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Life Time Achievement Award for Professor Meshach Ogunniyi

Prof Meshach Ogunniyi, of the School of Science and Mathematics Education, Faculty of Education, received a Life Time Achievement Award for his meritorious service to the Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, (SAARMSTE), at its conference in January 2014. The conference was hosted by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. This is the second time in the history of the association that such a prestigious award has been bestowed on a member.

Prof Ogunniyi joined UWC in January 1995 as the UNESCO Chair holder for Science and Mathematics Education. One of his first tasks was to work alongside his colleagues to organize the SAARMSTE conference at UWC, in January of that year.

One of the mandates of the UNESCO Chair was to harmonize Science and Mathematics Education programmes at UWC. At that time these were scattered in various departments in the Faculties of Science and Education with little or no interactions among the stakeholders.

Having worked at the University of Nigeria and the University of Botswana, Prof Ogunniyi understood that South Africa, like the entire African continent, lacked capacity in the fields of Science and Mathematics Education. As the UNESCO Chair holder he was responsible for research capacity building in four UNESCO/UNITWIN Institutions in Southern Africa namely, University of the Western Cape, University of Zimbabwe, University of Namibia and the Eduardo Mondlane Universidade (Mozambique), and later Universidade Pedagogica (Mozambique) where he organized intensive research capacity building workshops for doctoral students and young academics. Often, students and academics from other institutions attended these workshops.  

In 1996, Prof Ogunniyi was requested to start a journal for SAARMSTE. As the founding Editor of the Southern African Journal of Mathematics and Science Education, he approached the international UNESCO fraternity to assist with the funding of the journal. Between 1997 and 2000 the journal was published once a year due to financial constraints and inadequate research capacity in the SADC sub-region. Prof Ogunniyi smilingly recalls those days, where there was no e-mail and, in order to minimize postage costs he and his students would each take about fifty journals in their luggage to be distributed at the SAARMSTE conferences.  In 2000, the name of the Journal was changed to the Southern African Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education to adequately reflect the research interests of SAARMSTE members.  Although he applied to the Department of Education for accreditation of the journal in 1998, this was only granted in 2001 and that was when the name was changed to the African Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education.

Prof. Meshach Ogunniyi has served as external examiner and moderator of masters and doctoral theses for many universities in and outside Africa. He has also edited many conference proceedings. For over three decades he has been an editorial member/reviewer for several leading Mathematics, Science and Technology Education journals. Since 2004 he has been the Contributing Editor for the African region for journal Science Education, probably the oldest and one of the highest impact journals in the field of Science Education. He was a founding Editorial Board member of the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. He has been nominated thrice for the Distinguished Award of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), “a worldwide organization of professionals committed to the improvement of science teaching and learning through research” (NARST, 2013) based in the USA and founded in 1928.  The NARST journal known as the Journal of Research in Science Teaching currently has the highest impact factor in the field of Science Education.

Renowned for his work in contiguity argumentation theory and dialogical argumentation instruction, Prof Ogunniyi has supervised over 80 masters and doctoral theses and published more than 12 books and 200 articles. He strives to ensure that his students rub shoulders with the best of the best in the field of Science and Mathematics Education by inviting them to UWC. He has been involved in many small and large-scale research projects all of have the common theme that revolved around capacity building.

For Prof Ogunniyi, his joy and passion is making a contribution to capacity building efforts in South Africa, in particular and to Africa, generally. In his words, ‘I get joy in knowing that I can contribute to make someone who started out with trepidation become successful in this field. I experience extreme joy when my students walk across the stage on the graduation night. That is what it is all about’.

Since the award, congratulatory messages have been pouring in from all over the world (Canada, Australia, USA, Taiwan, Australia, Mozambique, to name a few), as people share the sentiments that were expressed in the tribute that was made during the award ceremony which largely alluded to Prof Ogunniyi’s inspiration to many with whom he worked and those who have read his work.

The Dean of the Faculty of Education, Prof Zubeida Desai, informed all staff about this award in the following way:

‘Allow me to congratulate Professor Meshach Ogunniyi on being awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the SAARMSTE conference held at NMMU earlier this month.  The award was conferred on Prof Ogunniyi for meritorious service to the association. We are very proud of you Meshach.  Your work in Science Education has inspired many academics the world over. Long may your presence be felt.’

UWC at large echoes these sentiments and is honoured to have a colleague of this calibre to inspire young minds towards Mathematics and Science Education, which is sorely required in South Africa’s fledgling democracy.


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