College of Education

Some grade threes have it—most don’t

This year has seen a number of CEDU colleagues achieve their doctorates. Among those that have furthered themselves to this height academically, is Dr Donna Hannaway of the Department of Early Childhood Education and Development. With her research in technology-based teaching and learning in the foundation phase, Hannaway has proven that while technology is the future for the youngest of learners, not all learners have the access to this technology-based learning that they need in order to thrive in a modern, technology-driven world.

The research

“I started with grade threes at technology-rich schools and found that these schools were moving very much with the times. However, I quickly realised that there was a massive gap and that I would need to look at the rest of the South African population as well. What I found was that while some schools are funded enough to be able to work with technology, most South African schools just aren’t,” Hannaway said of her research and the problems she encountered.

“I had to look really hard to find schools that were using technology at all. And while we are all mindful of the difficulty in accessing it, it’s important to remember that this generation was born differently from us. We can’t keep saying of our students that they are rural. Most of them are born knowing and experiencing technology, and we need to foster that ability because that is what will aid them in their future successes.”

The journey

“Obtaining my PhD. was always a personal thing,” said Hannaway of the doctoral journey. “My work obviously dictated the necessity for it, but it was a goal that I set out to achieve early on in my career. So when I did feel that I was done, when I put in that last line, that last full stop, and even beyond that, I was overcome with relief. But of course, the academic journey doesn’t end there. Colleagues, friends, even family, cut you a lot of slack while you are working towards an end goal that big, but once it’s over, you realise how much you need to do and how much other people needed you.”

“Right now, I am working on the Programme in Inclusive Early Childhood Care and Education, which is about developing open educational resources. It is very much in tune with my passion. Early Childhood Education and Development is challenging but so worth it. With two young children of my own, it is something I feel a great drive to explore and improve.”

The personal implications of research

“My role as a woman is multi-faceted. I am a wife. I am mother to two young children. I am a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a friend. As with most South Africa woman, I wear many colourful hats but under each one, is a strong woman,” said Hannaway, referencing the importance of strong, leading women. “I am an academic in a female-dominated field. Within my profession, I am privileged to have powerful, dynamic women who mentor me in my career and in life. I also aspire to be that mentor to my students so that, despite the uncertainty of the current climate of our country, they are motivated to be passionate and professional teachers, shaping the minds of young children.”

When asked what influence a month devoted to the empowerment of women has on the female populace, Dr. Hannaway had this to say: “We already live in an age of constant comparisons thanks to technology, especially social media. We compare personal status to our peers based on the number of thumbs ups (likes) we receive; students confront progress and treatment using hashtags, and academics rival for the number of citations and publications. Shouldn’t we rather stop jealousy and judgment and instead envelop ubuntu and pay attention to the role of all woman in our South Africa? We must recognise them for the invaluable resource that they are and appreciate their many, beautiful hats.”

*By Carmen Taxer