Black academics start to make their mark in higher education

Johannesburg – Black academics are slowly making their mark in South Africa’s higher education institutions, with 25-year-old Bhaso Ndzendze the latest to be appointed to a position of responsibility at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Ndzendze, who completed his PhD in international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) last year, was on Monday appointed as the head of the department of politics and international relations at UJ.

The Eastern Cape-born Ndzendze’s thesis was titled Explaining East Africa’s Interstate Wars, 1977-2000: Towards a Typological Theory”. And at 24, he was one of the youngest people to obtain such a PhD from Wits.

Before his elevation, Ndzendze was a senior lecturer with most of his teaching focused on technology dynamics in international relations, international law, political history, and Africa-China relations at UJ.

Read more: UJ appoints 25-year-old as head of department

Ndzendze said his accomplishments should serve as an inspiration to other young people from rural provinces that it is possible to achieve one’s dreams.

“I knew from my first year at Wits that I wanted to be an academic and political scientist. “I did what my first years’ peers did not do: I went on research trips, surrounded myself with more senior students and researchers,” he says.

“As a researcher, I have published multiple books, book chapters, journal articles and opinion articles. The central theme of my research is Africa’s international relations, with a focus on the political economy of its trade.”

Dr Bhaso Ndzendze

UJ vice-chancellor and principal Prof Tshilidzi Marwala says he hopes that Ndzendze’s meteoric rise as an academic and researcher will inspire other young students to achieve more.

“We have in recent years watched in awe as Ndzendze swiftly moved up the university’s ranks through hard work and dedication. He has firmly established himself as brilliant researcher and educator,” says Marwala.

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala.

Ndzendze said young people should be embracing reading as it opens doors to a whole new world.

“I buy books every weekend. Reading and understanding the world is highly beneficial.”

The country has tripled its black science PhD graduates over the last decade – a marked change from the situation under the apartheid regime.

But the academic space still has a long way to go before it reflects the populations of the multi-racial country.

At the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Ndumiso Daluxolo Ngidi’s past as an orphan instilled in him a passion for education.

Ngidi, who is 34 years old, holds a doctor of philosophy degree and works as a lecturer at the UKZN.

His thesis was on: “Being an Orphan in the Age of Sexual Violence: A Participatory Visual Methods Study of Adolescents in and around a Township Secondary School in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa”.

Ndumiso Ngidi

His research interests include gender-transformative pedagogies; gender & childhood geographies; geographies of violence; gender & childhood sexualities; the sociology of ur- ban & rural education; gender & difference in education; and participatory visual methodologies.

“I lost both my parents when I was very young. This experience has changed my outlook on life and drove my hunger to better myself and help others understand the challenges that face orphans in the country.”

Dr Joel Modiri’s promotion to associate professor as from 1 January 2021 made him the youngest professor in the current employment of the University of Pretoria.

He is 29 years old.

Modiri’s initial introduction to UP Law was in 2010 as an LLB student with, as he puts it, “typical corporate ambitions”.

But that soon changed.

Joel Modiri

His PhD thesis, which he plans to rework into a book in the next year, is titled “The Jurisprudence of Steve Biko: A Study in Race, Law and Power in the ‘Afterlife’ of Colonial- apartheid”.

Some of Modiri’s major career highlights leading to this promotion include the Best Lecturer Award for First Year LLB students for the years 2016 to 2018; and holding three fellowships (Wits Centre for Applied Legal Studies; University of Oxford, UK; University of Columbia, NY).

“To attain the title of professor, for me, has less to do with the status and seniority and more to do with the increased demand to do the work in service to a new generation of students and intellectuals.

“And let’s not forget that there is still one more hurdle [of full professor] to go through,” he said.


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