Acclaimed Author holds Education Dialogue with Students
The School of Social Sciences hosted a post graduate Education Dialogue with acclaimed American speaker and author, Steven Harrison, who was invited by Dr Maheshvari Naidu, an academic at the School.
The Dialogue for post graduate students aimed to create introspective space to reflect on the process of education, knowledge production and wider engagement with the community.
The Director of the University Teaching and Learning Unit, Dr Rubby Dhunpath, and the Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College of Law and Management Studies, Professor Kriben Pillay, also attended.
The Dialogue was opened with Dhunpath inviting an inquiry into student response and behaviour to education and he cited the vastly divergent responses of the 1976 student uprising and that of the recent student violence at UKZN.
Students were invited to probe the larger intersecting dimensions and meaning of their educational contexts within the present realities of student unrest and violence. Students engaged with ideas and concepts of power and change, in the context of arriving at an understanding of ‘self’ through dialogical inquiry and deep questioning.
Naidu said she invited Harrison as ‘he was able to bring a lived context to what he had to share with the students; a candid and brutally honest inquiry into the nature of reality and who they/we are, as students and as seemingly separate and individual “selves” within a larger non dual field. The student responses indicated that they understood that much of the violence and unrest- even at the university, came from this sense of disconnect.’
Harrison has given talks and workshops all over the United States and Europe for the past 20 years while his books have been translated into 14 languages. His visit was made possible by the University Teaching and Learning Unit (UTLO) and he was invited as one of the workshop presenters at UKZN’s 9th Annual Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (UTLO) Conference.
Masters students Ms Sina Khumalo and Ms Victoria Mutambara were deeply touched. Mutambara said: ‘I thought that the dialogue was mind opening. As much as we believe that we can change our families, communities and the world, it all starts with “me”. However, the “me” part is difficult to change, sometimes because we fear getting out of the box … the dialogue made me see life from a different angle.’
Mr Gabriel Darong, a PhD candidate said: ‘It was great session, highly thought provoking and a sort of invitation for deeper thinking. I am glad I was there.’
‘Steven is interested into deep inquiry into the nature of who we are,’ said Naidu. ‘The students’ responses themselves clearly indicated that there is a profound need to inquire beyond an outcomes-based and outcomes-shaped education, the conceptual understanding we have of ourselves and the worldviews we tenaciously cling to, and look to the underlying reality and “field” within which we exist.’
Mr Ebrahim Adam, Research Intern at the UTLO office and IT postgraduate student, added: ‘While my studies look at the human-elements associated with technology, the look into “I” is, however, not something we really look at. I entered the room not knowing what to expect but left seriously reflecting on the roles that we play in the world. The experience of the workshop left me enlightened and engaging with Steven was incredible.’
Ms. Neli Mnguni a Masters student and Senior nurse and Ms. Melusi Dlamini, Masters student and HIV/Aids co-ordinator at DUT, were both able to relate the discussion to their work. As Mr Harrison was talking, an image of onion came to mind- layered and making one tear up, said Ms Mnguni.
Naidu’s doctoral candidate Abigail Benhura left the dialogue with these words: ‘I am grateful for the opportunity to participate. I have always felt skeptical about the “changing the world” view. I honestly felt that this is the prerogative of the powerful who have no bread and butter worries. The dialogue showed me my potential. I still have to fight the feeling of anonymity in this vast universe but it at least gave me a glimpse of what I can change … starting with myself.’
‘To Steven Harrison I would say that in his quiet strong way, he set a lot of cogs whirling,’ said Benhura.
The session closed with Pillay performing an illusion that perfectly summed up one of Harrison’s books, “Doing Nothing: Coming to the End of the Search”, illustrating to the participants that the state of ‘doing nothing’ is not passive, but a “mindful alertness”, and resembling nothing of the recent violence and unrest at many campuses.