Professor Shahidul Islam of the School of Life Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science has been appointed as an Editor-in-Chief of the World Journal of Diabetes (WJD), which is published by the Baishideng Group in the United States. The WJD is a high-quality, online, open-access, single-blind peer-reviewed journal with its articles showcasing some of the most influential research carried out by world-renowned academic authors as well as international researchers.

Islam is one of the leading researchers in the area of type 2 diabetes and among the Top 15 researchers (2019) at UKZN. He has a C2 rating from the National Research Foundation. Islam, who has published more than 160 research papers in international peer-reviewed journals, is also an academic leader for the Biotechnology (Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology) cluster on the Westville campus and previously served as a Chair of the University Animal Research Ethics Committee (AREC). He was awarded the 2015 College Distinguished Teacher Award for teaching excellence.

Caption: Professor Shahidul Islam.

Professor Shahidul Islam of the School of Life Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science has been appointed as an Editor-in-Chief of the World Journal of Diabetes (WJD), which is published by the Baishideng Group in the United States.

The WJD is a high-quality, online, open-access, single-blind peer-reviewed journal with its articles showcasing some of the most influential research carried out by world-renowned academic authors as well as international researchers.

Articles in the WJD, which aims to promote research in the field of diabetes, cover issues and subjects such as Opinion Review, Minireview, Basic Study, Clinical Research, Systematic Review, Meta-analysis, Evidence-Based Medicine, Field of Vision, Clinical Guidelines and Case Reports.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), almost half a billion people suffer from diabetes worldwide and this figure is predicted to be close to a billion by the year 2045. While almost half of the people with diabetes are undiagnosed, at least 1 in 6 deaths in the world currently occur due to diabetes or associated complications. Almost half of the people with diabetes suffer from one or more diabetes- associated complications such as diabetic neuropathy, nephropathy, retinopathy, cardiomyopathy and diabetic foot diseases. Hyperglycemia is one of the major diagnostic criteria of diabetes and uncontrolled hyperglycemia may lead to blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation as well as death.

Islam is one of the leading researchers in the area of type 2 diabetes and among the Top 15 researchers (2019) at UKZN. He has a C2 rating from the National Research Foundation.

His major area of research is to develop novel and alternative animal models of type 2 diabetes and conduct obesity and anti-diabetic and anti-obesogenic intervention trials of various functional and medicinal foods, alterative sweeteners, medicinal plant extracts, fractions and their isolated pure compounds and their mechanism of actions, for the purpose of developing novel food supplements and better alternative antidiabetic drugs for the management of diabetes.

Islam, who has published more than 160 research papers in international peer-reviewed journals, is also an academic leader for the Biotechnology (Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology) cluster on the Westville campus and previously served as a Chair of the University Animal Research Ethics Committee (AREC). He was awarded the 2015 College Distinguished Teacher Award for teaching excellence.

Islam has served as a lead guest editor for the Journal of Diabetes Research (USA) and is currently a guest editor of Frontiers in Chemistry (Switzerland); review editor of Frontiers in Pharmacology and Drug Discovery (Switzerland), and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Biochemical and Pharmacological Research (USA).

Said Islam: ‘My appointment as an Editor-in-Chief of the World Journal of Diabetes while increasing my responsibility on the one hand, has also opened many doors for collaboration with world-renowned diabetes experts.’

Commenting on the appointment, Professor Albert Modi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, said: ‘The World Journal of Diabetes has affirmed UKZN’s achievements in the medicinal chemistry area by appointing Professor Shahidul Islam Editor-in-Chief.’

Said Dean and Head of the School of Life Sciences Professor Ade Olaniran: ‘This is a prestigious appointment and the School of Life Sciences is proud of the international recognition of Prof Islam as an expert scientist in diabetes research. We are confident that he will make significant contributions towards improving the quality and impact of this highly ranked journal.’

Words: Leena Rajpal

Photograph: Supplied

Fifth-year Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery student Ms Tivana Chellan (22) was shortlisted out of 200 nominees for the International Rising Star Award at the 2021 Safety and Health Excellence Awards interactive digital conference. The Awards celebrate innovation and achievements in the health and safety sector with emphasis on the high standards of excellence and dedication.

Said Chellan: ‘I was very honoured to have represented UKZN and South Africa as the youngest ever shortlisted candidate. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions in place, the event was held digitally giving me global recognition!’

Caption: Ms Tivana Chellan.

Fifth-year Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery student Ms Tivana Chellan (22) was shortlisted out of 200 nominees for the International Rising Star Award at the 2021 Safety and Health Excellence Awards interactive digital conference.

The Awards celebrate innovation and achievements in the health and safety sector with emphasis on the high standards of excellence and dedication.

Said Chellan: ‘I was very honoured to have represented UKZN and South Africa as the youngest ever shortlisted candidate. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions in place, the event was held digitally giving me global recognition!’

Her love for community service started before she enrolled to study Medicine at UKZN – she completed her schooling at Tongaat Secondary School which had limited resources and offered no extra-curricular activities, all of which motivated her to work hard at making a difference in her community.

Chellan and some of her high school teachers formed a Rotary Interact Club at Tongaat Secondary which helped her interact with the community through food drives, outreach programmes for the elderly and disabled, women empowerment programmes and youth upliftment.

‘It was then that I knew I wanted to make a real difference, I wanted a life of impact, so I decided to study Medicine and UKZN was the only university I applied to because I felt I belonged there,’ she said.

‘Being accepted was an absolute privilege – it has allowed me to serve others while at the same time allowing God to work through me.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied

Social Work lecturers Dr Thembelihle Makhanya and Dr Maud Mthembu have received awards from the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI). Makhanya won the runner-up award for the best emerging social work educator and Mthembu the award for the best researcher in 2021. The prize-giving ceremony was held at the Premier Hotel in Richards Bay as part of the ASASWEI 2021 conference.

‘To be chosen by ASASWEI as the runner-up for its Emerging Social Work Educator of the Year for 2021 award, suggests a positive direction to my career development. This is encouraging not only for me but for our students and emerging academics,’ said Makhanya.

‘The award means that my peers recognise the contribution of my research in developing innovative approaches to improve the lives of children, specifically in child protection and child counselling. These awards serve as one of the platforms that recognise the excellent work social workers do to improve the lives of the people through research, social work practice and social work education,’ said Mthembu.

Caption: Social Work lecturers Dr Thembelihle Makhanya (left) and Dr Maud Mthembu.

Social Work lecturers Dr Thembelihle Makhanya and Dr Maud Mthembu have received awards from the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI).

Makhanya won the runner-up award for the best emerging social work educator and Mthembu the award for the best researcher in 2021. The prize-giving ceremony was held at the Premier Hotel in Richards Bay as part of the ASASWEI 2021 conference.

A call was made by ASASWEI for Disciplines of Social Work in South Africa to nominate academics for awards in six categories. Relevant published articles, conference presentations and community involvement were considered in selecting the award-winners.

‘To be chosen by ASASWEI as the runner-up for its Emerging Social Work Educator of the Year for 2021 award, suggests a positive direction to my career development. This is encouraging not only for me but for our students and emerging academics,’ said Makhanya.

‘The award means that my peers recognise the contribution of my research in developing innovative approaches to improve the lives of children, specifically in child protection and child counselling. These awards serve as one of the platforms that recognise the excellent work social workers do to improve the lives of the people through research, social work practice and social work education,’ said Mthembu.

‘We must use our positions as social work students, practitioners, researchers and educators to bring a change in communities we serve and to advocate for the vulnerable.’

Makhanya’s research interests include teaching and learning in Higher Education; (de)coloniality and (de)colonialism; social work education; and fatherhood. She has produced a number of publications in local and international journals, and has also presented papers at international, national and regional conferences.

Makhanya, who offers her professional services to the Department of Correctional Services as a Victim-Offender Mediation Dialogue co-ordinator and facilitator, is a founder and a chairperson of an NGO Imbewu Youth Empowerment Centre, which addresses psychosocial issues faced by young people in the Ugu District.

She has received numerous accolades including the Working with the Disadvantaged Groups NIHSS Research Funding Award; being listed among 13 top young academics at UKZN in 2021, and an award for the best paper at the NIHSS 2019 conference.

Mthembu, a principal investigator for various international and local collaborative projects, published a children’s IsiZulu book this year on COVID-19 titled: Uhambo Lwami Ngesikhathi seKhovithi which aims to educate children about the pandemic and to help them share their experiences of the virus. Due to its popularity, the book has been translated into six languages including Sesotho, IsiXhosa and English.

Mthembu has received funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to create a short-animated movie partially based on the book. Her area of interest includes child protection, children’s rights and developing child-friendly counselling tools.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied

UKZN Law graduate Ms Amenda Makhetha is the new Group Head of Data Privacy at ABSA. She will lead the bank’s data privacy department, which ensures that the organisation processes personal data belonging to customers, employees and other stakeholders within the ambit of relevant privacy, data protection and other laws, amongst other things.

The attorney who graduated with her LLB in 2009, is well experienced in the field of data privacy as she was previously responsible for group data privacy compliance at MTN Group Ltd and prior to that headed the data privacy and compliance function at MiX Telematics Ltd. Makhetha said that her decision to pursue a career in law was motivated by her desire to serve as a voice for the voiceless.

Caption: Ms Amenda Makhetha.

UKZN Law graduate Ms Amenda Makhetha is the new Group Head of Data Privacy at ABSA. She will lead the bank’s data privacy department, which ensures that the organisation processes personal data belonging to customers, employees and other stakeholders within the ambit of relevant privacy, data protection and other laws, amongst other things.

‘I have been in the compliance space for a while, more particularly in the area of data privacy which is something I am passionate about. Privacy is a constitutionally entrenched right in South Africa and the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act gives effect to this right through mandatory procedures and mechanisms for the handling and processing of personal information,’ said Makhetha.

The attorney who graduated with her LLB in 2009, is well experienced in the field of data privacy as she was previously responsible for group data privacy compliance at MTN Group Ltd and prior to that headed the data privacy and compliance function at MiX Telematics Ltd.

Makhetha said that her decision to pursue a career in law was motivated by her desire to serve as a voice for the voiceless.

‘I completed my articles at Legal Aid South Africa where I was intent on changing the narrative around state-funded legal representation. It gave me a lot of exposure to hard-core criminal matters and highlighted just how pressured the justice system is. I represented clients wholeheartedly and with diligence,’ she said.

After passing her board exams, Makhetha joined a law firm before taking the decision to start her own firm.

‘I soon found my appetite for criminal litigation dwindling. After I passed my board exams I joined a law firm and later started my own practice exercising my entrepreneurial muscle. I enjoyed the autonomy that running your own practice comes with and it was quite demanding. A few years later, I decided to go into corporate after advice from my mentor. I have been in the compliance space since and more particularly in the Data Privacy space, another area I am quite passionate about. It is a growing field and poses many welcomed challenges that propel one to constantly grow themselves,’ said Makhetha.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

For the second time in over 100 years of its existence, Rhodes University hosted an exclusive graduation ceremony for Masters and Doctoral graduates. The virtual graduation was the fourth since lockdown measures were implemented, of the 216 degrees conferred, slightly over half (52%) were female graduates, and a quarter (25%) were international students. 

In this graduation, Rhodes University bestowed honorary doctorates to the legendary former SABC News Anchor, Ms Noxolo Grootboom and renowned infectious diseases epidemiologist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim. Ms Grootboom received the degree of Doctor of Letters (D Litt) (honoris causa), while Prof Abdool Karim received a degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) (honoris causa).

Ms Grootboom and Prof Abdool Karim are the seventh and eighth honorary doctorate recipients awarded by Rhodes University in its virtual graduation ceremonies for 2021.

Caption: Ms Noxolo Grootboom

For the second time in over 100 years of its existence, Rhodes University hosted an exclusive graduation ceremony for Masters and Doctoral graduates. The virtual graduation was the fourth since lockdown measures were implemented.

Of the 216 degrees conferred, slightly over half (52%) were female graduates, and a quarter (25%) were international students. 

Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela said: “The global COVID-19 pandemic has sadly robbed us of an opportunity to celebrate our students’ fine achievements with them in the conventional way we’ve always done in the past. This, however, does not in any way diminish the value and the significance of the important milestone in their academic pursuits. Our nation looks to the graduates of this great university to assure us that things will be fine again. My hope is that they place their knowledge, special skills and talents at the service of our society and humanity as we rebuild our devastated lives, destroyed economies and shattered dreams and hopes. On behalf of our Chancellor, the University Council, our Board of Governors and the entire Rhodes University community, I offer our warmest and proud congratulations to each of our graduands on their graduation.  Our heartfelt congratulations extend to their family, friends, guardians, and all those whose loving sacrifices, constant encouragement and unstinting support have sustained them throughout their years of postgraduate study at Rhodes University.”

In this graduation, Rhodes University bestowed honorary doctorates to the legendary former SABC News Anchor, Ms Noxolo Grootboom and renowned infectious diseases epidemiologist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim. Ms Grootboom received the degree of Doctor of Letters (D Litt) (honoris causa), while Prof Abdool Karim received a degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) (honoris causa).

Ms Grootboom and Prof Abdool Karim are the seventh and eighth honorary doctorate recipients awarded by Rhodes University in its virtual graduation ceremonies for 2021.

“We honour, salute and commend Ms Noxolo Grootboom and Prof Salim Abdool Karim for their outstanding contribution and dedicated service to our nation and humanity,” concluded Dr Mabizela.

Source: Rhodes University Communications

The competition, hosted by the University of Free State, provides a platform for PhD students to share their cutting-edge findings to an audience with no background in their research area in three minutes or less. “This is only the second year we have entered the competition, and both times we won first place. I think this says a lot about the research calibre of our students and the University as a whole,” said Professor Sioux McKenna, Director of the Centre for Postgraduate Studies. “At Rhodes University, we foreground the responsibility of producing knowledge as a contribution to the public good. Our studies must result in knowledge that can contribute to social justice and environmental sustainability and to the building of fields of study. The entries in this year’s competition demonstrated exactly this commitment,” Prof McKenna concluded.

Caption: Miss Siphokazi Msengana

Rhodes University’s Siphokazi Msengana won first place at the national #3MT competition, securing the University’s position at the top for the second year in a row.

After an internal judging event, hosted by the Centre for Postgraduate Studies (CPGS) and the Postgraduate Liaison Committee, two Rhodes University postgrads were identified to act as representatives for the national leg of the annual three-minute thesis (#3MT) competition.

The competition, hosted by the University of Free State, provides a platform for PhD students to share their cutting-edge findings to an audience with no background in their research area in three minutes or less.

“This is only the second year we have entered the competition, and both times we won first place. I think this says a lot about the research calibre of our students and the University as a whole,” said Professor Sioux McKenna, Director of the CPGS.

Overall national winner Siphokazi Msengana received a R15 000 cash prize for her engaging presentation on natural ways to control the cabbage pest, the diamondback moth. The financial and environmental costs of artificial insecticides are prohibitive, but there are effective alternatives available, which Msengana and others in the Entomology and Chemistry Departments are busy investigating.

Her stellar thesis presentation is available here.

According to Prof McKenna, public communication of science is particularly important in an era of fake news and anti-intellectualism. “So, opportunities to share our work with a broader audience are more important than ever,” she said.

Second-place internal winner and fellow Rhodes University representative at the national level, Marina Ngobeni, gave a thought-provoking thesis presentation on the impact of influencers’ credibility on purchase decisions. It can be viewed here.

“At Rhodes University, we foreground the responsibility of producing knowledge as a contribution to the public good. Our studies must result in knowledge that can contribute to social justice and environmental sustainability and to the building of fields of study. The entries in this year’s competition demonstrated exactly this commitment,” Prof McKenna concluded.

All the Rhodes University postgraduate entries are available at the CPGS YouTube channel at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/RU3MT2021

Source: Rhodes University Communications

An international team, led by Rhodes University Research Fellow, Dr Kenda Knowles, has just announced a comprehensive overview paper for the MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey (MGCLS), accompanied by the public release of a vast trove of curated data that astronomers worldwide can use to address a variety of challenging questions relating to the formation and evolution of galaxies throughout the universe.

Dr Mpati Ramatsoku, Research Fellow at Rhodes University, who also contributed to the paper, has been similarly impressed by the “sheer number of completely new and complex galaxy structures that have been revealed” by the data and how the survey “opens up a fresh perspective on how galaxies form, live and evolve”. “The Rhodes Centre for Radio Astronomy Techniques & Technologies has been immensely supportive and has provided all facilities which allowed us to make important contributions to this work,” Dr Ramatsoku explained.

An international team, led by Rhodes University Research Fellow, Dr Kenda Knowles, has just announced a comprehensive overview paper for the MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey (MGCLS), accompanied by the public release of a vast trove of curated data that astronomers worldwide can use to address a variety of challenging questions relating to the formation and evolution of galaxies throughout the universe.

Dr Mpati Ramatsoku, Research Fellow at Rhodes University, who also contributed to the paper, has been similarly impressed by the “sheer number of completely new and complex galaxy structures that have been revealed” by the data and how the survey “opens up a fresh perspective on how galaxies form, live and evolve”. “The Rhodes Centre for Radio Astronomy Techniques & Technologies has been immensely supportive and has provided all facilities which allowed us to make important contributions to this work,” Dr Ramatsoku explained.

The paper, “The MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey. I. Survey Overview and Highlights”, which has been accepted for publication in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal, presents some exciting and novel results.

“I’m very excited to see the impact MeerKAT can have in the global astronomy space and eager to see where the beautiful data will take us to better understand the many different components of our Universe,” said Dr Knowles, who is the lead author of the paper. “The complexity that is being revealed in radio galaxy structures, and how common this complexity actually seems to be, is very thrilling.”

Dr Mpati Ramatsoku, Research Fellow at Rhodes University, who also contributed to the paper, has been similarly impressed by the “sheer number of completely new and complex galaxy structures that have been revealed” by the data and how the survey “opens up a fresh perspective on how galaxies form, live and evolve”.

Using the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory’s MeerKAT telescope, located in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape province, this first observatory-led survey demonstrates MeerKAT’s exceptional strengths by producing highly detailed and sensitive images of the radio emission from 115 clusters of galaxies. The observations, amounting to approximately 1000 hours of telescope time, were done in the year following the inauguration of MeerKAT in 2018. 

More than two years of work followed to convert the raw data into radio images, using powerful computers, and to perform scientific analysis addressing a variety of topics.

“The Rhodes Centre for Radio Astronomy Techniques & Technologies has been immensely supportive and has provided all facilities which allowed us to make important contributions to this work,” Dr Ramatsoku explained. The force of gravity has filled the expanding universe with objects extending over an astounding range of sizes, from comets that are 10 km (one thirty-thousandth of a light-second) across, to clusters of galaxies that can span 10 million light-years.

These galaxy clusters are complex environments, host to thousands of galaxies, magnetic fields, and large regions – millions of light-years across – of extremely hot (millions of degrees) gas, electrons and protons moving close to the speed of light, and dark matter. Those ‘relativistic’ electrons, spiralling around the magnetic fields, produce the radio emission that MeerKAT can see. Thus MeerKAT, particularly when adding information from optical and infrared and X-ray telescopes, is exceptionally well-suited to studying the interplay between these components that determine the evolution of galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity.

We live in an ocean of air, but we can’t see it directly. However, if it’s filled with smoke or dust or water droplets, then suddenly we can see the gusts and swirls, whether they’re a gentle breeze or an approaching tornado. Similarly, the motions of the X-ray-glowing plasma in galaxy clusters are usually hidden from us. Radio emission from the sprinkling of relativistic electrons in this plasma can uncover the dramatic storms in clusters, stirred up when clusters collide with each other, or when jets of material spew out of supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies. The MGCLS paper presents more than 50 newly discovered such patches of emission. Some of them we can understand, and others remain a mystery, awaiting advances in our understanding of the physical behaviour of cluster plasmas.

Some examples are associated with the bright emission from so-called ‘radio galaxies,’ powered by the jets of supermassive black holes. Others are isolated features, illuminating winds and intergalactic shock waves in the surrounding plasma. Other types of science enriched by the MGCLS include the regulation of star formation in galaxies, the physical processes of jet interactions, the study of faint cooler hydrogen gas – the fuel of stars – in various environments, and yet unknown investigations to be facilitated by serendipitous discoveries.

The MGCLS has produced detailed images of the extremely faint radio sky while surveying a substantial volume of space. “That’s what’s already enabled us to serendipitously discover rare kinds of galaxies, interactions, and diffuse features of radio emission, many of them quite beautiful,” explained Dr Knowles. But this is only the beginning.

“MeerKAT is making massive contributions to radio astronomy, but we have lots still to do. Data like this provides a lot of scope for training up the next generation of South African astronomers,” she said.

Several additional studies delving more deeply into some of the initial discoveries are already underway by members of the MGCLS team. Beyond that, the richness of the science resulting from the MGCLS is expected to grow over the coming years, as astronomers worldwide download the data from the SARAO MeerKAT archive and probe it to answer their questions.

The Paper: 

K. Knowles et al., “The MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey. I. Survey Overview and Highlights”, accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The Collaboration: 

MeerKAT was conceived, designed, and built over 15 years through the dedicated effort of hundreds of people in South African research organisations, industry, universities, and government. Some 100 of these colleagues that built, operate and maintain MeerKAT are co-authors of the MGCLS paper. 

A team of 40 South African and international scientists was involved in the detailed analysis presented in the paper and associated data release. They represent 19 institutions, including 10 in South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal, Rhodes University, South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, North-West University, University of the Western Cape, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy; US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, University of Minnesota, Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, York University, University of Hamburg, University of Nigeria, US Naval Research Laboratory, University of Bonn, Sapienza University of Rome.

The Telescope and Observatory:

The MeerKAT telescope is operated by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, a facility of the National Research Foundation, an agency of the Department of Science and Innovation.

Source:  Rhodes University Communications

On Wednesday, 20 October 2021, Rhodes University launched the African Water Resources Mobility Network (AWaRMN), a five-year multi-partner project funded by the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme of the European Union (Agreement N° 2019-1973/4 – Project N° 614587). The network is set to address the pressing water-related challenges faced by the African continent, through cooperation in higher education.

These pressing needs will be addressed through:

  1. A transdisciplinary, socially-engaged training embedded in existing programmes within partner institutions, ensuring increases in the numbers of highly qualified and competent (MSc and PhD) graduates in the field of water resources in Africa.
  2. Developing and harmonising programmes and curricula, with a particular emphasis on disciplinary excellence and transdisciplinary capability.
  3. Building and sustaining teaching and research capabilities among partner institutions.
  4. Designing and implementing research programmes based on collaboration and cooperation during, and beyond, the AWaRMN funding.
  5. Facilitating student and staff mobility to promote multiculturalism and internationalisation among African institutions of higher learning.
  6. Contributing to innovation and water technologies that advance social-economic development of Africa.
  7. Addressing the professional career development and employability of graduates by creating a direct interface between AWaRMN and industry partners.

One of the aims of the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme of the European Union is to support student and staff mobility in Africa. The overall objective of the programme is to enhance human capital development in Africa, while strengthening intra-African cooperation in higher education as called by the agenda 2063 of the African Union. AWaRMN is in partnership with six universities, including Rhodes University, Federal University of Technology, Minna (Nigeria), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Kinshasa (DRC), National Higher School of Hydraulics (Algeria), and Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands). )

The launch included panel discussions and presentations by various stakeholders partners, namely: Uganda’s Minister of State for Higher Education, Dr John Chrysestom Muyingo; Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande (represented by Dr Mmampei Chaba: Chief Director Multilateral Cooperation and Africa); International Aid/Cooperation Officer, Regional and Multi-country programme for Africa, Directorate General for International Partnership European Commission, Ms Eleonora Martinello; Rhodes University Vice Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela; Federal University of Technology (Minna) Vice-Chancellor, Prof Abdullahi Bala; Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe (represented by Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, Director of Graduate Research and Training);  Higher School of Hydraulics Rector, Dr Hebbouche Abdelhamid; and the Dean of Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Prof Aukje Hassoldt (represented by Prof Jill Slinger).

Dr Mabizela welcomed all attendees and partner institutions, with special appreciation to distinguished guests, ministers, government representatives, Vice Chancellors and Deans of partner institutions of higher learning, and the representatives of the funding agencies. He opened with words of gratitude and appreciation for the institution hosting the virtual launch, saying: “Our institution is inordinately honoured and privileged to serve as a coordinating institution for this important continental initiative”.

Dr Mabizela indicated that such networks are central to the development of the African continent. He said through this initiative, higher education institutions and the continent will be able to develop the much-needed capacity and capability to respond to the real challenge of water on the African continent. Acknowledging and commending the programme aim, Dr Mabizela said such initiatives have the potential to inspire and deepen cooperation and collaboration between and among institutions of higher learning. He mentioned that the success of this initiative would be through supportive government policy in the home countries of all partner institutions.

AWaRMN Coordinator at Rhodes University, Professor Nelson Odume, introduced the objectives of the programme and how it aims to respond to the pressing water challenges faced by Africa. He said one of the critical and possible ways to achieve the goals of the initiative was through sharing ideas on how different countries on the continent are responding to challenges and “to facilitate intra-Africa mobility in the field of water resources to promote knowledge exchange, multiculturalism, and internalisation”.  

One of the panel discussion topics was “the contribution of the Intra-Africa Academic mobility scheme to Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Chief Director Multilateral Cooperation and Africa, Ms Mmampei Chaba, said it was important for developing countries to put their efforts together to support water research and innovation activities and build their own capacity to manage water resources. Another topic which was discussed was “the benefits and challenges of Intra-African Academic Mobility to Internationalisation and water research”. The discussion highlighted possible economic and academic benefits, identifying potential solutions to enhance capability for the betterment of the continent. Prof Bala indicated that the network assists in strengthening research capability across the world.  

Dr Mabizela encouraged unity between African scholars and proposed that African universities should develop their own knowledge and share among other African universities. Addressing the effects of colonisation, he suggested that the African continent should develop its own human capability. The diverse representatives identified and tackled challenging issues of poor connectivity of the application systems, visas, impediments of diverse language, culture shock, and difficulties in transferring credits among others. Prof Slinger acknowledged the role that the European Union (EU) mobility framework has played in developing research competence in Europe and internationally, and called on the African partners to institutionalise procedures supportive of student and staff mobility within their universities. 

The conference attendees agreed to use cooperative and collaborative means between the partner institutions to combat the pressing challenge of water resources and to create a better and sustainable African continent.

By Zindzi Nkunzi Source: Rhodes University Communications

SASUF 2030 is a transformative project uniting 38 universities from across Sweden and South Africa. Bringing together leading researchers, teachers, students, university leaders and other stakeholders, the project will develop joint solutions to the challenges posed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030.

“SASUF ran as a joint collaboration project from 2018 to 2020. We are very pleased that the project has been granted further funding by STINT until 2024

“SASUF ran as a joint collaboration project from 2018 to 2020. We are very pleased that the project has been granted further funding by STINT until 2024. This phase will have a close connection to the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. We are now embarking on the second phase of collaboration between Sweden and South Africa: SASUF 2030!

SASUF 2030 is a transformative project uniting 38 universities from across Sweden and South Africa. Bringing together leading researchers, teachers, students, university leaders and other stakeholders, the project will develop joint solutions to the challenges posed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030. With the momentum built between Sweden and South Africa over the past few years, SASUF 2030 will pilot new and innovative ways of working with strategic internationalisation. In addition to the broad spectrum of activities already successfully proven in our initial collaboration between 2018-2020, SASUF 2030 will introduce a range of new tools such as grants to develop virtual exchange, the inclusion of students in all aspects of the partnership and a new, interactive format for bilateral research seminars.

The first phase of SASUF resulted in more than 70 collaborative projects with researchers and teachers. We hope to build on this with a new and highlighted focus on student participation. The SASUF Student Network consists of more than 900 students from Sweden and South Africa.  All SASUF partner Universities are encouraged to elect one student representant for the SASUF Student Network, and to have a close connection in the work between the University Management representative and the Student Representative within SASUF.

The UN has called for a “Decade of Action”, and we believe that we can take big steps forward by working multilaterally rather than unilaterally.”

In 2021 the 23rd annual conference was held online from 25 to 27 August 2021, under the theme: Internationalisation, Inclusion and Social Justice – Towards a Fairer World.

The 23rd annual IEASA conference brought together leaders, experts, researchers, educators, academics, practitioners, students and innovators interested in international higher education who shared thoughts, research findings, lived experiences and best practice examples. Sessions and poster presentations at the conference offered a wide variety of engagements and discussions, such as:

  • Reimagining, reframing and redefining higher education internationalisation and international collaborations and partnerships that genuinely promote social justice and inclusion for all;
  • Critical engagement about the need to decolonise internationalisation in South Africa;
  • New approaches to internationalisation in South Africa that would see more engagement and collaboration between country’s higher education institutions;
    Engagement on whether virtual mobility can lead to more inclusion in internationalisation;
    Funding opportunities for internationalisation and international collaboration;
  • Student perspectives on internationalisation, inclusion and social justice in South Africa and beyond.

The link to the conference programme may be found here: https://ieasa-conference.studysa.org/programme/

Dr Chasi also wrote an article entitled “Can internationalization promote inclusion, social justice” as scene setter for the 2021 IEASA Conference in the University World News Africa Edition, 22 July 2021. The article is available at: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20210720122624741.

During the first two days of the conference, we saw senior panel discussions and many excellent parallels sessions. As is the norm for IEASA Conferences, the level of engagement was world class with inputs from the national Internationalisation sector and members of our sister organisations globally.

We included some members reflections on specific aspects of the conference below:

Decolonising the Human: Reflections from Africa on Difference and Oppression

The 23rd annual IEASA conference hosted a book discussion about the book Decolonising the Human: Reflections from Africa on Difference and Oppression with book editors, Dr William Mpofu and Prof Melissa Steyn, and one of the chapter authors, Prof Morgan Ndlovu. Decolonising the Human is an important transdisciplinary book that offers perspectives on colonialism, colonially, decolonisation and the idea of ‘the human’ in a highly complex, unequal and unjust world. As the 2021 IEASA conference focused on internationalisation practices, approaches, definitions, challenges and new possibilities in the quest for a fairer world, this book is an excellent reference as we begin to think critically how internationalisation and higher education in South Africa and elsewhere need to transform in order to meaningfully contribute to inclusion and social justice for a fairer world.

The 23rd annual IEASA conference hosted a book discussion about the book Decolonising the Human: Reflections from Africa on Difference and Oppression with book editors, Dr William Mpofu and Prof Melissa Steyn, and one of the chapter authors, Prof Morgan Ndlovu. Decolonising the Human is an important transdisciplinary book that offers perspectives on colonialism, colonially, decolonisation and the idea of ‘the human’ in a highly complex, unequal and unjust world. As the 2021 IEASA conference focused on internationalisation practices, approaches, definitions, challenges and new possibilities in the quest for a fairer world, this book is an excellent reference as we begin to think critically how internationalisation and higher education in South Africa and elsewhere need to transform in order to meaningfully contribute to inclusion and social justice for a fairer world.

University World News published an article about the book discussion. 

Book on decolonisation reflects on difference, oppression. By Wachira Kigotho, University World News, 02 September 2021. Link: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20210831141812739

Rethinking and redefining internationalisation of higher education in South Africa

Dr Savo Heleta

During the 23rd annual IEASA conference, Dr Samia Chasi and Dr Savo Heleta presented a session on rethinking internationalisation of higher education in South Africa. This session responded to IEASA’s call to reimagine and redefine higher education internationalisation in the context of the global South. The session tackled the Northern hegemony from the South African perspective and with particular reference to how the concept of internationalisation is generally understood. The presenters argued that in the South African context, both in reference to the country’s history of colonialism and apartheid as well as to contemporary issues of inequality, exclusion, coloniality and racism, the dominant Western definitions do not adequately reflect the realities, needs and conditions of internationalisation at the country’s universities. It requires further unpacking, reimagining and reorientation. As part of the presentation, Dr Chasi and Dr Heleta presented their own working definition of internationalisation in South Africa. This definition is still work in progress, and they are finalising a paper that will provide detailed background and justification for their proposed definition. 

During the 23rd annual IEASA conference, Dr Samia Chasi and Dr Savo Heleta presented a session on rethinking internationalisation of higher education in South Africa. This session responded to IEASA’s call to reimagine and redefine higher education internationalisation in the context of the global South. The session tackled the Northern hegemony from the South African perspective and with particular reference to how the concept of internationalisation is generally understood. The presenters argued that in the South African context, both in reference to the country’s history of colonialism and apartheid as well as to contemporary issues of inequality, exclusion, coloniality and racism, the dominant Western definitions do not adequately reflect the realities, needs and conditions of internationalisation at the country’s universities. It requires further unpacking, reimagining and reorientation. As part of the presentation, Dr Chasi and Dr Heleta presented their own working definition of internationalisation in South Africa. This definition is still work in progress, and they are finalising a paper that will provide detailed background and justification for their proposed definition. 

This session was mentioned in University World News article about the conference: 

Internationalisation has to promote inclusion, social justice. By Wachira Kigotho, University World News, 26 August 2021. Link: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20210825182327702 

Student Roundtable on Internationalisation, Inclusion and Social Justice towards a fairer world.

Dingaan Booi

Day two of the 23rd annual IEASA conference opened with a Student Roundtable Discussion. The discussion was themed Internationalisation, Inclusion and Social Justice – Towards a Fairer World. The chair of the session, Mr Jerome September, the Director of Student Affairs, the University of the Witwatersrand, started by introducing the panellists and contextualising the discussion. The panel consisted of; Buntu Mnyaka representing Nelson Mandela University, Taonga Phiri representing Rhodes University, Simone Thomas representing the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Mats’olo Seloanyane representing the University of the Witwatersrand. The discussion panel had a good mix of local and international students ranging from undergraduate to PhD level.    

Mr Mnyaka started this discussion and mainly dealt with the following key issues: Potential vs Excellence; what does Internationalisation mean to the ordinary student? What type of global society do we want to create? The speaker went on to probe the meaning of opportunity and access in the context of inclusion and creating a fairer world. The speaker mentioned that they would engage in the practical application of the philosophy of Ubuntu. Mr Mnyaka was asserting that Internationalisation should be viewed through the lens of Ubuntu.

Ms Phiri spoke from a student leader perspective. The speaker acknowledged that the definition of Internationalisation contained an element of multiculturalism. The speaker used the Rhodes University model as a point of reference to discuss the topic. The speaker raised the issue of student apathy within Rhodes context towards projects that promoted Internationalisation and an unwillingness by the student bodies to engage with platforms organised by student leaders. The speaker critiqued the university’s role in contributing towards student apathy and argued that the University authority needed to take a leading role in pushing Internationalisation in the same way that research, teaching and learning, and community engagement are prioritised. Ms Phiri stated that the student body had not understood the role and function of the International Office within the Rhodes University model. They argued that there is a need to focus first on Internationalisation at home and then the external-facing aspects at a student body level. They went on to say that local students had a role to play in Internationalisation, stating that Internationalisation was a group project and not just for international students. Local students and international students have a role to play so that everyone is held accountable for Internationalisation.

Ms Thomas was the third speaker and stated that currently, the word diversity is a buzzword. The speaker highlighted that global organisations have diversity clauses or diversity policies but questioned whether these are implemented. The speaker also raised that an element of Internationalisation involved access. They used personal lived experiences to illustrate how access to university was a challenge. They agreed with the second speaker that Internationalisation was indeed a group effort. In their conclusion, the speaker stated that at the heart of social justice and inclusion was a sense of belonging. Ms Thomas concluded with an analogy that ‘diversity is inviting someone to the dance, whereas inclusion allows them to dance their dance and to their beat’.  

Ms Seloanyane spoke about the challenges faced by international students. She highlighted how the COVID pandemic exposed that international students face difficulties that are vastly different to those of local students, including but not limited to how the Universities prioritised local students over international students. They mentioned that international students faced difficulty with the Study Permit process and noted how being an international student in South Africa was a lonely experience. Further stating that there was a lack of support from the Universities. The speaker spoke about the need for Universities to play a more supportive role in assisting international students looking at a bottom-up approach, where decision-makers are aware and in touch with the reality ‘on the ground’.

Mr September then facilitated a broader discussion based on the inputs given. During this discussion segment, it was raised that there was a need to discuss ‘who gets opportunities when we talk about Internationalisation’, the need to look at the future of Internationalisation. Some time was spent looking at key questions around the ‘group project’ notion, looking at matters of accountability and international offices’ role in our higher education institutions. In terms of inclusivity, a discussion was had on how online learning directly and negatively impacted international students. One participant emphasised that Internationalisation should be given more recognition within institutions of higher learning. Two essential questions were raised: How do we create a sense of belonging? Followed by how do we move beyond “them vs us” thinking in higher educational institutions? 

In concluding remakes, Ms Thomas stated that language had a role in creating a sense of belonging. The speaker used a personal experience to illustrate the importance of adapting to the COVID online context through language. A sense of belonging can be achieved by accommodating various languages and breaking away from the stigma that English is the supreme language or denotes intelligence.

Mr Mnyaka stated there is a need to reimagine the concept of home and said that there is a need to stop creating isolation space. There is a need to create spaces of inclusion and look at how we deal with international students.

Ms Phiri stated that there is a need to be more sensitive towards each other. They said language plays a role in creating barriers, and there is a need to accommodate international students that do not speak local languages. The speaker stated that COVID-19 showed that international students were not accommodated, especially when they incurred extra expenses that the university did not assist with; this further created a “them vs us”.

Ms Seloanyane stated that policymakers would need to be on the ground and assist international students in South Africa.

Mr September concluded the Student Roundtable Discussion by highlighting the aforementioned key inputs and points of discussion and finally thanking IEASA, conference participants, and the student panellists. 

Source Dingaan Booi