Nalini Chitanand and Shoba Rathilal


Pic for Reflection piece

A call for Reflective Pieces regarding COVID-19 has been made by the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) Department.

The request is being made by CELT’s Nalini Chitanand and Shoba Rathilal, who are Academic Development Practitioners at CELT. 

This was a very different and innovative initiative that caught their attention especially in the time of rapid emergency actions.  We chatted with Chitanand and Rathilal about what drove this initiative, what is the plan on reviewing of submissions and the future plans in CELT

According to both Chitanand and Rathilal, this is what motivated them to take on this innovative initiative. “Uncertainties can be a time of great anxiety but a time of great possibility…a discourse of anxiety should give way to a discourse of critique and a discourse of critique should give way to a discourse of possibility. And a discourse of possibility means that you can imagine a future very different from the present” (Giroux, 2019).

“We consider this extract (above) by Henry Giroux to be apposite in this current moment. This era is indeed momentous. Much of what we are experiencing, we are unlikely to see in our lifetime again (well, hopefully not!).  We probably will not capture the intensity of the experience when we narrate it to future generations and of course as the story passes through generations it may become more of a rational rendition of an era. The capturing of the moment as it’s experienced is likely to be in its most authentic form at this present moment,” they added. 

Furthermore, “COVID-19 has forced us, amidst uncertainties, anxieties and disruptions to re-arrange our personal lives – how we manage our homes and families – and our professional lives – how we manage our pedagogical activities, research and engagements. But this forced moment also affords an opportunity to think anew about all these aspects of our personal and professional lives. Not a different form of the same but something new. We draw inspiration and hope from Henry Giroux (2019), that we are presented with such an opportunity to ‘imagine a future different from the present’. This may require that we disrupt our deeply held assumptions about our ways of knowing, acting and being.  As universities globally ushered in online learning and teaching, at CELT we have acknowledged the need to also focus on the curricula that we will be enacting in our multimodal platforms. This meant that we have to make choices about the selection, sequencing and pacing of knowledge. Implicit in this decision making, is the need to consider our contexts and how these contextual realities are influencing higher education plans in light of COVID-19; who our staff and students are and their realities and lived experiences; the knowledge and curriculum and what is privileged, valued or legitimated during these pedagogical encounters,” explained Chitanand and Rathilal.

In addition, the two recognise the need to capture their experiences of the current moments and reflect on them for new imaginings to emerge. Critical reflection is an important aspect of transformative learning in higher education. The Call for Reflective pieces provides an opportunity for DUT colleagues to capture and record these experiences so that they may generate their DUT story.  They invite DUT colleagues to share their experiences as they believe these can offer insights about the decisions made, their impact on the self and society and the educational agenda.

The process of creating a reflective piece also provides an opportunity to engage in a therapeutic exploration of the experience that caught us by surprise and required immediate responses with very little time to reflect and plan accordingly. 

Elaborating their work, Chitanand and Rathilal added that, “The reflective process is an activity that allows for an awareness of the self and our relationship with others so that we act in conscious and not just instinctive ways. Drawing on posthumanistic thought we include all human and non-human entities with whom we share our earth, in our deliberations. This emphasises our rationality with each other and our natural environment and this is intimately linked to our African philosophical approach of Ubuntu – ‘I am because we are’. And in this spirit of Ubuntu, we have witnessed over the last few months, the collegiality and comraderies’ among our colleagues. We have witnessed sharing and caring and co-creation of knowledge for enhancing our pedagogical encounters. And we have witnessed how the creation of opportunities for dialogue and collaboration can enable communities of practice, foster innovation and build stewardship toward our common vision, Envision 2030”.  

Their (Chitanand and Rathilal) intention is to not be judgemental. They are inviting pieces that extend beyond a descriptive narrative but rather show evidence of deeper thought. Their intention is to offer colleagues feedback, suggestions or questions that extends the reflective piece to include the self-experience, the reactions, the possible assumptions underpinning these responses, how this relates to broader societal questions, challenges and possibilities.

So colleagues will have opportunity to submit drafts, and revise if they wish. The process is meant to be developmental. They encourage creative expression of thought, emotions and critique.

CELT has adopted a multi-pronged approach to support the academic project during this time. The office has provided and continue to provide staff and students with technical support related for the various multi modal platforms. This was a necessary component to address the anxiety among staff and students that arose from the lack of preparedness to manage online platforms. In their staff development programmes, CELT has always focussed on extending the professional learning and development within a transformative approach so that the change in modalities are used as an opportunity to relook at what is being taught (in other words what knowledge and attributes CELT is legitimating in its programmes), how they assess and maintain constructive alignment in curriculum redesign particular to our contexts.

The motto is to be transformative through developmental programmes that are offered in supportive environments, so that they may contribute to higher education that is fair, equitable, inclusive and socially just. So what they are essentially concerned with staff and student well-being.  CELT contributes to this through reducing anxiety around the unknown by providing professional learning opportunities for the various online platforms, exposure to new approaches that allow staff to question their current practices and their assumptions of what is important or not, make choices and reflect on the implications of those choices. Most importantly they have and will continue to provide a collaborative space for sharing and learning through the community of practice. 

“We also need to remember that prior to Covid-19 higher education in South Africa was already confronting challenges, especially associated with the decolonial turn, epistemic and social justice. In this regard we concur with Fataar (2020) that some of these challenges are “currently being marginalised by popular educational discourses during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the socio-technical imaginaries of 4IR discourses circulating in mainstream discourse”. We encourage colleagues to reflect on these important higher education imperatives and share their reflections,” said Chitanand and Rathilal.

Fataar, A. (2020). Comments at a launch discussion of Pam Christie’s book: Decolonising Schools in South Africa: The Impossible Dream (2020). Presented at a webinar arranged by UCT’s School of Education, 23 July 2020

Giroux, H. (2019). All education is a struggle over what kind of future you want for young people.

This promises to be a fantastic opportunity to be part of the DUT history going forward.  Nalini and Shoba are keen to engage with colleagues who wish to submit and require assistance.  The deadline has been extended to the 30 September.  We strongly urge that you consider submitting a piece. 


Crispin Hemson

Put an end to stupidities of the past by Crispin Hemson

Events during apartheid made very little sense; it was all about oppression without much thought. A researcher from New York met me to understand the assassination of a friend in 1978. He knew in great detail the events of the time – he even had the Security Police records of the sae events, a mixture of useful factual information, cold hostility and paranoid ramblings. (read full article…)

— MERCURY (First Edition) 08 Apr 2013 page 6


Ever-changing force that apartheid refused to acknowledge: 29 February 2012 The Mercury

Learning the language of the forest: 21 November 2011 The Mercury

The story of humility and silence: 20 October 2011 Mail and Guardian

The challenge of moving on after a history of violence: 5 September 2011 The Mercury

There’s more to great old age than confusion and chaos: 24 August 2011 The Mercury

Peace cannot be bought with a bullet: 6 May 2011 The Mercury

Prithiraj Dullay

Travelling down the road to discord