UKZN’s School of Education and the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC), in collaboration with the University Language Planning and Development Office and the JL Dube Institute, recently hosted the annual John Dube Memorial Lecture at the Pietermaritzburg campus’ Colin Webb Hall.
John Dube was the first president of the African National Congress (ANC) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Titled: I’m Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table’: The Enduring Power and Promise of Education as a Public Good, the lecture was delivered by Professor Chad Berry, Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty at Berea College, Kentucky, USA. ‘The title of this lecture is inspired by a timeless metaphor of the welcome table, from a well-known black spiritual during slavery and later an anthem of the U.S. civil rights movement. In our context today, the welcome table should be the norm in all education policy. However, the welcome table in schools (and other educational institutions) in South Africa and in the U.S. are not often very welcoming. So many are prevented from ever sitting at the welcome table,’ said Berry.
He questioned how does one get to the welcome table in relation to access and affordability and how does one learn once there. Berry believes that for deep learning to happen, belonging and inclusion matter, together with a decolonised curriculum.
Addressing the significance of educational access and quality, Berry stated that two outcomes are important: education as liberation and education as the most important driver of economic opportunity.
He concluded the lecture with a reflection on the enduring vision of John Dube and his wife, Nokutela, as well as about the current challenges in higher education in South Africa and the U.S.
‘Dube worked tirelessly for a seat for Africans at the welcome table, at the learning table and at the voting table. Their voices, of course, are sadly silent today, but their vision lives on. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that all those who have been denied a seat get one. Working so that more and more are given seats ensures that conversations are richer, learning is deeper, investment in the country is more equitable, and that the future is brighter. Having a seat at the table, after all, is only meaningful when one uses one’s voice at that table and in that conversation,’ said Berry.