25 November 2015 Volume :3 Issue :53

Social Work Academic is the 2015 Educator of the Year

Social Work Academic is the 2015 Educator of the Year
Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul with her 2015 Educator of the Year Award.

Senior Professor in the School of Applied Human Sciences, Vishanthie Sewpaul, was recently awarded the 2015 Educator of the Year Award in the distinguished category by the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions for her outstanding national and international contribution to social work education. 

‘I feel truly honoured to be acknowledged by my peers nationally. I have tremendous regard and respect for my colleagues, and the recognition from them is very special. I do hope this serves as inspiration for younger academics. Creativity and vision combined with hard work do bring their rewards,’ she said.

Sewpaul also delivered the Terry Hokenstad lecture, to a standing ovation, at the Annual Programme Meeting (APM) and conference of the Council on Social Work Education in Denver where she discussed the topic “Challenges to the West and the Rest value dichotomies: Culture, human rights and social work”.

In the international lecture, she addressed the inextricable relationship between development, democracy, culture and human rights, using the lens of intersectionality.

‘Through colonialism and continued forms of imperialism, the west has an indelible footprint on the rest, with an undermining of the intellectuality and self-confidence of colonised peoples, and the destruction of local traditions and cultures. Perhaps as a reactionary measure, African and Asian traditions are upheld as the core of authentic indigenous cultures, an emancipatory alternative to a hegemonic Western culture,’ she said.

Sewpaul challenged the idealisation of, and the essentialising and normalisation dynamics and discourses around, what are deemed to be monolithic western, Asian and African cultures, and she discussed the implications of these for social work’s simultaneous, and seemingly uncontested commitment to respecting cultural diversity, doing no harm and promoting human rights.

Professor Hokenstad said: ‘Her lecture was clearly a highlight of the C.S.W.E. APM this year. Several educators with whom I visited used the word “inspirational”. Professor Sewpaul accomplished exactly what I had hoped when the lecture was first established, broadening the horizons of U.S. based social work educators.’

Professor Sewpaul leaves UKZN at the end of this year to take up a professorship position in Dubai in January 2016.

 Melissa Mungroo

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