Change the world


The fruits of the East and South African-German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management (CERM-ESA) became evident when the first cohort of eight scholarship students, all from Kenya, graduated in December 2017, 50% of them cum laude.

“Sadly, one the graduates, Gamba Wafula, died of a heart attack before the ceremony,” says Emeritus Professor Paul Webb, who heads the CERM-ESA programme at Nelson Mandela University. “Gamba’s supervisor, Professor Logamurthie Athiemoolam from our Faculty of Education, saw to all the final details required by the university to allow Gamba to graduate posthumously. Gamba’s degree was received on his behalf by his son, Robert.” 

CERM-ESA is a cooperative project between the University of Oldenburg in Germany, Moi University in Kenya and Nelson Mandela University in South Africa. The Centre is based at Moi University and funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and also includes the University of Dar es Salaam and the Uganda Management Institute in its network.

Moi University in Kenya

The aim is to grow the pipeline of African master’s and PhD scholars in education. In order to do this, the CERM-ESA team facilitates high-contact and blended learning supervision support programmes for academics who currently supervise postgraduate research students in education in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. More than 80 academics have participated each year in these supervision support workshops since CER-MESA was launched in late 2014.

“The first cohort of CERM-ESA master’s students spent approximately four months in Port Elizabeth in 2016 and six weeks in 2017, working closely with their supervisors and attending research seminars and workshops,” Prof Webb explains. The second cohort of 13 master’s students are from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, while the first cohort of four DAAD doctoral fellows are from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. A second cohort of CERM-ESA PhD scholarships, two from each of the four countries, were awarded in 2018.

Sarah Jemutai, from the first CERM-ESA cohort, is one of the recipients of the PhD scholarships. She was supervised by Prof Webb, and graduated cum laude in 2017. She was also selected as the recipient of the Nelson Mandela University Council’s best Master’s Degree by Dissertation in the Humanities Award, which she received during the Academic Awards Dinner held at Port Elizabeth’s Feather Market Hall in June 2018.

Based on her research in Kenya and South Africa, Jemutai’s master’s dissertation, the effect of guided play on pre-school learners’ visual perceptual abilities, showed how young children’s visual perception development is accelerated by teachers facilitating guided play. These findings have implications when designing instructional materials to promote the development of reading, writing and numeracy skills in pre-literate children.

Not only does Jemutai’s study attest to the ever-evolving development of educational methodologies and innovation,   but her outstanding academic achievement, despite her difficult circumstances, sets an inspiring example. She offers some insight into her life:

“I am a teacher by profession, teaching in a primary school. I live in my home village called Kapkeben village in Nandi North Chesumei constituency, Nandi County, Kenya. Kapkeben is an area where there are poor roads and connection is a big problem. From home to Moi University is 70km. I walk for some distance because riding on muddy roads can be dangerous. Then I get a motorbike ride to Mosoriot shopping centre where I board a matatu (taxi) to Eldoret town. From Eldoret Town I board another matatu to Moi University.

“CERM-ESA has enabled me to complete my master’s degree, to grow academically, and to meet, interact and share ideas with other students, supervisors and lecturers from the different universities, which, for me, is a rare opportunity and one for which most students yearn.

“Where I come from, electricity is still a challenge and doing   my master’s was not all that easy but through hard work and determination together with steadfast guidance from my supervisors it became a dream come true. Having completed my master’s I felt it was not enough. I desire to gain more knowledge and skills through a doctorate to be able to give back to the community. Thanks to CERM-ESA and Mandela University this has become possible.”

The Pedagogy of Mathematics in South Africa

Published in December 2017, The Pedagogy of Mathematics in South Africa: is there a unifying logic? Is a book on mathematics education that is the outcome of a research project led by Professor Paul Webb and co-edited with Professor Nicky Roberts from the University of Johannesburg.

“The research was commissioned by the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) towards understanding why learners in so many of our schools do so badly in maths,” says Prof Webb.

“We took a forward-looking approach as to what could change, and identified three pillars, namely,

Developing mathematical identities where teachers believe they can teach maths, and children believe they can do maths; developing school teachers’ in-depth understanding of mathematics; and using multilingualism as a resource for maths teaching.

“We interviewed stakeholders in government, NGOs and FirstRand/National Research Foundation Chairs in Mathematics Education across the country. Many of the Chairs wrote chapters, which contributed greatly to our aim of opening dialogue and having a positive effect on the mathematics community in South Africa.”

Contact information
Professor Paul Webb
Acting Dean: Faculty of Education
Tel: 27 41 504 2565