Make plans, but with a pencil

“What 2020 taught us is to make plans with a pencil…”

Here is to the start of a new year for the SAYAS blog. Although (or because?) many of us challenged our fates by saying the year cannot be worse than the previous one, for some of us the first month of 2021 brought more negative moments than the whole twelve months of 2020.

With many lessons from 2020, I am starting this year with low expectations but big dreams and high energy for work. But I am making plans with a pencil…and an eraser close by.

A few years ago, I asked a professor that was giving a talk on the future of education and work “so, which are the skills I make sure that my own kids should have?” and she said “ethics and adaptability” [Prof Stephanie, every presentation – a lesson for us, thank you]. How true these words were! In a maybe forceful manner, our world was tested in both. The higher education system even more; as with any big shock of change in conditions exogenous to the system, there were winners and losers. We were not fully prepared and we were not anticipating the magnitude of the shock.

But we cannot talk of a shock anymore. It has been a year that we are in this situation; everybody talking about the “new normal” that is coming next. Well, hello?? The “new normal” is here and we have had time to acknowledge it. Let’s live now within these conditions (not as “unprecedented” anymore) and take it a step at a time. Let’s plan and dream and set high targets as always. Just put them down in pencil and be prepared with alternative plans, and be willing to move into these as though it was the plan from the beginning.


Looking forward to work with the new SAYAS bloggers. More now than ever, we need to listen to each other and try and learn the world from other people’s perspectives.

Cheers to another full round around the sun.

Cheers to be healthy.

Cheers to making an impact with out discussions and our actions. 

Roula Inglesi-Lotz

2020: The year of the right questions and the BIG ‘break’

Show me one person that did not change their initial plans in 2020… That was definitely not me – neither in my professional or personal life.

The year started promising myself I will ask the right questions, and not necessarily stress to find the answers to everything. Lockdown and covid19 changed my everyday life, changed my plans but in essence, looking under the surface, I kept asking questions during the year.

And although mostly we all asked “why this?” “why now?” “what are we doing now?” “when are we going back?”, I forced myself to take advantage of the big “break” and ask among others:

  • “How might we change everything now that we can?”
  • “How might the work environment change in the future? And how might we ensure that we do not go back to wrong practices?”
  • “How do we empower the young generation to be an improved version of themselves?”
  • “What is my life and work purpose?”
  • “How do I protect my mental health and teach my students and mentees to prioritize their mental health too?”

In that journey of questions, I had interesting co-passengers: the SAYAS blogging team of 2020. The bloggers started the year unknowingly pointing on issues that kept us engaged during 2020. Pagiel almost looked into the future and discussed the two tales of the South African education system, and Richard introduced us to the role of social media for impactful science that reaches the society. Michelle started the year trying to identify her purpose and fulfilment for the year, while Sinenhlanhla encouraged all of us to find what fuels our passion – and reach for the stars.

The rest of the year, we were all fortunate to read blogs from a wide variety of topics that ranged from the interesting story of the spekboom trees and tree blindness, science communication topics, fake news and the right to be wrong, women in science and role models, tributes to icons, the education sector and its evolution, as well as topics of interest for students (from students) such as preparation for conferences, supervisors and mentorship during a pandemic, financial challenges, the toxic culture in tertiary institutions etc.

Closing the year as an editor of the SAYAS blog, I learned so much from working with this team, not only content wise but from their work ethics and creativity. At this point, I would like to also thank all the contributors of blogs that shared their thoughts and ideas.

The “big break” was the right time for slow thinking and reassessing what is important in our lives, what we will keep and what we will let go. It might not have happened naturally to all of us, but my suggestion is to pause for a bit in December, look back in the year and take a moment to realise how much we have all grown and matured during this year consciously and unconsciously.

See you all next year with more blogs and other exciting ideas.