Seboka Project

Seboka Project is a multi-University & multi-country project under the short title

"The Integration of African Indigenous Health Knowledge in the Nursing Curriculum in Africa."

The project leader is Prof Abel Pienaar, North-West University, Pots, South Africa.

Descriptive title:

The Integration of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems in the nursing curriculum of African nurses to facilitate the co-existence between the Western health practice and the African indigenous health practice in order to bridge and redress the past injustices caused by the lack of recognition of the African indigenous health practices which provides meaning and is utilised by most African patients.

Project Summary

Living on the African continent, where killer diseases like HIV/AIDS are most prevalent and many characteristics of AIDS have mystical associations (Liddell et al., 2005:695), it is generally expected that health professionals are conversant in African indigenous knowledge systems (Ofori-Attah 2006: 413). However, this is not the case, due to the influence of the missionaries and the colonialists on the African education system. (Omolewa, 2007: 594).

Colonial education continues to be dominant, due to the fact that colonial values and principles to undermine African Indigenous societies are conditioned into Africans according to Woolman (2001:29). Therefore the health education curricula in Africa are still based on Western principles, influenced by the latter, irrespective of the more than 80% of Africans who are consulting indigenous healers on the continent.

Currently it is peremptory that all areas of community of practice, also the nursing profession in primary health care, should recognise the vital role indigenous healers play in the healing process of human beings. They do not only serve as practitioners, they are the educators, counsellors, support workers, guardians of indigenous knowledge as well as teachers of traditional culture and spirituality (Mills et al., 2005:466; Banda, 2009:109). This explicitly demands that the health curricula in transition in Africa include the daily practice of Africans.

Nearly a decade ago, Jansen (1991:78) asserted that a curriculum in transition must take in consideration the state as the „principal‟ in guiding the policy of education; the heritage of a community in education as well as the current struggle for equality in education. Needless to emphasize that much still remains to be done in the South African and African education systems.

Subsequently the core principle of outcomes-based education in South Africa, according to Vambe (2005:287), is to redress the inequalities of the past. One of the inequalities which have not been addressed was the integration of African indigenous knowledge systems in the nursing curriculum, despite the proposed transformation of the nursing curriculum recently. A natural question therefore arises: How can the nurse facilitate holistic health care in an African context without this essential competence in AIKS?

The researchers therefore envision drawing information from participants from different areas of community of practice as empirical evidence, which are from the African indigenous health practitioners, the nurse educationist, nursing students and patients in an endeavour to explore and describe the current practices to inform the content which should be included in the nursing curriculum. After the qualitative phase of this research, the researchers plan to develop an instrument, to be used as a best practice guide, to safeguard the African indigenous health practitioner from high risk practices and also to establish evidence-based practices. To gain evidence, the researchers will embark on a systematic review as well as a randomized control trial (RCT) to test the use of acceptable indigenous medical plants, like the mint , isihlambezo etc. Previously RCT‟s were done with evidence in the use of mint and isihlambezo in other contexts (Varga & Veale, 1997:911).

Following this empirical stage the researchers plan to advocate for the inclusion of the African indigenous health systems through a qualitative research process, using Appreciative Inquiry technique with nursing educators, clinicians and students. A mixed-method research with qualitative and quantitative processes will be used to realize the project. This process is discussed in the different phases of the project. Community inclusion-, sharing and empowerment will be core to our approach and implemented throughout the project.

Guidelines for the inclusion of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems in nursing curriculum and innovative learning and teaching will be developed in conclusion to enhance the achievement of quality nursing education that is relevant and credible to the needs of diversity in health care in Africa. Capacity building amongst researchers and post graduate students will be accomplished through competence sharing and scholarly publications.

Greece participates in this project as there is a vast wealth of knowledge in Greece as concerns the ways people  used to (and still do) do to support health, bring children to the world and raise children. Furthermore, we aim to see the differences and similarities between the two countries and finally look at the indigenous knowledge under the light of Modern Sciences and see how taditional practices can be justified today. 

We would like to see more countries with rich Indigenous knowledge to join us and welcome all of them to our team.  For more information, contact Olga Gouni (email: or send us the request form here.