Student Counselling Director contributes to African scholarship

Dr Paulette Naidoo

Dr Paulette Naidoo, Director of the Student Counselling unit in the Department of Student Affairs at Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), and recipient of the USAf/ Helm Women in Leadership Fellowship was overjoyed at her recent publication in the South African Journal of Higher Education. Dr Naidoo’s paper, entitled “Future-proofing imperatives for remote online teaching, learning and student support in the context of pandemic change and beyond: A case for South African higher education transformation”, was co-authored with her former colleague from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Diane Van Staden.

The paper tackles the complexities around transformation in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, with particular reference to how teaching, learning and student support had to adapt to ensure academic continuity and student support. The paper furthermore highlights the importance of taking students’ psycho-social contexts into account in the pursuit of transformative endeavours, as the success of higher education transformative practices hinges on these being compatible and responsive to student realities on the ground. In particular, issues of socio-economic status, living environment and conditions (rural and remote), as well as access to technology resources, are considered, with a focus on how these factors have the potential to promote or hinder, student success and well-being.  The paper concludes with a sobering acknowledgement that while blended teaching and learning may have been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, a hybrid approach to academic and student support has essentially become the norm in an increasingly unstable and evolving world. As such, it becomes imperative for higher education institutions to earnestly prioritize future-proofing academic and support service initiatives in ways that ensure student participation is maximized, and not compromised.

Dr Naidoo stated that her engagement with South African women leaders and academics in the USAf/HELM Women in Leadership program has been inspiring, and motivated her to make a meaningful and sustained contribution to African scholarship. She added that she felt privileged and honoured to be able to practice and write about her passions, which are student support and success in South African Higher Education.  Dr Naidoo acknowledged MUT for its role in supporting her and enabling her to wear both the practitioner and scholar hats, and that she was looking forward to ongoing research output that would showcase MUT as an institution of excellence, on par with other institutions of higher learning.