Dr. Jaqui Ala

Pat and Jessica now take these conversations to the southern hemisphere and discuss failure and hope with award-winning educator Jacqueline De Matos Ala of the University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa). Jaqui is an Associate Professor of International Relations who has written on large class pedagogy, making the invisible, visible and much more.


Educators series as we explore the narratives of failure and hope it is our

pleasure to welcome Dr Jacqueline demetos Allah who is an associate

professor of international relations at Whits University in Johannesburg South

Africa Whits university has a mandate to be internationally distinguished for

research High academics standards and a commitment to social justice in Africa and Beyond Dr Matos Ella is widely

published she is an award-winning educator and leader some of her most widely read Works include in this should

this should signal some of the the areas that she’s curious about and and has expertise in titles such as making the

invisible visible challenging the knowledge structures inherent in international relations theory in order

to create knowledge plural curricula she’s also published on large class

pedagogy interdisciplinary perspectives for Quality higher education student

engagement in large classes and quality education despite the odds she also has

research interests in rural African women and domestic patriarchy through the lens of international gender bias

and so she’s done case studies in women in development in gender and development in South Africa and Zimbabwe it is our

distinct pleasure to welcome you to this conversation um and to to Traverse all of the time

zones and all of the the different geographical divides in order to explore

some of the conversations that we have today about narratives of failure and despair but also of Hope and Delight

thank you for joining us today thank you for having me it’s great to be here

so one of the things that Pat and I start in our conversations with our guests is just a very open-ended

question a question about um what your story is how did you get here what what Drew you to the the place

that you are um in the world so it can be anything it can be formal or informal personal or

professional um but just give us a glimpse of of the story from your perspective

right uh yeah um I I like the the the whole idea of

Hope and failure um because I I got here I think when I

started off at University I thought that I was going to be a lawyer

um and I got into international relations um sort of because I didn’t know what

else to take with or my law subjects uh and when I got to University I really

quickly discovered that I did not have a passion for law at all

um but I I really did enjoy all the social science side of my Bachelor of

Arts degree um and I didn’t get into law school uh

because we do we do have to do an undergraduate degree before you do your your law um your law degree at

postgraduate level and I didn’t get into school but I did get into international relations postgraduate uh and yep from

there I did my my honors degree uh we don’t have a four-year undergraduate

degree in South Africa we have three years plus and honors and we did I did

that and then I went on to do my masters

and uh was offered the opportunity to you know to teach

uh but it it wasn’t until um I I was given uh what this is what

let’s try to do at that that time was that they were into um social justice

um you know kind of restorative justice and they were looking for ways to help

um people disadvantaged by apartheid who seemed to have the you know passion

um and you know have the abilities to to function in higher education but didn’t

have the metric marks to get in um to give them an alternative route

into University um because it was just so important as a

way of empowering and equipping future generations of of Africans and so I

started off teaching in a program that did academic you know development that

that that gave academic make skills to students

um you came from disadvantaged backgrounds and you know the problem with this is that it was they would just

add on skills how to how to read an article how to write an introduction how

to do research and they were never attached

to you know really you know that there needed to be far more um skills interwoven with content we

found for students ready to get the the benefits out of out of these these

programs the teaching skills apart from content was um not as productive as we hoped it

would be so what we did is that um international relations was a really

it is a very very was and is a very very popular program adverts and so we

started a Foundation program which was for want of a better word a bridging

program between school and University and so what we did is that we wanted to

equip students with these skills not only that they could develop

um these skills that they needed for University but they could Excel and we didn’t want them to use this this one

year where um Everybody where’s the bridging course and then only then do you go into

undergraduate degree what we wanted to do was take these students accelerate everything and put them into the second

year of study uh and it was an amazing time it was an

amazing program uh there were just so many things to learn and I think from

teaching in the academic side the academic development side of higher

education made me realize that um yeah teaching teaching and learning

is a skill that you require um it’s something that people study they

you know study as their their primary degrees and here we expect people who

have expertise in their discipline to arrive at University and buy osmosis and

and some miracle magic you know how to teach and I think that what was amazing

about being part of this program is that we were um yeah there was a community of

practice developing and we were given academic development advisors who helped

you think about um you know how to merge your program

with um the skills that you’d want to teach students and how to do it in a very

creative exciting way and how to come up with

um syllabus a curriculum that looked very different from what we usually found in ir and I

think we got very social constructivist very early on and we started teaching

um you know introducing our students to international relations looking at the

um the international relations of the struggle yeah um against apartheid and and yeah

um we we you know we did some really really interesting and innovative ideas

um you know we we took speeches from politicians um and you know responses to those

speeches from international relations people and we’ve got students to look at it and to analyze it and to think about

um you know what was being said and critically engaged and we got students to draw timelines of you know when these

things were happening and where their lives and their families lives fitted into these things so they could see

everything as you know multifaceted and and complex and it was it was a really

really fantastic time um and what was so fantastic even further about this is that how well

these students did we we tracked them um into their their postgraduate

programs and you know we have people that went on to do phds

um from this program so we felt that it was very valuable but then

um yeah universities your priorities change and you get new people in leadership

um and we had a change of leadership who felt that this was um not money work well spent for the

University and decided to close these programs um and I think it was done in a matter

of two months um and so it was quite I think it was quite

emotional for everybody who was part of this because Cher we thought that we were doing amazing work

um and they’d been told that no um this whole idea of that we will get

to a stage uh in our development where everything would be fixed in our

societies that education would be superlative for everybody and nobody would need these programs anymore and

um that’s what you know that’s where we got um and ironically we’re uh as with

started as what started moving away from these programs uh the government started

funding these programs as well so um yeah often often you find that the

universities you’re at seem to crazily be out of state with the the moment uh

and I know that um you’re given the past realities of the fact that education in this country

hasn’t gotten better for the vast majority of people who can’t afford private education uh and even those that

can afford private education often come to University not knowing everything they needed to know

um there’s been a a a sort of a contemplation of maybe we should think

about doing this again but I I think that the sad reality is is that those

skills have gotten the people who taught those uh programs have moved on they’re

doing other things and so sort of this whole cohort of educational knowledge that you had you’ve you’ve lost

uh which was said and I can’t say that I was I was

very happy I think I was a very well content academic for quite a while because of this

um but then I I think that you know we decided to move on and

you know get in involved in just the the common you know academic

um yeah Pursuits or if you’re finishing your PhD and

um you know just you’re consolidating everything that you you do uh but I I

was always interested in you know it always nagged me that

um I had all this knowledge um and that I had accumulated but

because it was never put to um you know it was never translated into

a degree in education it was just you know knowledge that wouldn’t be recognized and

um we we had we had um postgraduate diplomas in higher

education in the past if it’s but in 2015 that was all brought back and your

colleagues the colleagues that I taught with in the foundation courses they were the colleagues that were running these

programs um and they said well you know don’t you want to be a guinea pig and

come and and do this you know you you know you should know 90 of the stuff

that we’re talking about because we all played around with these people and you should know the theorists and so just

come and and be part of a whole bunch of University people that want to learn to

yeah learn about higher education pedagogy and so that was yeah and so I

enrolled in the postgraduate diploma in higher education um at Fitz and it was very interesting

because not only was I I was the only person from Humanities there

um by and large the the the the most uh faculty that we had were engineers that

was that that was really interesting because um you know they hold they they came

from the store and so well this is a Humanities thing this is the social science how hard can this be and it was

really funny watching them eat their their words um about the fact that a social science

um like education can be very intellectually taxing and and difficult

and there’s a lot of reading to cover and there’s a lot of skills to develop and you know it’s it’s packed full of so

many different ideas and ways of seeing the world and you’re doing stuff and I

think what was really interesting is that you know um we did a lot of you know looking at

um you know the social justice issues around higher education which was I

think really great for you know being in the university in in Africa uh we really

enjoyed that and I also signed up because of my interest

in looking at Knowledge from the global South and so I found in my own

discipline that you know we we look at international relations very much

through the from the perspective of the global North but you know what happens you know where is where all the

knowledge and the ideas and the histories and um the international relations of the global South why don’t we tell these

stories um and if I designed a curriculum how would I design one that did this

sorry excuse the cat it’s like the obligatory cat on on the

zoom call every every every every every conversation now has one

um it’s amazing they know when you’re you’re doing things um unfortunately you can edit that out

so um I was you know thinking about uh and so I couldn’t find you know a lot of

answers in my own discipline and I I looked at the field of curriculum development and and looked at how much

um work had been done around knowledge inclusion in curricular

um and knowledge exclusion as as a a a a you know a form of

um um yeah I mean sort of educational Academy or political Academy

translated into the field of Education that doesn’t get seen um you know

um explicitly but is there implicitly by the the choices that we make when we put

our curriculum together and all the things and the choices that we make that we don’t see uh and so I found the unit

on curriculum very very interesting and uh

then I decided what the hell um I’ll I’ll do a Masters in Education

in higher education because that was you know so the be the guinea pig again

um and go and do that and you know just so I could learn more and

um you know Explore More on the the whole idea of you know the scholarship teaching and learning

um even though I had written in the area you you get an idea that as somebody who

really isn’t an expert in higher education and all the discourses that there’s a lot of stuff that you’re

missing and I think that the reason why I extended my education so I and our

whole dual qualifications in both international relations and um

uh higher education is because I I always wondered well you know I I you

know the hubris of being a lecturer is that you think that you you probably know everything there is to know and

probably you know a lot about your subject but do you know a lot about you know the teaching that’s underwriting

um your subject you know implicitly yeah you you know it’s sort of

it’s really hard um but I I think that if you you lean to and you you lack the teaching side of

academics you you know you you

sort of sort of almost there’s an intangible element of of knowing what would work

um in a classroom you don’t necessarily know why it works you don’t know all the the thinking behind it and the

educational psychology but you you come to a stage where you know what works and I I think if you are reflective in your

teaching um I think that that’s what we we all do is that we you know think about well

good what I did was you know interesting I came up with an interesting idea of how I think I could make this more

accessible to the students but did it actually work um and no maybe if I go back and I tweak

it so my problem is is that I think I’m constantly putting my curriculum all over the place

because I’m always convinced that there is there’s a better reading that there’s a better way of doing this that there’s

a better way of engaging the students um you know especially when you’re dealing with complicated and complex

issues and so I I think that that’s what makes you a a good teacher that I I

think that good teachers never think that they’ve arrived and that you now know everything I think that the the

more that you you are you know the more that you get involved in this the more you realize that maybe you don’t know

everything and there’s a lot more to know and there’s a lot more people to to talk about and

um you know it’s nice to to have things like educational communities or practice

across universities because there there are so many things that we can all learn from

each other um and I think often tell my students this

um you know I I I think that I often point out to them that I I failed my

first year of University and and so I I think that you know

before you write yourself off as a failure um it is somebody who can’t

um you know it it it you know what you what you do after you failed is is more

telling of what you are as a person than the failure itself

um and I I think that it’s important for for students to hear this from an academic because I think academics

by themselves don’t often fail at at anything I think everybody is very driven

um you know we’re all part of this you know Elite institution we’re a part of elite schools and you don’t get into

graduate programs because your you know your academics are um sort of dubious when it comes to the

marks and so I think it’s very important for especially for South African students to know that you know you don’t

always have to get it right the first time that their their opportunities to do things over

um and so that really is my my story

um so many Fantastic pieces in that story

so so Jackie when you’re when you’re thinking about it all and you’re thinking about teasing it out is there any part of that

story or a different story you know where it’s like this is what keeps me awake at night or this is what gets you

out of the bed in the morning right like the just the joyful thing or the rageful thing that is either you know that just

shapes your day or shapes your your thinking around teaching and learning

my students to look at things in much more detail with a lot more Nuance

um than they would probably like and to ask questions that they probably don’t want to ask

um and to you know to explore the world and and not just take the answers that everybody is giving to them about you

know about things um I I often to your my students are

very very good at um you know petting or trotting art African philosophers postcolonial

philosophers but very few of them have read those and so a lot of times what people do is they mimic what they’ve

heard other people say and so my first rule is that if you want to quote for

non to me read for none don’t tell me what other people have said about these people I

want to know what you think about this um yeah because even even in these great

works there are you know blind spots and things that have changed now and we want

to you know look at things differently and you just to get students excited

about what it is that they that they do and I think especially now that we’re we’re going

for a blended model um it’s I think really really important uh I I teach

um my final year undergraduate class and my my biggest worry is is that they

are um there is the temptation to just relax and now that

you can download lectures and you can hear the lecturers then you know why you know why do all the reading

um and attend all the classes and and so I think that it’s it’s even more

important now to engage students um really join on on the work that David

Hornsby and I did on large class pedagogy and engaging students that it’s

important to think about you know how to get students even more engaged in what they’re doing at this time

because there is the tendency to become really passive uh and I think that is

one of the things that uh with with you know emergency remote teaching that

we’ve been doing for the last two years and now that we’re coming out of this it is the one thing that has really really

worried me that that there would be this you know desire to you know sit back and

you know nobody’s really watching me um and you know not to do that and I

think that it’s something that we’ve all worried about as academics that um you know you can see it when students

begin to um you know do you know the summit of us you know assessment parts of the courses

that when it comes to putting it all together there are gaps um and that is something we need to work

on yeah getting sorted out

Jackie thank you so much for for taking us through that story and then for for

Excavating some of those bits and I’m hoping we can talk a little bit about

um the the moments where you despaired and and described yourself as a milk

intent um and then the ways in which you manage to name that and sort of claim it

understand the convergences of that Despair and and to aim it in generous and generative ways and you you talk

about this journey of building a program that marries skills and content

um as your sort of first aha moment as an international relations professor and

then moving that into um a kind of lived experience getting them to do that timeline getting them to

do uh where were they at this moment where were they and and how their lives

converged as a as a deep form of personal engagement and then talking about the the

transformative moments of this program which had a social justice trajectory just as it was exploring social justice

and restorative justice to have that rug pulled out from under you really really

rapidly only in a few months time after you knew the impact and and transformation of this program

and you sat there and and it was out of your sphere of control it was out of your sphere of influence

can you talk us through about how how you went through the despair or the howling into the abyss and what got you

what got you from from Despair and giving up right there’s a real

um I I think understandable reaction which is disengagement which is to go

back to do things Square again to do them as we were trained to do them in in isolated or in

siled ways but but then you re-engaged and you found new a new life and a new

Avenue forward can you just talk to us about like how how you sat in that

Despair and then how you how you understood to aim at into future facing

spaces oh gosh I I think I think that

um I would lie to say that I I wasn’t very you know I I was really angry about

about that because it was amazing work

you can edit that out no cats are welcome cat it’s cats are welcome this is what we’re taking into our post

covered World we’ll see one little tail just good yeah it’s it’s it’s the the

obligatory Here video bombing of your your okay of your zoom and yeah the dog that

all of a sudden needs to be your friend After ignoring you for a whole day

but life I said that I I was I we were all really really upset and and angry

and I think people uh moved I think

people try to cope with it by moving on very very quickly

um I I think that I went through a stage where you know everybody sees you as the

teaching person and I think I got upset about that I didn’t see that necessarily

as a a positive thing that I you know um everybody went you know you need to

be you know um yeah you you need to be a real academic and a real academic is more

focused on their teaching and their research than their teachings so it’s time to grow up and to get on with your

academic career move away from all this teaching stuff um and you know start acting like a you

know the mature growing up academic that you wore um and you know I think that that that

life happened at that that stage and I think the reason why I didn’t really get

um you know into really really being miserable and and angry is that I think in my you know private life so many

things were happening um I you know I had a a mother that ended

up with two terminal diseases I ended up with kids that had special needs and I

think there were so many other things happening and I was trying to balance everything together

um and I think that uh you know my my educational expertise helped me

understand what my my children needed educationally as well so I think that

all brought me back to you know you know a more Central and centered place and

then I think that you you begin to think well you know maybe all the lessons that we’ve learned in these programs aren’t

lost maybe we can use them in large classes um and maybe we don’t have to do

University here in the same way because you I think you often think about

and I think that we all do this um uh consciously or unconsciously we

think about the professors that we’ve had and you know you often think of you know

if I wanted to be a professor I want to be like that Professor or you know please may I never be like that person

you know who did that because that was was absolutely awful and

um I I think that what you what we try to do is that you know take take the

lessons that we had had learned and all the excellent teaching that we had seen

take place in these programs and and bring them into you know from the from

what was essentially on the side right into the you know the central the core

programs and I I think that was really interesting this year is that

um we’ve now built academic development into our whole undergraduate course because uh

you know I had uh I remember a sociologist uh

saying to us you know this whole thing about education is going to miraculously improve in South Africa he called it the

myth of transience um that this is just going to be a fleeting moment and then everything will

be fine and um yeah here we are and we’re still dealing with these these realities for

all kinds of reasons and

um so yeah I think that that’s what you you did is that you found out that you

know these things could these things could live and and be alive and well in other places and spaces uh when they

could be a death and I think about you’re thinking that

and there was still you know a community of practice if we could still get together informally and uh talk about

these things and to exchange ideas and so I think we still have these here on these core people and I think that it’s

really interesting that we all started off as young academics that we’ve grown and now all of a sudden we’re in

management we’re heads of units with Deans uh and

um I think that it’s it’s quite phenomenal to see everybody you know who

who’s you know who’ve grown and you know that that we’ve got to a place where we

can now here you know teach other people and postural skills on to other

colleagues uh foreign yeah so the the sort of

structures disappeared but the knowledge is still there and the inspiration from

that knowledge is still there and and while at one point you know it might have been quite a distressing or or

vulnerable time but there is so so much good that’s grown out of it

yes I I think that and the the other interesting thing is is that the

the the initiative that Vitz undertook was you know they decided that we won’t

we won’t Target um first we won’t Target first year students what we’ll do is that we’ll go

into the schools and Target the the final three years of education bring

those students to vits um and you know for their holidays and

then you know give them supplementary it started off as maths and Science and

English and then they decided that um you know if this was going to be a

program for exceptionally gifted students um that they had identified at the

school level then you wanted an expansion program and so they came and said well would you like to teach into

sorry international relations to school children um which that was that was really what

is interesting because um you you didn’t you you teach it to

students that um first of all don’t really know what the subject is secondly they want to be

engineers and they don’t know why they need to learn a social science and um it’s it’s also to teach you know

teenagers that that you know that that really often claim that they

are you know they feel disaffected by the political system and that they feel that they have no agency or voicing why

should they worry about politics and it’s it’s an opportunity to you know

um work into into that space uh yeah and

and and to give these students you know you know in make them see the you know

the possibility that you know even if you’re young you know if you understand these things you know you can have

agency um so that that has also been a lot of

fun and totally transformative for a wide range of achieving students and I I love

that you told this story about failing your first year and and not being the

sort of perfect impervious well-packaged shiny student at the beginning that you had to to fail and to figure out the

consequences of that failure in order to find a place of belonging in an

institution as you rightly point out that that values a kind of elite and high achieving model that it is it is it

is a kind of impervious space it’s not a hospitable space for you to find yourself in belonging in these in these

big structures so how much work do you do in first of all how did you go from

failing your first year I also I dropped out before I failed out of my first two

years that’s why I’m with you on on the messy Journey but how did you first of

all will understand what what and how to navigate A system that might not have

been hospitable to you and then how do you take your students along with you on that Journey

I I think that what what I I did is that you know I I realized that when I

started University all these amazing things that we’ve now put in place with students we we didn’t have

um that I I think that we you know and and the the honesters on us who you know

um who know who know better to create a a a university environment that is more

hospitable and Humane for students that um you know that looks at the fact that

you know young people who are coming in um you know they they obviously often

don’t have it all together they’re um you know getting and they’ve they’re trying to find out who they are they

have often no idea what they want to do with their lives I I really I I didn’t

know what I wanted to do with my life and every time I try to get out of University my parents basically said

you’re going to University and you know and you’re going to do a degree that gets you a job

um and I I totally didn’t do that and um my parents were horrified when I told

them that I was going to do um my postgraduate studies in international relations they you know

you were supposed to become a professional you know you had a choice accountant doctor lawyer dentist

um you know choose one of those uh and then the other day I I took my my kids

to a a vits career day and yeah anthropology and Archeology in this

country is huge because we have such um amazing archaeological

um excavations going on and we you know we’re beginning to re-understand the

emergence and the evolution of human beings here and um this this this the student got up and

said well my job is to build ancient you know to look at how you know

um these prehistoric people hunted and to redesign their weapons and I thought you know my parents never told me that I

could have that as a job they would like Dr lawyer at Captain dentist

and you think that things have you know changed so much that I I think that it’s

it’s so important to encourage students to come to University to to really find out who they are and and what it is that

they you know want to do or or good at um I think that

um I’m my my partner is a lawyer and we studied together and I after seeing what

he saw in law I I certainly realized that I I just didn’t this just this the

subject did not move me at all it was boring it was dull um and it didn’t change the world and

um yeah I I had always been interested in in you know in international

relations even though I didn’t really know it was called international relations at that time and I I think

that was yeah it was good and I I think that you know looking back I you know I had a lot

of mental health issues um as a young adult and it it took me

until I was in my 30s to to Really you know get diagnosis and get medication

and to realize that you know these are you know this is a you know a a

like a a chronic illness that is treatable and that you can you can live

and you can get on with your life and I think that I’m very Frank with my students about these things that you

know if you need help get help you don’t have your you know your parents

um you know a lot of parents often say well you know

mental health issues aren’t real issues um there is no such thing as attention

deficit disorder or OCD and and things like that and

um I think that a lot of people um a lot of young people often

um spend uh you know waste a lot of time because they also frightened of

confronting these issues that they they just never get help um but I think what was really important

in getting over over these issues were my my lecturers and you know they were

encouraging and they were helpful and I think when I got to my honors year I I

you know I ended up as a mentor who saw more potential in me than I saw in myself

and pushed me a little bit you know further than I I probably would have

been comfortable in pushing myself and I think what was really nice about Graduate Studies as well is that all of

a sudden you don’t have to be in you know juggling all these different you know areas of expertise that you can

begin to focus and and start to specialize on on what it is that you’re

doing and you know I I think that in my

the lesson from all of this is that I I think that it’s very important to you

know start to to you know nurture and help students um from the time they get into an

undergraduate program um to the time that they leave and that they should be made aware of all the

programs that exist at universities to to help them and to you know I often say to students look you know if I thought

that I was anywhere capable as a a counselor I would have done I would have majored in Psychology I know that this

is not what I am but you know I can tell you my story and I can definitely point

you in the right direction you know if you need help and assistance and you know further things

um yeah I’m I’m very very happy to to help you and be supportive in in that

way um but you know if you you know um and try to inculcate in my students

that if you run into issues please tell me sooner rather than later because there are so many things that I can do

to help you if you come to me earlier and I know that often it’s it’s you know

you’re just not in a place where you you know you can acknowledge that you need help or you you know you you need some

concessions um but the sooner you feel that you can come and just say something you don’t

have to tell me in great detail what’s going on but then I can move your academic life around so you can you can

cook so I think that you know what my my own

um experience as a student has taught me is that I I see your teaching and

learning um you know be you know deal with people

holistically foreign and showcase some of the like personal

vulnerability right as a human being and say you know we can’t happen we can’t

help you after the car has crashed but we can do a whole bunch of things leading up to it that hopefully make the

car not crash right so so so whether that is personal or uh institutional

Professor or friend uh it’s it’s so intertwined

but differently and I I think that you know a lot of students I I don’t know if

if students in in you know what it’s like in Canada but first year is really

in in South Africa often hold academics in incredible higher statement you know

sometimes I think it’s good to tell people that yeah I’m pretty normal um and there are days where I I do

famously at all the things that I’m doing in the days that I mess up and you know I I make mistakes even now I’m not

always perfect I don’t get it right the first time all the time

um yeah and and saw that there there is you know there’s room to you know to

learn and to make mistakes and you know tell my students oh For Heaven’s Sake this is a social science

international relations there’s no right to answer so you know just give me any answer

um if you could tell me why you think your answer is right well good we’ll have a you know a great interactive

conversation but you know you don’t have to be frightened to say things because you know this is not we’re not a science

we’re you know there may be one answer and you know even scientists there are a

lot of things that scientists don’t really know for sure so and I think we’ve learned that in the

middle of this pandemic that science alone is not going to save us that we need to understand from so many

different disciplines and perspectives the things that make us human the ways that connect us the the things that push

us into um better ways of being and being with one another and I think that that you

know I’m really interested in the ways in which you have framed and maybe framed for us a little bit more the

social justice and just just listening to um you talk about your mentors reminds

me of a book that I read every semester when I get the most droopy and

despairing and it’s called the courage to teach by Parker Palmer who is a Quaker philosopher and an educational

reformer and he as you were speaking I just I called up the quotation because

he says when you when you’re wondering what what your purpose is she says

um the the thing that you you do is you connect with the mentors who evoked us

and the subject of study that chose us to make sense of the forces that

converge in our lives and so you’ve talked a lot about the mentorship and and you’ve also talked about what you

didn’t like law engineering um but I wonder if you could talk to us

about the ways in which that subject of study of social justice and restorative justice chose you

and how it allows you or gives you a frame to understand the forces that are

converging right now us at two years now into the pandemic and taking us through

that portal into a post-pandemic world I I think that

um for a a South African who lives in a society that that really

you know there there is just so much you know you know political we you know

South Africa is the most unequal country in in the world and it is it is visible

that you know it it’s not something I suppose if you’re you’re privileged and

you you know you live in a gated community where you have your hospital and all your shops and

um you know and and security guards then you can sort of isolate yourself from

the reality uh that you know most South Africans have to face but I I have

always believed that you know if you education is the way that you change the world so

um yeah I’m uh yeah very powerful the you know the pedagogy of the you know

that that that teaches you know people um you know education trains changes

lives it you know um it gives people it’s also all once

again it’s all the intangible things that education does it doesn’t just give you knowledge but it it gives you you

know a sense of you know self-worth um you know your confidence

um you know different perspectives and I I think

that that’s why um I you know I I really love being an

educator in South Africa because I think even when you you think that you know oh

you know nobody gets anything and um

your students may be hostile and upset and you know they they you know why

didn’t you get why didn’t you put the slides up like you know five minutes earlier then you put them up and you

know you you you still have to remind that you know you’re changing you’re changing lives

um and you’re making a difference and for a lot lot of these students these

are the first people that are ever coming to University these may be the first people who’ve ever you know

um finished school I can’t believe that I was saying this in 2022 in South Africa um we were hoping that that things were

were better but you know to you know get to the stage where you you know you have

to say to people it’s important that you you think about you know Social Justice

and um I often say to my students is that I had not been politically neutral in in a

lot of the stuff that I’m teaching you because I want you to think about these things

you know what is you know what is good what is right what is what is just

um yeah and and because these are the things that as adults you’re going to have to Grapple a lot of people you know

a lot of you will go into government service and you’ve got to you know think

about the the you know the big picture you know we’ve we’ve got to get away from this idea where

um you know government is or government jobs or you know ways of a way to enrich

your yourself as an individual but that you know to to inculcate this whole idea of of service

um and so I was you know talking to class today about the the African philosophy

of Ubuntu um you know the the this whole idea of

you know being centered around um you know a communal understanding of

society and to work to benefit humanity and to grow Humanity before you know or

your community before you grow yourself as an individual and in growing your community you grow yourself as an

individual but you know the problem is is that you know this is an ideal that as Africans we you know it gets trotted

out all the time but it’s an ideal that that that you know is not necessarily an

ideal that really you know hold ourselves to every every day

um and and so you know it’s it’s it’s important to think about these you know

about these things um and and to think about where we’re going as as a society

um you know and if you if you’re talking about you know rediscovering knowledges

from the global staff are we going to be very happy with the knowledges that we come up with

um you know what happens if they you know harken back to a um ideas and ideals that you know go

against the the prevailing norms and you know societal values that we have at the at the moment um you know what happens

if they go against you know capitalist values um you know to think about things like

social justice you know um you know um the challenges that that Africans face

um you know or the austerity you know instead of spending more money on education you know there’s always the

the temptation to you know not give as much um to health care and that and to look

to other countries where you know that they’ve got social justice issues right or better than us and you know what did

they do and what can we learn um and you know what can’t we learn from

these ideas um yeah

so Jessica it feels like the perfect time for your question number 12 and I don’t want to steal your thunder so I’m

gonna let you ask it no no you steal it go go go okay so so one thing that’s

that’s come out of the last response that you gave Jackie was about you know it’s more than teaching content it’s

more than um the sum of the part sort of thing and so one of the concepts that we’ve really

looked at um is is Building Hope right and so you know you’ve also talked about

um colleagues that you grew up in Academia with and you’re all Deans and unit chairs and things like that now so

so thinking for yourself or maybe in In Cahoots with your colleagues there if

you could build hope University right that just changes the system and and

makes things the way that it needs to be um what would hope University look like

for you I I think that um yeah from a South African’s

perspective the first thing that we’ve got to look at is University costs

and and so you know costs shouldn’t be you know uh the amount of money that a

university Education costs shouldn’t be a reason to deny people access to to

education and I think that goes for Education across the board that that education is is a public good and

um you know in this country we spend all kinds of crazy money on all kinds of crazy things that that really don’t you

know um you know if we didn’t have if politicians didn’t have 100 million

bodyguards I’m quite sure you know a few would suffice

um and that we could put this money into you know you know into allowing people

to have education um the ability to have access to

knowledge it could be very nice when um yeah this is very idealistic is that

your knowledge can be shared without having to pay a small fortune for things like books so

um I I teased my colleagues who write on the global South that you know your books are fantastic just nobody in the

global South can afford to buy them uh yeah so I mean this is knowledge for

the global staff that the global South can’t get hold of well done um so that that knowledge would be

accessible that it would be nice if my my students could dialogue with students

from other countries so they they could understand how similar and how different they they are

um because I think that a lot of time you know people when they’re they’re isolated you know you can you know

really develop tunnel vision and you don’t see things in in in a bigger or

what if um you know perspective

um and you know um things that my my image used my image

supervisor always used to say is that you you know you you need to develop um you know an imagination for the

possible yeah you you know you you lack the ability to see what what can be done you

know you lack that imagination and also I think that it it’s important to you

know inculcate within you know to develop your ways of of seeing

um and to to get students to to be you know solution orientated uh you know

because there are real world issues and I I think that

um for students to to really think about what it is that they’re doing you know in a higher education institution

um yeah uh you know what what do you think that you’re going to get because not you

know a piece of paper doesn’t necessarily give you a job so if you share it it needs to be more than just

the the piece of paper at the end and I think that your

mentorship programs or are really you know important and I think it’s also

important to make the university a safe environment for students I mean uh we if we you know we’ve had a

a lot of um you know if things brought um to our

attention with the metoo movement and and so you know this has got to be a way

where a place where where students learn how to you know

um interact appropriately with each other and respectively with each other and that lecturers you know are the

first to lead by examples with with that as as well and that it’s it’s a place

where you know it’s not just the um you know where everybody is included not just

um you know people who can pay or um you know people from dominant

communities and cultures that that it’s a place for a multi-ethnic multi-gender

space and place I love that you just gave us the list

the road map for Hope University right inclusive accessible diverse Equitable

safe and brave and you know it really captures um the the sort of philosophy of free

air that you quoted earlier where he actually defines hope as the ethical

quality of the struggle and you said that a little earlier you said you know I don’t think that we’ll ever

um you’re never going to think that you arrive you’re never going to be on the top of the the mountain looking down at

the um the people who are unenlightened and think I I’ve got this now I’ve got the

answers that there is an ethical quality of the struggle in those hopeful future

facing spaces and you’ve just modeled that for us beautifully over this conversation and I just I want to thank

you for for being safe and brave to to share your story to share your failures

and Reflections critical Reflections and insights onto

um under our conversations about what what can we challenge in terms of the

actual to to think about the possible and I think your imagination of the

possible has just given us such an um a rich set of insights so thank you so

much for joining us today conversation

to to like-minded how how we how we get people in management to to to think in

the same direction is is I think one of the biggest challenges is that

um yeah to to get people to see things you know things differently

um and you know I think we’ve I’ve worked under so many different regimes

at our University and um you know sometimes you feel that you

you know you you’re working with and then sometimes you feel that you you’re working against and I I think it’s it’s

nice if you know we could get here the people at the top on the same

page as everything else yeah and and I think that starts with listening right with listening with the intention to

transform and this this conversation will be will be shared and Amplified and

maybe it’ll spark some inspiration or ideas across different kinds of tables

and you never know Parker Palmer says sometimes a good conversation is edifying in and of itself and sometimes

it Sparks new things that you can’t imagine and I think that that’s that’s

really really special to carve out that space and and thank you for joining us in that space thank if you pet and and

Jessica have just been wonderful and the team behind all of this that do the technology that we’ve all had to learn

how to do um absolutely over the last two years



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