‘You have to change, the curriculum stays the same’: decoloniality and curricular justice in South African higher education

Kibbie Naidoo, Sheila Trahar, Lisa Lucas, Patricia Muhuro, Gina Wisker

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This article reports on a study that focuses on students from rural areas of South Africa and their experiences of higher education. These students have attracted little attention in widening participation research in South Africa, despite being one of the most marginalised groups. The article, drawing on the experiences of student co-researchers and using the concepts of decoloniality and curricular justice as a theoretical framework, argues for greater acknowledgement of epistemic reciprocity in curriculum development as a way to ensure more socially just curricula. Findings illustrate the importance that students attribute to being able to relate to curricula that reflect their experiences, curricula that they rarely experience in higher education. Students report feelings of marginalisation, lack of recognition of the importance of knowledge and skills developed in their communities and their relevance to higher education together with the challenges they face accessing and engaging with the curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-977
Number of pages17
Issue number7
Early online date11 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Newton Fund, the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) and the National Research Foundation (South Africa) [ES/P002072/1]. The SARiHE project was undertaken by Principal Investigators Professor Thea de Wet and Dr Sue Timmis with Co-Investigators Professor Sheila Trahar, Dr Lisa Lucas, Kibbie Naidoo, Professor Emmanuel Mgqwashu, Dr Patricia Muhuro and Professor Gina Wisker. We were accompanied on this project by 72 student co-researchers and 10 institutional researchers. We fully acknowledge their contributions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 British Association for International and Comparative Education.


  • Rurality
  • curricular justice
  • curriculum development
  • decoloniality
  • epistemic reciprocity
  • higher education
  • Sustainability
  • north-south race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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