Academic Triumph in Adversity for Durban Educationist
Research which focused on how foundation phase teachers interpret and implement the Natural Science Curriculum within the Life Skills programme earned a determined Durban woman her PhD in Education.
For mother-of-two, Dr Saritha Beni, receiving her degree from the College of Humanities at the annual UKZN Graduation ceremony was the culmination of a long, hard journey, exacerbated in 2010 by being diagnosed with breast cancer which is now thankfully in remission.
‘There were periods when I was undergoing treatment that I was unable to do much work,’ said Beni. ‘However, I continued to register every year and refused to give up.
‘My dad passed away during the course of my study and his death had a huge impact on me. I knew my dad would have wanted me to complete my studies so I persevered and have dedicated my thesis to him.
‘It was a difficult time for my family and I, but I am a determined person and I was motivated to complete my studies. My husband, Laren, was a pillar of strength and assisted with some of the responsibilities at home which created the space and time I needed to devote to my studies,’ said Beni.
‘I needed to complete my degree as I wanted my sons, Nirav and Advik, to know that anything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it.’
Drawing from her past experiences as a natural science teacher in the Intermediate Phase as well as lecturing students studying Bachelor of Education degrees, Beni gravitated towards doing research that focused on how foundation phase teachers interpret and implement the Natural Science Curriculum within the Life Skills programme.
‘With science viewed as a scarce skill in South Africa, our education system has the mammoth task of producing graduates in science and related fields. Natural science is compulsory from Grade R to Grade Nine. It is therefore crucial that we instil the love for science from an early age so that learners can elect to study the subject in Grade 10,’ said Beni.
‘We need to invest in the Foundation Phase and more specifically in the teaching of natural science to make provision for teachers to implement the curriculum. The focus has to be on the teachers as they are the critical agents who bring about transformation within the classroom when implementing the curriculum.’
According to Beni, it is envisaged that the findings of her study - which resulted in the development of a model that explains the barrier experienced by teachers as well as the expansion of the theoretical framework for curriculum implementation - will afford curriculum planners a useful framework for developing innovative curricula.
Beni, who advised other researchers not to give up even when ‘life gets in the way’, thanked her strong support system consisting of family, friends and her supervisors, Dr Michèlle Stears and Dr Angela James, for their motivation and in giving her the time and space to recuperate.
Beni currently works in a private Higher Education Institution where she is the Head of the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Department.