Stellenbosch University File photo: African News Agency (ANA)
Stellenbosch University File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Outrage over Maties study on coloured women's 'intelligence'

By Dominic Adriaanse Time of article published Apr 23, 2019

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Cape Town - A Stellenbosch University study that found coloured women have an increased risk for low cognitive functioning due to low education levels and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours has been met with scorn and outrage.

The study, “Age and education effects on cognitive functioning in coloured South African women,” was conducted by researchers from the university's Department of Sport Science.

They used a group of 60 women (18-64 years), separated into four age groups and two education groups.

“An age-related decline was observed for all domains, with low scores observed for processing speed already in young adulthood. The high education group scored significantly better in all cognitive domains.

"Young to middle-aged coloured women present with low cognitive function and which is significantly influenced by education,” found the study.

A test used in the study included the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), for detecting cognitive impairment.

The study concludes: “Although it could not be established if coloured women are cognitively impaired based on the shortcomings of the CNSVS normative data, the MoCA scores of the low education group indicated low levels of cognitive function.”

However, the researchers go on to admit that “the American standardised norms” were not comparable to a South.

Some South Africans took to social media, with one posting on Facebook: “Absolutely disgusting. This is such racist bull passed off as academic research.” Another user posted: “I would be ashamed to be a researcher on this. Like how do you even get to this as a research topic?”

Someone else said: “Was expecting a much earlier date on this paper Like 1985. How was this even approved?”

With another saying: “If anything, it renders coloured womxn (sic) anthropological objects unable to think. It’s bewildering that a text so enmeshed in colonial epistemologies (consider the impact of eugenics in southern Africa) could be presented as ‘scientific’. But, then again, Stellenbosch University remains the white supremacist gift that keeps on giving.”

Faculty of medicine and health sciences professor in sports science Elmarie Terblanche said the study was approved by the university’s Ethics Committee for Human Research and should not in any way be seen as discriminatory or racist.

“It should be noted that the study did not measure intelligence or in any way come to the conclusion that coloured women are less intelligent than any other race group. It merely pointed out that due to certain prevailing factors in South Africa - as clearly set out in the article - coloured women are at risk of developing neuro-cognitive diseases, such as dementia, and this risk is more than what would be ascribed to ageing alone.” Terblanche said the article clearly indicated limitations to the study.


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