Stellenbosch study on coloured women 'draws on colonial stereotypes'

Published Apr 29, 2019


Cape Town - There has been more criticism over a Stellenbosch University study which found that coloured women in South Africa have an increased risk of low-cognitive functioning as they presented low education levels and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours.

Newly formed political party People’s Republic of SA (Prosa) slammed the study as demeaning, dehumanising and racist.

Prosa president Bulelwa Bomela said: “We have read the ‘research’ and I cannot understand how the university’s ethics committee was so nonchalant to approve such research in the first place.

“We strongly call on our peers in the profession to do a thorough review on this research document, and to discredit it to be as useless as the bonded toilet paper it represents,” Bomela said.

The study was conducted by Sharné Nieuwoudt, Kasha Elizabeth Dickie, Carla Coetsee, Louise Engelbrecht and Elmarie Terblanche.

According to an extract, the

study assessed the cognitive function and its association with age and education in a sample of young and middle-aged coloured South African women.

Sixty women, aged 18 to 64, were separated into four age groups and two education groups.

Cognitive function was assessed using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and a computerised neuro-cognitive test.

Education and age were significantly correlated with all measured cognitive domains.

An age-related decline was observed for all domains.

The high education group scored significantly better in all cognitive domains while the young to middle-aged coloured women presented low-cognitive function, which is significantly influenced by education.

The Psychological Society of SA's division for research and methodology said the methodology used was fatally flawed.

“We are disturbed and strongly opposed to the practice of misusing racial classification in scientific research and the consequent perpetuation of stigma, discrimination and racism as exemplified in the publication of 'Age and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in Coloured South African women' in Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition.

“The article draws on colonial stereotypes of ‘coloured’ women, and portrays them as intellectually deficient, making broad, reckless and injurious generalisations on the basis of a flawed methodology,” said the society.

Social commentator Leonard Mar- tin reportedly said the university should apologise for study and the research should be removed.

"The university as an institution neither condones nor evaluates the opinions reached by its scholars as participants in this academic debate.,” said Professor Eugene Cloete, deputy vice-chancellor for research, innovation and postgraduate studies.


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Cape Argus

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