NWU academic appeals for re-approach to SA education policies and practices
Prof Mirna Nel is deeply concerned about the state of South African education. She made this troubling declaration during her recent inaugural lecture as full professor at the North-West University’s (NWU’s) campus in Vanderbijlpark.
South African education policies are all based on the principles of inclusivity (for example human rights and social justice) and humanity (for example kindness, caring, compassion and understanding). However, the practice thereof remains troubled and problematic.
Prof Nel identified three overarching areas of concern which she implored to be addressed urgently. The first area is a universal lack of in-depth thinking and understanding about what inclusive education really means and entails; and the second a fixed mindset about ability, resulting in learners being too easily labelled as having special education needs. Her third area of concern is the current inflexible implementation of the curriculum, perpetuating a fixed mindset and exclusion of learners who seemingly cannot cope with the demands of the curriculum requirements.
She stressed that a total re-thinking and re-approaching of policies and practices are urgently needed to ensure that the principles of inclusion and humanity, which are envisioned in these documents, are fully applied. She quoted Jonathan Jansen when she argued that it is time that society gets angry about the failing education system.
From left are Prof Attie de Lange (acting Executive Dean: Faculty of Humanities), Prof Mirna Nel and Prof Linda du Plessis (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Planning and Vanderbijlpark Campus Operations).
Prof Mary Grosser, an extraordinary professor at the Optentia research focus area, congratulated Prof Nel on her rigourous research and on how much she has grown as a researcher.
About the expert
Prof Mirna Nel is a qualified speech therapist who worked in the support services of the Gauteng Department of Education for 15 years. In 2006, she joined the NWU and was promoted to full professor in 2018.
Her teaching expertise include inclusive education, learning support and life orientation. In her capacity as BEd programme manager in education, she developed numerous modules and contributed to the development of the curriculum.
She is currently a research professor in the Optentia research focus area. Her research interest is primarily focused on the role that teachers play in teaching and supporting all learners in inclusive classrooms. She was the project leader and a member of various national and international research projects with prestigious institutions like De Vlaamse Vereniging voor Ontwikkelings Samenwerking en Technishe Bijstand, the universities of Wits, Free State, Fort Hare and Inclusive Education SA.
She has published several articles in national and international journals, written numerous chapters, co-edited and sole edited textbooks, supervised and delivered master’s and PhD-students and presented papers at national and international conferences. She has also been invited to do workshops and presentations in several European countries as well as keynote presentatons at various national conferences on a variety of topics relevant to inclusive education.