Faculty Activities, Visitors & Highlights: Fourth Quarter 2020

Fourth Quarter Report 2020
Fourth Quarter Report 2020

Education Department


  • Ms Samukeliso Chikiwa (soon to be Dr Chikiwa) joined the Education Department in August 2020
  • Associate Professor Nhlanhla Mpofu joined the Education Department in September 2020.


  • Teamwork continues to be enhanced in our department with staff sharing their teaching and learning curricula, materials and assessments.
  • The weekly check-ins continue to provide an opportunity for staff to connect, share their ideas.  


  • Since the recent re-accreditation of our BEd (Honours) programme, our first cohort of students have completed the first-year course under difficult circumstances. 62 students are still registered.
  • On Thursday 17 September a Webinar was held for PGCE students as part of the module on The Teacher and the Law. The Zoom webinar, organised by Ms San Knoetze was attended by a number of Makhanda school principals.
  • Distinguished Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Dr Clemence Chikiwa facilitated another successful on-line PhD week from 5 to 9 October.


  • Dr Lise Westaway has been invited by the UNESCO Co-Chair in ECD to develop the mathematics education curricula of the new Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education that will be offered by numerous universities in South Africa from 2022.
  • A-P Nhlanhla Mpofu was elected as an Executive Committee member of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS).  
  • 8 Masters in Education and 3 PhD students will be graduating on October


  • In August 2020, former Education students, Seitiso Mogotsi and Alphas Mtileni, and Ms Heide Kuhlane, a lecturer in the department, held a virtual webinar on decolonizing teaching is South African schools. From this virtual conversation, a Non-Profit Organization called Fikani (a Tsonga name meaning ‘to thrive’ was created. It will drive conversations and projects aimed at ensuring excellence in teaching and learning.


  • Twelve staff and PhD scholars in the Education Department completed a short course, Becoming a Lecturer in Teacher Education, facilitated by Emeritus Professor Hennie van der Mescht.



  • Dr Amanda Hlengwa produced a mid-term review for the Department of Higher Education and Training on progress made during the first three phases of the New Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP). Drawing on annual reports on the nGAP submitted by institutions from 2016 to 2018, the review examined the challenges that hamper and conditions that enable the smooth implementation of the programme at South African universities.  


  • The October CHERTL Doc Week was held from 6 - 10 October and took a different approach to usual. Given the challenges of 2020, the morning sessions were designed to allow students to work on their own projects - either individually or in a more structured manner through online ‘pomodoros’ facilitated by Dr Kirstin Wilmot. Dr Wilmot also implemented a new initiative this Doc Week, which is hoped to become embedded in the broader programme in the future. This initiative involves the creation of ‘research clusters’ in which smaller groups of scholars work together alongside the usual Doc Week offerings, as well as online between Doc Weeks, to grapple with the theory and analytical tools being used in their studies. The initiative is informed by Dr Wilmot’s own doctoral experience at the University of Sydney as by a project she completed as part of the Cultivating Postgraduate Collaborations supervision course she completed earlier this year. 


  • As an executive member, Ms Anthea Adams continues to support the HELTASA executive team with oversight of the forthcoming 2020 HELTASA conference.  


  • Dr Roxana Chiappa is the convenor of the newly formed SIG aimed at creating a community of practice to explore the “meanings” of social justice in postgraduate education. The first meeting, held on 28 September was attended by seven scholars, from England, Chile, the USA, and South Africa.


  • Professors Jo-Anne Vorster and Lynn Quinn participated in virtual “site visits” during the weeks of 12 – 15 October and 26 – 29 October as members of Council on Higher Education Doctoral Review Panels.


  • Writing in the University: Ways of knowing, ways of doing 

Kirstin Wilmot and CHERTL Associate, Dr Carol Thomson offered the ‘Writing in the University’ short course to Rhodes academic staff from 19-22 October 2020. The main goal of the course is to enable lecturers to develop and support the quality of student writing and reading (academic literacies) within their disciplines/specialisations, and to make explicit the link between writing, learning and disciplinary knowledge-building. This is the first year that the course was offered online. RUconnected was used as the learning platform, and sixteen academics from nine departments participated in the course. 

  • Online course design 

Dr Nicola Pallitt and Mr Neil Kramm designed and piloted an 8-week online course to support lecturers designing and teaching formal and informal online course offerings. Evaluation feedback from participants overall was very positive. 

  • Webinar on online and blended learning policies 

Dr Pallitt co-presented a webinar on online and blended learning policies for the e/merge Africa network on 14 October. Details: https://emergeafrica.net/14-october-2020-blended-and-online-learning-policies-in-african-higher-education/ 


  • A major achievement of this time period was the full accreditation of the BEd in ELT course (and the other in-service BEd courses). The contract of our English Language Fellow, Dr Qiana Gray, has been extended to March 2021, which means that we have her invaluable assistance in the process of making our BEd and BEd Honours course materials more online, mixed mode at the start of next year. For 2021, the ISEA is recruiting 30 BEd in ELT students in the Northern Cape and will have a small, self-funded Eastern Cape intake as well. We also have 8 BEd Honours students who will begin the specialism in Bilingual Education for Diversity and Access.
  • At the request of our final year BEd in ELT students, we have scheduled a three-day face-to-face teaching and revision session, 27-29 October in Kuruman. The management of the chosen venue has assured us that the teaching space will be disinfected each day and is big enough for social distancing.
  • Again, at the request of our BEd in ELT students, we have scheduled the final exam to run from 12-15 December. In order to do our best to meet the Faculty Board meeting deadline of 4-8 January 2021, staff will complete all marking and mark sheets by 23-24 December and our External Examiner has agreed to moderate the scripts between Christmas and New Year! I am impressed and moved at this commitment. Indeed, this has been a year where caring collegial relations and sound administrative working systems have sustained us.


  •  The first draft of the RUMEP Review is presently being finalised.
  • The Sishen Iron Ore mine have requested us to recruit 30 Senior/FET teachers for the BEd in-service first-year course for next year. We also intend taking in 25 first-year Eastern Cape students as well.
  • The BEd 3 group have attended two contact sessions in Kuruman since the beginning of lockdown 1. Both second- and third-year groups will attend a contact session from the 26-30 October, one in Kuruman and the other in Makhanda. 
  • Our annual ‘How I Teach’ Conference will take place from the 9-10 December in Kuruman where students will present their research projects.


  • CSD and RUCE joined forces to support ECD centres with reopening. We conducted workshops to guide supervisors thought the new rules and Standard Operating Procedures.  We further assisted with the provision of thermometers to 40 schools along with sanitising equipment, and food for 3 weeks while schools awaited payment from the Department of Social Services. 
  • 677 JAMSA buckets containing grocery packs were delivered to local ECD centres.
  • Ms Margaret Irvine in consultation with Ms Nicci Hayes have been working on a participatory, appreciative enquiry-based report for the Eastern Cape Department of Basic Education on primary school functionality. Ms Margaret Irvine presented the final report to the SG on Tuesday 25th October. 
  • International Literacy Day – we distributed over 2000 books (BookDash donations and CSD’s own storybook set in Makhanda “Zinzi noTa’mkhulu”, as well as our own double-sided wordless tiny books.)
  • The CSD hosted a well-attended lecture by Visiting Professor Lilli Pretorius on 8 September to mark International literacy day. 
  • Sarah Murray presented a keynote lecture on literacy at the annual LITASA (virtual) conference on the 19th September.
  • Ms Vati Joni, Ms Margaret Irvine and Ms Nicci Hayes were invited to participate in the Takalani Sesame Male Caregivers’ strategic partnership and content development workshop, on the 22nd September. This was one of two national workshops held to guide the content delivery of programmes designed to shift gender norms and thus nurture the participation of more make caregivers in play-based learning. 
  • Nicci Hayes was invited to participate in a Kagiso Trust Round Table discussion on 19 October. She spoke on Educational resilience and innovation in Makhanda during COIVD with a specific focus on the ECD sector.
  • Lucy O’Keef and Nicci Hayes were each asked to present addresses at the Annual HCI Stakeholders Workshop on 21 October. The focus of these addresses in on the usefulness of the Appreciative Enquiry approach used in the Ezinkwenkwezini project as well as the successful adaptations of the project in light of COVID.
  • Nicci Hayes was invited to be a panelist on a talk on mentorship in developing educational leadership by the ZALC (South African Learning Collaborative).

 SARChi Chair and the ELRC

  • The 5-year review of the SARCHi Chair in Global Change and Social Learning was completed this quarter with the wonderful news that the NRF will fund the Chair for another five years, based on an exceptionally positive review outcome. This bodes well for the continued high level of scholarly output in terms of students, research programmes and publications, as well as multiple international partnerships, under Distinguished Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka’s leadership.
  • On 15 September the VC opened the UNESCO Sustainability Starts with Teachers programme, run by the ELRC and UNESCO’s Regional Office in Southern Africa, with Prof Lotz-Sisitka and Rhodes graduate Dr Charles Chikunda at the helm. This course for teacher and vocational education educators is offered to Zambia, Lesotho and South Africa this year.
  • A-Prof Schudel and Dr Songwaru participated in the Global Online Forum for Teacher Educators and helped produce a Climate Change Education course for Geography teachers to be offered by Rhodes in 2021.
  • In October a ‘training-of-trainers’ certificated short course for the natural resource management sector was launched in partnership with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Tsitsa Programme), with 109 participants. The Amanzi for Food programme’s training-of-trainers course included an online dialogue with farmers and the Water Research Commission.
  • ELRC students and admin staff supported the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa to host its first online conference, with the theme “Leaving no-one behind”, attended by more than 500 delegates from 21 countries. Fourteen Rhodes graduates and staff presented in this 2-day event. 
  • The Southern African Journal of Environmental Education is currently producing a Special Issue on “EE and ESD in Times of Crisis”; this online, open-access journal is published in the ELRC and in October reached a peak of more than 6000 full paper downloads. The ELRC graduated four Master’s students and two PhDs during the second graduation this year (five women, five Black) and our refereed publications this quarter include two papers in the African Evaluation Journal, and a chapter in a Springer book Green Schools Globally.

NRF Mathematics Education Chair

  •  The ICMI-14 conference that was scheduled to be held in July 2020 has been postponed to next year. Prof Schafer is the vice-chair of the Visualisation Study Chair and will continue with this role for the 2021 conference.
  • The lockdown and subsequent period has been constructively utilised by many of the Chair’s students as a period of consolidation. In order to stay on track with thesis and research completion, many students have completed their literature review in anticipation of being able to start and/or complete their empirical work in their selected schools which have been opened and shut on irregular intervals.
  • Routledge has supported and accepted a proposal for a book publication by Prof Schäfer. This is very exciting as it offers the Chair the opportunity to document and record the research outcomes and achievements of the last two cycles. The deadline for submission is December 2021.



  • The SANC team have published several peer-reviewed journal articles this year. Our team have submitted multiple conference papers (including long papers which receive subsidy) for the SAARMSTE conference in January 2021 and have now received notification of their acceptance.
  • Professor Mellony Graven has written a book chapter with Professor Einat Heyd-Metzuyanim (Technion, Israel) and final page proofs have been signed off. Professor Graven and Professor Hamsa Venkat (Wits) have also written a book chapter for the upcoming Symposium for Elementary Mathematics Teaching (SEMT) book. Dr Pamela Vale, in collaboration with Dr Jana Višňovská (Australia) and Professor José Cortina (Mexico), is also contributing to a chapter for this publication.
  • Two publications have been accepted to the South African Journal of Childhood Education. Dr Sally-Ann Robertson and Professor Graven’s paper was published this quarter and Tarryn Lovemore, Dr Robertson and Professor Graven have an article that has been accepted and will appear in print in the final quarter of 2020.


Diagnostic Assessment Materials for National roll-out and planned research - ongoing joint collaboration between Rhodes and Wits SA Numeracy Chairs.

  • Following the successful piloting of one set of assessments and lesson starters for one numeracy strategy across three provinces in 2019, the Department of Basic Education have requested, that we develop all sets of assessments and lesson starters for all six strategies for national roll-out in 2021. Despite Covid, our teams have worked hard and have now successfully completed all of the materials for the six strategies. The completed documents have been handed over to the DBE and are now being translated into all additional official languages. This is really exciting work, based on strong research and evidence of effectiveness, and has potential to have a major impact on the national landscape. Furthermore, this provides excellent research opportunities. 

Development work and support for schools

  • We provided support to our partner schools, after-care centres, teachers and parents through our project Facebook page and the provision of physical resources for use in the home throughout lockdown Levels 5 – 2. We are pleased to have been able to restart our face-to-face Intermediate Phase professional development sessions with teachers from our partner schools (with all Covid-19 protocols strictly adhered to). The final session of this programme will be held in November, when teachers will receive their certificates of completion of the programme, and will then be able to claim their SACE CPTD points. This is the first time that SANCP has pursued accreditation with SACE (received in March 2019), and will be the first time that our teachers are able to be recognised by SACE for their dedication in attending these sessions. We look forward to the celebrations ahead.
  • We have continued our partnership with Grocott’s Mail through contributing to a number of special editions this quarter. We continue to receive positive feedback about these resources from teachers and parents in Makhanda and surrounding towns. In addition, the resources that we shared online during Level 5 and Level 4 lockdown continue to attract attention. The 50 original resources that were shared have to date been downloaded 10 565 times, and the collective reach of the 62 posts made through Facebook during this time is now 638032. The number of ‘likes’ of our Facebook page passed the 5000 mark mid-July, having started lockdown at approximately 1900. 

PhD submissions and graduations

  • Samukeliso Chikiwa will be graduating in the upcoming virtual graduation ceremony.