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The <i>Kgotla</i> as a spatial mediator on South African university campuses

Jacques Laubscher


Higher education in South Africa is experiencing a time of accelerated change, increasing complexity, contested knowledge claims and inevitable uncertainty. Academia, and by proxy the place which accommodates the academic function, stand central to this debate. The need for a decolonised curriculum on the African continent dates back to the inauguration of the Association of African Universities (AAU) in 1967. The AAU called for the adherence to world academic standards in the service of Africa and its people. The #FeesMustFall (#FMF) movement placed renewed prominence on the necessity of a curriculum that includes Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS). In spatial terms, the Kgotla forms part of the IKS. The Kgotla represents both a meaningful place and a system of communication. The spatial construct surrounding the #FMF movement lacks interrogation and debate. This article highlights the requirement of a meaningful place on South African university campuses where different voices can be heard. The importance of place is analysed at the hand of two #FMF events. Firstly, the Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) sitting down to meet with disgruntled students. Secondly, the President of South Africa leaving protestors in wait on the southern terrace of the Union Buildings. This article concludes by stating the need for a place on South African university campuses to address the complex issues facing not only students but society at large.

Keywords: campus design; #FMF, higher education; Kgotla; meaningful place