Can education bridge divides between historical enemies?
Insights from educational research and practice in post-conflict South Africa

Jonathan Jansen
University of the Free State, South Africa


How can universities create environments in which historical enemies live and learn and love together? What is the role of educational leadership in advancing the dual imperatives of social justice and reconciliation on divided campuses and in conflicted communities? And what do we know from a review of research on changing human relationships and institutional cultures in post-conflict societies? Against the backdrop of policy, research and practice in a number of societies emerging from traumatic conflicts and divisions, I will present demonstrative case studies of change at historically white South African universities that offer new conceptual and empirical insights into complex transformations in other international contexts.

In the age of digital education physical proximity is not sufficient or even necessary to create powerful relationships between leaders and followers anywhere. Yet there remains this very human need for feeling connected to each other in ways that transform understandings of ourselves and others. The new literature on emotions and education, for example, illustrate how the emotional lives of leaders and followers can be harnessed to play transforming roles inside educational institutions. This address will therefore show how new social media are being used by leaders to create enduring bonds across borders of race, ethnicity, gender and disability which in turn lays the platform for difficult dialogues about reconciliation and social justice.