Port Elizabeth – Nelson Mandela University Business school which is hosting the DST-NRF Centres of Excellence(CoE) Annual Directors Forum, kicked off the first day of the sessions with a warm and informative welcoming speech from National Research Fund deputy CEO Gansen Pillay. He stressed to the students who were in attendance the importance of being hungry for knowledge that is being given, he also spoke about the partnership between the university and NRF.
Deputy Vice Chancellor(DVC), Research and Engagement, NMU, Prof Andrew Leitch, spoke about how we are the largest university in South Africa even though we are the poorest province in the Country. He expressed that because we are situated closest to sea, we have the resources to have marine biology and sciences. He also spoke about how the university will be launching the marine sciences and biology campus.
“Although it is in port Elizabeth, it is not only for NMU students but for the rest of the country as well who have the hunger for marine and ocean sciences”
The motivational talks that were had were centred around “Shaping South Africa’s future scientists – creating Science and Technology solutions for societal benefit”. Dr Phil Mjwara’s speech focused on how imperative research is in our society as to know what can be done to improve the way of living, also being aware of what we must not do as to avoid harming the eco-system.
He mentioned programmes that are targeted at young learners who are interested in science, and to provide them with opportunities within the space, such as the Science Olympiad.
“We need students, so please study beyond matric and your undergrad, but mainly do not be afraid because you can benefit the future”
The concluding speaker was Prof. Quarraisha Abdool Karim who communicated, how in research we as Africans contribute to knowledge but how we do not lead knowledge. She elaborated that some of the problems that we experience are only unique to Africa, so we need to lead as to avoid stagnation. For instance, the current HIV epidemic that Africa is facing.
“We are seeing more people die of HIV more than pre-ARV availability, Africa has 70% of all people with HIV with South Africa leading with 19%” Karim said.
She also further expressed that even though we have a lot of HIV prevention methods and we have made great progress on HIV treatment, we are still lagging in prevention globally, and that the methods have not done much to curb these statistics. Part of her speech showcased how women have 4 times more infections than men, especially from young women. Prevalence of HIV in young women in South Africa is higher as compared to their male counterparts all around HIV prevalent countries
“Young women under the age of 25 years are getting infected by men who are 25-40 years age, men who tend to be 8 years and older than young girls”
Even though by age 16 girls do not contract HIV they face teen pregnancy which then makes them to drop out of school which decrease chances of financial independency that lead them to depend on older men, ultimately if they did not have HIV, this leads them to acquire the disease.
She summed up her speech by saying that the vicious cycle of HIV will not end until people not only practise safe sex methods, but also for older men to rise up and say not in my name as to put an end on how the disease is spread.