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Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) hosted a curriculum conversations session webinar focusing on: Riding the Double Wave of Crisis, on Microsoft Teams recently.

The Programme coordinators were CELT’s Dr Shoba Rathilal, Staff Development Coordinator, Nalini Chitanand, Academic Development Practitioner and Roshnee Sunder, Teaching & Learning Development Practitioner.

During the session, invited DUT panellists (Dr David Mohale: Director Special Projects, Office of the Vice-Chancellor; Dr Nthuna Juliet Ramohai: Head of the Centre for General Education; Dr Siyanda Dlamini: Senior Lecturer, Centre for General Education; and Mr Zwakele Ngubane: Director, Advancement and Alumni Relations) shared their thoughts on these unfolding events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent riots.

Sharing his talk with the DUT online community was Dr Mohale. Dr Mohale has a PhD in the field of Development Studies from the University of South Africa. Prior to his doctoral studies, he obtained his Masters in the field of Public Policy from the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) and a BA Degree (Cum Laude) from the Central University of Technology (CUT).

He is also a published author and has presented papers at several international conferences and one national conference focusing on themes such as the developmental state, the developmental local government, local economic development and corruption to name but a few. His talk gave more insight into the role that universities play in this current climate that South Africa, and communities at large, are plagued by.

“The problems we seek to resolve must at the end of the day contribute to the improvement and quality and dignity of the lives and livelihoods of that aspect. We tend to pay attention to the so-called facts because we want to be curriculum correct and as the result even those of us who are in Social Sciences would have to speak about, for e.g. the idea of revolution, it’s not so much about the cold facts. The fact is that revolution whether you like it or not, fundamentally at the end of the day are of people expressing their feelings and that is the context for my talk,” he said.

Dr Mohale indicated that when one looks at policy decisions and choices that government increments they are not consistent, that is the problem the society at large is faced with.

Dr Ramohai focused her talk on COVID-19 which she said invoked a lot of emotions for her.

“I remember how many colleagues we have lost and I remember how many students we have lost as I remember the havoc that COVID-19 has created in our society; and I sit here and remember that it was at the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic erupted and at the time we labelled it as a China epidemic, and at that time when we were labelling it as an epidemic, and all the negative conversations that followed that because little did we know that it will reach the shore of our country,” she said.

She relayed that this pandemic exposed society as an educational system, the kind of disparities and the kind of inequalities that society already had.

“We never took time to time to understand the realities that our students that sit in front of us face every day,” she said.

She said that two key factions need to be understood and shed the focus on DUT’s curriculum and pedagogy.

Adding further to the conversation Mr Ngubane expressed that COVID-19 is a massive blow to humanity and everyone is struggling to make sense of this in both one’s personal and academic worlds and the repercussions to one’s well-being and that of DUT students, families and communities.

“As we experienced the events that unfolded recently, the huge impact on the lives and livelihoods of our communities and sustainability of our societies, we are forced to ask ourselves as higher education, where and how we failed as a sector,” he said.

He unpacked more on what the events mean for higher education policies, curricula and pedagogies, the focus on students’ well-being and its effect on academic performance. He also discussed stewardship and how stewardship in line with ENVISION2030 is conceptualised and developed within this double wave of crisis.

“Amongst other things we do research and should be at the forefront, be in a position to alert society of impending threats such as potential pandemics. We should also be in a position to advise society on the ways to manage such crises,” he said.

He broke down more on the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, health care, education and social life. He explained on the point of civil unrest which demonstrated an ill-preparedness for such attacks, police forces were overwhelmed and seemed powerless.

“Deployment of the army was helpful but a tad late and thus could not assist proactively. Also, the civil unrest served as a wake-up call to not take for granted our hard-won freedom and democracy,” he said.

Mr Ngubane explained that there is a need to build flexibility, agility and resilience into the system, for e.g. ability to transition to online learning and working from home.

The webinar ended with a question and answer session.

Pictured: Attendees at the webinar.

Waheeda Peters

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