Understanding the importance of Oral Tradition as an educational tool in the marginalized rural town of Steynsburg, Eastern Cape SA, while exploring the existing indigenous knowledge through stories and songs

Story telling session

Image Source: Monwabisi Dasi

Nowadays, scholars come to rural towns in South Africa to get information about healing herbs and take them away to their university labs to test and prove the information. The system values the findings and the academic researcher, but not the holders of knowledge or the culture through which it was developed. The education system sees no value in the communities living in the rural towns of South Africa and they are excluded from social and economic value, except for the able-bodied adult, used as migrant labour, with almost no opportunity to actualize their talents and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

The absence of higher learning institutions near these towns excludes people from gaining economic and social value that only the academic institutions can bestow on them. This social and economic exclusion manifests in symptoms like teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, domestic violence and lives of little economic opportunity or perceived value.

Our project seeks to demonstrate how ordinary women and youth of Steynsburg use Oral Tradition to pass on information and how this approach could be adopted, encouraged and made part of the validated teaching and learning systems.

“Having grown up and been initiated in Steynsburg, I have seen the value of teaching through story, riddles and song. It has improved my way of seeing the world and has made it easy for me to interact with broader society. My research wishes to contribute to this urgent undertaking, by evaluating our traditional isiXhosa Oral knowledge sharing systems, including the one my grandmother used to teach me. Knowledge that is packaged in stories that are told through song.” Monwabisi Dasi, Primary investigator

“Education in diverse forms and multiple contexts provides the means whereby each generation passes on its culture, discoveries, successes and failures to the next. Without intergenerational education, very little in a human context can be sustainable.”


Research Team

Monwabisi Dasi, Angela Mac Pherson and Asavela Masheba

Research Fellow

Monwabisi Dasi

Monwabisi Dasi


South Africa