More than 300 doctoral students – including some at partner universities in Kenya, Tanzania and the United States – registered for the Doctoral Academy Virtual Winter School hosted by UKZN’s College of Humanities.
A total of 14 doctoral research webinars were convened during the event providing scholarly guidance, mentorship and support to registered doctoral students for the purposes of doctoral research proposal development.
The Doctoral Winter School assists PhD students strengthen their scientific writing and research skills while the academic content builds on topics already covered at the Summer School that are considered fundamental to all aspects of doctoral research in the humanities, education, social and behavioural sciences.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize said: ‘As a College, we aim to produce PhDs of the highest quality able to compete at an international level and contribute to knowledge production on a global scale.’
Director of the Academy Professor Johannes John-Langba presented an overview of the virtual School, reminding participants that the programme was conceptualised to cover all aspects involved in presenting a doctoral research proposal in the humanities and social sciences.
John-Langba highlighted the etiquette of virtual learning and encouraged participants to take advantage of opportunities to attend virtual lectures delivered by national and international scholars during these difficult times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr Joy Banks of Howard University in the United States spoke on: Intersections of Race, Ethnicity and Disability, investigating case studies that examine the ways in which African-American students with disabilities constructed counter-narratives as a tool for challenging the dominant discourse, which marginalised their personal experiences within an urban community.
Banks discussed how some voices were not represented in the Black Lives Matter movement, such as individuals with disabilities, because they were already stigmatised and marginalised. Banks believes that all identities within the Black Lives Matter movement should be heard and acknowledged.
‘Empirical research and interventions enacted to combat the consequences of racism, gender discrimination, and ableism must remain dynamic and need to take into consideration the more nuanced contextualised range in which disability occurs,’ said Banks.
She argued that what was required as a starting point for moving toward equity and social justice within an urban context ‘is a commitment to accounting for lived experiences and embracing “discursive modes of power” employed by individuals at the margins, to reveal the complex and contradictory dimensions that exist at the intersection of gender, race/ethnicity and disability in urban communities’.
Reflecting on the address by Banks, PhD student in the School of Education Mr Rowan Thomson said: ‘The presentation by Dr Joy Banks was useful to me as a third year student finishing my write-up. She gave good guidance on how to make qualitative studies more robust for publication purposes in the mediated Q&A session as part of the informative Zoom webinar.’
Thomson’s research examines pedagogical approaches to teaching Computer Aided Design to primary school student teachers.
Another PhD student in the School of Applied Human Sciences, Ms Pumla Nofemele, said the Doctoral Academy had presented an essential and refreshing programme supporting and facilitating PhD student development.
‘Students are mentored by both local and international academics on how to structure and write their research,’ said Nofemele. ‘The programme is very interactive and students are expected to reflect and offer critical analysis during the discussions. This allows them to become more rigorous in research thus sharpening interpretive and analytic skills, which are a requirement for any researcher. This is exactly what the programme did for me and also gave me an opportunity to network with other researchers.’
Nofemele’s research is on the influence of self-perceived identity, social power and masculinity on attitudes towards violence against women among male youths in Newlands West, Durban.