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Day Two of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching’s (CELT’s) Learning and Teaching Symposium in memory of Professor Thengani Ngwenya held recently offered two further innovative and transformative projects and imperatives of the Durban University of Technology (DUT). In the first segment chaired by Dr Shoba Rathilal and Ms Nalini Chitanand, the focus was on Design Thinking and Problem Based Learning. The second segment was a panel discussion on Decolonisation and Curriculum Transformation chaired by Ms Nalini Chitanand and Ms Bwalya Lungu.

The Programme commenced with a moving message by Ms Zanenhlahla Ngwenya, Prof Ngwenya’s daughter. Ms Ngwenya delivered the message on behalf of the Ngwenya family. She echoed the sentiments shared by so many that Prof Ngwenya’s brilliance was not just in his achievements but his humility.

“He had a quiet confidence and never imposed himself on anyone, he was a person with a such a humble heart. Nothing you could ever achieve in this world is above the respect you have for others and our father valued being humble and that is why people respected him and why we are all here today to celebrate him,” added Ms Ngwenya.

She thanked the entire DUT community and especially the CELT family for the support received and for acknowledging and celebrating her father’s work through the symposium.

The first segment extended the work of Prof Ngwenya as a co-author of the position paper on Innovative Teaching and Learning Practices approved in 2020. Design Thinking (DT) and Project Based Learning (PBL) were presented as methodologies of innovative practices. The session opened with message of support from Prof Keolebogile Motaung, Director: Technology, Transfer and Innovation (TTI) at DUT who highlighted the importance of curriculum and pedagogy that provided opportunity to develop entrepreneurship and adaptability through Design Thinking and Project Based Learning.

Dr Shoba Rathilal, the project leader in CELT for PBL and DT shared that DUT has adopted these methodologies since they have the potential to impact positively on graduates and give them the acumen to initiate and respond to change, as well as become more engaged citizens and also develop entrepreneurial skills.

“Using these methodologies forces the students to solve real time applied problems using various forms of knowledge and finding innovative solutions that can result in new products and services. The intention is to promote the development of skills for self-directed learning, facilitate the development of self-awareness, and contribute to students being active partners in the application and production of knowledge. These approaches emphasise active and collaborative learning, teamwork, conflict resolution and problem solving through effective integration of theory and practice,” said Dr Rathilal.

The segment included guest presentations from national and international scholars and practitioners of DT and PBL. The first presenter was Mr Richard Perez, the Director of Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking at the University of Cape Town. He provided a useful overview of Design Thinking, highlighting the different stages of the process from redefining complex ill-defined problems, to brainstorming multiple ideas, developing prototypes, testing, refining and implementing. Mr Perez also shared “tools” that assist during the process to foster empathy, creativity, reflexivity and allow for multiple possibilities as “solutions’.

This was followed by sharing of a programme in Design Thinking in Health Innovation by Dr Nailah Conrad from the University of Cape Town. The examples provided by Dr Conrad showed how students could be encouraged to develop innovative socially responsible products and programmes that could benefit patients’ treatment and management.

Dr Roshani Rajbanshi and Prof Binod Pant Department of STEAM Education in Kathmandu University, School of Education (Nepal) added to the variety of practices in which Design Thinking and Project Based Learning is used. Dr Rajbanshi shared how Design thinking approach is used to bring transformation in student’s learning in a Teachers Education Programme. She indicated that through using the steps of design thinking, which are empathising, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing, the students of the programme individually created lesson plans in which they tried to incorporate transdisciplinary approaches. She shared examples of how these students of STEAM Education used those lesson plans in their own classrooms in school.

In his presentation, he focused on Project based Learning, Prof Binod Pant explained how he collaborated with school teachers to develop and implement projects in Nepal. He explained that Project-based learning invites students to engage with real-life problems and explore multiple solutions.

“While doing so, students develop various soft skills (such as communication, leadership) together with the knowledge and skills of different subjects (such as science and mathematics),” he said.

The last presentation was by Prof Mugendi K. M’Rithaa titled: “DESIGN THINKING IN AFRIKA: reflections of a practitioner”. Over and above a description of the Design Thinking process, Prof M’Rithaa also argued that the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals could be achieved through Design. He recommended that the UN Goals be used as a target to surface the “wicked problems” that need to be addressed to achieve these goals. Prof’s presentation highlighted the need for scholars in AFRIKA to change the narrative of the continent and create an AFRIKAN perspective of the world. He used a powerful Nigerian quote to highlight the importance for this shift “Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter” (Nigerian Proverb). He advocated that through a process of Design Thinking that promoted empathy and solidarity it is possible to relay tales of AFRIKA, identify problems of AFRIKA and find solutions for AFRIKA and the world.

Providing the opening remarks to the second segment that focused on Decolonisation and Curriculum Transformation, CELT’s Ms Nalini Chitanand expressed that this is a topic that was quite close to Prof Ngwenya and the work that he had promoted, especially with regard to curriculum transformation.

“This panel discussion is as important as all the other sessions that we’ve had. We heard from Professor Bawa, the CEO of University South Africa yesterday that COVID-19 is just one of the disruptions that has impacted on higher education. Higher education has always experienced disruptions. It has always been a site of contestations and struggles. The decolonisation of the curriculum and decolonising higher education has been an important aspect, not just from our 2015-2017 protests that we’ve experienced in South Africa. This is a global phenomenon and it is a phenomenon that is entangled with our histories and it’s about unpacking the history and understanding the history so that we can move beyond the present to the future we wish to have,” she said.

Speaking at the panel discussion was panellist, Mr Siseko Khumalo from University of Pretoria, who had received his formative training from Rhodes University where he read in Political and International Studies, Anthropology and Philosophy, and was awarded the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship in his Honours year, (2017). He also holds a Master of Arts (Cum Laude) in Political Philosophy from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Political Sciences and is reading for a PhD in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria.

Khumalo spoke on his paper that includes the work that he had done in decolonisation which was released this year and published with the HSRC Press. He explained that this particular piece stems from the work that he had done in what he is conceptualising momentarily as the Black Archive, which of course responds to a number of the problems that can be seen.

“By the decolonial demand, the interest lies in the work of conceptual decolonisation, so I believe we are all too familiar with the project of political decolonisation and the challenges that such an undertaking gives us, resulting in what we have conceptually understood as a ‘post-colonial’ condition, that is fundamentally the continuance of colonialism as declared known scholars have termed it,” he said.

The next panellist was Mr Siya Sabata from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). He is the Acting Head of Department, Staff Development Unit at the Fundani Centre for Higher Education Development; co-founder and the leader of CPUT curriculum decolonial group. His talk framed around decolonisation and curriculum transformation. He draws on the work of scholars who argue that global colonialism continues today to constrain possibilities for postcolonial futures free from colonisation and this acknowledges that geographical decolonisation and which were achieved in the early 60s.

The third panellist was DUT’s Prof Jean-Philippe Wade who began his academic life focused on South African literature and cultural theory, eventually becoming the Director of the Centre for the Study of Southern African Literature at the University of Durban-Westville. He indicated that he is now Head of the Department of Video Technology at DUT, where he teaches film and television. During the panel discussion, Prof Wade spoke on and contrasted the two competing anti-colonial discourses – Africanisation and Post-colonialism – through the prism of Globalization Studies.

The final panellist was Professor Bal Chandra Luitel who is the Dean of the Kathmandu University School of Education, Nepal. He relayed that his research interest is on transformative educational research, participatory action research, mathematics education, STEAM Education and research studies on reflective practices. His presentation focused on Developing non /Western Modern Worldview design spaces for Nepali Teacher Education: Cases of Doctoral Researchers in Kathmandu University. He explained on the ‘one size fits all’ educational approach, culturally dislocated educational research processes and challenges posed by ‘comprador intelligentsia’ approach to educational research promotes a non-ownership of the research process, passive view of research that does not contribute to change in contexts. He thus promoted Transformative research design that includes decolonial, critical, resistant and other forms of research.

After a robust discussion by the panellists, Ms Chitanand thanked all the panellists and participants for their awe-inspiring, interesting and transformative conversations.

“This symposium was in memory of our beloved director, Professor Thengani Ngwenya, and it was based on his work at the university. We give recognition and celebrate his legacy through this work and know that this work will continue to guide us in our work in higher education; and continue to live on in the work that we will do at CELT, at DUT and in all our national and global engagements” she said.

The closing remarks were given by Acting Director of CELT, Professor Livingstone Makondo, who thanked all the guests and the entire DUT community for their participation in this two-day webinar.

“CELT is what it is because of your participation in whatever we do, and I take special recognition of your involvement in what we do. I want to thank everyone for being participants and lastly but not least, I want to make special recognition of Prof Ngwenya’s family, and the daughter who did a marvellous rendition. I thank you, you inspired me, and as you were talking and I see the image of our departed brother, our departed leader, our departed mentor and counsellor, I felt satisfied. I got the closure that I needed most when you spoke and yet from us, we are here to work in this journey together and as a collective we will continue to support,” he said.

The symposium concluded with the recognition of DUT staff who participated in the Get Smarter course. The GETSMARTER teaching with technology short course from the University of Cape Town, provided DUT colleagues with the opportunity to explore educational skills needed to adapt to new teaching approaches and to incorporate technology into classroom activities that enhance learning experiences for our students. The course provided a thorough understanding of pedagogical and practical implications of the meaningful introduction of technology in teaching-learning interactions at DUT. The following DUT Staff who completed the programme were recognised at the symposium. Dr Anisha Singh, Dr Anusharani Sewchurran, Dr Ashika Naicker, Dr Ernestina Maleshoane Rapeane-Mathonsi, Dr Fazila Ally, Dr Ivan Gunass Govender, Dr John Mangunda, Dr Keseri Padayachy, Dr Luther-King Junior Zogli, Dr Mamothibe Thamae, Dr Nkululeko Praisegod Zungu, Dr Pavitra Pillay, Dr Pravin Mark Maistry, Dr Rachel Matteau Matsha, Dr Raymond Hilary, Dr Hawkins-Mofokeng, Dr Sabiu Saheed, Dr Shereen Currie, Dr Suresh Babu Naidu Krishna, Dr Vimla Paul, Mr Bongani Paul Yengwa, Mr Mduduzi Nene, Mr Mogandren Govender, Mr Motsamai David Tshabalala, Mr Mousin Omar Saib, Mr Nevel Neveling, Mr Thobani Linton Gumbi, Mrs Kerusha Pillay, Mrs Margaret Balungile Masuku, Mrs Sudhika Palhad, Mrs Thokozani Sibongile Sibiya, Mrs Upaasna Ramraj, Mrs Verah Thenjiwe Mpanza, Ms Anelita Kuhle Njili, Ms Aritha Pillay, Ms Hlengekile Lubanyana, Ms Lorna McCullough, Ms Lungile Preety Ngcobo, Ms Makhosazane Buthelezi, Ms Patricia Patiance Nomsikelelo Badenhorst, Ms Tessa Reddy, Prof John Jason Mellem, Prof Sanja Bauk, Prof Tukayi Kudanga.

Congratulations to all the awardees.

Pictured: Ms Zanenhlanhla Ngwenya (top right) delivering a message in memory of her late father, Prof Thengani Ngwenya.

Waheeda Peters

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