Paving the way for the accreditation of indigenous knowledge practitioners

The establishment of the Steering Committee for the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) of Indigenous Knowledge Practitioners was long overdue, said the Chairperson of the Kwazulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Phathisizwe Chiliza.


Inkosi Chiliza was speaking at an induction workshop for the steering committee that concluded at the Belville Campus of the University of Kwazulu-Natal on 11 October 2019. During the workshop, the 13-member committee received letters of appointment from the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande.


The committee will focus on the accreditation of institutions for RPL in African Traditional Medicines. It will also facilitate the implementation of a Discipline of Competence (DoC) for the Traditional Health Practice domain, which will run as a pilot programme to develop and test competence norms and standards in a real-life setting.


The pilot will run for a period of three years and will ultimately result in a model for RPL that will be rolled out to the other provinces.  Each province will have its own RPL to allow for different cultural practices.


Minister Nzimande said that the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy (IKS Policy), adopted by Cabinet in 2004, created an enabling framework to stimulate and strengthen the contribution of indigenous knowledge to social and economic growth in South Africa.


"The establishment of mechanisms to recognise areas of indigenous knowledge as professional disciplines with their own institutions, governance structures, and approaches to quality assurance is an important step towards affirming indigenous knowledge as a knowledge domain in its own right," the Minister said.


Traditional healer Thulani Shangase, who is a member of the steering committee, believes that traditional practitioners should be included in nation-building activities. Shangase said that the committee would promote the recognition and integration of indigenous knowledge into the landscape of the country.


"As traditional practitioners we can provide solutions to some of the challenges faced by society," he said.


Welcoming her appointment to the steering committee, Nonhlanhla Nkomo, Secretary of the National Unitary Professional Association for Traditional Health Practitioners of South Africa, said the results of the pilot programme would give traditional practitioners a sense of identity and end the ridiculing of their profession.


Well-known spiritualist and traditional healer, Dr Velaphi Mkhize of the Umsamo Institute, commended the work done by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in the field of indigenous knowledge.  He encouraged the members of the steering committee to be diligent and leave a legacy for generations to come.


"Our profession is frowned upon because there is a perception that we do wrong things," Dr Mkhize said. "Your job is going to be very tough, but let us make it a point that we clean, and the cleaning process will not happen overnight but will take some years to complete."


In congratulating the steering committee members, the DSI's Chief Director: Science Missions, Prof. Yonah Seleti, said the appointment of the steering committee members marked a historic moment.


"With the signing into law of the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Act, we can consider the recognition of RPL of traditional healers as part of the legitimate landscape of this country. We have to tackle this responsibility cautiously and take ownership of it, because it propels us into a future that a few years ago was not thought possible," said Prof. Seleti.


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