units for dynamic market opportunities.  Personnel turnovers will be high as tasks are completed and cyberspace workers decide to migrate to other opportunities. A very productive informal network will form as cyberspace workers leverage their rich set of experiences and contacts (Peters, 1992: 438). That is the science and workplace environment of the shift to a knowledge-based society.

The terms cyberspace and corporate virtual workplace are now common place in the world of new knowledge production but still largely alien to the world of intradisciplinary (or disciplinary) knowledge production and workplace.

Hakken (2003) addressed the knowledge landscape of Cyberspace. Even if we looked back to the future, there is no real going back. We must get out of our cocoons and move on. We must be ready to disorganise and undiscipline our predominantly intradisciplinary knowledge base in order to reorganise ourselves for the knowledge-based society, which is increasingly getting dominated by new knowledge production and new knowledge workers, less stupid, less ignorant and less arrogant, and ready to learn anew. The era of academic specialization and overspecialization is gone.

Universities still producing graduates in pure disciplines are condemning their graduates to the past and leaving others to belong to the 21st Century and beyond. They will remain irrelevant and a burden to the era of knowledge integration and reintegration.   The trend of recreating integrated knowledge was initiated long ago.  Every University must be integral to it or perish.

It is retrogressive, therefore, to preach separating the sciences -the humanities, social science and natura science. President Tibuhaburwa Museveni of Uganda, who is now the global icon of the politics of pure science (or purity of science), is vigorously planting the mustard seed of superiority of pure science and inferiority of the social sciences and humanities.

To convince the young generation of Ugandans that pure science is superior, he has introduced discrimination in educational institutions by paying those in and linked to natural science much higher than those in the humanities and social science. It is “divide and rule” in education at a time when wisdom dictates that knowledge integration is the way forward in the 21st Century.

His choice of continuing disintegration is encouraging further proliferation and intensification of academic hegemony through specialization, especially in the natural sciences and attendant professions. This is an example of failed leadership in the 21st Century because it is misleading educational institutions, knowledge workers, education managers and knowledge seekers.

The world – academic and real – wants political leadership -integral leadership -for integration and reintegration of the sciences and society, not continued disintegration in the century of integration. The century does not respect the artificial boundaries between knowledge communities and cultural communities.

This desires that we reconsider the scholarship of teaching and learning to fully integrate the education enterprise and/or institution if we are to achieve meaningful and effective development, transformation and progress in this century and beyond. With disconnected knowledge, graduate employability is no longer a prized thing.

There is a quest to improve the learning experience and produce more wholesome learners who can cope with a century of accelerating changes ahead, who value holistic approach to education and life, and can venture into the marketplace of ideas without fear or favour. We have no alternative but to go forward in the 21st century along the knowledge reintegration path. We have to prepare students or learners for the 21st century workforce, which is distancing itself from the 20th century – a century of disciplinary hegemony.

Interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and non-disciplinarity is collectively the new team science, which will make students and practitioners to fit in the cyberage, driven by nondisciplinary teamwork practice.

This bibliography has been prepared for the global academia in general and the African academia in particular to make them adequately aware of the fact that the world is fast-moving away from disintegration of knowledge towards integration or reintegration of knowledge via new cultures of inquiry and knowing.

We who can bring about knowledge reintegration, and thus change in knowledge production cannot remain inert and silent. If we do, future generations will blame us saying “You were there when the changes were coming but you did nothing”. However, it should be stressed that we are still far from complete integration and reintegration of knowledge just as we talk of regional economic integration in different parts of the world.

We need integrated and integrating centres of knowledge to produce a cadre of graduates with integrated and integrating minds to act as integration and integrating agents in the 21st century. We cannot hope to achieve much in the quest for integration and reintegration of knowledge or our world if we continue forcing humanity’s disciplinary world along the path of integration and reintegration.

Most universities, especially in Africa, are yet to embrace the truth that we cannot use disciplinary products of the education system to integrate or reintegrate anything. Time is fast-arriving when graduates of the strictly disciplinary curriculum will be rejected for further post-graduate education in universities where integration and reintegration of knowledge is being accommodated.

Those rejected will be told that they are graduates in expired curricula. This will be the cost of universities resisting opening up to the new cultures of knowledge. Our universities, to remain relevant in an integrating and integrative century, must open up to the new cultures of knowledge production and to integration and reintegration of knowledge. They must first become integrative and integrating to reintegrate knowledge and produce graduates with integrating and integrative minds.

Although 50 years ago E. Janstch (1972) called for Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Universities as a systems approach to education, for meaningful and effective integration and reintegration of knowledge, which we should have embarked on, we need also to advocate for crossdisciplinarity, but most especially, nondisciplinarity. Better late than never!

We must emphasize that African Universities are grossly behind on the path of reintegration of knowledge, which is an unfortunate reality. Most of the Universities are re-entrenching disciplining of knowledge in an age when undisciplining knowledge is an imperative for the 21st century.

They are still stuck with measuring success in terms of personal knowledge and personal achievement. However, disciplinarity and its disciplinary graduates cannot usher African countries in the cyberage. It makes African countries a heavy burden for the cyberage.

There is need to rethink higher education altogether to emphasize collective knowledge, critical thinking and production of critical individuals rather than subservient ones. Designers of education programmes must open up to the new cultures of knowledge so that instead of continuing to glorify individual achievers, we have education curricula that can produce people who value teamwork and can work think and reason in integrated teams and communities of knowledge, benefit from realms of meaning and understanding and develop new wisdoms and insights through crossing knowledge boundaries and linking of knowledge by means of the team sciences – also called learning sciences – of interdisciplinary science, crossdisciplinary science, transdisciplinary science and non-disciplinary science.

Accordingly, we shall create new professions and produce the professionals we need for the cyberage: broadminded, not narrow-minded, and able to interact, learn from each other and pursue joint goals in integrated teams. Pursuing multidisciplinary education is not going away from disciplinary education but re-entrenching it. It only reduces the distances between the disciplinary knowledge workers and allows them to continue to produce knowledge in their disciplinary cocoons.

We hope that this bibliography will prove to be an essential knowledge tool for students, teachers, professionals, practitioners and institutions not only in Africa but also elsewhere in the world towards fitting in the cyberage. The 21st Century does not just need producing masses of graduates at whatever level.

It needs graduates who are interconnected between themselves and in their minds and can interconnect, integrate and reintegrate their minds easily with others to tackle the wicked problems of the world local, national, regional, continental and global. The problems themselves are interconnected and do not lend themselves easily to the narrow analyses of disciplinary knowledge workers.

The following observations are critical if African Universities are to meaningfully embrace knowledge integration and reintegration this millennium.

  1. There is chaos in the disciplines. We must cross disciplinary boundaries to create new knowledge and new types of experts. Civilization of man and society is critical, but some civilizations require a different type of knowledge generated differently.
  2. Currently it is team science-based civilization, not civilization made by individuals and imposed on others. Team science demands we redesign the future with new cultures of knowledge that value it. It means we must rethink the way we prepare students for academic careers. We must cross disciplinary boundary to produce liberating, emancipatory knowledge that will equip us with graduates that are not fearful and can engage in curiosity driven research, encouraged by connecting of the sciences – natural science, social science and the humanities (or the arts). It is unintelligent to disconnect the sciences. It produces aliens.
  3. Discipline-based academies are no longer suitable in a Century of an increasingly globalized world under the reign of the cyberage. The end of academic tribes, academic territories, academic hegemony and academic ethnocentrisms arrived long ago, but spilled over to the 21st Century because of the slow professors who feared loss of their academic tribes, academic territories, academic hegemony and academic ethnocentrisms.
  4. The quests for knowledge must be for integrating knowledges of the team sciences – interdisciplinary science, crossdisciplinary science, transdisciplinary science and non-disciplinary science. With these then we are sure we have landed in the age of smart teaching and smart learning, away from the sterile teaching and learning, which projects the teacher as all-knowing, dominant Homo academicus.
  5. We are sure that we can deconstruct and reconfigure knowledge and action for meaningful and effective change for a fast-changing dynamic 21st
  6. Once we adopt the new sciences we shall improve the quality of university education, strengthen the learning experience, and have, and already have, new types of professors who do not fear criticism or challenge of their ideas by their juniors.
  7. We shall train employable graduates who are broad-minded and future-ready professionals, with integrated mindset towards sustainability and creation of new values applicable to the 21st Both the professors and their graduates will be integration and integrating agents who will not fear to venture beyond what they know or to collaborate with others in other knowledge fields. They will be able to work to influence policies and actions intersectorally, unlike in the past when they were limited to prescribed sectors. As liberated individual, the knowledge workers and their learners will be more independent-minded and able to engage in critical thinking and alternative analyses towards better informed solutions to our complex issues. More important, they will be more willing to share knowledge rather than conceal it for individual reward and progress. They will not develop knowledge hiding practices in the organizations they work in and will be freer working amicably with other organizations.
  8. When there is a critical mass of knowledge workers, learners, institutions, practitioners and especially (political) leaders that accepts that a sustainable society needs integrated knowledge, then we shall be truly on the road to sustainability and sustainable development. The survival of humanity and the environmental systems depends on this collective habit of mind: that there can be no sustainable society without integrated knowledge. All knowledge creation should be towards integration of all knowing for sustainability. Accordingly, we must all be open to unlearning and relearning with an open integrated mindset and becoming a new category of professionals called future-ready professionals.
  9. Knowledge is a social enterprise, but high intellect has tended to make knowledge workers more and more unsocial through creation of smaller and smaller knowledge cocoons with impenetrable walls. This has been reflected in the brains of knowledge workers, turning them into asocial beings, arrogant and self-conceited. As a result, knowledge has been dissocialized giving it the deceptive stance of pure knowledge. Yet organization of knowledge has been pursued socially and the hierarchies are socially demarcated.
  10. Women have dominated the crusade for integration and reintegration of knowledge, and hence creation of a new collective mind set of knowing. This is not surprising. Women, unlike men, tend to see the world as one interconnected whole and naturally seek connections. Environmentally speaking creation of walls between knowledges and of islands in the physical world, makes it difficult for women to manage the environment, which is their natural duty. According to one intellectual, men’s brains are full of small unconnected boxes, which do not allow communication with each other. When it comes to discussion, it is one thing at a time, and no linking. This is the tragedy of education. In fact, the man’s brain is correctly referred to as nothing box, and can relapse into thinking about nothing in his nothing box. However, for women their brains are one whole box in which interconnections are the rule rather than the exception. Energy called emotion drives the connections. Men tend to do one thing at a time or to have nothing in their head, and can stop thinking or to care altogether, whereas women never stop thinking because they are all the time emotionally (humanly) seeking connections. This could explain their predominance in the knowledge reintegration crusade that is as critical as internet in the 21st We cannot do without internet and we cannot do without reintegration of knowledge in an internet dominated century. Definitely we cannot do without the leadership of the knowledge reintegration crusade is led by women.
  11. There is need to periodically analyse the motivations, attitudes, skills, and behaviours of academics in the knowledge integration and reintegration crusade.
  12. Our universities are heavily dominated by slow professors (academics resistant to knowledge integration and reintegration
  13. We need our universities to manage knowledge integration across disciplinary boundaries
  14. Time for weaving different knowledge systems to generate new research skills for the future is now’
  15. We need interactive governance in place of bureaucratic governance of our universities in the 21st
  16. We need new interacting sciences of interdisciplinary, crossdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and nondisciplinary action research in all universities.
  17. Our universities must take sustainability science, which requires greater interaction between the arts (humanities), social science and natural sciences rather than segregation of knowledges.
  18. Our universities need to create new communities of practice, learning, meaning and identities.
  19. Our universities must begin preparing future teachers for integration and reintegration of knowledge.
  20. Our universities must be the leaders in advancing citizenship and social justice through new structure and governance.
  21. Universities for the 21st Century must revitalize indigenous knowledge and science as an integral aspect of science training and research.
  22. Out universities must lead in bonding today’s cultures with scientific thinking.
  23. Our universities must resist tearing the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences apart through political and monetary manipulation by politicians or people of power.
  24. At the centre we need integrative, interactive and sustainability politics to counteract the current apartheid like governance tearing the once colonial enclaves into minute, unviable entities.
  25. Epistemic apartheid in our universities does not add any value to intellectual and academic processes.

For God and My Country.

The Writer Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are solely for and belong to the author. They don’t reflect, portray or represent Accord Communications Limited, it’s affiliates, owners or employees. If you have a story in your community or an opinion article, let’s publish it. Send us an email via or WhatsApp +255769138299

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