School of Sociology and Social Policy
   
   
  
 

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Samuel Okyere

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences

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Teaching Summary

Sam currently teaches three modules in the School of Sociology and Social Policy. The first is an M.A module entitled 'Human Rights and Modern Slavery'. Students who take this module are offered the… read more

Research Summary

Sam's present and future research interests are broadly linked to human rights and social justice issues from sociological and policy perspectives. His current research interests are largely… read more

Recent Publications

Sam currently teaches three modules in the School of Sociology and Social Policy. The first is an M.A module entitled 'Human Rights and Modern Slavery'. Students who take this module are offered the chance to critically examine the theoretical and political assumptions which underpin dominant liberal discourse on human rights and slavery, with particular emphasis on the ways in which the concept of 'human rights' is classed, gendered, raced, aged and sexualised. The second is an undergraduate module called 'Human and Child Rights', which introduces students to critical sociological debates about human and children's rights. The module begins with an exploration of different theories on the origins of human rights, moving on to examine why children have been set aside as a special case with special sets of rights for them. Then drawing on case studies from contemporary child rights topics such as child labour, child trafficking, commercial sex exploitation and child poverty, the module gives students the chance to engage with debates on the understanding and application of rights in global and local contexts. The third, 'Investigating Social Worlds', is an undergraduate core module primarily intended to introduce students to the main philosophical and methodological debates on the production of knowledge about the social world.

Sam's students are at the heart of his teaching ethos and practice. All students have varying needs and learning styles; nevertheless each can perform excellently with requisite support. Also, students learn quicker when connections are made between lecture content and real life examples or when learning involves active participation. Consequently, whenever possible, Sam draws on real world case studies to exemplify issues under discussion and promote student participation through individual or group presentations. And he equally attempts to ensure that all debates and discussions capture a broad spectrum of viewpoints, in line with students' diverse backgrounds. To further facilitate learning, Sam draws on a vast range of resources such as pictures, audio and video clips and documentary films in his lectures and seminars, and is particularly keen on student feedback which is the primary basis on which he determines the effectiveness of his teaching.

As a sociology lecturer, Sam considers it critical to draw students' attention to the relevance of the discipline to our individual lives and its place in the explanation and understanding of a range of national and global phenomena. For example, some of the questions raised about rising xenophobia, oppressive, if not wholly racist immigration policies, human rights violations, inequality and other social phenomena in these times of austerity can be explained through reference to past and current sociological inquiry and theory. Sam's own research and academic interests, which underpin his teaching, are central to this exercise. To ensure that students gain in-depth and balanced knowledge on the range of topics under discussion, he equally calls on colleagues' research and expert opinion or provide students with relevant readings and resources. Demonstrating the importance of sociology in everyday life and highlighting his passion for what he teaches has a knock-on positive effect on students' learning and their eagerness to engage in intellectual debates.

Sam is of the view that the role of a lecturer or teacher is to guide students to think and argue critically, analytically and independently. In line with the humanistic learning theory, students must be nurtured towards self-actualisation and self-improvement. He therefore encourages his students to scrutinise all ideas put forward at lectures and seminars; particularly, taken-for-granted assumptions about social phenomena. They are guided to do so in a succinct, cogent and rational manner as this is also the means by which they can develop the analytical, communication and intellectual qualities highly sought after in the range of career paths students aspire to follow. Finally, Sam is an ardent promoter of students' own endeavours; academic or extracurricular. Besides providing testimonials for further education, internships and scholarships, he has also attended music, religious, sporting and other social events at the invitation of his students.

Current Research

Sam's present and future research interests are broadly linked to human rights and social justice issues from sociological and policy perspectives. His current research interests are largely influenced by his previous research with children working in artisanal gold mining in 2010. This study explored the extent to which the children's lived experiences reflected international children's rights legislation and dominant discourse on their work. Children's involvement in mining ranks high on the ILO's classification of worst forms of child labour and is also counted as evidence of modern slavery by numerous commentators. Sam focused on this issue partly because paradoxically, the phenomenon is relatively understudied, and as the study found, poorly understood because of the difficulty in accessing artisanal gold mining sites. A key finding was that while international legislation on child labour may be well-meaning, the children consider them to be potentially punitive and detrimental to their livelihoods. The study also found that suffering faced by children in such situations cannot be resolved or addressed in isolation from wider inequality and socio-economic hardship in their communities, an issue Sam aims to explore further through focus on land rights and dispossession in rural communities in Ghana and elsewhere across the developing world.

School of Sociology and Social Policy

Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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