UP professor awarded AAP funding to develop decolonial teaching frameworks

Posted on March 25, 2022

Professor Saloshna Vandeyar of the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Department of Education has been selected as a 2021 awardee of the Transforming Institutions Strategic Funding, an initiative of the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP).

Founded by Michigan State University (MSU), the AAP is a consortium of MSU, 10 African universities and a network of African research institutes. Candidates who are part of the AAP consortium and its partners can apply for the funding to develop programmes that directly address the AAP’s Transforming Institutions pillar, which is to “transform institutions to be better able to participate in sustainable, equitable and research-driven partnerships that make a broader impact on transforming lives”.

Prof Vandeyar, who is also the Director of the Centre for Diversity and Social Cohesion at UP, said the focus of her team’s project is on how various decolonial frameworks can be used to transform higher education.

“Our long-term goal is to foster the capacity development of the three co-principal investigators to lead institutional strengthening,” she said. “We will do this by piloting new approaches to research and teaching, as we design and enact innovative curricular and pedagogical approaches across secondary and higher education contexts and the intersections of the AAP priority areas of education, culture and youth empowerment.” 

Prof Vandeyar’s work has been inspired in part by her own journey. Her research over the years has focused on diversity in education, as well as social, cultural and cognitive justice education and teacher professionalism.

Her passion for change has driven her to actively pursue her research. “My passion is to make a difference,” Prof Vandeyar said. “This is my 38th year in the teaching fraternity. I have taught across the education spectrum: seven years across secondary schools as a senior teacher and head of department [HoD]; eight years at a teacher training college as a senior lecturer and HoD; and 23 years at UP, having risen in the ranks from lecturer to full professor, HoD and Director. This exposure starkly highlighted the inequalities in the education system. It also fuelled my desire for educational change that will positively impact society and promote social, cultural and cognitive justice education and social cohesion, and in so doing, make the world a better place.”

Prof Vandeyar’s research has investigated areas that have previously received little attention. “Much of the literature in the field in South Africa documents ‘problems’ in desegregated educational spaces,” she said. “My stance as a researcher is one of portraiture: to search for ‘goodness’. Secondly, few studies have been conducted on immigrant students in South Africa. However, these studies have not focused on “Black” immigrant identities in South African schools. That is why the project on immigrant identities is groundbreaking and has provided valuable insights for South Africa and elsewhere. Also, it is not simply the establishment of a new scholarship in the cross-cutting streams of ‘multi’ (race, identities, gender and language) research that distinguishes my work; it is my dedication to making the research count in educational practice.”

In terms of the AAP grant, Prof Vandeyar’s team has proposed to work on a programme that will equip mostly pre-service teachers with skills that will enable them to make use of decolonial frameworks to improve their outputs.

“The aim of this project is to contribute to institutional strengthening and capacity development,” Prof Vandeyar said. “To meet this aim, the three co-principal investigators will engage in a strategic international partnership to undertake five interrelated sets of activities.”

These activities will involve:

1) Identifying education research literature and curricular materials with a decolonial approach that can be utilised by pre-service teachers, and teacher educators at UP and MSU;

2) Instructing pre-service teachers and teacher educators at UP and MSU on curricular design and teaching approaches that leverage local knowledge and utilise decolonial frameworks;

3) Facilitating pre-service teachers and teacher educators at UP and MSU in composing written reflections of curricular design and teaching approaches that leverage local knowledge and utilise decolonial frameworks;

4) Piloting interviews with pre-service teachers and teacher educators at UP and MSU to discuss their curricular design and teaching using local knowledge and decolonial approaches; and

5) Identifying writers, artists, filmmakers and artisans in South Africa and the global African diaspora to later identify key curricular resources and teaching practices that may be utilised to leverage local knowledge and enact decolonial approaches in both South African and US secondary and higher education contexts.

On what the future holds for her, Prof Vandeyar said: “I will continue to address social, cultural and cognitive justice education, with a particular focus on identities, race (in)equalities and all other kinds of inequalities that are produced and reproduced in educational spaces by educational processes, discourses and practices. This is part of my genetic constitution – to address in(equalities), to create better life chances for all people and to make a difference.”

- Author Masego Panyane
Published by Anna Semenya

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