Joint International Conference on “Inclusive Religious Education South of the Sahara: Crisis and Redemption”

University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi, The Great Hall
27-29 July 2022

Goal: South of the Sahara, Inclusive Religious Education (IRE) is an exemplification of an attempt to decolonise Religious Education (RE) (see Gearon et al., 2021). To a greater extent, such a format of RE is a response to the emergence of a democratic dispensation (from the mid-1990s onwards), including greater recognition of cultural and religious plurality in line with the protection of rights and other freedoms crafted into national constitutions. IRE is part of a broader discussion on how education must respond to United Nation’s Sustainable Goals related to reducing inequality in whatever forms it exists (Goal 10), and in particular how the school curriculum deals with religious minorities in national contexts with a historically majoritised religion. Addressing these issues through education as ‘safe space’ is important towards realising The Organisation of African Unity’s Agenda 2063, which, inter alia, prioritises inclusive social development, strengthening democratic governance, and ensuring peace and security in repositioning Africa as a global player.

What makes IRE different from the missionary-type Christian RE is the importance it places on religious plurality as the core issue in doing RE, including controversially, the phenomenological imperative that ‘truth’ resides in every religion. However, to date how countries south of the Sahara have engaged with IRE from conception to policy and then implementation at school, is a subject that has not been subjected to critical reflection. What little is known indicates a programme of RE (i.e. IRE) that is contested and slipping into obscurity as countries seem reluctant or unable to embrace religious pluralism as part of doing RE, a school subject that traditionally has focused on normative religions like Christianity or Islam (Matemba and Addai-Mununkum, 2021). Evidently, IRE south of the Sahara is in crisis and therefore in need of redemption if RE at school is to align with democratic principles in recognising the religious ‘other’ as premised in the countries’ national constitutions.

The joint conference organised by colleagues from three institutions (University of Malawi, Malawi, University of the West of Scotland, UK, and Domasi College of Education, Malawi) invites academics, scholars, researchers and other interested stakeholders (e.g. education officials, religious groups, non-governmental organisations and political leaders) to a critical discussion on the state (public esteem), status (extent of provision) and future direction for IRE in a democratic dispensation south of the Sahara. The following questions are instructive in thinking about the conference:

  • How do stakeholders engage with IRE in a general context where historically RE has been synonymous with (Christian) confessionalism?
  • How have countries south of the Sahara approached the design and implementation of IRE? What are the pedagogical nuances, strategies and arrangements for RE that have emerged in the context of introducing IRE?
  • What success stories can be shared in contexts where IRE is a vibrant programme on the school curriculum?
  • What can be suggested in dealing with challenges facing IRE in contexts where this programme is contested and marginalised in schools?
  • If any, what are the future prospects for IRE in south of the Sahara?

Keynote: Dr Yonah H. Matemba: “The state and status of Inclusive Religious Education south of the Sahara”.

Conference Booklet: