Original Research

Applying Ayittey’s Indigenous African Institutions to generate epistemic plurality in the curriculum

Oscar O. Eybers
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 4 | a68 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v4i0.68 | © 2019 Oscar O. Eybers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 April 2019 | Published: 24 June 2019

About the author(s)

Oscar O. Eybers, Unit for Academic Literacy, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: South Africa’s institutions of higher learning are currently experiencing a dispensation in which calls for curricula transformation and decolonisation reverberate. While the need for curricula evolution is generally accepted, there appears to be a lack of awareness of methodologies which are applicable to changing curricula. To this end the study proposed the incorporation of Ayittey’s text Indigenous African Institutions into mainstream curricula for the following reasons: It is a rich source of indigenous African knowledge and includes history and information which relate to all disciplinary faculties and their areas of teaching.

Aim: The following conceptual study aimed to highlight the value of George Ayittey’s seminal text, Indigenous African Institutions of 2006, towards implementing curricula in South African universities that are epistemically diverse.

Setting: This study is contextualised in higher learning spaces in the African context.

Method: The methods of this study involved a textual probing of previous discourses on epistemic diversity in university curricula that value pre-colonial African history. The study also highlighted pre-colonial African modes of organisation as emphasised in Ayittey’s texts, which are relevant epistemic sources for dissemination in contemporary, African scholarly.

Results: The results of the study indicated that Africa’s pre-colonial era contains rich sources of indigenous and epistemic knowledge required for social organisation during that era. Ayittey’s text describes how African cultures gave form to relationships between families, communities, nations and the natural environment. This knowledge was seen as valuable for curriculum developers who aim to implement epistemically diverse curricula in mainstream African university modules.

Conclusion: The study concluded by conceptually arguing for curricula that incorporate and draw on regional and global contexts. Ayittey’s text is an enabling instrument in such a curricula model that aims to increase student awareness of indigenous African epistemic systems and modes of organisation, as related to the rest of the humanity. It was also argued that when juxtaposed with western epistemic modes in the curriculum, Africa’s epistemologies may aid in creating inclusive learning experiences.


George Ayittey; indigenous knowledge; epistemic pluralism; curricula; diversity


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Crossref Citations

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