Author: Rosemarie Milburn

SAERA Nelson Mandela Legacy Lecture 2018

Dr Maria Elena Torre (CUNY) and Prof Puleng Segalo (UNISA) presented on 24 April 2018, at North-West University, the annual SAERA Nelson Mandela Legacy Lecture, entitled “Epistemic Justice in the Academy: Decolonizing Power, Knowledge and Being through Critical and Participatory Research.” The scholars drew upon the writing of Mandela as a way of critiquing education. A short summary of the main points made by them follows:

They argued that the transformative value of education does not lie in transforming the individual, it lies in transforming the community and re-centering the community as a place that contributes knowledge and values. Education needs to aspire to structural change, rather than concentrating on individual performance within the system. They critiqued the current education system as leading to a reinforcement of class, race and gender regimes. Such a system does not and cannot lead to liberation. It leads instead to privilege.

Although Mandela is cited as saying that education is the tool to enable the poorest child to reach their dreams, he was not concerned about the creation of a series of “stars”, but about the creation of the firmament in which many stars can find their place and shine. Colonial education for Mandela began with him having to adopt an English name. It continued in a language that centred its own knowledge as superior. This continues today in both schools and higher education, where the community is presented as being out there and students are presented as outsiders going to rescue the community. We become academics who speak and defend the system and we replicate this with our students. This is epistemic violence. Forcing students to leave their identity behind when they enter the academy is a form of colonization. The demographics of higher education may change, but the curriculum itself has remained the same. Epistemic rebellion is about de-centering Eurocentric knowledge and being disobedient. How do we decolonise and disrupt? As academics we need to learn what dehumanisation means for our students. We need to break with the modern western university by challenging the status quo. Agency, identity and languages are critical in this work. Language, when imposed, is a way of not seeing and not listening to people even although its very purpose is to enable understanding of and between people. Blind importation of knowledge is a form of laziness and that is why the decoloniality project is so very important for universities. Afrikaans was not simply a language, but also a way of being and of seeing people.
Participatory action research provides a methodology that involves collectives that generate and reach towards a just world. Research sites become sites of democratic knowledge zones that return knowledge to the community – and such knowledge should be fed back into the curriculum for our students to learn about community issues. This flips the colonial script and recognises how under siege we are. Uncomfortable intersections become the place where reconciliation becomes possible. Drawing upon elders’ knowledge and wisdom is important for educating the subject that speaks.
We embrace education as a means of overcoming man-made poverty. Poverty is a creation and an injustice. Education is a means to create justice. What kind of education can do this? Not an education that alienates you from self and from community. Teaching should confront the assumptions made about me and about my community; becoming and seeking criticality in the engagement.

However, we must not forget that the marginalised have power. Being othered can be flipped to reveal how knowledge works so that we see the underside of the academy. Language imposition caused people to die and knowledge imposed causes the life world of the university to die; to become a death world (as described also by Mbembe). It is for this reason that students revolt because the feeling of alienation becomes intolerable on many levels, from the perspective of the university as institution, from the perspective of the student.

After the lecture there were questions and comments. Comments about how we valorise Mandela and the ideal of An African Education when the issues around marginal identities and gender are challenged with the patriarchal discourses in communities in South Africa. Which Mandela is being referred to in the context of the academy? There are contradictions in the man who Mandela was, and also in ourselves.

Dr Torre also ran a two-day workshop for academics from UFS, NMU, UJ, UKZN and North-West on critical participatory action research. This was attended by 24 early career and experienced researchers and proved to be very participatory, encouraging and motivating.

Filed under: The Nelson Mandela Education Legacy lecture

17th BOLESWANA Conference in July 2018 in Windhoek, NAMIBIA

17th BOLESWANA Conference in July 2018 in Windhoek, NAMIBIA

The date for the submission of abstracts has been extended to 28 Feb 2018. SAERA is a member of BOLESWANA.
Conference theme: “Research for the Transformation of Teacher Education: Teaching for Equity and Relevance”

BOLESWANA is a research body composed of sister education research associations from Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, and the new addition, South Africa. This body of international educational research associations holds a biennial symposium that is hosted, on a rotational basis by member associations. The Namibia Educational Research Association (NERA) is hosting the 17th edition of this symposium in July 2017, in Windhoek, Namibia. BOLESWANA symposia bring together experts from the SADC region, Africa and beyond, to share knowledge, experiences and scientific evidence on educational matters. The Symposium is therefore a platform for sharing, reflecting and setting agenda for education improvement.
For more information, go to

Filed under: Conference

Conference Special Edition call for papers

2017 SAERA Conference Special Edition
Education in an Era of Transformation and Decolonization
Date of publication: 30 October 2018.
Guest Editors:
Dr Shervani K. Pillay & Professor Sylvan Blignaut

The SAERA Special Conference Edition of the Journal of Education is calling for papers that were presented at the 5th annual SAERA conference in Port Elizabeth (23 – 26 October 2017). Submissions should clearly reflect the conference theme: Education in an Era of Transformation and Decolonization

2017 Conference_Special Edition (Call for Articles)

Filed under: Journal of education

Call for Papers for a Special issue

Dear SAERA member,

Please find attached a Call for Papers for a Special issue of the Journal of Education, edited by the Curriculum Studies Special interest group. The theme of the Special Issue is Internationalising, indigenising, decolonising and Africanising Curriculum Studies

Please see the attached PDF for submission dates.

Please circulate to your networks and interested colleagues.

Visit the Journal of Education

2017-10-25_Special Edition Curric SIG (Call for Articles)

Filed under: Journal of education

Call for SAERA Research Honours Award 2018

South African Education Research Association

Call For SAERA Research Honours Award

In 2017, SAERA launched its inaugural call for the Research Honours award.

The SAERA Research Honours award may be made annually to an individual for an outstanding contribution to educational research in South Africa.

email: az.oc.areasnull@esor

  1. Criteria for SAERA Research Honours award

1.1 The individual has contributed to the development of education research in South Africa over a sustained period of time and has made an exceptional contribution with respect to i) research outputs of consistently high quality (e.g. sustained, excellent post graduate supervision; journal articles and book chapters; edited and sole authored books) and ii) through meaningful service to education research (e.g. role in South African research associations; research innovation/management positions; research development).

1.3 The contribution should promote the transformational agenda of SAERA in terms of research in South Africa.

  1. Eligibility

2.1 The nominee should be a South African citizen/permanent resident.

  1. Process of nomination

3.1 Any SAERA member may nominate an individual for the award.

3.2 The following documents should be submitted to az.oc.areasnull@esor by 31 August 2018:

  1. A completed nomination form (available below) signed by the nominator and nominee.
  2. A nominator’s statement of 1000 words maximum in support of the nomination. The statement should clearly indicate how the nominee has contributed to the development of education research in South Africa.
  3. Supporting documents may be attached to validate the statement if wished.
  4. Evaluation process

The evaluation panel will comprise 2 executive members of SAERA, plus two members nominated by the evaluation panel. Their recommendation will be approved by the full executive of SAERA.

  1. Award

The SAERA Research Honours award will be presented at the annual conference in the form of a framed certificate. The recipient will be sponsored for registration of the conference and will thus receive SAERA membership for the coming year. The recipient will be expected to present an overview of their work at the conference

Click below for nomination form

Call for SAERA Research Honours_ Award 2018 Nomination form>

Filed under: Conference

Message from the incoming president: Lesley Wood

It is a pleasure for me to have been elected the President of SAERA for the coming two years. I have been an active member of the SAERA executive since its inception, having served in the portfolio of WERA representative and deputy president. The focus in the first few years of SAERA was on compiling the constitution and making sure all the legal requirements were met; establishing a strong membership base; and setting up processes and systems to make sure the association continues to flourish. In 2016 we drafted a strategic plan which detailed the different portfolios in the executive and their associated duties. We believe this will ensure that no aspect of SAERA is neglected, given that the executive members are all busy academics and give of their time freely for the good of the association. I would like to thank Prof Sechaba Mahlohaholo for his leadership in the past two years. Given his demanding position as DVC, he is unable to remain on the executive and Prof Aslam Fataar has kindly agreed to step into the role of outgoing President. The members of the executive and their portfolios are posted on this site. I encourage you, as members, to interact with the various portfolio holders, and support them with any information or other help you might like to offer e.g. organisation of a regional workshop. We have just had a successful conference hosted by Nelson Mandela University and for this, we must thank Dr Shervani Pillay and her LOC. As SAERA grows, so it becomes increasingly difficult to find venues that can house a large conference and so we have been forced to rely on corporate venues which present issues of affordability and accessibility for some members, particularly students and practitioners. As an executive we are committed to making the conference as affordable as possible, while still maintaining high academic standards, and we will apply our minds to how we can do this in the coming year. We would also like to hear from our members, and so encourage you to complete the survey you were sent this week to voice your opinions of the conference and how it can be improved. I have worked with most of the current executive for some years now, and I know they are all committed to and passionate about SAERA, as the leading education research association in South Africa and its committment to support capacity development of education and education researchers within South Africa. I thank the executive committee, and the larger membership, in advance for your ongoing support during the next two years.

Filed under: SAERA


This year’s award was won by Dr Bruce Damons from Nelson Mandela University. He was nominated by his colleague Dr Deidre Geduld for his thesis entitled “A COLLABORATIVELY CONSTRUCTED PROCESS MODEL FOR UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTING THE WORK OF THE COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER IN A COMMUNITY SCHOOL”. He was promoted by Prof Lesley Wood, with Dr A Witten as his co-promoter. This thesis was judged by all three examiners as making an important international contribution to the field of school leadership and community-based research and was accepted by all without any required changes (not even technical ones!). The thesis explored how community volunteers could be recruited, supported and sustained to assist a community school operating in difficult socio-economic conditions in achieving basic school functionality. Following a Participatory Action Learning and Action Research (PALAR) design, he recruited 15 community volunteers and formed an action learning set where they collaboratively sought to understand the processes and conditions needed to recruit, support and sustain community volunteers and their involvement in the school. Transcripts and visual artefacts from the action learning set meetings and a focus group meeting of the school management team were analysed to generate data, complemented by secondary sources, such as documents. This participatory approach to data generation allowed the voice of every participant to be heard; agency was increased through active participation; and the sense of affiliation to the group was deepened. The iterative design of the research process further ensured that the participants also engaged in a critical discourse analysis of the emerging data, of which the trustworthiness was enhanced through the use of dialogic and process, catalytic, rhetoric, democratic and outcome validity. The emergence of the data through this collaborative engagement was underpinned by the ethical values of mutual respect; equality and inclusion; democratic participation; active learning; making a difference; collective action; and personal integrity.
The findings revealed that community volunteers did add immense value to the school by supporting teaching and learning processes. However, the community volunteers also harboured expectations of material support and opportunities to develop skills. In addition, the study revealed that the hierarchical culture and structures present in most South African schools need to become more democratic and collaborative, with those working to make the school more functional, including community volunteers, being valued, acknowledged and supported. The participants also constructed their understanding of what a community school should be and do and how it should serve the interests of the children from the community. A process model was constructed from these findings regarding on ways to recruit, sustain and support community volunteers involved in community schools, specially designed so that schools could adapt it to suit individual contexts. In addition, a manual of the process model was generated so that the participants could facilitate other schools to implement it.

Filed under: Conference