'History of contempt and pity runs through 100 years of research at SU'

There has been an outcry over a paper titled: “Cognitive functioning in Coloured South African women" published by researchers at Stellenbosch University.

This research argued that coloured women are susceptible to learning disabilities due to a historically broken education system.

The report has been criticised for playing into racist tropes.

Read: Apartheid legacy has impacted cognitive function in coloured women - study

Stellenbosch University's Professor Jonathan Jansen talks to CapeTalk's Kieno Kammies about how the institution can avoid publishing prejudiced and offensive research.

I wasn't really surprised by the research because I have been warning about this kind of thing for years...because there is a lot of research in South Africa, particularly in the bio-medical field, that makes the connection between race and behaviour, or race and certain kinds of social outcomes.

Professor Jonathan Jansen, Faculty of Education - Stellenbosch University

He says it is unfortunate that there is still this belief that there is a connection between race and aptitude or ability.

This study is simply a continuation of 100 years of research at Stellenbosch University that makes those connections - in this case between being coloured and certain kinds of behaviours.

Professor Jonathan Jansen, Faculty of Education - Stellenbosch University

You can't simply change this behaviour with a workshop or two. This is emotional knowledge, not just intellectual knowledge.

Professor Jonathan Jansen, Faculty of Education - Stellenbosch University

People really do believe the racial tropes, he explains.

So I was not surprised when these researchers were first approached, they said: 'but what did we do wrong?' And the second response was 'but we were just trying to help the coloured women.'

Professor Jonathan Jansen, Faculty of Education - Stellenbosch University

There is a history of contempt and pity that runs through 100 years of research at Stellenbosch University.

Professor Jonathan Jansen, Faculty of Education - Stellenbosch University

How can this change?

Prepare for the long game. This is not going to be changed quickly.

Professor Jonathan Jansen, Faculty of Education - Stellenbosch University

He says a core curriculum needs to be introduced that addresses social, cultural and political issues, as well as seminars to bring awareness around issues of race. He says this is not a legal issue, but rather one of education.

Listen to the interview below:


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