The School of Built Environment and Development Studies within the College of Humanities hosted Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Professor Nathan Andrews and Professor Winfred Avogo for three months.
The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship is designed to reverse Africa’s brain drain, strengthen capacity at the host institutions, and develop long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa and those in Canada and the United States. It receives funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and is managed by the Institute of International Education in collaboration with United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, which co-ordinates the activities of the Advisory Council.
Global and International Studies Associate Professor Andrews of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Canada, and sociology and population/demographic studies Associate Professor Avogo of Illinois State University in the United States partnered with the School to support their postgraduate mentorship and emerging academics capacity- building initiatives led by the Deanery.
Reflecting on the importance of the initiative, Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said: ‘UKZN is one of South Africa’s leading research and teaching intensive institutions being ranked in the top 2.1% for consecutive years by the Centre of World University Rankings and we are in a good position to host such Fellows.’
Avogo partnered with population and development studies cluster leader Ms Nompumelelo Nzimande in a study to explore the impact of COVID-19 on migrant livelihood in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Avogo’s research focuses on the intersection of social change and the demographic and health aspects of societies, focusing on fertility outcomes, sexual and reproductive health, social aspects of HIV/AIDS, forced migration, and micro-level determinants of uneven female labour force participation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to Nzimande, the Carnegie Fellowship has ‘provided an opportunity for international collaborations in the area of demography and populations. The collaboration is assisting honours and masters students in their research, through workshops and other capacity development activities.’
Andrews partnered with Khalema to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on post-graduate engagement and academic co-mentorship. ‘Through planned workshops and other academic engagement activities, the fellowship offered an opportunity to learn and build on best practices in both UKZN and UNBC with regards to teaching, mentoring, curriculum, research, and supervision practices,’ said Andrews. His research focuses on the international political economy of resource extraction and global development and critical questions around epistemic oppression, academic dependency and decolonisation in higher education.
Andrews and Khalema have worked together in the past, co-editing several books when they were both scholars at the University of Alberta in Canada. They have continued to work together on different projects since then. While at UKZN, the Carnegie Fellows interacted with postgraduate students and offered workshops on research literacy as a way to promote a culture of critical research praxis.
Additionally, teaching and supervision seminars were held, providing network opportunities for emerging academic staff. The fellowship has further provided an opportunity to facilitate the development of institutional MoUs, thus advancing UKZNs internationalisation strategy.
Commenting on the impact of the fellowships, the Academic Leader in the Discipline of Community Development, Dr Muzi Matse, said: ‘This has promoted a mentoring space for academic excellence in teaching and learning and has provided opportunities for staff and students to engage collaboratively on important issues of innovative pedagogical, research, and curriculum development.’
The challenges in implementing the activities initially envisaged for the fellowships included the complications working within a COVID-19 context and the recent Durban looting and burning, which significantly limited engagement. Despite these challenges, the Carnegie Fellows used virtual platforms to lead workshops for postgraduate students, and participated in school-initiated symposiums, webinars and conferences, making their engagement with students and staff impactful.