College of Education

Progressive research to transform education

Prof Mogamat Davids, Associate Professor, College of Education

"Unisa academics should establish excellence in research and innovation to eradicate inequality and poverty towards creating a better world for all," says Prof Mogamat Davids, one of the recipients of the 2019 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research. He is an associate professor in Unisa’s College of Education in the Department of Educational Foundations.

The prestigious Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research is awarded to Unisans who produce high-quality published research and the aim is to promote open, distance and e-learning (ODeL) quality-driven research and performance. 

Acknowledging the honour bestowed by his employer, Davids states that the university’s recognition of excellence in research and innovation is an encouragement to all academics so they can contribute towards the improvement and progress of humanity through research.

Without a research culture, a university will be preoccupied with the reproduction of existing knowledge. Although this is not the case in our institution, there is room for improvement, says Davids, a staunch believer in the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society.

Academic support from family

Before joining Unisa’s College of Education in 2016, Davids taught at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of the Western Cape, where he completed his PhD. He also taught at higher education institutions in the Far and Middle East, where his vision and broad international perspective was enhanced, especially on pedagogical issues. His speciality is in history of education and teacher education.

During his academic journey, Davids received material and emotional support from his siblings, elder sisters Asa and Jawahir, as he lost his parents at a young age. For his postgraduate studies, his wife Waheba Sabera became a pillar of support.

Growing up during apartheid era stimulated David’s love for critical inquiry and knowledge acquisition. "My late father was an Imam (Muslim priest) at a mosque in District Six, Cape Town, where I was born. I have however, outgrown a parochial identity to become a global citizen, striving for justice and equality for all humankind."

Research rewarded and awarded

Davids has earned rewards and awards in his career journey. Among his accolades, he received the CPUT Gold Award for Excellent Research in 2014, and the Research and Innovation Fund award of R132 000 meant to develop a Teaching Practice E-Assessment solution application, an ICT-based project. Also, he was previously a grant holder of an NRF award to the value of R636 000 dedicated to the research and excavation of forgotten and untold memories and histories of personalities, educational and other social institutions of District Six in Cape Town. In addition, he is a current ODeL RSP awardee for a grant of R440 000 for 2019 to 2021.

The passionate educator has two research focus areas. In the first one, Davids focuses on engaging the pedagogy of "difficult knowledge", like apartheid-forced removals in history education, In the second, a 4th Industrial Revolution project (4IR), he is developing a digital platform for the assessment and management of the teaching practicum in an ODeL context, which in this case is Unisa.

As a grant-holder of a Unisa Research and Innovation Support award, Davids says: "I am integrating teacher education and ICT by developing a 4IR solution to the assessment of the teaching practicum (TP), a compulsory module in the teacher education qualification. With 50 000 TP students registered for the various TP modules, ICT offers an ideal solution. The project is research-based and informed by Unisa’s digital transformation policy. It articulates with Unisa’s LMS (myUnisa) and ICT architecture."

Enhancing teaching through technology

Following the recommendation of the ministerial task team on history, Davids states that the subject is in the vogue of becoming compulsory, adding that his work on apartheid-forced removals, memory and critical pedagogy will contribute to the teaching that needs renewal.

"The denial in our lifetime that apartheid was a 'crime against humanity' calls for an intensive evaluation of the teaching of apartheid in the South African history classroom to ensure that future generations are reminded of injustices of the past, never to be repeated. People’s history has been suppressed and the amnesia of the country’s colonial past is necessary to create a vibrant and democratic citizenry."

Through the TP assessment App, which is a Unisa-funded project accepted for implementation, Davids says the quality of teachers graduating will be greatly enhanced. "Students in deep rural communities will reap the benefits of 4IR through the availability of a downloadable app and online student support."

Now, like never before, South Africans must recognise the country's troubled past and work harder to create hope for future generations.

Relevant findings to restore education history

Questioned how the community at large will benefit from his findings, Davids says the history project will benefit the nation at large as knowledge of the past will feed into the development of a critical citizenry, operating in the context of a world dominated by white supremacy.

As a fledgling democracy, Davids notes that "the absence of social cohesion mitigates against nation building and economic development. Now, like never before, South Africans must recognise the country’s troubled past and work harder to create hope for future generations. History teaching can play a progressive role in developing social cohesion and nation building."

Davids explains that the quality of education is one of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Sustainable Development Goals to improve the quality of teacher education as a building block for socioeconomic development.

He strongly believes that the integration of teacher education and information technology (IT) will not only improve quality of education but will also enhance digital literacy, which will hopefully lead to an improved quality of life for all.

Importance of innovation to improve education

Based on Davids published findings, many students experience the assessment of the TP as inconsistent and often unfair. Students welcomed an ICT-based solution that offers transparency and is environmentally friendly with its paperless feature.

According to Davids, "the completed version of the Unisa TP app will capacitate a fully online, real and delay-time assessment, thus taking the 'distance out of distance' learning. And the project is entering its final stages". He says currently the preparation has been made to concurrently conduct research and run pilot studies to refine the prototype.   

* By Lesego Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2020/03/10