Professor Nadar nominated for prestigious award

2014-02-03 00:00

KWAZULU-Natal academic, Professor Sarojini Nadar’s innovative teaching style, which sees her sharing stories of her own life with her students, prompted them to nominate her for a prestigious teaching award.

Now Nadar, the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) leading academic in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, is set to receive the 2013 recipient of the university’s Distinguished Teachers’ Award (DTA), at the graduation ceremony in April.

The prize, which recognises outstanding achievement in teaching, is chosen by a committee chaired by Professor Renuka Vithal, the deputy vice-chancellor of teaching and learning at UKZN.

Based at the Howard College campus in Durban, Nadar does most of her teaching in Pietermaritzburg. In her classes, she draws on memories of her childhood in Phoenix.

The youngest of seven children, Nadar lived in a council flat and saw her father pass away when she was eight. But hard work and determination helped push her to become the first person in her family to complete matric and attend university.

She went on to complete her undergraduate degree and then an honours and masters at the University of Cape Town and her PHD, at the age of 27, at the then University of Natal.

“I’m really passionate about what I do,” Nadar said, “and I think what helps is that I do not speak from a place of abstract theory, but from concrete experience … I have a narrative way of teaching and that allows my students to feel free to share their own stories.”

Appointed Dean of Research for the College of Humanities in 2012 Nadar — who is married to Poovan and has two children, Nathan (16) and nine-year-old Ryan — sees the DAT award as recognition of her many years of hard work in the area of gender-based violence, and the role of systems, such as religion, in either maintaining and promoting such violence, or preventing it.

“I cannot emphasise enough how important the area of gender research is in this country,” she says. “How else will we be able to influence policy? Issues of culture and religion can contribute to gender violence and problems around HIV/Aids.

“For example, you can’t just have a bio-medical approach to something like HIV/Aids and tell people to use this kind of medicine and to wear condoms when they are getting a different message from religion. You need a holistic approach.”

Nadar believes the accolades she has received, including the DAT award, prove she is in the right profession.

“What I do is indeed a vocation … I am looking forward to being able to stop trying to prove myself,” she added.

Esteemed researcher and author

In 2012, Sarojini Nadar received the distinguished Young Women in Science award (Human and Social Sciences) from the Department of Science and Technology.

She is considered one of UKZN’s top-published researchers and has a C2 rating from the National Research Foundation. In 2010 she received the Top Published Woman Researcher at UKZN award, and the position of top published researcher in the Faculty of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences and secured the second position among all UKZN researchers.

African Women, Religion and Health, which she co-edited with Isabel Phiri, won both the UKZN’s annual book award for Best Edited Book, and a New York Catholic P­ress award.

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