Three UKZN academics, Ms Sbusisiwe Philile Gwala (Political Science), Dr Cheryl Mohamed Sayeed (Public Policy) and Dr Lubna Nadvi (Political Science and International Relations) from the School of Social Sciences were part of a recent staff development and exchange trip to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.
The two-week programme consisted of meetings with colleagues in various disciplinary fields including History, Development Studies, Gender Studies, Politics, African Studies, African Languages, Religion, Philosophy, Law, Media and Linguistics. The UKZN team and administrative staff at SOAS also shared ideas on international staff exchange possibilities.
The UKZN team presented their research interests while SOAS academics shared their research expertise through a series of roundtable discussions. One of the common areas of interest that emerged through the discussions was the possibility of an ongoing conversation on decolonisation in Higher Education.
The visit was supported and made possible by the Dean of the School of Social Sciences Professor Vivian Ojong and the Academic Leader of Research and Higher Degrees in the School Professor Maheshvari Naidu.
Given the School and University leadership’s support for internationalisation, the visit was an important contribution to this initiative. It took place primarily under the auspices of the joint Memorandum of Agreement recently signed between UKZN and SOAS. The mobility programme and the MOU with SOAS are in keeping with the Dean’s vision on strategic partnerships and international collaboration, and support for early and mid-career scholars.
Earlier this year, Naidu, who is the co-ordinator of the Internationalisation Programme in the School, met with Professor Wayne Dooling and Dr Kai Easton in Cape Town where joint initiatives and the visit by the staff members were discussed.
This was Gwala’s first international trip, and it had a profound impact: ‘My vision for my academic future has definitely widened as a result of the stimulating experience of being in a different academic setting.
Speaking with SOAS colleagues was very informative; the experiences and expertise they shared were really illuminating. The time I got to spend with Dr Nadvi and Dr Mahomed Sayeed, my supervisor, who are hardworking, exceptional and knowledgeable, will always have a special place in my heart. The opportunity to travel with them enriched the experience, and I learned more about their academic interests. I also had the opportunity to talk about my PhD and hear different viewpoints on the subject I am working on. I appreciate all the encouragement and thoughtful chats.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo