13 April 2016 Volume :4 Issue :11

Humanities Academics Awarded Distinguished Teachers’ Award

Humanities Academics Awarded Distinguished Teachers’ Award
From left: Dr Suzanne Francis, Ms Avril Williamson, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, Professor Thabo Msibi and Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa.

UKZN’s 2015 Distinguished Teachers’ Award (DTA) has been presented to two lecturers from the College of Humanities - Professor Thabo Msibi and Dr Suzanne Francis.

The two outstanding teachers were presented with the awards at the annual UKZN Graduation ceremony.

The award recognises teachers with a favorable and lasting influence on students and evidence of an educational impact beyond the classroom. It is open to all who teach at UKZN and exists to promote the importance of excellence in teaching at all levels within the University.

Msibi is an Associate Professor in Curriculum and Education Studies and also the Leader of the Education Studies Academic Cluster.

He sits on the editorial Boards of Gender and Education, the Journal of LGBT Youth and the Journal of Gender and Language, all of which are international publications.

Msibi also sits on four NGO Boards in South Africa and has won the DVC’s award for community service.

Msibi, who was ‘honoured and delighted’ about receiving the prestigious award, explained how his background had such a great influence on his work as a teacher.

‘I have sought to merge my research interests with that of my teaching.  Once I started seeing my passion for transformation, equality and social justice as something not simply about research, but that should permeate my entire life, including my teaching and social relations, my eyes were opened to the tremendous responsibilities that academics and teachers have in a transforming, post-apartheid South Africa.

‘I began understanding that my life and academic purpose should not simply be about knowledge creation, but that it ought to be embedded in activism for wider social change.  The work by bell hooks, which speaks of transgression in the classroom where the space becomes a place for liberation and self-actualisation, began informing my pedagogic practices in the classroom. 

‘I realised that vulnerability and learning in a “post-conflict” space were not simply reserved for students, but for teachers too.  I had to learn to let go of some of my power as a teacher - a very difficult process.  This required an interrogation of my own identities and how these impact on the students I teach.  As I got comfortable with my position of reduced power, my professional growth started,’ said Msibi.

Francis is a Senior Lecturer in the Political Science Discipline. Her ability to inspire and enhance student learning while showing concern and sensitivity to students needs has earned her great recognition over the years.

She was originally nominated for this award by her students, who she says are her greatest inspiration as a university teacher. ‘I feel very honoured and humbled in receiving this award. Our students have already overcome immense obstacles just to be at university,’ she said.

Francis was also awarded a distinguished Teaching Advancement at University (TAU) Fellowship in 2015 by the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA).

Her research fellowship focuses on supervision at the mid-point of PhD work which is where South African universities see the greatest attrition rates of doctoral students.

She is concerned with the decolonisation of knowledge, the mentoring of postgraduate students as independent scholars and the next generation of knowledge-makers and active learning to embed real social and political transformation.

In addition to developing several postgraduate programmes at the University, Francis runs a Kalahari Field School in the southern Kalahari whereby students who wish to develop their research skills as independent scholars beyond the dissertation, take part in a programme in a First Nations San community.

The two achievers will be honoured at the annual Distinguished Teachers’ Award dinner on 20 May.

Sibongile Moyo

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