Sunday, April 14, 2024


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By Prof Oweyegha-Afunaduula
Is Uganda now where France was in the early 19th Century when there was so much intellectual confusion and social instability? If so, we need a cadre of independent-minded critical thinkers, in and outside our Universities. However, severe specialisation of university scholars, entrenched by policies for glorified intradisciplinary knowledge production and management, will not allow them to be open-minded, independent-minded, critical thinkers, critical writers and critical analysts.
We need a total reformation and reconstruction of the intellectual orientation to free the scholars’ minds from imprisonment and domestication so that they can be free thinkers, not deeply sunk in scholasticism.
If we want to reorganise our society for the 21st century, we should not be happy with pure “scholastic” scholars, just thinking and writing for themselves and reproducing themselves, with little or no interest in the society outside their knowledge enclaves. They must venture out of their enclaves and play the critical role of thinking, clarifying and articulating issues for society.
But doing so requires rethinking and redesigning policies for knowledge production and management.
Globally speaking it is no longer fashionable to think and do in disciplinary enclaves. It was never fashionable. It limited, and still limits, its victims, or beneficiaries, thinking and seeing beyond the boundaries of their disciplines. Yet the problems, challenges and issues that needed or need solutions did not, and do not, recognise those boundaries. In other words, they are not disciplinary.
Of course, the assumption for sticking to disciplinary academic and intellectual orientation was that if knowledge workers in each discipline contributed his her bit towards solving a particular issue or problem, aggregating the various solutions proposed by the different scholars would add up and lead us closer to megasolutions.
Unfortunately, many of the works of scholars end up as bound theses that are put in shelves in libraries, that end up gathering dust for decades without anyone opening them. These days we have digital libraries, but even then these may be visited by those in the disciplines; not those who apply knowledge. Or else they publish their works in professional journals read by themselves or others of their kind.
The universities need to open up to new knowledge production and management (interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity) strategies in order to make scholars and their knowledge relevant in the 21st Century. Later will be too late. These knowledge production and management strategies liberate the minds of scholars to think and see further afield. They tend to be more oprn-minded, more independent-minded and to love critical thinking, critical writing and critical analysis, without fear or favour.
It is no longer a virtue to ensure academic and intellectual inbreeding. This is only ensuring that scholars communicate to each other in their disciplines and become increasingly irrelevant beyond the Ivory Tower. It explains why the Ivory Tower is frequently seized by a heavy cloud of silence when society is knocking at the doors of scholars for guidance. They are more preoccupied with intradisciplinary interests of careerism and promotion.
Because society is gaining little from the manifestations of scholars, it tends to be aloof when politics invades the academic and intellectual space of the University militarily. It may explain why when scholars struggle for their rights it is easy for some if their kinds to dismiss them as “regime change intellectuals”.
It is easy to divide academia submerged in scholasticism and intradisciplinary knowledge production and management than those more open to other knowledge production and management strategies. There will be far less fear, distemper of knowledge and idols of the mind in interactive academia. Education planners and university managers, take this advice seriously. Our country must be fully in the 21st Century and free from intellectual confusion.

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