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Enhancing Science Partnerships for Innovation and Sustainable Development

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Event calendar for the month: August 2017

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Ambassador for the Year of Science

Science Network

Human Capital Development

Interview with Prof. Relebohile Moletsane

Interview with Prof. Relebohile Moletsane

Interview with Prof. Relebohile Moletsane, UKZN, winner of the Women in Science Awards “Distinguished Women Scientists: Social Sciences and Humanities”:

Prof. Moletsane is currently a Professor and JL Dube Chair in Rural Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). She has extensive experience in teaching and research in the areas of curriculum studies, gender and education, HIV and Aids education, and girlhood studies in Southern African contexts.

Her methodological interests include the use of participatory visual methodologies in doing research and development work with marginalised groups. She is working on a project which uses digital story-telling with teachers (Through the eyes of women teachers: Indigenous knowledge systems and teaching in rural schools in the age of AIDS), and has published several articles and book chapters on using digital technology and digital storytelling in rural communities, including celphilms, short videos, photo-documentaries and photo narratives. She is also the co-author (with Claudia Mitchell, Ann Smith and Linda Chisholm) of the book Methodologies for Mapping a Southern African Girlhood in the Age of Aids, a co-editor (with Kathleen Pithouse and Claudia Mitchell) of the 2009 book Making Connections: Self-Study & Social Action and the lead editor (with Claudia Mitchell and Ann Smith) of a 2012 book called Was it Something I Wore? Dress, Identity, and Materiality.

1. Speaking of women in science and research, what is the situation in your working environment and what advice would you give to young colleagues who are aiming for a career in science?

The situation in my research field: Rural education is an emerging field of scientific research in South Africa. This means that not much literature (empirical and theoretical) exists to support work in the field. While current policy recognises the urgency of focusing effort (research and development) on rural development, it seems that resources for research in particular, are slow to flow into this field.

For emerging scholars: 1) Collaboration with scholars from the rest of the African continent as well as other developing contexts around the world (e.g., South America, Asia); 2) sustained focus and building of scholarship in this field and briefs on its implications for development are needed (to build recognition and resource allocation to the field).

2. If you had to explain your project/research assignment/paper in two sentences, how would you describe it?

My work focuses on rural education and development. In particular, it focuses on how the improvement of teaching and learning (with a particular focus on the professional teacher development; teacher education for rural contexts; health and wellbeing in schools and communities; and school leadership and through the use of participatory visual methodologies and digital technology) might impact on development, particularly poverty in rural communities.

3. What do you find so fascinating about your field of research and would you like the media to pay attention to this particular field?

The insight (about social and cultural issues) among rural communities and schools and their agency for addressing them is a goldmine for development projects. Putting the responsibilities and the tools for understanding and addressing challenges that beset rural communities and schools in the hands of the rural people themselves (community members, teachers and learners) has often proven to be key to effective and sustainable projects.

4. What specifically, do you want to achieve with your dedicated commitment? What goals have you set for yourself?

I would like to develop and pilot a primary school improvement plan (‘from the ground up’) in one district (e.g., in five primary schools), and for three years to improve teaching and learning, and particularly to develop reading communities/cultures (in IsiZulu and English) among learners in grades 1-3.  I would then follow the learners from these schools up to grade 12 to address the question: What difference does a good foundation in reading and writing at primary level make for learning throughout one’s school career?

5. What significance does cooperation with international partners have for your work? (Inquiry: Is there any research exchange arrangement with Germany?)

International collaboration is important for comparative analysis of issues and empirical work (vis-à-vis context). More importantly, because the theoretical base for rural education and development is relatively less developed in South Africa, learning from international scholarship and theory is helpful for informing and adapting to local scholarship (e.g., learning form best practice and adapting to local context).