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28 May 2024 | Story Anthony Mthembu | Photo Jon Vincent
Educators, academics, and policymakers in attendance at the Ibali Education Stakeholders Forum.

The Centre for Development Support (CDS) at the University of the Free State (UFS), in collaboration with Ibali, hosted the Ibali Education Stakeholders Forum on 10 May 2024 at the Centenary Complex on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. 

According to Prof Faith Mkwananzi, Associate Professor at the CDS, the event, an initiative of the Ibali Project, aimed to ‘’inform and disseminate project findings to individuals with an interest in educational exclusion and inclusion. It also served as a forum for stakeholders to share insights on the matter. “ The forum was well attended by educators, school leaders, academics, and policymakers from the Free State. Additionally, the event saw representation from Ibali, including Dr Alison Buckler, Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Development (CSGD) at The Open University.

A platform for engagement

Discussions at the forum focused on creating inclusive learning environments for learners and students within the province and beyond. Stakeholders had the opportunity to discuss the challenges they face in fostering inclusive learning spaces through panel discussions and presentations. ’’The involvement of stakeholders and presentation of diverse perspectives contributed to a robust engagement, indicating that individuals and organisations are motivated to support an inclusive and sustainable education system at every level in South Africa,’’ said Prof Mkwananzi.

The Ibali initiative

Dr Buckler explained that Ibali is a network of researchers, practitioners, and educators interested in how storytelling can support different understandings around complex issues in education and development. One of Ibali’s projects, funded by the United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), explores what inclusion and exclusion look like within education in countries like Nigeria, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Insights from the engagement

Dr Buckler highlighted several insights from the forum. She noted that inclusive practice can manifest in various ways. ‘’People talked about mixing groups of students in lectures, creating a supportive community for their deaf sibling, mainstream schools inviting children from ‘special schools’ for play sessions, and so on,’’ she said. Moreover, she emphasised that a key takeaway is that “underpinning hugely diverse examples of inclusive practice are a fairly small number of key principles around empathy, communication, ubuntu, and seeing someone as whole instead of defining people by certain characteristics that align with inclusion policies.”

As the engagement session concluded, both Prof Mkwananzi and Dr Buckler expressed hope that stakeholders could learn from one another’s experiences, fostering a more inclusive educational environment.  

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