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Lolita Desiree Winnaar

Senior Research Specialist, Education and Skills Development, Human Sciences Research Council

Dr Lolita Winnaar is a Senior Research Specialist in the Education and Skills Development research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). One of her research foci is in the area of school effectiveness with a magnified look at school climate and the psychosocial aspects of schooling. She strongly believes that by improving the schooling environment in which students find themselves, this would lead to improved safety within schools, reduced levels of school based violence which will lead to an environment conducive to learning. With a strong link to her statistics and research methodology background, she has a keen interest in pushing her analytical knowledge and applying statistical modelling, particularly multilevel modelling, to better understand the basic education landscape.

Dr Winnaar holds a BSc undergraduate degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC); Honours degrees in Statistics (UWC) and Population Studies (WITS), MPhil (cum laude) from the University of the Western Cape and a DPhil in Statistics from the University of the Western Cape. The thesis focussed on modelling school climate in South African secondary schools over time. She was awarded the South African Statistical Association-National Research Fund (SASA-NRF) Crises in Academic Statistics bursary in 2015 to support her PhD.

Prior to joining the HSRC; Dr Winnaar was employed at Rhodes University for two years as an Information Technology Consultant based in Grahamstown. She joined the HSRC in 2002 as a Junior Research with data management responsibilities. Since joining the HSRC she has been involved in numerous large scale multi-year education projects where initially her role was performing data management and basic analytical related functions on projects but her experience in the field of education statistics, quantitative research methodology and report writing has advanced exponentially over time. She has managed projects like the South African Youth Panel Study (SAYPS), a panel study that follows students over a five-year period with its inception in 2011. She has been a part of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) since 2003 and is currently co-managing the 2019 cycle of the project in both Grade 5 and Grade 9.

She has also advanced her statistical skills by applying multilevel modelling techniques to adequately take into account the hierarchy that exists in education and the data collected within the sector and has applied these skills to projects like TIMSS. She has also co-managed the Annual National Assessment Verification study in both 2011 and 2014 when the funding was awarded to the HSRC by the Department of Basic Education.


  • –present
    Senior research manager, education and skills development , Human Sciences Research Council