Keynote Speakers

GMholpe Nokugcina Mhlophe

Nokugcina Elsie Mhlophe is a well-known South African freedom fighter, activist, actor, storyteller, poet, playwright, director and author. Storytelling is a   deeply traditional activity in  Africa and Mhlophe is one of the few woman storytellers in a country dominated by males. She does her most important work through charismatic performances, working to preserve storytelling as a means of keeping history alive and encouraging South African children to read. She tells her stories in four of South Africa’s languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa.

Barbara Comber

Barbara Comber is a Research Professor in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. She is particularly interested in literacy education and social justice. She has conducted longitudinal ethnographic studies and collaborative action research with teachers working in high poverty and culturally diverse communities.

Her research examines the kinds of teaching that make a difference to young people's learning trajectories. Her current work explores ethical educational leadership, teachers’ work in literacy classrooms and the affordances of place-conscious pedagogies for developing critical and creative literacies. She has also undertaken an institutional ethnography focussing on mandated literacy assessment and the reorganisation of teachers' work.

She has co-edited a number of books including:

  • The International Handbook of Research in Children's Literacy
  • Learning and Culture (Hall, Cremin, Comber & Moll, 2013)
  • Literacies in Place: Teaching environmental communications (Comber, Nixon & Reid, 2007)
  • Turn-around pedagogies: Literacy interventions for at-risk students (Comber & Kamler, 2005).

She has a book coming out in 2015 called Literacy, place and pedagogies of possibility.



PRAESA and Nal’ibali: it starts with a story

PRAESA (The Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa) is a language and biliteracy NGO driving the Nal’ibali national reading-for-enjoyment campaign in South Africa. In existence since 1992, and affiliated to the University of Cape Town (, PRAESA is the 2015 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate for it’s work in reading promotion and multilingual children’s literature development. Carole Bloch is Executive Director of PRAESA and Creative Strategist for Nal’ibali. Ntombizanele Mahobe, early bliteracy specialist, is Training Coordinator for Nal’ibali and Malusi Ntoyapi is a Programmes Support Officer and early literacy community trainer for Nal’ibali. They will share insights, challenges and stories arising from PRAESA’s approach to literacy and the Nal’ibali Campaign , now in its 4th year (

Viv Edwards

Viv Edwards is Professor of Language in Education at the University of Reading. She is editor of the international journal, Language and Education, and has published widely in the area of learning and teaching in multilingual classrooms.


Her publications include:

  • Learning to be literate: multilingual perspectives (Multilingual Matters, 2009)
  • Multilingualism in the English-speaking world (Blackwell 2004; British Association of Applied Linguistics Book of the Year, 2005)
  • The Power of Babel: teaching and learning in multilingual classrooms (Trentham 1998).

Viv's interest in literacy in African contexts is based on her supervision of PhD students based in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe; her collaboration over many years with colleagues at PRAESA (Project for Alternative Education in South Africa) and her work as director of the Leverhulme Trust funded project on Interdisciplinary perspectives on African language materials for children. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

KEganKieran Egan

Kieran Egan is a professor of education at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada ( His work deals both with innovative educational theory and detailed practical methods whereby implications of the theory can be applied at the classroom level. Various of his books have been translated into around 20 languages.  He is a director of the Imaginative Education Research Group ( His recent books include Teaching Literacy: Engaging the imagination of new readers and writers (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2006), The Future of Education: Reimagining our schools from the ground up (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), Learning in Depth: A simple innovation that can transform schooling (University of Chicago Press, 2010) and Whole School Projects: Engaging imaginations through interdisciplinary inquiry (New York: Teachers College Press, 2014).

Please note: Professor Egan’s keynote will be done by videoconference.

DHugoDesiree Hugo

Des has taught across all phases in education, and has 31 years of school experience. She is presently the Headmistress of St Mary’s Junior School in Waverley, Johannesburg, a position she has held for 8 years. Des is a member of ISASA (Independent Schools Association of South Africa) and the chairperson of the SAHISA (South African Heads of Independent Schools Association), Gauteng Prep Schools Executive Committee for curriculum development.

Des is one of the founding members of the Africa Reggio Emilia Alliance, a non-profit company which is affiliated to the Reggio Children International Network and provides support and professional learning opportunities for teachers from a variety of contexts. She is presently registered as a student with the University of Cape Town as she completes her PhD in Education; her research is focusing on the implementation of the Reggio approach in township schools.