UP academic Prof Vandeyar in the running for Standard Bank women in science award

Posted on August 14, 2019

With a career spanning 35 years, Professor Saloshna Vandeyar is still at the top of her game and her nomination for Standard Bank’s Top Women Awards is testament to this.

Prof Vandeyar, an academic in the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Education and the recently appointed director of the Centre for Diversity and Social Cohesion, has been nominated in the 2019 Standard Bank Top Women Awards in the Women in Science category.

The awards, which take place annually and are in their 16th year, aim to recognise organisations and individuals whose efforts uplift women in business and society in general.

Prof Vandeyar said social justice and diversity in education were close to her heart and this inspired her work. “My research is on social, cultural and cognitive justice education with a particular focus on identities and race (in)equalities and the ways in which  all other kinds of inequalities – namely ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, class, language, gender, religion, nationalities, political orientation, disabilities, rurality – are produced and reproduced in educational spaces by educational processes, discourses and practices.

Prof Vandeyar added that she lives by the ideals of the words of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. These words, as well as her experiences as a student activist during the apartheid era, have fuelled her passion for social justice, which is present in the work she does today.

“As a child born and brought up during the apartheid era in a segregated ‘Indian’ society, I lived through the atrocities of the apartheid regime. I was 17 years old at the University of the Witwatersrand during the turbulent early 80s. My experiences as a young student have allowed my passion for social, cultural and cognitive justice education to be expressed. I was involved in a number of passive boycotts – passive resistance i.e. sitting on the lawns in front of the then Wartenweiler Library, etc. in an attempt to voice our opposition to the social, cultural and cognitive injustices of the apartheid regime. I vividly remember the teargas and the police dogs,” she said.

One of the things that make Prof Vandeyar stand out is that she has made inroads in a traditionally male-dominated industry: academia. She explained that she uses her own experiences as lessons for young women, especially those who would be considered previously disadvantaged, by ensuring that her contributions to education speak to these specific challenges.

“I have become and remain an inspiration to young women. Academia, particularly the professoriate, in South Africa has traditionally been dominated by white males, based on the notion (in the past) that the fountain of knowledge stems from a white/Eurocentric patriarchal model. This is my twentieth year in the academe, at a former historically white Afrikaans-medium University, the University of Pretoria. I entered the academe in 2000, one of three Black academics (1 Indian, 1 Coloured and 1 African), fairly late in my life and gained my PhD when most other scholars had already made a significant start to their research and publication profiles. Despite this, driven by my innate passion for equity, equality and social, cultural and cognitive justice education, I set out to break down the stereotypical views of not only women in general, but Black women in particular,” she said.

She added that she believes that the conditions are ripe to tackle some of South Africa’s lingering social issues.

“The opportunity to make a change is ripe as we participate in discussions about decolonising education. We need to include knowledge generated by women into the curriculum to illustrate that women can generate new knowledge and contribute to the global pool of knowledge. We can and, to some extent, have become the Einsteins, the Platos and the Socrates of the world,” she concluded.

*The announcement of the winners of the 16th annual Standard Bank Top Women Awards will take place in Johannesburg, on 15 August.

- Author Masego Panyane

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