The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) is hosting its first fully-fledged Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2019, at the Coastlands Musgrave Hotel, from 1 ending today, Wednesday, 03 October 2019.
The aim of the conference is to focus on the dynamic relationship between knowledge and epistemic justice in the context of African higher education.
Subthemes such as the scholarship of teaching and learning in relation to curriculum transformation, internalisation of the curriculum, desirable graduate attributes, African world views and higher education curricula, are being tackled at the conference.
In attendance at the conference are keynote speakers which include Professor Rozeena Maart (Research Ambassador at UKZN), Dr Kasturi Behari-Leak (Senior lecturer in the Centre for Higher Education Development at UCT), Professor Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni (Acting Director of the Change Management Unit in the VC’s office at UNISA), Roshnee Sunder (DUT), DUT CELT staff, external University academics, students and stakeholders.
Welcoming all the key speakers and academic delegates on the first day of the event was CELT’s Professor Thengani Ngwenya, who said that he hoped that the conference would be one of many conferences where academics will reflect on their role as teachers, researchers and scholars.
“This conference is the beginning of a longer process of critiquing the notion of epistemic justice in African higher education. The focus of this ongoing critique is the dynamic relationship between knowledge in its various forms and social justice. In particular, we (academics) want to interrogate the role of social and cultural groups in Africa in knowledge production. It is our hope that you will enjoy the conference and that you will leave the conference armed with potent ideas for tackling the urgent task of curriculum transformation in the African continent,” he said.
Day One entailed a series of workshops which saw Professor Rozeena Maart tackling the issue of Race, Writing and Difference.
Her presentation looked at the four corners of the African continent and asked questions about the absence of the knowledge of African systems of thinking as she journeyed through the decolonial learning and teaching decade in South Africa.
She further elaborated on the central themes in the history of knowledge creation and knowledge production which was key to her discussion on epistemic justice.
The second workshop, under the helm of DUT’s Dr Penny Orton, Bwalya Lungu and Lesley Cooke, focused on Collaborative Online International Education (COIL) and virtual engagement.
Day Two focused on key note addresses by Dr Behari-Leak and Prof Ndlovu-Gatsheni. Dr Behari-Leak spoke on: African Higher Educators first know thyself, then act on what you know!
The keynote addressed the challenge of epistemic justice by asserting that while social justice is a necessary condition for redressing the many injustices that prevail and persist in African higher education, what is needed now is an epistemic activism that academics and students, vigilant and awake to who they are and how knowledge alienates, silences and marginalises the voice, views and being of the other.
“We (academics) have an epistemic responsibility to act on what we know, to influence what we do and to consciously reshape and reconstruct higher education as socially inclusive and socially just for all,” she said.
Prof Ndlovu-Gatsheni delved into the politics of knowledge and the implications for learning and teaching in Africa.
“It is important now than ever before, because of the present epistemic and systemic crises facing not only Africa but the world as a whole. The knowledge that carried the world over five hundred years is today exhausted. There is a clear uncertainty of knowledge. This is both a challenge and an opportunity to ‘rethink’ and even ‘unthink’ thinking itself, including pedagogical practices,” he said.
Day Three will conclude with the deliverance of the final keynote address from Prof Maart on: Unearthing African thinking by examining African histories of knowledge production.
There will also be further academic presentations, critical reflections and evaluations on the debate about curriculum transformation in South African universities, going forward.
Pictured (left): CELT’s Professor Thengani Ngwenya, welcoming delegates to the conference.
Pictured (right): One of the key note speakers, Professor Rozeena Maart (Research Ambassador at UKZN).