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HomeOPINIONS AND COLUMNSOWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: The Role Of Universities In Knowledge Integration And Re-integration

OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: The Role Of Universities In Knowledge Integration And Re-integration

By Oweyegha-afunaduula
When I retired from the world of academics in 2009 and from the world of organized public civility as the topmost civic leader in the Nile Basin region, where I was the Chairman of the Nile Basin Discourse (NBD) – a non-governmental organization (NGO) for 11 countries (i.e., Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) in 2010, my head was full of knowledge why our African countries are finding it difficult to unite and integrate themselves politically, economically and socially, or conserve their environments as one.

From what I learnt I concluded that the collective African mind is a greatly split mind. It has been split by imposed education imposed by centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism. I also concluded that the tendency by rulers of Africa who spend time, energy and money to stay in power as long as they want and accumulate wealth as much as they can is confounding the problem.

To stay in power as long as they can, they have had to subdivide their countries as much as they have found fit geographically, economically, ecologically, socially, environmentally, intellectually and politically. They found the African elite mind already split through years of academic education in small pockets of knowledge, and conditioned to be selfish, undemocratic and easily amenable to manipulation and to being anti-liberation or anti-emancipation. Using money, often dishonestly obtained, the rulers have been able to confuse the elite to work in their favour of keeping their countries ununited and unintegrated in order for them to rule perennially.

Or lese they have maintained a state of insecurity to justify why they should spend a lot of money on security issues away from social matters, namely education, health and education. This way they have to impoverish the poor and needy further and commercialize poverty for political gains, especially during elections, which they must win. The valley between the rich and the poor has never been any wider than when it was when African countries supposedly obtained political from their former colonial masters.

For lack of commitment to true freedom and democracy, many rulers of Africa have facilitated re-penetration of their countries by their former colonial masters and the newer economic and political forces of USA, Russia and China.

They have allowed their universities to continue as if they are still manifesting in the colonial times. To meaningfully and effectively achieve continental or regional unity or integration, there must be a cluster of universities structurally and functionally oriented towards integration. However, many African universities are not much different from the 20th century university, which was structurally and functionally designed to separate learners and graduates from their traditional societies, and to prepare them for crude exploitation and domination.

Just as in the past, it is difficult to use the products of our universities as agents in the great project of uniting our countries and our people nationally, regionally and continentally. It is easier to recruit our elite population in schemes such as robbing natural resources, torturing the poor and needy, and selling traditional lands to foreigners than in uniting or integrating a country or region of Africa.

This is a true African reality. Yet people nurtured that way are the ones found dominating national, regional and continental integration schemes. Meanwhile our universities continue to produce many of them.

A movement for the reintegration of knowledge is sweeping across the globe. Many University campuses globally have accepted that it is too artificial to continue sustaining separate knowledges in one academic environment.

Africa, however, as I have already shown is lagging behind in the knowledge reintegration movement, although most of the societies of the Continent remain far more integrated than elsewhere in the world. This is hurting the Continent’s craze for unity and integration, let alone meaningful development, transformation and development, and security of future.

Apparently, there is gender imbalance in the knowledge reintegration movement, women, such as Bammer, Klein and Lyall, dominating it. Indeed, women tend to be more holistic in their approach to life and knowledge. For example, in Africa, it was women who innovated most cultivated crops, domesticating them from the forest through indigenous biotechnology at the edges of forest and Savanna.

This way they connected human settlements to the forest. Today policies made by men-dominated governments are disconnecting humans from the forests and then devising strategies of forest management that are making them ever more vulnerable to greed and selfishness of men and their corporations.

Only a spirit of integration can revitalize indigenous knowledge and sciences, which were dominated by women of Africa., and rebond today’s cultures with scientific thinking. Universities can indeed lead in this rediscovery, but they need to accept that knowledge integration and reintegration is the way forward in the 21st century and for them to survive in the century of new knowledge, information and communication. Women, who are already at the forefront of reintegrating knowledge, need to be hired from other universities elsewhere to help our women take the lead once again as they did in the past.

It seems, without being active in the knowledge reintegration movement we would be making little progress in the struggles for critical thinking, critical analysis and citizenship, social justice, democracy and freedom, building, all of which are highly essential this century.

Already, the ongoing civic engagement movement, which has been unfolding on the continent of Africa despite the excesses of the rulers, has revealed that mind liberation is possible. Universities can rediscover themselves if they open up to integration and reintegration of knowledge to ensure that our graduates are liberated enough mind-wise to be able to be open enough to engage in critical thinking, critical analysis and citizenship, social justice, democracy and freedom building meaningfully and effectively.

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.

They prefer to continue with disciplinary education and research in the century of knowledge reintegration because that is where they think, believe and are convinced they are safest so long as they continue to be academically productive. However, by sticking to this stance, they are in the long run making their universities and their graduates insecure. Even if rulers say they are committed to securing the futures of all citizens, they will be helpless when faced with graduated wrongly trained for the century

It is already obvious that our young people are mis-trained by their professors and lecturers 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.

The new knowledge cultures are 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 liberal sciences these are the ones. Each of them 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.

In conclusion, our universities must reorient themselves to face a new challenge of education: that of producing future-ready professionals. They should stop training for the past. Africa must hear this. If it continues to train for the past, then it cannot hope to contribute in any significant way to the human resources of the world.

Africa, more than any other continent, needs a new body politic to advance citizenship, social justice, civic engagement, revitalizing indigenous knowledge and science, and bonding today’s retrogressing cultures to scientific thinking with a liberated collective mind. Future liberation wars should be wars of liberation of the mind. The universities must lead forwards; backwards.
For God and My Country
The Writer Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

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