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Professor Cheryl Potgieter delivers her welcome
address at the SAERA Conference.

The nature, purpose and role of education research came under the spotlight at the 2nd annual conference of the South African Education Research Association held in Durban recently.

UKZN DVC and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Cheryl Potgieter welcomed the 250 delegates emphasising the importance of education.

Potgieter, who spoke to the Conference theme of “Researching Education: Future Directions”, said the theme called on delegates to reflect and chart a future pathway for engagement with education on both scholarly and practical levels.

‘We meet at a time when education has increasingly become the talking point in our country, with some people succumbing to the temptation of comparing today’s education system with that in use during the apartheid years. While such a comparison may be devoid of truth, it indicates a sense of impatience and desperation for change from people who feel that today’s education system is not living up to the expectations of a democratic and free South Africa,’ she said.

‘Immediately, this indicates a need for us to continue researching and trying to understand the causes of this impatience and desperation, while also not neglecting the shortcomings experienced by government to expediently roll out a functioning education system.’

Potgieter, who also attended the pre-conference workshop, said academics at UKZN’s School of Education were involved in ground-breaking research and work.  She made special mention of Lecturer Dr Thabo Msibi, who is heavily involved in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) work in schools and communities.

Potgieter told Conference delegates that the College of Humanities would support its academics involved in postgraduate degrees for the next five years to assist them in the transition from Lecturers to Professors. Several projects would be introduced to change the landscape of Higher Education in the areas of gender and race.

SAERA Vice-President, Professor Aslam Fataar, said the Conference enabled participants to have conversations across race, class and institutions. ‘There is a dire need for conceptual clarification and by engaging with this theme we can re-constitute the educational framework. This Conference has the potential to make a meaningful impact from an academic and educational perspective,’ he said.

Mrs Lora Rossler, Group Head Manager for Corporate Affairs at Mondi which is a key sponsor of SAERA, spoke about her company’s involvement in good cooperative sustainable development and the education system. ‘In light of the past South African education system, we have taken to the assessment and development of staff through their studies. We believe that positive results will stem from the conference as education systems inform critical decisions.’

The SAERA Conference proceedings will be available from Oxford Press in September 2014.

Other speakers at the Conference from UKZN were: Professor Wayne Hugo, Dr Peter Rule, Dr Ronicka Mudaly, Dr Siphiwe Mthiyane, Dr Vimolan Mudaly,  Dr Ansurie Pillay, Dr Thamsanqa Bhengu, Dr Inbanathan Naicker, Dr Nyna Amin, Dr Marinda Swart, Mr Crispin Hemson, Dr Shaun Ruggunan, Ms Jane Quin, Dr Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan, Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Dr Daisy Pillay, Dr Lorraine Singh, Dr Jean Stuart, Mrs Linda van Laren, Dr Jaqueline Naidoo, Professor Michael Samuel, Dr Carol Betram, Professor Johan Wasserman, Professor Pholoho Morojele, Professor Vitallis Chikoko, Professor Wolker Wedekind and Dr Makhosazane Nkosi.