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DUT HOSTS THE COLLOQUIUM ON COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND ENGAGED RESEARCH


The office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Innovation and Engagement (DVC RIE) in collaboration with the DUT’s Engagement Committee hosted the DUT Engagement Colloquium 2022 on a Hybrid Platform on 18 August 2022.


The colloquium was an opportunity for engagement practitioners from across the DUT community to share their experiences and views on engagement. The colloquium consisted of two broad themes, namely “Community Engagement” and “Engaged Research”. DUT Staff, students, and alumni were given the chance to showcase engagement projects and initiatives that they had started. Furthermore, the colloquium also consisted of an audience equally versed in community engagement initiatives, who were encouraged to engage with the speakers by sharing ideas and questions.


Professor Sibusiso Moyo, DVC RIE and Chairperson of the Engagement Committee opened the event with an insightful welcome. Sharing the significance of the event, Professor Moyo stated, “The colloquium encourages productive and critical reflection on the approach DUT has taken to support engagement and asks the participants and presenters to join the Engagement Committee in shaping support for future engagement work at DUT.“ Professor Moyo also spoke of the power of engagement, highlighting how it can shape and change the lives and perspectives of all those who are actively involved, “Community Engagement for me plays a big role in terms of really transforming not just the behaviour, but even the types of initiatives and the types of research that we engage in.”


Speaking on the importance of collaboration and the sharing of our work, Prof Moyo emphasised the use and promotion of the Engagement Application, a mobile application designed by a DUT Master’s student, Fanie Ndlovu, and a team of other IT students. The mobile application allows all those in the DUT community who are actively involved in an engagement to share their engagement projects and activities.


“This not only eases the reporting process of engagement activities but also creates a great platform for colleagues to learn about each other’s work and create opportunities for collaboration. The app can be accessed at http://www.dutengaged.co.za/,” she said.

The event was directed and facilitated by Dr Kira Erwin, Senior Lecturer at the DUT Urban Futures Centre and a member of the Engagement Committee. Dr Erwin’s passion for and familiarity with the community engagement space, made her the perfect fit as the programme director for the day, as she conscientiously facilitated discussions between the colloquium’s participants, whilst sharing invaluable seeds of knowledge regarding her own experiences and perceptions of engagement.


The keynote speaker for the day was Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, an infectious diseases epidemiologist and Associate Scientific Director at The Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). Professor Karim is also a Professor in Clinical Epidemiology, at Columbia University, New York and Pro Vice-Chancellor for African Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal.


The title of her keynote address was: The Role of Science in Addressing Social Challenges: COVID-19, AIDS and HIV Prevention in Women.

“Given that we are gathered here, not that COVID is passed, but we have reached a point where we actually living with the virus. We have seen some light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.


Prof Karim then explained more on COVID, delving into some of the lessons that HIV/AIDS had in terms of the rapid response to COVID.

“We were like the rest of the world, knew very little. I think it was wonderful that the individuals involved in responding to the outbreak in Wuhan were very open about sharing information and that helped a lot of us in terms of the way and how we responded,” she said.


She discussed COVID-19, the hopes of vaccines, VOCs and long COVID-19, AIDS and lessons for COVID-19, and HIV prevention in women. Prof Karim further gave insight into the state of COVID-19 vaccinations in South Africa, saying that 51, 02% of adults have been vaccinated.


She made mention of the availability of two vaccines, Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer and emphasized that the highest vaccination rates were between July and November 2021.


“However, access and roll-out have faced challenges such as supply shortages, misinformation and vaccine hesitancy,” she said.


A vital issue pertaining to the mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines was also highlighted by Prof Karim. She said that 36% of South Africans are unwilling to take a COVID-19 vaccine and discussions in social media such as Twitter were highly polarised.


“Several factors influence public trust in COVID-19 vaccines such as confidence in effectiveness and safety of vaccines; competence and reliability of institutions delivering vaccines; public engagement and communication; effective and inclusive vaccination policies and general public trust in Government,” she added.


Dr Karim further spoke of her work in the epidemiology field, the challenges that they have faced and still face, and the importance of engaged research in resolving complex issues in health and society. Once again, underscoring the importance of collaboration and partnership in engagement spaces, public engagements.


She then made an analogy of how society is like a mosaic.

“Individually it is difficult for one person, like one mosaic tile, to have a significant impact. But, when we come together, we form a beautiful mosaic and make a more profound, combined impact.,” she relayed.


In conclusion, she made mention that the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics have provided a new lens for the nexus between science, politics and global health as CAPRISA pursues the path of the sustainable development goals.


Following the address of the keynote speaker, the presenters were then invited to share their work. The first session was under the theme of, “Engaged research – knowledge production through engagement.” The session, moderated by Dr Erwin, featured four presenters, namely: Professor Monique Marks (Research Professor at the Urban Futures Centre), Dr Olajumoke Ogunsanya (Entrepreneurial Studies and Management Lecturer), Dr Tamlynn Fleetwood (Researcher and MEL Specialist at the Urban Futures Centre) and Mr Siboniso Ngcobo (Postgraduate Food and Nutrition Consumer Sciences student).


The second session encompassed the theme “Community Engagement – what we learnt”, and was moderated by Ms Phumzile Xulu, Engagement Practitioner from the DVC RIE Engagement Office, and Mr Zamani Mayeza, Engagement Coordinator for the Faculty of Health Sciences. The presenters in this session were: Mr Khothatso Memela (innobiz Community Engagement Officer), Mr Marcus Adedara (Hospitality and Tourism PhD student), Dr Gnanam Pillay (Director of the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship), Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu (Education alumnus), Dr Charmaine Korporaal (Chiropractic Senior Lecturer), Ms Ntokozo Ndlela (Applied Management Lecturer) and Mr Bheka Mbonambi (Horticulture alumnus).


During these sessions, the presenters were given 15 minutes each to share their work. Thereafter, there were question and answers sessions, which allowed the audience to pose questions to the presenters about their various projects and research. The audience was well engaged and presented challenging, but relevant questions to the presenters. Several themes resonated throughout the day, such as the power and need for collaboration, the transformative power and importance of engagement within the higher education space, the need to increase support towards engagement, and the importance of regularly hosting events such as the colloquium which encourages the DUT community to share and actively dissect the role of engagement within the institution.


After a successful programme, Ms Phumzile Xulu of the DVC RIE Engagement Office presented the closing remarks and vote of thanks. Ms Xulu thanked each member in attendance and highlighted their importance in building a university that is engaged.


Pictured: Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, keynote speaker at the colloquium.


Tracy Khuzwayo/Waheeda Peters

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