One of the sites where the legacies of colonialism continue to be perpetuated in the Global South is the law classroom. In the teaching and research of international law, ‘mainstream’ narratives of international law are privileged as the Subject, and critical international law scholarship is treated as the Other.
Teaching & Curriculum Development
The ongoing pandemic has not only changed our social relationships, it has brought a giant change in the University teaching pedagogy too. Face-to-face classroom teaching has been replaced by virtual mode of teaching. These online class-rooms have become the closest equivalent to the physical class-rooms now. Though, many popular online learning platforms existed even prior to the pandemic, the widespread use of virtual platforms have started only since the lockdown. The following is a combined account of our experiences while dealing with online classes.
In this discussion, I want to highlight and briefly discuss why research and expertise has to become an even more important feature of teaching and learning initiatives. This might sound uncontroversial, but in the past two decades, significant funding for Australian universities has come from international students’ fees. Arguably, the nexus between teaching and research during this time also shifted along with the availability of more funds for universities to invest in research as an important activity in and of itself. The university sector is potentially on a dangerous road if it does not establish a healthy approach to the teaching-research nexus.
“Not acceptable at this level”, a professor commented on one of my exam questions that asked students to “[d]escribe the salient features of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).” This happened in 2017 at the University of Namibia (UNAM) where, until last year, I taught the International Economic Law module, a module pitched at the level of a bachelor honors degree. The professor – an academic from a leading South African university hired to moderate examination papers from UNAM’s Faculty of Law – recommended that I tweak my question as follows: “Discuss the validity of the Southern African Customs Union in the WTO framework”.
May 13, 2019
With regards to the Southern African Trade Law subject, works of African scholars constitute the majority of the prescribed reading materials. The examination questions are also reflective of developments around regionalism in Southern Africa, with hypotheticals on how member states can navigate trade rules and obligations. In going forward, I intend to implement a number of approaches in enhancing the pedagogy of international economic law.
My teaching style is as conversational as possible: while providing an introduction through lecture style, class generally turns into a hybrid between lecture and debate between myself and the students, but also among the students. I regularly divided students up into groups with specific tasks (such as taking on particular viewpoints or positions within negotiations), which they had to develop among themselves and then present arguments to the group as a whole.
Regional agreements and caselaw are studied, and books by African scholars are on the recommended reading list. Approximately seventy students are registered for L583 in any given year. It runs over two semesters (August - May). I did the course as an undergraduate student at the university. I then went on to specialise in IEL in my graduate studies. Doing further research on IEL, as well as attending conferences and trainings, assisted to continually update my knowledge so that I could improve my teaching.
Afronomicslaw.org invited submissions on the teaching of international economic law, (IEL), in Africa to reflect on a number of questions. We asked the contributors to reflect on these questions: What materials did you use to teach? What teaching style did you adopt? Did you center Africa or make the materials relevant to an African context in the materials you used and if so how? For example, did you use of African case studies; or use African-specific materials (e.g. books, articles, cases, treaties)? Was the class required? How many enrolled in the class? How did you determine grades in the class? Did class participation count towards the grade? Did you have prior background in the area when you first taught the course e.g. in your graduate school education, in your research and scholarship, in practice? How would you say the students received the course? Did they find it interesting, relevant, or indifferent?