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UKZN's youngest dean makes P-Rating history

Professor Thabo Msibi, the University of KwaZulu-Natal's (UKZN's) youngest dean, continues to be a newsmaker and contribute positively to both the university and SA, having become the first black South African scholar in Education to be awarded a prestigious P-Rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Reacting to the announcement, the UKZN's newly appointed vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Nana Poku, said: "On behalf of the university's executive management and the university community, I extend my heartiest congratulations to Professor Msibi and proudly welcome him into the ranks of other outstanding researchers at UKZN.

"I also extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the School of Education and the College of Humanities for making it possible for Professor Msibi to excel and produce such exceptional work. I applaud him for elevating the university's status and standing through his academic scholarship and excellence in his work. Our research endeavour is enriched when hard-working academics are acknowledged by the NRF."

The rating, also known as the president's award, is given to young researchers (under the age of 35) for exceptional potential, demonstrated in their published work and research outputs. P-rated researchers are considered future international leaders in their field.

Msibi said he was honoured by the recognition of his work, adding that he was grateful and humbled. "I have been extremely anxious as I had to wait for more than 18 months for the announcement. The fact that I have obtained this rating is the result of many hours of hard work I have invested in my research. It is also a testament to the incredible support I've received from colleagues and students here at UKZN."

Msibi, who became the youngest dean in SA when he was appointed dean and head of the School of Education at UKZN at the age of 34, is founder of the Community Development Association, a national organisation that undertakes youth-driven outreach programmes with a focus on education.

He holds a bachelor of education (BEd) and a BEd honours (summa cum laude) degree from UKZN; a master's degree in Education from the Teachers College at Columbia University in the United States; and a PhD in Education from the University of Cambridge in England.

Msibi has published his research findings in South African and international journals and books, and sits on the editorial boards of international journals. He has presented papers and has taught by invitation at a variety of universities locally and abroad.

In SA, he sits on the editorial boards of Perspectives in Education; Alternation Journal; the Transformation in Higher Education Journal, as well as the International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies.

Msibi, who currently sits on the boards of three non-governmental organisations in SA, has been listed among the Top 200 Young South Africans, as selected by the Mail & Guardian; as one of the top 40 South African men under the age of 40 by Destiny Man; and has been included on the Africa Youth Awards' 100 Most Influential Young Africans list. He also received the deputy vice-chancellor's award for Community Service, as well as a UKZN Distinguished Teachers' Award.

Msibi has served on national committees, and was appointed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga as a member of a ministerial committee that reviewed discrimination in South African textbooks.

In 2018, he was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Early Careers Award by the Teachers College at Columbia University, and his name was placed on the university's wall of honour. He was recently selected by Harvard University as the Chen Yidan Visiting Global Fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year.