Title: Decolonising the law clinic curriculum in post-colonial countries: what does this mean?

Lead Presenter: Jonathan Campbell

Co-Presenters:

  1. David McQuoid-Mason
  2. Ernest Ojukwu

Session Abstract: In the last two years South Africa has seen angry and sometimes violent national student protest action under the slogan #FeesMustFall – a call for free higher education for all. Access to higher education is but one of many elements of the transformation of this sector, and so the broader imperative of transformation of higher education has been brought into sharper focus – which is not peculiar to southern Africa. The legal academy is starting to wrestle with what this means for legal education and the legal system generally. Another extremely important element of transformation is, of course, the curriculum. In South Africa there have been increasingly fervent demands for ‘decolonisation of the curriculum’ – which is relevant to all former colonies – and specifically the ‘Africanisation of the curriculum’ in Africa – but there is as yet no clear conception or agreement as to what this means. The Law Clinic curriculum is a critical component of most LLB curricula, and thus the South African Association of University Law Clinics (SAULCA) has arranged a national workshop to take place in July 2017 at which it will consider the transformative role of the law clinician. In this session, by drawing on the experiences of the participants, we will seek to develop a better understanding of what the decolonisation of the curriculum can mean for law clinics. In the legal context decolonisation recognises the need for a critical legal education that produces lawyers who are not only technically and professionally competent but also socially, politically and intellectually engaged. It acknowledges the social responsibility of the legal system that is a core component of the social fabric of society, and opens the way for the law to become a social force for positive change. Transformative education can occur when a student, with her existing beliefs and opinions, is exposed to a different worldview which she is then able to consider and integrate into her own worldview. A law curriculum is more than simply a list of topics, but includes what is taught, how it is taught and assessed, as well as who the teachers and the students are. Contextual factors must be taken into account in developing the curriculum, which is value-based and subjective. Law clinician teachers’ beliefs and experiences shape their educational offering, and so it really matters who they are. Thus if the student body is diverse (in terms of race, gender, nationality, experience, and much more), mirroring broader society that the law serves, then it is highly desirable that the law clinician teaching complement be diverse as well. In this way a range of world views, experience and understanding of both traditional Western and indigenous law and custom can be accommodated, and it is essential that student voices are also heard in curriculum development. Participants will be invited to share their views on the meaning of ‘decolonization’ and how the law curriculum and clinical legal education teaching methods can further its understanding.

Session Material:

  1. Ideas for de colonisation of law clinic curriculum
  2. SLIDES

See full list of abstracts here.