03 May 2022 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Prof Madiope and Prof Lynette
Dr Marinkie Madiope, left, engaged in several dialogue sessions of the AUDA-NEPAD initiative to reimagine and transform education in post-COVID Africa. Prof Lynette Jacobs, right, the London Institute’s Research Methodology Conference was about more than delivering a keynote address.

With COVID-19 dominating the world for almost two years, hampering opportunities to build international relationships on foreign soil, staff members from the South Campus are excited to once again do their part to expand the University of the Free State’s (UFS) international footprint.

In 2020, Campus Principal, Dr Marinkie Madiope, was appointed as Vice-President of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of theCalestous Juma Executive Dialogue on Innovation and Emerging Technologies (CJED). CJED is supported by the African Union Development Agency and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), as well as the African Union High-Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET). 

Its goal is to make Africa better through the harnessing of innovation and emerging technologies. By way of dialogue and a series of workshops, AUDA-NEPAD provides a platform to promote inter-country and inter-regional learning and knowledge exchange on science, innovation, and emerging technologies across Africa. It is on this platform – in the TWG – where Dr Madiope is focusing on encouraging young people and women to further their studies in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). 

Presenting in Dubai

At the beginning of this month (April 2022), she attended the first face-to-face African Union High-Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) meeting for 2022 in Dubai, hosted by AUDA-NEPAD. The purpose of the meeting, taking place during the Dubai World Expo 2022, was to deliberate on the progress made and to chart the way forward to improve delivery of the APET programme in 2022. 

Dr Madiope also delivered a presentation at the event and took the opportunity to participate in the Dubai World Expo activities by visiting the technology exhibition sites and institutions in Dubai.

Online engagement 

She was also a panel speaker at AUDA-NEPAD’s second webinar in the CJED 2022 webinar series to the public, including UFS staff and students. This one-of-a-kind experience, which included evidence-based discussions on holistic approaches to physical, mental, and emotional well-being, was titled ‘Pursuing Holistic Health and Well-Being’. 

Selected health experts and researchers from across the continent, including Mothomang Diaho and Busisiwe Dichaba, presented the most recent research on holistic health, addressing anxiety and depression, resilience, mindfulness, stress management, nutrition, and health behaviour change. A UFS colleague and indigenous knowledge expert, Nombulelo Tholithemba Shange, also participated in the panel discussion. The theme of Shange’s talk – also a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology – was: ‘African Knowledge, not yet uhuru: Exploring ukuthunywa as African Methodology’.

Dr Madiope, who talked about an integrated approach to health and wellness for UFS staff and students during COVID-19, started her presentation – which differentiated between wellness and well-being – by stating that wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices towards a more successful existence. (National Wellness Institute). Well-being, on the other hand, is the result of self-care and employer care; of the choices that I make. It means a life that I consider meaningful, purposeful, and deeply satisfying, and it includes self-acceptance, purpose in life, environmental mastery, positive relationships, personal growth, and autonomy (Ryff, 2014).

Dr Madiope then outlined the different dimensions of well-being, which include physical, occupational, intellectual, financial, environment, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual aspects, stating that the UFS as an institution is looking at these dimensions in an integrated manner, as part of a fit-for-purpose self-care strategy that staff and students can implement to inspire whole-person care. 

Johannesburg and Dakar

In the last week of April, Dr Madiope will also – as part of this three-year engagement with AUDA-NEPAD – attend, present, and network during the sixth CJED in Johannesburg, as well as in another session presented in Dakar, Senegal, in early May. During these workshops, dignitaries will continue with the task at hand, focusing on the urgent need to reimagine and transform education in post-COVID Africa by utilising educational innovations and technologies. 

During these sessions, decision makers will share their knowledge and experience, working towards harnessing educational technology and innovations and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels.  

The theme of this dialogue is: ‘Effectively harnessing educational innovations and technologies for formal and non-formal teaching and learning in Africa’.

“This project really puts the UFS on the international platform. It is in line with the university’s focus for 2022, namely visibility and impact, and is indeed making the university visible and impacting lives for the better, both locally and globally,” states Dr Madiope.

Keynote address in the UK

Prof Lynette Jacobs, Associate Professor on the South Campus, whose work is focusing on comparative and international education, delivered a keynote address at the London Institute’s Research Methodology Conference in Coventry in the United Kingdom. The conference was hosted by Coventry University’s Centre for Global Learning (GLEA) and the London Institute of Social Studies.

The title of Prof Jacobs’ paper was: ‘Authentically journeying research with yourself and others’. In her presentation, she focused on her own research and her research journey as an object of research, specifically the entanglement of worldview, context, research discourse, and tools for research over time, and how it has changed throughout her journey as researcher. 

She describes the event as a methodology conference, focusing particularly on designing and conducting research during the pandemic and beyond with marginalised groups, under-represented populations, and non-traditional students who may have been disproportionately excluded from mainstream educational life, and particularly from higher education. 

Taking a flat ontological post-human perspective, she pointed out how objects are sensitive to the temporalities imposed on them, and the entanglement of ontological, technological, socio-political, and personal changes with their research. Prof Jacobs then shared some guidelines on how researchers can carefully attend to the power relations at play in the processes of knowledge production.

She believes that marginalised scholars and scholars who research people on the margins, will in the long run be able to use what she has shared to not only reflect on their own studies, but also to infuse some of the considerations in their work. 

After the conference, Prof Jacobs also met with different academics and professionals at Coventry University to engage on future learning and teaching as well as research projects. 

Coventry University is also one of the ten partners in the iKudu project, Capacity Building in Higher Education (CBHE). She is of the view that “this is an example of how collaboration on a project with a limited timeline can lead to sustainable collaboration advancing internationalised learning and teaching as much as it does research”. 

Since the start of the iKudu project, Prof Jacobs has been conducting research on issues relating to internationalisation of higher education and the decolonisation thereof. She states that one of the issues was developing a contextualised South African concept of Internationalisation of the Curriculum, embedded in the broad context of curriculum renewal. She is of the opinion that such renewal will include infusion of indigenous knowledge, Africanisation, decolonisation, and reference to the contemporary local context. 

According to her, the iKudu project will also develop the necessary capacity in higher education to advance curriculum internationalisation and transformation.  

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