Somali Minister and his delegation visit VUT
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Somali Minister and his delegation visit VUT

VUT and Somali delegation

Kediemetse Mokotsi

Minister Abdullahi Godah Barre, Somali Minister of Education, Culture and Higher Education visited the Vaal University of Technology (VUT), Vanderbijlpark Campus on 22 February.  He was accompanied by Prof Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, Somali National University (SNU) Rector; Ambassador Jamal Mohamed Barrow of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Somalia in South Africa, Maria Ahmed Afrah, his secretary and Mr Abdi H Hirsi, Cultural Attaché.

In his welcoming speech, Prof Gordon Zide, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of VUT reiterated the theme “the audacity and tenacity of the unshakable hope” on which he had based the 2019 academic opening address on Friday, 8 February.  He said the purpose of the day was motivated by the need to find ways and means of developing the African continent together as institutions of higher learning.

The visit by the Somali Ministry was the outcome of numerous visits undertaken by the VUT delegation to Somalia with the support of two Vice-Chancellors (Prof Irene Moutlana and Prof Zide) who undertook to make discussions a reality.

Prof Jimale expressed appreciation for the warm welcome by Prof Zide and the University delegation and the support of the South African Department of Higher Education and Training which facilitated their visits during their one-week stay in South Africa.  The support came at a time when Somalia was perceived to be a no-go area.  He reminded the meeting that Somalia was disconnected from the world due to the civil war that ravaged the country 20 years ago and which led to a high rate of unemployment.  This remains a challenge since there is now a shortage of necessary skills to take the country forward.

VUT, therefore, has had a vital role in empowering the youth of Somalia as they are able to take what they learn here back home to uplift the Somali education system and plough back into their own families and communities.

Minister Barre expressed appreciation to VUT for extending love to Somalia by being the first university to offer scholarships to students from their country.  VUT is currently hosting five Somali lecturers in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology. They are the first beneficiaries of an exchange programme between SNU and VUT. He mentioned that they have been following politics in South Africa and the region and are of the view that South Africa will never let Somali down when they are in need: “Thank you South Africa and VUT,” he concluded.

Both Universities have agreed to take the partnership forward through the following niche areas:

  • Water and Environment, inter alia:
  • Water-sensitive design
  • Solid waste management
  • Water resource management
  • Pollution control and remediation
  • Transportation Engineering, inter alia:
  • Transportation modes and infrastructure
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Structural Engineering, inter alia:
  • Low-cost modernisation of structures
  • Construction and smart materials
  • Green building
  • Construction Management and Complementary Studies
  • Renewable energy e.g. Solar energy
  • Teaching: technical/engineering education
  • Nursing
  • Computer Systems
  • ICT

In closing, Mr TT Hlapolosa, Chairperson of the VUT Council, assured the Minister and his delegation that he will follow up with the office of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal to ensure that implementation does take place, to make the words “VUT first” a reality. He thanked them for choosing VUT. “Let VUT continue to lead in the next coming few years,” he said.

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of UNISA

The visit to VUT was preceded by the Somali Cultural Show which was hosted by the University of South Africa (UNISA) in partnership with Ambassador Barrow on Thursday, 21 February.  Prof Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of UNISA made mention of the passion of both UNISA and VUT in linking with African countries.

VUT Department of Health Sciences held a research seminar for students who are part of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programme
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Research should disrupt existing knowledge

Pictured from left front row: Mrs Christa van Wyk (Health Sciences), Dr Christa Grobler (HOD: Health Sciences), Professor Kuzvinetsa Dvzimbo (DVC: Academic and Research)

From left back:  Dr Abdul Egal (Moderator), Dr Michael Hewetson (moderator)

VUT Department of Health Sciences held a research seminar for students who are part of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programme and those who are doing their BTech degree.  The seminar took place at the Vanderbijlpark Campus on 10 December.

Students presented posters as part of their research work in front of a panel of academic evaluators and peers. Students won cash prizes for their best poster presentations.  Winners of the best posters in different categories are listed as follows:

WORK INTEGRATED LEARNING (WIL) Best Poster Award Winners
1st Place – Molete M.T.M
2nd Place – Motsienyana N.E.
3rd Place – Masilela M.B.

BTECH Award Winners
Best Oral Presentation – Mafalo K.P
Best Poster – Setjeo I.R
Welcoming the delegates to the seminar, HOD Department of Health Sciences, Dr Christa Grobler said that it was a very special day for the Health Sciences Department. “For the first time ever VUT received HPCSA accreditation to offer a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Point seminar. Staff, students and industry partners will be able to obtain five credit points at the end of this seminar,”  She thanked Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and Research, Professor Kuzvinetsa Dzvimbo and the moderator Dr Michael Hewetson as well as other evaluators for their continued support.

Advising students on the purpose and importance of doing postgraduate degree, Prof Dzvimbo said that it needed commitment and it meant one was entering a world of academia to become a scholar. “Doing a postgraduate degree means you are beginning to focus on a very narrow field in your area.  You go deeper into that subject,” he said.

He told students that this is “an opportunity to innovate and go deeper into your passion”.  He further urged students to be passionate in all they do, because without passion one cannot succeed. “Make sure you excel in what you do.”

He said postgraduate studies provide an opportunity to dream about the impossible and find solutions to the problems. Stating that it takes hard work to be a good researcher.  It means spending most of your time in the laboratory and library.  Professor Dzvimbo expressed his envy for the students of today, because they have easy access to advanced technology which makes it possible for them to connect and interact with peers across the globe.   He told students to attend conferences, share knowledge and harvest expertise from peers around the world.  He assured the students that nothing can stop them from tuning their poster into a research paper and later to have it published as a chapter in a book.  “We need people who are thirsty for new knowledge.  You must be able to disrupt existing knowledge with your work, development of new knowledge is only possible through postgraduate studies. Invent new things that change and impact people’s lives,” he said.

Senior lecturer and researcher at the University of Pretoria, Dr Michael Hewetson presented his model research study on stomach ulcers in horses, entitled: ‘Sucrose was my passport’. In his study he developed a cheaper way to test stomach ulcers in horses compared to the existing gastro camera which is costly.

Dr Hewetson is a veterinary physician and approved VUT moderator in Health Sciences.  He said research enables one to spread your wings globally and meet wonderful people, adding that it provides a possibility of opportunities.

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