In 2016, reports flooded the internet of plans by prominent universities In South Africa to begin offering courses in witchcraft and wizardry.
The reports sparked mixed reactions across the continent and many critics called for sanctions on institutions such as the University of Venda, Limpopo, South Africa. The reports claimed that the public educational institution was already offering courses in witchcraft, with specialization in the use of lightning and thunder.
There were also unconfirmed comments from an unnamed head of faculty in the school who was quoted as saying what they have seen so far is “way beyond science” and that students will be equipped to “open portals to other dimensions that are not known by scientists”.
In what appeared to be a confirmation that African universities were getting huge financial support from international organizations to offer courses, a 2019 article published by the Lusaka Times claimed the University of Zambia had commenced courses in witchcraft.
According to the report, the University of Zambia had received US$340,000 from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to develop a Degree Programme to train students in witchcraft.
“The Zambia National Commission for UNESCO has explained that Intangible Heritage comprises of practices such as Witchcraft, Social Practices such as expression through music, Knowledge, skills - as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts, and rituals;” the article read.
It also stated that courses in witchcraft had commenced with the first intake comprising 20 students.
The reports were coming a year after the then Higher Education Minister of the country, Professor Nkandu Luo announced that Zambia should consider research and the study of witchcraft as a science that can be used productively for the benefit of the country.
Professor Luo said Zambian scientists can learn from their South African counterparts who have commenced studies in witchcraft in some universities.
“I could not help but think of witchcraft when I saw a mobile phone put into a box and it turned into a lady’s pant!” she said during the commemoration of the World Science Day for Peace and Development dubbed: ‘Recreating interest in science, technology, and innovation’.
However, an October 2019 article by Africa Check debunked the reports about the University of Venda, and pointed out that the article, which has been tagged as fake news by Facebook was actually a satirical piece.
According to Africa Check, “the article was flagged as possibly false by Facebook’s fact-checking system. But it’s not false – or true. It’s satire.” Well, as the famous African proverb goes, ‘there is no smoke without fire.’
In 2020, another news report shared the information that Machakos University in Kenya is set to launch a Degree in witchcraft.
Speaking during the launch, the Vice-Chancellor of the University said that the course had already attracted tens of applicants and the University was aiming at exploiting local resources to make the course a success.
“We have a lot of indigenous knowledge in the wider Machakos County which can be harnessed for the good of the society and this is the first step towards mainstreaming this knowledge. We hope that young people and the new generation will take advantage of this course so that important historical and cultural information is not lost.”
The university further went on to reveal that the four-year course which was billed to commence last year would be housed under the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Today, there are hundreds of free online courses on witchcraft and wizardry, which offer certificates upon completion. There are also various schools of witchcraft and wizardry which claim to have strong roots in Africa.
Critics believe that the continuous reports about such courses in African universities and the rise in online provision of same means there is a growing industry for it in the continent. Thus, there is a need for increased concern and measures to prevent normalizing witchcraft and wizardry in the African society.
Some others however believe that the structuring of African cultural beliefs, albeit in witchcraft and wizardry would boost the continent in the area of technology and science. They claim that technological advancements in developed countries have footprints of witchcraft and wizardry.
As the numbers on each side of the divide continue to increase, one thing that remains crucial is whether such courses should be offered in universities.
What are your thoughts?