College of Education

Help deprived learners

Prof Hettie van der Merwe

The inaugural lecture of Prof Hettie van der Merwe, College of Education, entitled A lifebuoy environment for successful learning in conditions of multiple deprivation: What are the basics?, took place on 18 April 2019.

Factors determining learners’ educational achievement are the quality of parenting, the quality of schooling and the quality of the community culture within which children grow up, said Van der Merwe in her inaugural lecture. "Many children are acutely exposed to deficient parenting and debilitating community conditions. Overcoming this hindrance is possible with teachers arranging an 'away-from-multiple-deprivation' intervention programme on the school premises as a study opportunity for matric learners to prepare for the final examination," she said.

With Saturday morning and school holiday morning classes supplemented by a study camp event a fortnight before the final examination, matric learners can receive guidance through cognitive engagement, with subject content supplemented by physical and emotional support relating to nutritious meals and empathic assistance with personal problems. "This enables multiple-deprived learners to pass matric convincingly, engendering possible social mobility," concluded Van der Merwe.

You can read the inaugural lecture here.


The person behind the professor


Who would play you in the film of your life?

Emile Mortimer


I always splurge on? And save on?

I splurge on tickets for Brooklyn Nouveau films and I save on dinner at pretentious restaurants and on fast food.


What does a dream weekend involve?

One day of a dream weekend involves doing a circle hiking trail of ± 10 km in indigenous forest, ending with a quick splash in the waves to cool off, then taking a late afternoon nap before having a ‘braaivleis’ followed by a good film, or a re-watch of episodes from the Friends television series. (I have not watched Game of Thrones yet.)


What drives you to achieve great results in your department and how do you get it right?

As an ex-teacher I know that dedicated teaching engenders successful learning. My students are entitled to dedicated and professional tuition. I pursue professionalism by consulting broadly and in depth on subject-related matter. I pursue dedication by engaging with every tutorial letter that goes out to students and every sentence of every submission by my master’s and doctoral students.


Name a leader in your field who inspires you, and why.

Philip Hallinger, an instructional leadership specialist, inspires me because of his clear understanding of the fact that outcomes are contingent on context. I am inspired by his approach of not determining ‘what works’ but determining ‘what works in the specific context’ to ensure constructive outcomes. I am also inspired by his honest hard-work approach to life.

* Compiled by Sharon Farrell, Editor: Internal Communication, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/07/02