Action on Humanities Urgent, Reports Declare

Two separate reports released last week and authored by teams of leading South African academics have called for urgent action to promote the value of the humanities, University World News reports. The first report, the Report on the Charter on Humanities and Social Sciences, was written by a task team led by University of Cape Town sociologist, dramatist and writer Professor Ari Sitas and was commissioned by South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Among the task team’s six key recommendations is the formation of an Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences to enhance research and ethical practice and to advise government departments and stakeholders, the establishment of an African Renaissance program and national Center for Lifelong Education, the establishment of six ‘catalytic’ projects focused on areas such as early South African history, indigenous languages and popular education traditions, and the formation of five ‘humanities hubs’ throughout the country to serve as centers of research.

The second report was issued by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and is entitled Consensus Study on the Future of the Humanities in South Africa: Status, prospects and strategies. This report urges the formation of a statutory Council for the Humanities to advise  the government on improving the status of the humanities and recommends the review of government funding allocations to the humanities, the restructuring of funding for advanced degrees through agencies such as the National Research Foundation, and the acceleration of the establishment of research chairs and centers. Peter Vale, the University of Johannesburg’s professor of humanities and co-chair of the 12-person panel of experts that produced the ASSAf report, claims that certain governmental policies have given the humanities “a secondary role and status in the technology-driven understandings of innovation, accompanied by shrinking funding and support, an ambivalent integration into the policies and structures of the prevailing ‘national system of innovation’ and its associated Research and Development frameworks, and an uncertain future in the academy and in R&D.”

Read more in University World News.

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