INTERVIEW Epigenetics and the In-Utero Environment, Adopt a School Projects, Space Week and Hydroponics. Is the environment a concern for researchers? We have various departments that participate in environmental wellness. The Department of Biodiversity researches on several issues, including riverine health which relates to a system of inland wetlands and deep-water habitats. They are also studying the effects of pollution on the health of aquatic life or fresh-water fish. We are succeeding in our research to make sure that we use extracts from indigenous plants as pesticides. Is climate change on the UL agenda? We host a Risk and Vulnerability Science Centre for Limpopo Province. Here we gather data on climate change and feed into the national atlas. How is UL’s collaboration with private and public partners progressing in agriculture? The Nguni Cattle Project is aimed at empowering rural small-scale livestock farmers and serves as a model for poverty reduction, promotion of economic growth, engagement with and development of rural communities. During 2019/20, the university further developed and implemented a formal training programme for emerging farmers to be trained in relevant business management skills. How do you help students adjust to university? We realised that some students came to the university underprepared, requiring additional assistance. We introduced them to a foundation programme in the sciences. The programme was conceived and delivered without any grant from the government and only survived through external funding. Donors such as the European Union ensured that the programme survived and delivered, and today, in the form of an Extended Curriculum Programme (ECP), it has become a tool to identify students with potential, with everybody in the sector pushing in the direction we took almost three decades ago. How does UL contribute to community health? We are not a rural university, but a responsive university in a rural setting. Certain issues like disease and the health of the population are often
neglected because they are not understood. For the last 22 years, we have had a population health study. There has been an increase in diabetes among the rural p o p u l a t i o n . We visit these households annually and conduct surveys. What has been the impact of the DIMAMO Population Health Research Big Walk Centre? We started in 2019 with a population of 40 000 and now we are at 100 000 at Dikgale and Mamabolo villages. We have included other communities as well. Every year we collect data with the same group of people to uncover any new developments. We also try to improve the lives of the people and lobby others to provide a solution. What measures are in place on campus for students with disabilities? As a caring institution that recognises that students with disabilities should enjoy the same rights as any other student, we have put measures in place to promote the quality of these students’ education and lives. A dedicated centre called the Reakgona Disability Centre, which is armed with a host of devices that help the disabled community, has been splendidly making the university experience liveable for students with disabilities. What other assistance is there for students? UL has introduced the Baditi Student Support Programme where senior students groom new students. The Sepedi name Baditi is derived from the African initiation school tradition and refers to graduates who train their successors. The mandate is to look after and mentor new students who have just enrolled so that they don’t get lost or discouraged. In addition, a programme targeted at female academics, University of Limpopo Women’s Academic Solidarity Association (ULWASA), encourages aspiring female researchers to gain support from senior female academics.
LIMPOPO BUSINESS 2020/21