Posts Tagged Africa
REFLECTIONS ON MY TIME AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX
I had a wonderful and fulfilling experience at the University of Essex during the period of my Ph.D. (Sociology) degree programme (1988 to 1991). The purpose of my going abroad for study was fulfilled in every sense, as I not only completed and obtained the Ph.D. degree of the University, but also had the opportunity of studying in and experiencing the academic system of a world-class university. I returned to Nigeria with a good understanding of how the academic system should work. The mentorship by my main supervisor (Ken Plummer) has remained indelible since my stay in Essex, and I try to put the experience into practice with my supervisees from time-to-time. At Essex, I was exposed to a student-focused and student-friendly academic system. There are quite a number of things for which I still use the University of Essex as a reference point/model of what and how things should be done. The egalitarian system I was exposed to in Essex is also worthy of note – common toilets, common cafeteria, common bars, etc. for staff and students. This is yet to be achieved in our university system in Nigeria.
Coming to Essex was my first trip outside Nigeria and away from familiar people and environment. However, I must say that the students’ office in the University then helped the quick settlement and integration of foreign students through various organized tours and invitations by social associations.
I cannot also forget my stay in Eddington Flat 7, Room 2 (1988 to 1989) and my good flatmates, although there was the initial cultural shock in terms of social interaction and greeting. Coming from a cultural background in which greeting is a common feature (people greet at all times and several times in a day), it was shocking greeting some people without a response or acknowledgment! Initially, I thought people were being unfriendly, but I later got to understand it was just a matter of cultural difference, as interaction with them at other levels showed that they were quite friendly, accommodating and cooperative.
The staff (teaching and non-teaching staff of the Department of Sociology were wonderful, with the administrative staff demonstrating a very commendable level of administrative efficiency for the smooth running of the Department.
Finally, is the wonderful experience I had with my supervisors (Professor (then Dr.) Ken Plummer – my main supervisor, and then Dr. Anthony Woodiwiss (my second supervisor). In this regard, I must also mention the initial cultural shock in my interaction with Ken Plummer, who encouraged and prodded me to simply call him “Ken” instead of formally addressing him as “Dr. Plummer”. This was not very easy initially, especially coming from a hierarchically structured cultural background. However, this surely helped to enhance the establishment of a good relationship with him and others in the Department.
It is therefore a great pleasure to formally express appreciation to the University of Essex for the remarkable experience I had in the University and to join others in congratulating the University on the celebration of its golden jubilee anniversary of remarkable educational service.
Professor of Sociology and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences,
University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
Diane Elson has been a prominent member of the department since 2000. She has now officially retired but will be keeping her links with the department.
‘It is within gender and development… that Elson’s pioneering and enduring contribution to scholarship is most apparent. No student of gender and development in any part of the world today completes a course at undergraduate or postgraduate level without some exposure to Elson. Given Elson’s on-going ventures into cutting-edge issues in the GAD field … and with their hallmark rigour and vision, this situation is unlikely to change for a long time to come. In turn, there is absolute certainty that Elson will be present as one of GAD’s outstanding scholars and ambassadors in any retrospective review of gender and development that may be compiled in the future’
Sylvia Chant (2005) ‘Diane Elson’
A retirement conference for was held on Friday July 26th 2013 at the University. Many of the participants are pictured above. This was the programme:
Feminism, Economy and Human Rights
10.50 Brief Introduction by Professor Mark Harvey
11.00-12.30 Political Economy
Professor Sue Himmelweit, Open University: ‘Follow the money: Diane’s Elson’s contribution to gender budgeting’
Professor Tracey Warren, Nottingham University: ‘Gender and the economic crisis: Elson’s 3 Sphere Framework’
Professor Georgina Waylen, Manchester University: ‘Feminist Political Economy: Taking Stock and Future Directions?’
12.30 – 1.15 Buffet Lunch
1.15 – 2.45 Development studies
Professor Sylvia Chant, London School of Economics: ‘Diane Elson: A tribute to her early and on-going contributions to ‘en-gendering’ the ‘development agenda’’
Professor Shirin Rai, University of Warwick: ‘Depletion: the cost of social reproduction’
3 – 4.30 Human Rights
Professor Maxine Molyneux, University College London: ‘Who remembers Beijing? Women’s rights in a cold climate’
Professor Lydia Morris, University of Essex: Sociology and Human Rights
4.45 – 6.15 Final Panel: Reflections and Future Directions
Professor Diane Elson
Professor Ruth Pearson, Leeds University
Dr Jasmine Gideon, Birkbeck
Dr Marzia Fontana, Sussex University
Followed by a wine reception, and dinner
I graduated with MA Sociology of Development, Essex University, July 1989. After completing my studies at Essex, I came back to Botswana to continue my work as A Rural Sociologist in the applied Research Unit of the Botswana Ministry of Local Government. I consider my experience at Essex to have been useful in grounding my work as a Social Scientist. I am an interdisciplinary Sociologist, an Adult and health educator with a wealth of more than twenty eight years of professional experience from different workplaces: first worked as a Rural Sociologist (Sanitation) for the Ministry of Local Government (six years), Training Officer for De Beers Botswana Diamond Mining Company (DEBSWANA), Jwaneng mine, (one year) Program officer, Social Mobilization, for UNICEF Gaborone, (two years), an independent consultant (one year) and finally as a Lecturer, (twelve years), a Lecturer in Adult Education, (four years) University of Botswana, from January 1994; Senior lecturer (four years) from April 2006; and Associate Professor from January 25th 2011 to- date.
I have a passion for research work and use my experience in Qualitative Methodology from Essex to do part time consultancy work when given the opportunity to do so. Essex has given me the chance to grow to be a seasoned senior researcher and scholar. Since 1991, I have done total of 19 part- time research- based consultancy projects for the Government of Botswana and international development partners. Regionally, I have also served as principal investigator on the Botswana side for a collaborative research project on Non- Formal Education and poverty reduction with four other universities under the auspices of British Academy African Partnership Initiative (BAAP) from March 2006 to March 2009. I visited the University of Glasgow annually for meetings with my research partners while the partnership lasted.
I served as a coordinator (Jan 2010-August 2011) for the Botswana Chapter on an 18 months collaborative research project on Implementing the Third Mission of Universities in Africa (ITMUA) regional collaborative research since January 2010 to August 2011. The project, sponsored by AAU/DIFD, involved three other universities: Calabar, Malawi, and the National University of Lesotho. A book on Community Engagement in Four African Universities has been published from the research case studies. I am presently on sabattical leave from June 2012 till May 2013 to write a 16 chapter book on Lifelong learning, poverty, community development and engagement.
My areas of research, publications and activism include environmental education, gender issues; the social context of health, Adult and Continuing Education, entrepreneurship skills development, instructional media and materials development, the global impacts of HIV/AIDs, gender-based poverty and poverty identity formation, literacy and post -literacy. I would welcome any opportunity to reconnect with Essex Sociology Department in any ways in which I can be helpful to pay back part of the price.