S.E.T. for socio-economic growth
Prof Jonathan Jansen
A thinker at heart, Prof Jonathan Jansen spent many years overhauling and overseeing higher education institutions in South Africa in management positions.
But after leaving his most recent indelible mark on the Free State University as its vice-chancellor, he was overjoyed to return to his first love of doing research. “I couldn’t wait to just be a normal professor. That is, I sit, I think, I research, I write, I think.”
Jansen is now a Distinguished Professor of Education at Stellenbosch University. “I still don’t know why they pay me, because this is what I always wanted to do!” he jokes.
He says he does his thinking and writing with a team of people that he mentors, mainly post doctorates and the Future Professors Programme.
The Future Professors Programme is a R65 million project funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training to prepare especially young black and women scholars for the professoriate.
Jansen is an A1 NRF-rated researcher, and is also the president of the Academy of Science of South Africa. He is widely known for his groundbreaking work in curriculum theory and the politics of knowledge, as reflected in his books Knowledge in the Blood (2009) and The Decolonisation of Knowledge (2022).
Over the last four decades he has contributed immensely to the South African science, technology and innovation landscape through research, scholarly teaching, science leadership, educational innovation, capacity development, public engagement, and science advocacy.
“What drives me is the thrill of deep thinking, and I get enormous intellectual stimulation and personal fulfilment out of turning those ideas, questions and thoughts into books.”
His most recent works include, Racial logics and the politics of medicine in South Africa (2023), Corrupted: A study of chronic dysfunction in South African universities, (2023), and The problem with decolonization: Entanglements in the politics of knowledge (2023).
He says people need to know about levels of corruption, about how to fix our schools, and about the reading crisis in South Africa. “So you’ll notice all of my research has been concerned with real issues and real struggles in educational development.”
This is also why he writes in a way that isn’t academically pretentious, and he actively communicates with the public through the media.
”As a renowned ‘public nuisance’, public engagement is incredibly important to me.
I do a lot of work on radio and television and print media every single week, as a way of bringing interesting and important research to the public’s attention,” he says.
Prof Jonathan Jansen won the Lifetime Award for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering, technology and innovation in South Africa over a lifetime (15 years or more).
Read the special Mail & Guardian supplement about all the NSTF-South32 Award winners.