For 5 days in August from the 10th to the 14th of August 2018, I attended a data analysis meeting for SARiHE project. The meeting was held at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. It was designed to be a collaborative process where we worked in multinational teams. We had colleagues from the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa (SA) working on data analysis. This was an incredibly fruitful and fulfilling experience for me. I have experienced the value of different voices for the common goal. Because of these voices, a number of themes emerged for data analysis. These themes drove the process for data analysis. We divided ourselves into groups to analyze and engage with different themes in various groups where UK colleagues were teamed up with SA colleagues. Dividing ourselves into groups was very effective in the sense that our strengths regarding a particular theme were complementary. For example, in our group we discussed the theme of Decoloniality.
On the one hand, it was clear during the analysis that the UK colleagues did not really and fully appreciate the relevance and the value that is placed on the ‘home’ by co-researchers but we as a SA team we realized why this was the case as the place called home for black people was wretched and families destroyed through colonialism and then apartheid. These are instances we actually experienced as South African researchers, particularly apartheid. On the other hand, a colleague from UK alerted us to the fact that there needs to be a recognition of the (unintended) possible colonial elements of the project. She stated that we wanted the co-researchers to use technology such as Evernote whilst not fully acknowledging the complexities of this. It was clear that, “this was a kind of parallel process, that is, we recognised the lack of access to technology yet we built the use of it into the project”, she cautioned. It was through these complimentary voices that the themes were analysed in depth.
In addition, I can safely say that as much as the SARiHE project is about researching the extent to which university education acknowledges students lived rural home experiences in the construction of knowledge in the disciplines, some of us, as South Africans, have vested and personal interest in the project. I, for example, lived and learned in rural areas, travelled long distances from home to school, experienced lack of resources and infrastructure, like libraries and so on. So being part of the project is a deeply fulfilling experience for me because of the contribution the project intends to make for genuine and inclusive curriculum, inclusive of the experiences of all those involved in the construction of knowledge and knowing, for example, the experiences of students from rural areas.
However, it was not only data analysis that we were engaged in but planning activities were also done. For example, dates were set for articles to write for publication, book chapters, conferences to attend and so on. I can safely say that working in teams was unambiguously worth it. I have learned and have grown as an academic and a researcher. Thank you colleagues for being part of this great project.
Nathi Madondo (Rhodes University, Grahamstown: South Africa).