Over the weekend of the 7th of September, the DAAD South Africa team, its guest and in-country scholarship holders came together for the 8th annual DAAD South Africa Conference. “Be International!” served as theme for the conference and so internationalisation and decolonisation in South African higher education were at the centre of the discussions and workshops that took place over the weekend.

The conference participants hold the DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship. With this scholarship, South African citizens or permanent South African Residency holders may complete a Master or PhD degree in any field of study at any South African university. The DAAD South Africa Team takes pleasure in inviting the DAAD-NRF scholarship holders to this annual conference for engagement around topical issues in South African higher education and networking purposes.

The scholarship holders, coming from all corners of South Africa, arrived at the Garden Court Marine Parade Hotel in Durban on Friday afternoon where they were greeted with a lunch and a welcome bag for the weekend. They quickly got to know one another over the lunch and soon went to their rooms to prepare for the Welcome Reception.

The Welcome Reception took place on Friday evening in uShaka Marine World’s Aquarium where the DAAD South Africa Team and its guests enjoyed a night of dancing, joy and laughter. The Welcome Reception in this most extraordinary of settings proved to be the perfect ice breaker for the two days of intensive discussions and engagement that were to follow.

Over Saturday and Sunday, the participants shaped further networks and connections with each other through active engagement in workshops and other activities. Mr Umesh Bawa delivered an illuminating speech on decolonisation in South African Higher education on Saturday morning, introducing the key topic for the weekend: how do internationalisation and decolonisation, two very important processes currently taking place in South African higher education, work together? Later that day the participants attended exciting workshops designed to provide them with interpersonal as well as practical research skills. Dr Shamim Bodhanya introduced his exciting work surrounding Systems Thinking in Higher Education while Nisha Ramlutchman and Dr Dayaneethie Veerasamy worked with the participants on social skills in Intercultural Communication. Dr Nyna Amin engaged with the participants on their paper- and abstract-writing skills in Pre-Conference Preparation and Dr Thakane Ntholi rounded off the workshops with her Science Slam workshop.

In between the discussion in the morning and workshops in the afternoon, Tebogo Makhubela and Maserame Cleopatra Mokhaneli were kind enough to share their research experiences in Germany with the rest of the participants, encouraging them to also apply for a short-term research visit in Germany that is open to all DAAD-NRF scholarship holders.

We kicked off Sunday with a panel discussion on internationalisation in South African higher education, continuing the conversation that Mr Umesh Bawa had so skilfully initiated on Saturday. Dr Lavern Samuels, director of Internationalisation at the Durban University of Technology, Dr Nomakwezi Mzilikazi, director of Research Management at Nelson Mandela University and Dr Sepo Hachigonta, director of Strategy, Planning and Partnerships at the National Research Foundation shared their experience and expertise surrounding this much debated topic with the audience and provided intuitive possible solutions for the challenges still facing South African higher education today.

After the panel discussion the DAAD South Africa Team and its guests had the pleasure to participate in a Science Slam competition, a platform used to communicate science and research to a non-expert audience. A few brave scholarship holders signed up for the workshop and worked with Dr Thakane Ntholi throughout Saturday evening to perfect their presentations. They were tasked with presenting their research in an innovative and creative way but not to the undermine the integrity of the science of their research – a rather difficult task. In the end, Mandi Hamman walked away with the first prize, as voted for by the audience, having presented an insightful, creative and concise overview of her research on substance abuse in audio-visual format. Congratulations once more!

The DAAD South Africa Team regards it as the highest honour to meet DAAD scholarship holders and to engage with them. The participants never fail to show interest, excitement and active involvement throughout the weekend – and this year was no different. We would like to thank all of our guests and scholarship holders for this wonderful weekend by the sea and hope to see our scholarship holders soon again!

View more photos by Anwyll de Leeuw from the conference here.

Written by Jaco Herbst