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Report by Conference Chairperson

Jun 05 2017

It is a privilege to be able to report on the EASA 2017 Conference, after collaborating with the NWU Faculty of Education Sciences, Organising Commitee, Conference Administrators and Exco of EASA.

Date

The date of 8-11 January 2017 was fixed by Exco – and aligned with the usual space occupied by the EASA Conference, namely starting on the second Sunday in January. Criticism was received about the conference being held too early in the New Year (it was the earliest ever for a number of years because the first Sunday was on the 1st of January), but despite that the turnout was good.

Organising university and committee

North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus hosted the conference after 12 years again: the previous hosting was in 2005, offered on the Potchefstroom Campus under the chairpersonship of prof Kobus Mentz. The 2017 organising committee consisted of the following relatively young and enthusiastic NWU staff members:

* Dr Carolina Botha

* Dr Bernadette Geduld

* Prof Charlene du Toit-Brits

* Dr Julialet Rens

* Ms Lize-Marie Rautenbach

* Prof Jan Heystek

* Prof Johnnie Hay (Chair)

 

The committee was supported by a number of NWU staff members: ms Danika Alberts (finances), ms Lynette Byleveld (administration) and ms Saartjie Venter (conferences). The following managers also contributed with sound advice, moral and financial support: our Dean prof Robert Balfour, the School Director of the School of Education Studies prof Kobus Mentz and the Research Director prof Elsa Mentz. Without these staff members the conference would not have run smoothly – a huge thanks to you!

 

Venue

Khaya iBhubesi on the Vaal River close to Parys was selected as venue with the help of Narina Basson from Thusa Reservations. Although not cheap in terms of the conference costs, many issues made this a good choice: the fact that only EASA delegates were on the premises made it personal, the rural experience was great to most delegates, the excellent food was a highlight, the spaces where delegates could relax and enjoy meals were conducive to a tranquil experience, the continuous availability of coffee/tea/hot chocolate and the fact that the main and breakaway venues were classy and the sound good, were further positives. Accommodation that ranged from affordable to more expensive also received compliments, especially from government delegates who work within a tight budget. Some negatives were the near absence of WiFi after it had been cleared out beforehand and the inadequate ironing facilities. The thatched roofs also provided some challenges in the form of insects.

On the whole it seemed as if the choice of venue accorded well with most delegates, despite the smaller challenges.

Theme

A huge effort was made to link the geographical surroundings (of the Vredefort Dome) with the conference theme. An expert also kicked off the conference by enlightening delegates about the Dome. It was hoped that this fusion would make a lasting impression on delegates’ memories.

Delegates and presentations

An approximate number of 150 delegates attended the conference of which 131 paid registration fees. The rest was made up of keynote speakers, panel members, artists, organising committee members, a few publishers and student assistants.

Two keynote speakers presented papers – one national and one international. Two panel discussions were also held as plenaries: the one was a new innovation initiated by Oxford University Press, and dealt with the current call for Africanisation and decolonisation of universities and curricula.

A total of 100 breakaway papers were scheduled.

Finances

I am happy to report that the conference managed to break even with a small surplus.

Innovations

A number of initiatives were either revived or tried for the first time:

* Activities on the Monday afternoon: a range of activities were offered and eventually attended very well. Good feedback was received about this.

* A number of lucky draws to improve attendance. This worked especially well with the SIGs and AGM – quite a substantial number of delegates attended these meetings.

* Revival of the SIGs – this started well, but momentum needs to be kept up.

* A second panel discussion – initiated by OUP, and

* A small quiz competition to liven up the braai evening.

Publishers

The big four supported the conference very well – thanks to Oxford University Press, Pearson Publishers, Van Schaik Publishers and Juta for your continued support!

Conclusion

We trust that it was an enjoyable, informative and intellectually stimulating conference for all delegates and Exco members that attended. It wasn’t without challenges, but as committee we hope that the positives far outweighed the negatives.

Many delegates reported on the distinguishing features of an EASA conference: more than enough warmth, empathy, unity in diversity, sociability, high intellectual engagement and opportunities for young academics to present without fear of failure.

Thanks for the opportunity – and we trust to see you in KZN next year!

Johnnie Hay
Conference Chair 2017
On behalf of the NWU Organising Committee

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