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Petition launched over ‘racist’ report on coloured South African women

UCT professor Barbara Boswell is part of a group that's written an open letter and launched a petition following the report. They’ve called on Stellenbosch University to retract it.

UCT professor Barbara Boswell has spoken out against the report on coloured South African women. Picture: @BobbiBoswell/Twitter

CAPE TOWN – A petition has been launched following the release of a report which suggests that coloured South African women have an increased risk of low cognitive function, due to lower education levels and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours.

The report, titled Age- and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in colored South African women, has sparked outrage. The study only had a sample size of 60 people.

Professor Elmarie Terblanche of Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences spoke to CapeTalk following criticism of the report. She said the study was approved by an ethics committee at the university.

“It is very unfortunate that that is the view because it was absolutely not the idea to highlight what is going on in a specific population. Rather, this is a group that is not often studied while there are similar studies on other population groups.”

UCT Professor Barbara Boswell is part of a group that’s written an open letter and launched a petition following the report. They’ve called on Stellenbosch University to retract it. Boswell spoke to CapeTalk and said she was gobsmacked.

“I was shocked to see this kind of tone, the language and the idea of coloured as a homogenous group. With every sentence as I started reading from the title to the abstract, my jaw dropped further and further to the ground. I find it really difficult and I know we’re in different disciplines in the academy, but that some people could construct this using colonial and apartheid science.”

Former lecturer Shaheed Mohamed has also shared his thoughts.

“The origin of the current world population is African if you want to really be a stickler for being precise. I think the professor is confusing an artificial colonial term, which was used as a means to artificially separate people. Many people who were so-called white people were classified coloured. Many people who were coloured classified as white. These are not scientific categories. They are contested colonial terms.”

In a statement, Stellenbosch University said it was "concerned about the pain and anger that the article has solicited within the academic community and broader society".

"As an institution we are opposed to racism, including intellectual racism or attributing cognitive capacities such as intelligence in terms of race."

Listen to the audio for more.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)