Not very long ago I wrote two articles – one under the title “Need for Emancipatory Change in Uganda’s Higher Education” and “The Role of Universities in Knowledge Integration and Reintegration”. I sent copies of these articles to Professor Mary Nakandha Okwakol, the chief of the Uganda’s National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) who believes intellectual and knowledge integration at our African Universities is long overdue. The two articles have been widely distributed, even by Kenyan media.
Just today, I asked the Dean of Law at Victoria University to help me post on Academia.edu, Research gate and AFDEF websites what I consider an important resource towards restructuring and governance of universities all over the world in general and Africa in particular. The resource has been prepared under the title “The Struggle for Critical Thinking, Genuine Interaction, Sustainability and Future-Ready Professionals.”
The assumption behind the preparation of this resource is that our current structure, function and governance of our universities do not allow for adequate thriving of critical thinking, critical analysis, genuine interaction and building of sustainability and production of future-ready professionals for this century and beyond. The reason is the carryover of disciplinary academic specialization, territoriality and jurisdiction from the 20th Century when they unquestioningly flourished over to the 21st Century. Many African universities, such as Makerere University, have re-entrenched 20th century academic specialization, territoriality and jurisdiction to maintain academic purity and superiority in a more liberal century demanding more openness, interaction and integration of knowledge for critical thinking, sustainability and future ready professionals.
There is great need to usher in a new knowledge crusade in conformity with the cyber age, which is supportive of genuine teamwork and team science, leading us from a science for society – a science that thrives on epistemic apartheid – to a science with society.
Indeed, new times demand new scholarship that is more critical in thinking and analysis, more sustainability-loving and more amenable to producing future-ready professions. With the new knowledge crusade, it is possible to grow a new culture of science and integrative action research throughout the university system, and develop new research skills for the future through weaving alternative knowledge systems and cultures.
What this calls for is an integration of knowledge, more today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today, whereby integrated planning and interactive governance in the entire body politic of the university will create new opportunities for alternative routes for students and their lecturers to pursue more future-ready and future-relevant professionalism.
This means that we should make our academia more free and more open to allow our students, lecturers or professors opportunity to create and innovate beyond disciplinary boundaries, learn from hitting the artificially-created knowledge barriers and connect or reconnect with society. When this happens, there will be less fear and more relevant knowledge production for relevant creativity and innovation. We shall move away from a knowledge poor situation to a knowledge rich situation, whereby knowledge workers will feel more comfortable interacting amongst themselves and beyond, thereby becoming less arrogant and more connected and relevant to society as a whole.
We have been talking about economic liberalization without political and knowledge liberalization. We have been talking about economic and regional integration without knowledge and practice integration in the universities where the majority of the agents are produced in unintegrated academic environments. Here minds tend to be individualistic and to disconnect more than they connect because in the university we emphasize individual achievement rather than team achievement.
Integration of anything anytime requires that genuine interaction, respect, and teamwork without recourse to greed and selfishness obtain. If the opposite is true, we cannot ensure integration momentum in whatever dimension of human endeavour – political, economic, social, health or education, governance. Neither can we talk of genuinely transforming society if our universities are not yet in the business of transformative knowledge co-produced towards a science of integrative action and research.
There is no doubt that our universities must begin to train for the future. If this is to happen the State must begin shaping education of tomorrow by opening up to the new cultures of knowledge production and practice. They must begin to prepare future teachers for integration. They must also begin to produce leaders for integration. So far so bad.
We cannot go on with methodologies transplanted from the 20th Century and hope to restructure our universities for new governance that allows for more interactive and intellectual discourses, open to critical reflection, integrative learning, integrative research, integrative science and sustainability science in higher education. We do not only need to decolonize methodologies but the entire education system to institutionalize new knowledge production and practice towards genuine integrative science that is anti-compulsory education, which the State has so far preferred.
Therefore, we need a new science policy agenda to disengage us from the past when science was individualized and rewarded for individual achievement in a small pocket of knowledge. Such a policy will promote greater integration, team science and the revitalization of indigenous knowledge and science, enable us to bond today’s cultures of our people with new scientific thinking engendered by integration thinking, and protect the indigenous people from the excesses of globalization and foreignization threatening to erase their connection to the land, traditional practices, continuous learning, meaning, belonging and identities that are land-based.
Towards the beginning of the New Millennium Uganda’s Makerere University seemed to have read the global education barometer very well. It allowed the then Faculty of Law to launch a Project, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, to launch a university-wide project called “The Interdisciplinary Teaching of Human Rights, Peace and Ethics in Makerere University”. The project was based in the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) in the Faculty of Law. All faculties of the university got involved in te project from 1997 to 2006. This was in recognition of the fact that virtues were integral to education in general and science in particular, and that higher education can be used as a vehicle for sustaining the virtues of human rights, peace and ethics in a learning community.
It looked as if Makerere University was to be the first University in the whole of Africa to embrace interdisciplinary knowledge discourse towards institutionalizing team science and advancing science through integration experience.
Many scholars who wanted more open academia were convinced interdisciplinary knowledge discourse had arrived to challenge the habits of thought engendered by decades of disciplinary knowledge discourse. They were wrong. Although the Project produce a policy plan for Interdisciplinary Education and Research, which was subsequently approved by the University Senate and Council, a strong, renewed disciplinary current undercut the interdisciplinary current, underlining the supremacy of disciplinarily over interdisciplinary and making the latter optional in determining academic progression and promotion in the university. This put an end to interdisciplinary in Makerere University then and well in the future. Fortunately, Mbarara University of Science picked form where Makerere University ended and allowed interdisciplinary to take root in its academia, by first establishing a department of Interdisciplinary studies and research and later establishing a Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies and Research.
The majority of Uganda’s universities remained closed to the new cultures of knowledge and are continuing to produce knowledge as if only the knowledge culture of disciplinarily matters today and will matter tomorrow as it did in the past. This is despite the fact that in a paper “Interdisciplinarity: The Sense and Nonsense of Academic Specialization” I delivered at a 2004 Workshop on “Confronting Twenty First Century Challenges “ Analyses and Rededications by National and International Scholars”, and which was subsequently published by the Faculty of Science in a book, I made it clear that the century would not be for disciplinary academic and intellectual discourses and specializations, but team science through science cultures and knowledge production strategies of interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and nondisciplinarity.
The time to glorify specialization, territoriality and jurisdiction just to produce individuals that are against forging interconnectivity and interdependence of knowledge and practice was not for the 21st Century, I stressed.
In my audience was internationally-renowned public intellectual and Makerere University academic, Professor Mahmood Mamdani. I was happy when I heard that the professor had launched a PHD programme at Makerere University Institute of Social Research (MUISR) to produce social science oriented interdisciplinary scholars. However, it would have been best for Makerere University to be in the 21st Century if such scholars were being produced across the curriculum. The University would be a truly interdisciplinary university. We would have interdisciplinary conversations across the curriculum to challenge the habits of thought entrenched by decades of disciplinary knowledge production and research.
We now have professors of interdisciplinary science, crossdisciplinary science and transdisciplinary science on many university campuses distributed across the globe. However, nondisciplinary professors can only be found among indigenous communities. It is there where compartmentalization of knowledge is not known, men and women of knowledge use knowledge holistically. Cyber-based knowledge systems, which are like the non-disciplinary indigenous knowledge systems, are also producing their own types of professors, disconnected to their disciplinary backgrounds.
Therefore, one thing is true. Many universities across the globe have not only embraced interdisciplinarity as a knowledge culture and system, but have also embraced the cultures and systems of crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and nondisciplinarity, and are weaving them to produce appropriate future-ready professionals and research skills for a more interconnected, interdependent future. Integration cannot be postponed anymore at our university campuses. Neither can the experience of new structure and governance of our universities.
The alternative is to let nature take its own course so that our universities that continue to resist knowledge integration become the academic and intellectual dinosaurs of the 22nd Century. This will be the ultimate fate of our failure to embrace the wind of change in higher education in our more globalized, interconnected and interdependent world in the cyber age of new and different knowledge, information and communication.
We need new communities of knowledge production and practice, learning, meaning, belonging and identity. Interdisciplinary, crossdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and nondisciplinary knowledge systems must be the way forward for our universities this century and beyond. They are what will produce a science with society, away from a science for science, which the disciplinary knowledge system promotes at the expense of society. Indeed, this is the appropriate science for critical reflection, environment and sustainability I need not reemphasize that this should not be an add-on process but an integrated rethinking and restructuring of the university curriculum and governance.
Since disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and nondisciplinarity are not only different cultures of knowledge productions, but also different sciences, serious universities of the 21st Century and beyond will take cultural studies of science far more seriously than has been the case in the past. New structure and governance of the university must priotize this as there is more opening to the new cultures of science.
For God and My Country.