School of Education

PhD Candidate Explores Mathematics Education in Latvia

A snapshot of nGAP lecturer, Mr Mzwandile Zulu’s time in Europe as part of the Erasmus+ exchange programme.
A snapshot of nGAP lecturer, Mr Mzwandile Zulu’s time in Europe as part of the Erasmus+ exchange programme.

PhD candidate, Mr Mzwandile Zulu is back in South Africa after spending five months at Liepaja University, Latvia, Europe, as part of the Erasmus+ mobility scholarship.

Zulu, an nGAP lecturer in Mathematics Education at UKZN’s School of Education, said teaching at a high school and addressing lectures at Liepaja University was a ‘valuable learning experience’ and one that he will always treasure.

‘I was exposed to a new approach to looking at my research and the research on Mathematics Education in general. As a young academic from the Global South, learning the teaching pedagogies of the Global North from seasoned professors and mathematics teachers was extremely beneficial to me.

‘I had a wonderful experience when I spent a few days at a school in Latvia where I observed teaching and learning in Grades 10, 11 and 12 during Mathematics and English lessons. Giving talks in their classes was exciting because I was welcomed with open arms by the educators and pupils who were eager to learn more about South Africa’s educational system and other fascinating facts about my home country.

‘One of the key impressions I had during my mobility experience was the interesting culture and traditions of the Latvian people outside of the context of schools and universities.’

After completing his PhD studies, he plans to focus on his career and development as an academic. ‘Considering that I have already visited a European university, I plan to travel abroad in the near future as a postdoctoral fellow at one of the universities in the US or UK.’

Zulu arrived in Latvia during the autumnal equinox. It was the “honeymoon phase” of his first trip abroad and everything seemed perfect. ‘The multi-coloured maple leaves are truly unforgettable. The autumn season quickly gave way to a snowy winter – the snowflakes were astoundingly beautiful, to start.

‘Then, the “honeymoon” phase came to an end. The slip-and-slide started as the deep winter set in and everything was mostly covered in snow,’ said Zulu, recalling the challenges he faced as a result of Latvia’s climate.

During his spare time, he visited Italy, France, Hungary, and Austria as travelling in Europe was very affordable.

Born in Ntambanana in Empangeni where he attended primary school until Grade 8 when his family relocated to KwaDabeka township, Durban, Zulu has three sisters. ‘If I’m not spending time with my family or friends during my spare time, I like to help children learn and appreciate mathematics,’ he said.

*The New Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP) programme affords newly-recruited lecturers the benefits of teaching development and research development opportunities.

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