A research partnership recently signed by the Moses Kotane Institute (MKI) and UKZN is based on research, innovation and maritime as a strategy to contribute to the economic development of KwaZulu-Natal.
This is underpinned by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) found across all Colleges of the University.
Professor Bala Pillay of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science welcomed guests at the signing ceremony and reflected on Moses Kotane as a struggle icon who always had a strong sense of economic freedom through education and training in STEM as disciplines necessary to attain that freedom.
Pillay thanked the MKI and its board members for having faith in the programme and their confidence in supporting the University and its students. ‘We have a common end goal of students’ success and training students for relevance in the workplace and society,’ he said.
Corporate Services Executive Manager for MKI Advocate Thembelihle Mapipa thanked UKZN for partnering with MKI (mainly on research and innovation) and reflected on the number of postgraduate students MKI has supported through bursaries. ‘We’ve injected a lot of government funds into empowering students from this Institution and other institutions across South Africa, and look forward to further engagements,’ said Mapipa.
Professor Manoj Maharaj of UKZN’s Discipline of Information Systems and Technology and an MKI Board member highlighted the importance of the new MKI mandate to focus on research and commented on the long-standing relationship between the two institutions, saying he looked forward to further collaboration between the University and MKI. ‘We’re not just handing out bursaries anymore but partnering in research collaborations that drive a research agenda for the province. Positioned as a primary Institute for research with the provincial government, STEM is our crux and that’s why we’re focused on these Colleges because that is our mandate,’ said Maharaj.
UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Professor Deresh Ramjugernath highlighted the synergy between the University’s strategic plan that focuses on research excellence through relevance and socio-economic impact and the provincial government’s mandate for institutions to provide research that had a socio-economic impact. ‘The country needs a well-rounded graduate, someone who also has the softer skills required for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and that’s what we are hoping to achieve with this partnership,’ said Ramjugernath. ‘This requires complementary supervision of students, with each institution imparting skill sets and moulding a new type of graduate that understands that their purpose isn’t just to get a qualification but to better the lives of South Africans through socio-economic impact.’
MKI’s Head of Research Dr Simphiwe Buthelezi said she was very pleased the partnership had been finalised. Buthelezi highlighted programmes that MKI had in place to assist bursary beneficiaries such as the Experiential Learning Programme for PhD students and Internship Programme for graduates – programmes developed to assist students gain relevant industry experience and for bursary holders collate primary data for the province.
She thanked the MKI and UKZN representatives, especially Ramjugernath and Pillay, for their unwavering support in ensuring that this partnership had come to fruition.
‘We hope the partnership won’t amount to just a piece of paper but really provide an impact. We know that by collaborating there’s so much we can achieve in working towards this mutual goal of assisting the province,’ said Buthelezi.
Words: Hlengiwe Precious Khwela
Photograph: Albert Hirasen