The discipline of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (EECE) recently joined in the celebration of the Centre of Radio Access & Rural Technologies (CRART) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College.
On Friday 26th August 2022, the CRART Centre held a six-hour programme to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Telkom Centre of Excellence in 1997. Those invited for the programme included: The School of Engineering Management Committee (SMC) led by the Dean, Professor Glen Bright, members of the CRART academic staff, staff from the School of Engineering’s Higher Degrees Office, postgraduate students within the EECE Discipline, and final year students in EECE who potentially could join the CRART postgraduate programmes in 2023.
More than 20 undergraduate students attended the event. There were speeches by EECE Academic Leader Prof Tom Walingo, Prof Bright, Academic Leader for Teaching and Learning Prof Jules Tapamo, Academic Leader for Research and Higher Degrees Prof Akshay Saha; School Operations Manager Mr Ronal Thakurpersad, and incoming Head of CRART, Prof Hongjun Xu.
Saha highlighted how CRART had shaped students in producing quality research, whilst words of appreciation were shared to mark Prof Thomas Afullo’s farewell. ‘You brought a colourful character and I walk in your shadow,’ said Bright.
The Centre of Radio Access & Rural Technologies is sponsored by Telkom South Africa, Alcatel Lucent and now Nokia. It was established in the School of Engineering in 1998.
‘We had Radio Access at the University of Durban-Westville (UDW), now known as the University of KwaZulu-Natal Westville Campus, and Rural Technology at Natal University (NU), now known as Howard College, but these two centres were combined in 2009,’ said Afullo.
CRART has enabled many postgraduate students to produce quality papers and has equipped them with the high skill levels needed for industry.
‘CRART aimed to produce skilled people for the telecommunications sector,’ explained Afullo. ‘Telkom came up with the concept of a Centre of Excellence that would develop programmes at the postgraduate level, as this would produce skills relevant to the growing telecommunications industry.’
Approximately 180 full-time postgraduate students have benefited from this programme. ‘Telkom provides generous research funding annually,’ said Afullo.
Afullo urged undergraduates to join the CRART Centre for postgraduate studies as it would give them a platform to test their work with peer groups and receive input from fellow students. MSc and PhD bursaries were available. ‘The target should be 10 new South African students per year,’ he said.
Each of the 14 CRART academic staff was given a chance to highlight their research area, so that undergraduate students could be exposed to the plethora of choices available.
After the presentations, all attendees were invited to refreshments courtesy of the CRART.
Words: Wendy Mngadi