The North-West University’s (NWU’s) campus in Mahikeng produced its first group of graduates who graduated with a Bachelor in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (BIKS) degree during the recent autumn graduation ceremony. This group is also the first BIKS graduates in Africa.
The significance of this graduation was marked by the presence of esteemed guests from various quarters, including directors and members of the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Arts, Culture and Traditional Affairs, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, SANBio/NEPAD, the House of Traditional Leaders, the North West Premier’s Office, the National Research Foundation, indigenous knowledge holders and colleagues from other universities.
According to Dr George Sedupane, a lecturer at the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Centre on the campus, the BIKS programme was conceived from extensive discussions and planning sessions between the NWU and the universities of Limpopo and Venda, the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office of the Department of Science and Technology, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), indigenous knowledge holders and community representatives.
Due to the holistic nature of IKS, the BIKS curriculum was designed as a multidisciplinary programme offering both core and elective modules in the areas of indigenous agriculture, health, arts and culture as well as science and technology. This NQF level 8 qualification takes four years to complete and admits students with matriculation exemption from a wide background. After approval from SAQA, the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Council on Higher Education and the NWU’s Institutional Committee for Academic Standards, the programme was launched in 2013 with the first cohort of 20 students drawn from across South Africa.
“The rationale behind the BIKS programme was the realisation that local African knowledge is a strong driving force not only in economic growth, but also in pursuance of excellence in the globalised knowledge economy. The role of indigenous knowledge in sustainable development has been acknowledged by the world at large and is consistent with the national IKS policy (2004) and the IKS bill (2016).
“The BIKS programme is seen as a perfect antidote to the recent narratives and discourses on decolonising education, not only at higher education institutions, but also in school curricula such as CAPS and the Curriculum Statement of 2011,” explains Prof Simeon Materechera, head of the NWU’s IKS Centre.
Among others, the BIKS degree programme aims to blend IKS and eurocentric knowledge systems to facilitate a cultural cross-over, to brand the African holistic problem-solving approaches and its underlying principles as way of life, to develop balanced, viable livelihoods by utilising IKS as a resource in the development process. Other aims are to promote the aesthetic and economic value of IKS in local communities, and to assert African traditional value systems and to incorporate IKS into the formal educational system.
“Taking into account the challenges associated with the introduction of a new academic programme at an institution of higher learning, the BIKS programme has achieved its objectives and has exceeded our expectations. There are currently 38 BIKS students enrolled and 60% of the original cohort of students has completed their degrees. Eight of the 12 graduates are currently enrolled for a Master’s degree in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (MIKS). The NWU gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance in the form of student bursaries from the departments of Science and Technology and Arts and Culture,” says Prof Materechera.
The IKS Centre currently has nine PhD and 18 master’s students doing research in areas including, but not limited to indigenous cultural astronomy, ethno-veterinary practice, reproductive health, metallurgy, ethno-mathematics, indigenous agriculture, indigenous arts and culture, indigenous life skills education, indigenous renewable energies and environment and disaster management.
Ms Monicca Thulisile Bhuda from the NWU is one of the first in Africa to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Monicca graduated with distinction. With her is Prof Eno Ebenso, acting vice-rector for research and planning at the NWU’s campus in Mahikeng.