Decolonization of Technology Education

African Indigenous Perspectives

by Mishack T. Gumbo (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection 356 Pages
Series: Africa in the Global Space, Volume 2


Scholars in this edited collection tackle the issue of teaching students Technology while Technology Education has not been decolonized or made relevant to indigenous technological worldviews. This book provides solutions that address the question: How to decolonize Technology Education? The solutions include the African Technology Education Decolonization Framework that should guide the design and development of the Technology Education curriculum and its methodologies in tune with the local realities and tailored towards the African agenda on sustainable development. This book offers fresh ideas to conceptualize Technology Education from an indigenous perspective.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface (Mishack T. Gumbo)
  • Introduction (Mishack T. Gumbo)
  • 1. What Does Decolonizing Technology Education Mean? (Mishack T. Gumbo)
  • 2. Modern Technologies as Vestiges of Indigenous Technologies (Joseph ZZ. Matowanyika)
  • 3. Disruptive Function of Modern Technology on Indigenous Technologies (Mishack T. Gumbo)
  • 4. Embracing African Worldview: Rationale for Decolonizing Technology Education Curriculum in Higher Education in South Africa (Ronald J. Odora)
  • 5. African Indigenous Technologies: The Answer to Sustainable Development (Peter Kwaira)
  • 6. Indigenous Peoples’ Food Preservation Technologies and the Science Curriculum (Dominic Mashoko)
  • 7. Indigenous Mining and Its Criminalization: Implications for Technology Education (Mishack T. Gumbo and Tomé A. Mapotse)
  • 8. Indigenous Textile Technologies and Their Implications for Decolonizing Technology Education (Keiphe Setlhatlhanyo, Odireleng Marope, and Patrick Dichabeng)
  • 9. African Indigenous Agricultural Technologies: Implications for Decolonizing Technology Education (Edward Shizha)
  • 10. Considering Alternative Knowledge Forms in Technology Education (Mishack T. Gumbo)
  • 11. Decolonizing Technology Education Curriculum: The Case of South Africa (Mishack T. Gumbo)
  • 12. Decolonizing Technology Education: The Case of Botswana Higher Education (Michael Gaotlhobogwe and Victor Ruele)
  • 13. Decolonizing Technology Education Curriculum: The Case of Zimbabwe (Peter Kwaira)
  • 14. An African Technology Education Decolonization Framework (Mishack T. Gumbo, Richie Moalosi, and Michael Gaotlhobogwe)
  • 15. Design as an Anchor of Technology Education: An African Cultural World View (Richie Moalosi, Yaone Rapitsenyane, and Oanthata J. Sealetsa)
  • 16. Realigning the Technology Classroom/Laboratory to an Indigenous Context (Ronald J. Odora)
  • 17. A Framework for Culturally Responsive Methodology of Technology Education (Khazamula J. Maluleka)
  • 18. Integrating Indigenous Resources and Materials in the Teaching of Technology (Khazamula J. Maluleka)
  • 19. Developing Technology Teachers through Action Research: An African Perspective (Tomé Awshar Mapotse)
  • Contributors

←viii | ix→


Mishack T. Gumbo

The purpose of this book is to critique colonial influence evident in Technology Education and its curriculum in the African context. It does not only do this but responds to the issue by providing helpful ideas and frameworks towards decolonization of Technology Education. It is odd to offer African children the curriculum that is not articulative of their cultural world and technologies that manifest in the daily practices in that world. It is argued that this situation perpetuates dependency on the colonial mind and defeats the curriculum mission of realizing the production of future technologists who can fit in indigenous contexts. Conceptualizing Technology Education from an externalist’s understanding of the same is self-defeating. African scholars in the field can lead the way in terms of deconstructing the subject such that it celebrates inventions and creative minds of Africans and thus their contribution in the field of technology. Learners should see themselves in what they learn and in ways or methods of learning it. Hence, there is a need to decolonize the Western flavoured Technology Education curricula in African learning institutions, be it schools, colleges or universities.

Technology Education is a subject within the broad spectrum of the education system. As stated above, the issue being tackled is the colonial culture and thinking existent in the Technology Education curriculum, which have disquieted the authors who contributed the chapters in this book. Technology Education curriculum suffers Westernization and is for most part out of touch with local realities, causing an African child to battle with its understanding. The discourses centre on four terms, which are colonialism, decolonization, Africanization and indigenization. An attempt is, therefore, made to define these terms and explain the relationship between them. This is done in ←ix | x→order to direct the discourses in the book. Scholars also use other versions of these terms—colonization, coloniality, decoloniality, Afrocentrism (I prefer Africentrism as there is no Afroca but Africa), indigeneity, indigenism and so forth. This preface does not get too deep into the semantics surrounding the terms but creates the understanding of the relationship of the four initial terms above. The authors in the book are, however, not restricted from defining their working concepts. That helps to adjudge as to the extent they agree or disagree in terms of their understanding of the topic of this book.

In Africa, colonialism meant an invasion and exertion of power by European masters who established colonies in Africa for their own ends. It is a power issue. It is in this light that colonialism denotes a political and economic relation in which the sovereignty of a nation or people rests on the power of another nation, which makes such a nation an empire (Mignolo, 2005a, p. 6). It is a historical process that culminated in the invasion, conquest and direct administration of Africa (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013). The aggrandizers of these acts of colonialism are the likes of Spain, Portugal, Britain and France. Their aggrandizement was for purposes of enhancing their prestige as empires, exploiting the natural and human resources and exporting excess population to the benefit of the empire. Le Grange (2016) assigns two generations to colonialism—firstly, the conquering of physical spaces and bodies of the colonized people, and secondly, the oppression of the mind through education, science, economics, law, etc. Colonialism as a historical process came to an end in the post-1945 period that witnessed the withdrawal of direct colonial administrations and with those that were reluctant to do so facing confrontation from national liberation movements (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013).

In the light of the views above, colonialism thrived on violence, economic exploitation and disfiguration of African communities and cultures, all of which were disguised as development and administration (Luckett, 2016, pp. 416–417). To date, the effects of this disguise exist in the minds of many Africans, who believe that Westernization has brought them development and betterment of their lives, instead of noticing some pockets of misery that it has brought. This connects with Hoppers (2001), who argues that colonialism robbed Africa of its sovereignty, self-respect, freedom and power, parading it as non-existent in history, and thus she perceives colonialism as a symbol of castration which assigned a negative ontological and cognitive status to everything African and indigenous. It cut off the language of conceptualization, thinking, formal education and mental development from that of daily interaction in the home and in the community (Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 1998, p. 103). It has done damage to the solidified African ties and values enshrined in teaching the young from an ubuntu/botho philosophy, that is ←x | xi→values of respect, communal ties and practices, unity, etc. These definitions leave us with an understanding that African systems and resources were profusely disturbed by colonialism as the aim was to create a dependency of Africans on administrative systems and governments architected by Europe. In as far as technology is concerned, colonialism presented a fallacy believed by many, that Africans are technologically illiterate and have no technological inventions to show. Yet the evidence in the architect and construction of the Zimbabwe ruins, the orthodox church in Ethiopia, the golden products displayed in Mapungubwe in the far north of South Africa, to name just a few, proof to the contrary.

The cruelty of colonialism attracted resistance in the form of decolonization. Decolonization is a self-determination act that counters colonialism for the right reasons that it is a dehumanizing activity. Sium, Desai and Titskes (2012, p. 1) confirm this by claiming, “decolonization is indeed oppositional to colonial ways of thinking and acting but demands an Indigenous starting point and an articulation of what decolonization means for Indigenous peoples around the globe”. Sium et al. (2012, p. 3) further their claim that decolonization is a contestation for power that must necessarily push back against colonialism threatening indigenous ways of being. It is an act of justified resistance against an invading force. Decolonization can thus only be “achieved through the resurgence of indigenous consciousness channelled into contention with colonialism” (Alfred, 2009 in Sium et al., 2012, p. 3). It is about the withdrawal of direct colonialism from the colonies and the struggles ranged against those empires that were reluctant to do so (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013). Decolonization is seen as a theory of self-ownership which is relational and codified in innate human rights, abilities and arguments levelled against others. These are to be claimed back from others and protected. This theory of self-ownership in turn attracts critical race theory which is a frame for transformation in response to coloniality.

Critical race theory uses counter-stories to give voice to the marginalized or subalterns and challenges whiteness as a property or norm. United Nations, through its realized sovereignty and global constitutionalism that embraced postcolonial states, enabled the emergence of decolonization as a historical process (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013, p. 13). Mbembe (2016) centres decolonization on demythologization in reference to whiteness and history. Referring to the not-long-ago university student unrests in South Africa, Mbembe writes that demythologization was expressed through the removal of the Rhodes statue from the University of Cape Town, for example. European structures and other types of establishments have caused a feeling of non-identity of Africans with them. Mbembe (2016) argues for ←xi | xii→demythologizing whiteness, decolonizing buildings and public spaces, classrooms and systems of management. Such establishment causes pain in the lives of Africans as they are symbols of oppression. I therefore argue that decolonization does not simply mean an end to colonial administration and government—decolonization is in fact the confirmation of this administration and government which it is fighting. I thus support Grosfuguel (2007), who argues that colonial administration and government that spanned a period of 450 years did not just disappear with the juridical-political decolonization of the periphery over the past 50 years as “we” continue to live under the colonial matrix to a larger extent.

As stated above, the equivalences of colonialism and decolonization are coloniality and decoloniality. Mignolo (2005a) defines coloniality and decoloniality differently from colonialism and decolonization. According to this scholar, coloniality refers to the long-standing patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism, but that define culture, labour, intersubjectivity relations and knowledge production well beyond the strict limits of colonial administrations and is maintained alive in books, in the criteria for performance, in the self-image of peoples, in aspirations of self and so many aspects of our modern experience (p. 6). This means that the cognitive, emotional and political effects of colonialism remain even after the physical representation of empires have been dismantled.

The extent of coloniality is related by Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2016, p. 3–4), who attests that “coloniality is a global power structure that continues to reproduce Eurocentrism in society and academy long after the dismantling of the physical empire”. Maldonado-Torres (2007) further states that coloniality points to the gloomy side of modernity deserving unmasking in order to dismantle the underlying forces of control, domination and exploitation. According to Mignolo (2005a), the term expresses the experiences and views of those referred to by Fanon as “les damnes de la terre” (meaning the wretched of the earth) who have been and continue to be subjected to the standards of modernity as architected by a heartless oppressor. According to Mignolo (2005b), the wretched are defined by colonial physical and psychological wounds which are the result of racism.

Decoloniality, on the other hand, is a pluriversal epistemology of the future—a redemptive and liberatory epistemology that seeks to de-link from the tyranny of abstract universals (Mignolo, 2005b). Decoloniality informs the ongoing struggles against inhumanity of the Cartesian subject, irrationality of the rational and despotic residue of modernity (Mignolo, Silverblat & Saldivar-Hull, 2011). Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2013) distinguishes decoloniality from an imperial version of history through its push for shifting the geography ←xii | xiii→of reason from the West as the epistemic locale. Maldonado-Torres (2007) explains as to why this should happen, that is, the West’s epistemic locale has been paraded as the description and conceptualization of the construction of the modern world order.

While the definitional dichotomy between colonialism/coloniality and decolonization/decoloniality is acknowledged in this book, the discourses are not necessarily aligned to this dichotomy. The discourses rather hover around colonialism/colonization and decolonization in a manner that even relates to coloniality and decoloniality. The reason behind this stance is that colonialism finds expression in government and administrative systems of oppression, which have birthed coloniality (continuation of power structures and academic oppression post colonialism). Hence, there is a postcolonial era which is expressed in terms of a decolonial or postcolonial project (decolonization/decoloniality to free the colonies from colonial systems that remain). Colonialism and coloniality as well as decolonization and decoloniality are not mutually exclusive. One cannot think of colonialism without also perceiving it in terms of its cognitive existence, the same with decolonization and decoloniality.

In addition to the definitions of the terms above, there are reasons for decolonization, which are extracted from Grosfoguel (2007):

1. To deal with the false belief (decolonization myth) that states that decolonization project has fully put an end to colonialism.

2. To create an understanding that more than 450 years of colonial structures did not disappear with the juridical-political decolonization of the periphery over a period of 50 years, as the colonial matrix continues to haunt the lives of Africans and other non-Westerners around the globe.

3. To transform global colonialism/coloniality by creating an understanding that colonial administrations might have been eradicated seen through independently organized states; however, indigenous people still live under Western domination to a greater extent.

4. To confront the hierarchical structural designs of aggrandizement currently camouflaged through international division of labour and wealth accumulation.

5. To eradicate colonialism which is still active, and in the process inflicting pain and deaths on Africans/indigenous people.

6. To free Africa from being the victim of externally generated knowledge not informed by geographical and biographical and contextual understanding.

←xiii | xiv→

This book is about decolonization of Technology Education as it relates to African academic institutional curricula. It is therefore important to define the term “Africanization” so as to understand its relationship to decolonization. What do we do when we Africanize education and curriculum, and how does that differ from decolonizing it? Africanization/Africentrism is about making Africa the starting point for epistemologies so that African children are not taught away from their cultures and communities, they can become graduates who will contextualize their practice within African ethos, and they can continue decolonization project to dismantle the atrocities of colonialism. To Africanize is, therefore, to engage in critical reflections and to resist the power structures of the Western form of education. The ultimate goal of Africanization is to experience the true humanity found in an African conceptualization of ubuntu/botho (Mashabela, 2017, p. 1). For Ramose (1998), Africanization is a conscious and deliberate assertion of nothing or less than the right to be an African (p. iv). This does not mean closing up against other knowledge systems or forms and embracing certain elements of other cultures to enrich one’s own as African philosophy is inherently inclusive (Msila, 2017)—an environment should thus be created to include all learners so they can benefit from construction of knowledge from diverse contexts. Colonialism has denied the world to learn so much that Africa can offer. Where Africa has made valuable contribution, that has been deliberately lidded to disguise it as a non-contributor. It is in this light that in this book Africanization is understood as a reference point for decolonization project. A decolonization story is incomplete without Africanization in this part of the world, Africa.

Then there is another important term, too, indigenization. In the context of decolonization and Africanization defined above, indigenes are a people defined according to their original habitation of certain geographical area in reference to the non-indigenous peoples. These peoples have an experience with colonial regimes directly or indirectly in the sense that their places were invaded, destabilized, dehumanized (including pogroms) and their knowledge systems disregarded. They have rich knowledge that is mostly practical in nature. Such knowledge can make valuable contribution not only to their own development but for other societies as well, hence it deserves to be learnt. Hence, indigenous knowledge, which is threatened with extinction as a result of colonialism, is better developed and sustained through education by skilling, training for trade and socializing the youths while ensuring their non-excommunication from their cultures and communities. Writing from a Kenyan context, Owuor (2007, p. 23) avers that the common features in the process of knowledge transmission among most ethnic communities in ←xiv | xv→Kenya occur within the learning process involving progression through age groupings, seniority and wisdom of elders. The involvement of elders in the education of the young ensures this non-excommunication of children from their cultural roots.

One of the distinguishing features of the African indigenous knowledge and education systems is spirituality which, from the Western science perspective, is dismissed and stigmatized as unscientific/unproven episteme. However, this kind of education has proven to maintain generational ties. Spirituality cements the elders’ role as teachers as they are the “libraries” of knowledge that connects with the spiritual world, and hence their educational language is mostly a belief language. It is not a misnomer, then, that in most parts of Africa, ethnic communities are guided by worldviews and value systems where spirituality becomes the guiding force for all human activities and development (Owuor, 2007, p. 24). This is reflected in the communities’ proverbs—which form part of theoretical grounding—which are sources of indigenous knowledge from which we can learn and reaffirm certain valuable realities such as peace, harmony, love for life and respect for individuals, property and the environment. In this case, environmental preservation is key in human activities since the presence of God is manifest in the typology (Owuor, 2007, 24).

Indigenous education practices are holistic as they integrate all activities including rituals and skills required to sustain cultural practices, life of the family and community (Owuor, 2007). Owuor relates this type of education further. According to him, the aim of this education is to prepare individuals for communal responsibility and interpersonal relationships as key components of the learning process. This is unlike Western education which tends to put premium on job-related skills without balancing them with the fibre of human relationships and morals. Combining specific skills acquisition with good character has been considered virtues of being a well-educated and integrated member of the society. An individual’s place in society is determined more by his contribution to its well-being insulated by the African philosophy of botho. The individual must be trained—strong ethos inculcated in members of society—to remain sensitive to the needs of the community as a whole and others as individuals.

The cultivation of individuals’ responsibilities to their communities becomes a dominant objective of the teaching and learning process in indigenous education. Such education solidifies community ties rather than take the educated away from their society. Owuor goes on to state that among the conservative communities living in rural, arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya that have not been significantly influenced by Western education, individuals ←xv | xvi→do have rights as individuals but are primarily held highly accountable to their communities. According to him, accumulation of individual property or wealth does not automatically accord status to the individual. This is unlike what is seen in Western societies, where social class and individual positions are the norm. To a large extent, Western lifestyle has made Africans who have adopted such styles to change their value system, who now despise “motho ke motho ka batho” (I am because you are) in exchange for defining themselves through material amassment. There is, therefore, a need to teach the notion that wealthy people who want status recognition must demonstrate their social consciousness and responsibility by contributing to their community’s welfare. Status should be earned through respect for others, unity, cooperation, etc., which are tenets of botho.

Technology Education is regarded as one of the so-called gateway subjects in schools. With this message, unfortunately, comes a false sense of inward looking and abuse of technology by those who perceive it as a tool for bossiness rather than a tool for developing fellow men’s lives. Driving a big car “makes you better than someone who walks on foot”—it is a status measuring instrument. What we need then is deconstructed Technology Education subject, which, guided by botho, can first teach learners about the value of life and environment as well as make them design as teams more than as individuals. The teaching of the subject should advance the notion of indigenous knowledge being handed down from one generation to another. The content should include, as Owuor advises, symbols, art, oral narratives, proverbs and performance such as songs, storytelling, wise sayings, riddles and dances which are consummate indigenous cultures. According to him, oral art remains the most important means of transmitting knowledge and skills as a way of maintaining societal continuity from one generation to the next in Kenya. Varied methods are used to integrate character building, intellectual training, manual activities and physical education. These activities are prevalent in many contexts in Africa, for example, riddles told by elders, proverbial expressions, morabaraba, etc. The technologies surrounding these activities have the potential to transform or decolonize the curriculum.

The notion that there cannot be the generalization of African cultures and ethnic groups is dismissed. There are observed commonalities in their lives and activities, such as their natural inclination towards music and singing—they sing when they are happy and use singing as a technology for energy during struggles, traditional weaponry and technics, lobola negotiations and roles of uncles and aunts and many commonalities that can be observed during ceremonies. Awuor claims that specific trade skills are learnt through apprenticeship and youths’ observation of the practices modelled by adults ←xvi | xvii→or trainers. In the case of specialized knowledge such as indigenous medicine and spirituality, specific members of the family are identified as custodians of the knowledge and mentored through exposure to the practice by those who are specialized in the field from the family or clan. Patenting of such knowledge does not come in the form of documentation per se, but every member of the society knows and respects the sacredness of such knowledge.

Experiential knowledge is always acquired through a personal exploration and practicality based on the everyday lived experiences. It is mostly categorized in terms of gender, with young men sticking close to the old men and young women sticking close to the old women to be taught. That is why the African education system is not bound to time and walls. It is depended on the cyclical and not linear or mechanical concept of time—that is why it is more effective when it happens within communities rather than in confined spaces away from the communities. By its very practical nature, then, Technology Education should yield teaching-learning activities that happen within communities in which case needs can be diagnosed in such communities collectively with them and solutions designed for them. In such manner, as Awuor denotes, education benefits by involving the expertise of multiple teachers given the multiple natures of roles and responsibilities in life through which the youths need to be mentored and guided—it takes a whole village to educate a child.

From this created understanding of indigenization, it can be gathered that indigenous knowledge is the most important tool by which to realize decolonization of education. It is for this reason that the term dominates discourses in the chapters contained in this book. Attuned to reasons for decolonization given above, reasons for indigenizing the curriculum include the following:

Indigenous knowledge provides the basis for problem-solving strategies for local communities especially the poor. The Technology Education subject should therefore be conceptualized such that it will help drive developments about sustainability in indigenous contexts. A chapter by Kwaira and Gumbo (2017) on Taking Design and Technology Education to the community: The case of Makonde Rural District in Zimbabwe offers a practical example about how Technology Education can be married to the society and environment.

Indigenous knowledge represents an important component of global knowledge on development issues. Since indigenous knowledge is mostly low-tech and thus environmentally friendly knowledge, it can empower learners to be tomorrow’s designers who can prioritize bio solution to the already troubled environment.

Indigenous knowledge is an underutilized resource in the development process. This is because of attitudes shown towards it that it is low grade ←xvii | xviii→knowledge and technology. Curriculum transformation that critically gives it due recognition can turn the tide in which it can be promoted and its benefits realized.

Learning from indigenous knowledge by investigating first what local communities know and have can improve understanding of local conditions and provide a productive context for activities designed to help the communities. By embracing indigenous knowledge, therefore, Technology teachers can deconstruct design scenarios for learners by shifting the focus from conventional technologies to indigenous technologies.

Understanding indigenous knowledge can increase responsiveness to clients. The transformation of Technology Education curriculum can help attract such responsiveness.

Adapting international practices to the local setting can help improve the impact and sustainability of development assistance. Whatever external practices that are suggested for African education contexts, they must respect the local contexts such that they can be effectively adapted rather than adopted. There are cultural, content, methodological, assessment and resources issues that must be interrogated in the context of decolonization and critical race theories. Learners are not supposed to be taught without being empowered to become creative and critical thinkers in decolonial terms. Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement in South Africa promotes these skills among the many that it contains. They should not just be policy beautifications without making sure they are realized.

Sharing indigenous knowledge within and across communities can help enhance a cross-cultural understanding and promote the cultural dimension of development. It should be admitted that colonialism has denied and still does, not only indigenous learners but also non-indigenous learners opportunities to learn about indigenous knowledge and technology. There is therefore a need to train teachers not to teach only but to be agents of transformation of the curriculum as well.

Investing in an exchange of indigenous knowledge and its integration into the assistance programs of the World Bank and its development partners can help to reduce poverty. Poverty is rife among indigenous communities because for decades intervention programs have been superimposed on indigenous contexts and people and as such they have failed. What we need is community participatory programs which are designed from within and not externally.

(World Bank, 1998, p. i)


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (August)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XX, 356 pp., 13 b/w ill., 5 tables.

Biographical notes

Mishack T. Gumbo (Volume editor)

Mishack T. Gumbo is a Professor in the College of Education at the University of South Africa. He earned his PhD and BA from Vista University. He has a MEd in Technology Education, a Ort-​International Certificate in Technology Education, a B TECH Professional Certificate in Project Management, and a Cert. in DE & E-Learning.


Title: Decolonization of Technology Education