Challenges and Curriculum Transformation in the Higher Education Sector in South Africa: A Case Study in WASH to Improve the Training of Pharmacists

Roman Tandlich 1 , Nosiphiwe P. Ngqwala 2 , Aileen Boshoff 3 , Phindile Madikizela 4 , C. Sunitha Srinivas 5 , Desmond M. Pyle 6 , and Rene Oosthuizen 7
  • 1 Rhodes University, Faculty of Pharmacy, Grahamstown, South Africa
  • 2 Rhodes University, Faculty of Pharmacy, Grahamstown, South Africa
  • 3 Rhodes University Biotechnology Innovation Centre, , Grahamstown, South Africa
  • 4 Rhodes University, Faculty of Pharmacy, Grahamstown, South Africa
  • 5 Rhodes University, Faculty of Pharmacy, Grahamstown, South Africa
  • 6 School of Disaster Management, Stenden South Africa, , Port Alfred, South Africa
  • 7 School of Disaster Management, Stenden South Africa, , Port Alfred, South Africa


Introduction: South Africa is a member state of the “BRICS” bloc () and the G20 group of the 20 nations/economic blocs, which between them account for the majority of the world’s trade and economic activity. It faces many developmental challenges which are mirrored in its higher education sector. In this article, the authors seek to provide an overview of the challenges that South African higher education faces in the achievement of the developmental goals of the country. The focus of this paper is a case study in WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) to improve context-specific responses that trains pharmacists on knowledge and skills.

Methods: The study was performed as a combination of calculations and a literature review to obtain the background or current status of the higher education sector and developmental planning in South Africa. For this, data were extracted from the Statistics South Africa reports, relevant professional articles on South African higher education sector and results of postgraduate research. Workshop results which were obtained as a collaboration between a public and a private higher education institution and results of postgraduate research were used as the paradigm for transformation and decolonisation of the curriculum for a professional degree in South Africa.

Results and discussion: Challenges exist in the South African tertiary education sector and the graduation rate currently stands at 65.1% of the target set by the National Development Plan. Around 58.1% of all students do not complete their university/post-secondary education, which could provide a partial explanation for the skills shortage in South Africa. Decolonisation and transformation of the tertiary education curriculum are major topics in the discourse on higher education in South Africa. The authors propose that one way to achieve this would be inclusion of research results and group activities in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene as a topic for possible and partial transformation of the Bachelor of Pharmacy curriculum.

Conclusions: The current article summarises some of topics and challenges that drive the current discourse, developmental and curriculum debate in higher education in South Africa. Student access and through put at tertiary institutions need to be improved and the curriculum needs to be transformed.

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