UKZN Academics Deliver Addresses on Pertinent Education Issues at Conference in Seychelles
Professor Michael Samuel of the School of Education and Dr Maheshvari Naidu of the School of Social Sciences delivered presentations at the inaugural International Education Conference hosted by the University of Seychelles.
The education conference was aimed at bringing together researchers, academics, professionals, policymakers and educators from around the world to exchange knowledge and experiences and to discuss current issues, recent developments, challenges, theories and good practices in education, with an emphasis on education in Small Island Developing States.
Samuel, who was invited to deliver one of three keynote addresses, spoke on: "New Forms of Intimacy and Narrative Possibilities. Negotiating Relationships within Small Island States and Partners: Lessons from Mauritius and South Africa."
The paper reported on a three-year collaborative research project of documenting an institutional biography of the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), pointing to the specific characteristics of insular local politics and practices in a small island developing state (SIDS).
Through a lens of decolonisation theory, the project unfolded the complexities, complementarities and contradictions of transformation over different historical eras of a changing, post-independence Mauritius.
The paper relooked at ways in which local participants negotiate their national and international intimacy; how they adopt new relations and how to interpret their responsibilities (new forms of connectivity) with their colonial/cross border partners and their internal agents in an increasingly educational globalising world.
‘The intersection between personal, institutional, national and colonial/ international agendas points to new theoretical interpretations of negotiated intimacies: deferent intimacy, strategic intimacy and contested intimacies,’ said Samuel.
The paper is a forerunner to a forthcoming book to be published later in the year.
‘Pioneers’, ‘managers’ and ‘foot soldiers’ have each contributed to reformulating the conceptions of the role of a teacher education institution within a small island developing state. The international audience was particularly interested in the formulation of a third generation of SIDS research, beyond simply defining or refining existing research patterns of vulnerability and deficiency.
Drawing from the partnerships between the MIE and UKZN, the paper elaborated how intricate qualitative analysis of the education system of a small island could provide an insightful research lens into understanding the shifting terrain of internationally higher education systems.
Dr Maheshvari Naidu delivered a paper entitled “Gender and Curriculum: Allowing Research to Feed into Teaching”. Naidu’s paper drew from her experiences of teaching the first year Anthropology class. Her paper spoke to issues of using gender based research to feed into curriculum design in the context of the Anthropology undergraduate module.
‘Entitled "Culture and Society in Africa" (ANTH 102), this entry level undergraduate module is traditionally meant to introduce students to particular anthropological material and to acquaint them with the various religion-cultural, kinship et al. elements of African societies,’ said Naidu.
She stated that ‘research into gender and issues in feminist anthropologies allows one to apply a critical feminist lens in recognising how particular colonial curricula and content privileges older canonized anthropological work that, although important, is far removed from local contexts’.
Naidu’s paper pointed out that using a feminist perspective allows one to populate the curriculum with intellectual and empirically based content that reflected previously muted and marginalised categories of African societies and to more authentically reflect the intersectional and diverse spectrum of societies referred to as ‘African’ within sub-Saharan Africa.
Working through the notion of ‘troublesome knowledge’, Naidu said that she aimed to ‘decolonise’ earlier versions of the entry level Anthropology curricular which had sought to privilege particular canonized (male) and Western Anthropologists and Ethnographers, and their work on Africa and African societies. Much of this early Ethnography, in turn silenced the realities of women, who are largely absent in the ethnographic records, she said. African societies were in turn treated as static entities and refracted through functional and structural lenses of the early, so called seminal thinkers.
‘In the final analysis, this curriculum exercise allowed me to ‘trouble’ and destabilise previous ‘colonial’ (hetero) normative epistemologies and pedagogical approaches embedded in aspects of the older curriculum for a more ‘situated’ context linked and feminist guided teaching and student learning experience,’ Naidu said.
Naidu has been invited back to the University of Seychelles to run Gender workshops with the staff in the Social Work Department and to host teaching seminars with students.