By Melissa Mungroo
Pretty Abraham and Siwakhile Ngcobo - postgraduate students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics - are set to embark on an international exchange programme to the Free University in Amsterdam.
The programme forms part of Bridging Gaps, an initiative of the Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation – and the two will begin the programme in September.
The Bridging Gaps programme enables students from Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East to work on their own research for a period of three months, under the auspices of a supervisor of the Protestant Theological University (PThU) or Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).
During the programme, students are exposed to Dutch society and church life together with other theology students from around the world.
Abraham is a Master’s graduate in the History of Christianity programme. She did important Master’s research work on the role of memory and religion in the context of gender-based violence (GBV) in conflict settings.
“This opportunity will give me access to research resources and a diversity of advisors and conversation partners who might enhance my research. To other students, grab every opportunity that you come across. One way or the other, it will enhance your academic prospects and connect you to a community of people who become valuable resources in the long-run.”
Ngcobo is a PhD candidate in the Gender and Religion programme and is currently developing his PhD work thinking about the process of masculinity construction and media in the Pentecostal tradition.
“I had applied for the programme because it exposes students to the use of the bible in different cultural contexts. I get to be a student in an intercultural setting, which is exciting, and I get to expand on my theological knowledge. It is a great opportunity to enhance my research project at the backdrop of contextual theology. Exchange programmes offer students an opportunity for networking and engaging with students from different contexts, and an opportunity to gain transferrable skills for career advancement,” said Ngcobo.
Professor Charlene van der Walt, UKZN Gender and Religion programme Head and Ujamaa Centre Deputy Director, said the collaboration has opened up creative possibilities for exchange.
“The collaboration between the school and the Free University of Amsterdam, through the Bridging Gaps programme, has created a number of creative possibilities for exchange between the two institutions. Both have mutually benefited staff and students. We stand in a long legacy of a creative and dynamic partnership that has impacted students, staff and faith communities - both in the Dutch and African contexts.”
This year, as part of the exchange, van der Walt and Rev Sithembiso Zwane of the Ujamaa Centre will form part of the teaching team in the Bridging Gaps programme. They will share knowledge on contextual bible reading developed from within the centre.
* UKZN supports the Durban International Book Fair (DIBF 2022), which is taking place now at Sibaya Casino & Entertainment Kingdom until August 5, and at Pick n Pay Hyper in Durban North on August 6 and 7.
DIBF 2022 boasts a stellar line-up of leading writers, musicians and artists and is designed as a global marketplace for readers, creatives, authors, academics, literacy NGOs, language promoters and publishers.
Find more information on the fair and view the full programme here.
Entrance is free.