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Graham Norman Hall

Born in 1940 in Kensington, Johannesburg and, having matriculated at Jeppe High School for Boys, Graham Hall chose, from the outset of his career, his enduring passion: teaching. Having completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics at this University, under the inspiring and sometimes daunting aegis of such academic luminaries as Professor Arthur Bleksley, he proceeded to complete the Higher Diploma in Education at the former Johannesburg College of Education, an institution that was later to be the base of thirty-three years of uninterrupted service to teacher education.

Having qualified, he rendered four years of service as Physical Science teacher at Jeppe High School for Boys, and, through a Witwatersrand Council of Education scholarship, at Bradfield College, Berkshire. His qualities as a teacher, and a potential teacher-educator, were soon recognized, and, in 1967, he was appointed as lecturer in Physics at JCE. In 1972, he was promoted to Head of Department. Shortly afterwards, he was awarded a Whitmore Richards scholarship, which enabled him to complete a Masters in Education degree at the University of Bath. During his time as a Science educator, he had significant influence in the field, as author of six books and over fifty publications on aspects of Science teaching. His scientific interests are broad, and a particular expertise in the study of the cosmos resulted in an honorary appointment as lecturer in Astronomy at Wits, a discipline he taught at the Planetarium for sixteen years.

Graham’s academic progress was subsequently deflected by his penchant for administrative service, which resulted in his appointment as Dean of Knockando Residence from 1972 to 1982, in which position he played a major role in the establishment of the Residence as a characteristic feature of student-teacher life. In 1981, his qualities of management were recognized by his appointment as Vice-Rector of the former JCE, and, in 1989, as Rector and, in this capacity, as honorary Professor in the University’s Faculty of Education. His period of Rectorship consolidated the former JCE as a major national provider of teachers of high quality, while ushering in – with full support of the University yet frequently against hostile opposition from the erstwhile educational authorities – an institutional dispensation that took into account the need for representivity, accountability and justice in the provision of teacher education. During this time, his skills as assessor and statistician led to an involvement in academic quality assurance, especially in teacher education, and his election as President of the Association for the Evaluation of Education in South Africa (ASEESA), a position he held for seven years.

In the period that ensued, particularly the period of his Rectorship, Graham Hall’s commitment and talents provided an intellectual base that benefited not only the College he was responsible for, but also had a significant impact on both provincial and national policy. He has researched and authored or co-authored a wide array of reports and analyses that have had, and continue to have, an effect on educational policy and practice in South Africa. These works include a national audit on teacher education supply and demand, on the role and future of colleges of education, on the training of Mathematics and Science educators, on the technical college sector, and on further education. His publications have often been quoted as the most reliable indicators of long-term trends in our educational systems. He has used his findings to alert authorities to impending pitfalls, to question ill-found policy, to propose imaginative and achievable solutions to national crises and, where necessary and with great precision and tenacity, to challenge policy-makers. He has, lately, published important findings on the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the national teacher corps, and these findings, like many others he has published, have been received with scepticism, if not hostility, largely attributable to the unfashionable objectivity on which all his research has been based.

Graham Hall’s contribution to emerging national policy on teacher education continued unabated throughout a period, in the 1990s, of radical transformation of the sector. At the level of his own institution, this involved three mergers and a concomitant process of rationalization. While managing these with discretion and aplomb, he was a constant critic of inflexibility in the implementation of national policy. He represented his views in such bodies as the Committee of College of Education Rectors (CCERSA), of which he was Chairman for three years, the Committee on Teacher Education Policy (COTEP), the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and National Commission on Higher Education task teams.

In the year 2000 the national Department of Education resolved to incorporate all extant colleges of education into higher education institutions. Graham Hall played a major role in the successful incorporation of the former JCE into Wits, bringing to the University, through his stewardship throughout the preceding years, an institution that was professionally, academically, structurally and financially sound. At the same time, his eye remained focused on the long-term effects of policy changes at the national level, particularly the deleterious effects on the provision of teacher education for rural areas of the country and his commentaries, both in public fora and in writing, remain trenchant to this day. He has established a reputation as one of the country’s leading analysts of educational trends and policy developments, and this reputation is widely acknowledged, in government circles, in higher education and throughout the schools sector. The many commissions, awards, and positions – both executive and honorary – that have come his way in recognition of his commitment, insight and intellectual energy have all been taken on with a characteristic blend of modesty, lack of self-interest and unassuming style. Generations of learners; school pupils, college and university students, have regarded him as the epitome of the educationist, whose passions are the broadening of knowledge and the enhancement of a social context and environment conducive to effective learning.

A characteristic feature of all of Graham Hall’s critique of teacher education practice is the principle that the value of macro-policy and corporate implementation comes down, in the end, to their effect on individuals: schools, teachers and learners. Throughout his career of leadership, he has shown extraordinary commitment – invariably unobtrusive and confidential – to those his office required him to serve, members of staff and students, particularly students enduring financial and social disadvantage. One very substantial example illustrates this quality. It is typical of Graham Hall’s commitment to his profession that his extraordinary re-organization in recent years of the Gauteng matriculation examinations – a turn-around of the system from a state of crisis to one of secure efficiency, a feat few others could hope to have accomplished – a task that has demanded from him innumerable hours of work, enormous levels of stress, and incalculable energy, has been motivated not by an iota of self-interest or benefit, but by a passionate desire to provide the means for financial assistance to the most needy of the students in his charge.

From the time of incorporation of the former JCE into Wits in 2001 until 2004, Graham Hall was Head of the College of Education at Wits, in the Faculty of Humanities. In 2005, he assumed the position of Director of the Wits Language School, in which position he has continued to influence the interests and the wellbeing of the Faculty and the University.

In recognition of over forty years of dedicated service to the teaching profession, of his intellectual contributions in the field, of his influence on educational policy and planning, of the pivotal role he has played as leader and evaluator throughout the process of rationalization and incorporation of the college of education sector into higher education, both within this University and at national and provincial levels, and of the unswerving manner in which he has epitomised the highest ideals and ethical principles associated with the educator, it is proposed that the University bestow on Graham Norman Hall the degree of Doctor of Education (honoris causa).