Mokubung Nkomo

After graduating from CIE Mokubung spent 15 years on the Faculty of Education at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte where he taught, advised students and pursued his research interests. During this period he published numerous articles and several books, including his well-known and often-cited Pedagogy of Domination (1990) as well as Student Culture and Activism in South African Universities (1984).


He returned to South Africa in 1998 where he became the Executive Director, Education and training, with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in Pretoria.  Over the next 15 years he held various positions with HSRC, including that of Senior Research Fellow from 2002-2005 and from 2012 to 2015 he was an Honorary Research Fellow with the Council.  From 2002 to 2012 he was also Professor (Extraordinary) in the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria.


In addition, he served as Deputy-Vice Chancellor at Tshwane University of Technology for 18 months and as Ombudsman at the University of South Africa. 


He received numerous research grants from the Ford Foundation, IDRC Canada, and The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, among others.  He has published 8 books and many dozens of articles and research papers. He has also been a regular contributor to the national press with op-ed pieces and articles focusing on the role of education in South Africa, particularly higher education.


The abstract from an article that he published in 2013 in the South African Journal of Higher Education reflects well the focus of much of his research.


South Africa’s education system is teetering on a slippery and dangerous slope. The choice is whether to stay mired in a state of stagnation, camouflaged by a beguiling new vocabulary of change, or to transform a crippling historic legacy through an authentic vision, one fuelled by trenchant, and sustained vigour.…The article reflects on the heavy weight of an inheritance that has been transmitted inter-generationally and differentiated through racialised and gendered epistemologies, pedagogies, and curricula; all these are deeply embedded in institutional cultures that are routinely executed by an entrenched staff complement who are socialised with dated attitudes and practices.


In retirement he looked back on his career and remembered a moment of epiphany that occurred soon after completing his undergraduate degree.


I awoke from my reflective state with the crystal vision that education was the key that could unlock my own society from a general state of underdevelopment (e.g., poverty, illiteracy, inequality, injustice).


I believe that being born in South Africa in the mid-forties and starting school in the early fifties under a virulent and tyrannical system of racial oppression influenced my determination to pursue a career in education.


The epiphany inspired a vision that saw education as a tool for development, tempered somehow by Robinson’s admonishment that “although education cannot transform the world, the world cannot be transformed without education.”


With that tinge of sobriety, I nevertheless soldiered on being fully aware that for genuine development to happen other complementary activities in the broader society should happen simultaneously. In my case, being fully aware that my capacity to walk and chew gum at the same time was limited, my desire to delve into other complementary activities became confined to reflections on the value of ‘social cohesion’ in a society burdened with an impaired legacy; again, and obviously a function of my lived experience in South Africa and the spell I had in the US.  [7-20]




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