Change the world


South African academics have been called upon to play a more active role in the country’s major decision making structures so as to use their research to make a meaningful impact in the development of the country.

This was the bold call by renowned actor and creative Dr John Kani, while delivering the keynote address at Nelson Mandela University's prestigious Research, Teaching and Engagement Excellence Awards last night.

The annual awards, which are a major highlight in the university calendar, saw staff from the various faculties acknowledged for their research, teaching, innovation and engagement activities.

Kani touched on numerous challenges affecting the country – from a lack in service delivery, poor leadership and the #FeesMustFall movement and it’s calls for free and decolonised higher education.

“When the country was negotiating power before 1994, academics should have had their own Codesa to find ways to counter the Bantu education system to reverse the half education of black people during apartheid,” Kani told the gathering.

“You are being awarded tonight for brilliant research … but how can this research and knowledge reach broader publics? How can it be used to influence some of the country's major decisions?

“We need to hear more of the academic voice.”

The awards ceremony lauded academic work in an array of disciplines – from ocean sciences, technology and innovation to novel teaching methods – honouring university staff making major strides in their respective academic fields.

Research and engagement are key pillars for the University, in line with the institution’s commitment to reaching out and contributing towards the sustainable development of the communities it serves.

For staff to qualify for the rigorous selection process, strict criteria need to be met, including having a high degree of subject discipline and knowledge, proven expertise in approaches to teaching and learning, leadership, reputation among students and peers as well as excellence in engagement activities.

Professor in the Department of Botany and Director of the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research (CMR), Prof Janine Adams scooped the coveted Researcher of the Year award for her research into the health of South Africa’s estuaries, including water quality management and responses of mangrove and salt marsh habitats to climate change.

Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Director of the Centre for Research in Information and Cyber Security (CRICS) Prof Rossouw von Solms received the Lifetime Research Excellence Award for his work focusing on cyber security, helping the public and private sector improve in that regard.

Zoology professor Graham Kerley, who is also Director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology, and SARChI Chair in Shallow Water Ecosystems Prof Renzo Perissinotto each walked away with the Research Excellence Award, for research on environmental history and the variety of coastal and inland water systems respectively.

Architecture lecturer Jean-Pierre Basson bagged the Excellent Teacher of the Year award, in recognition for his focus on how students can use architectural software as a design tool, as opposed to a production tool, so as to  help them shift decision-making from “what if scenarios” to a much earlier stage within the design process, and submit design projects on time.

School of ICT lecturer Bertram Haskins’ passion for teaching extends beyond the classroom and influences his other daily activities, where he uses hkill set as a developer to help other departments develop academic support tools, also received the Excellent Teacher of the Year award.

Prof Cheryl Walter was awarded the Engagement Excellence Project Awards for coordinating the groundbreaking Disease, Activity and Schoolchildren’s Health (DASH I) study project, which focuses on children’s health in poorly resourced schools and the effect of common infections on their growth and learning ability.

Centre for Community Technologies director Prof Darelle van Greunen took home the Engagement Excellence and Innovation Excellence awards for her work in developing innovative and affordable technologies to improve the lives of the public, particularly in disadvantaged communities in the country and continent.

Other recipients and categories included the Engagement Excellence Team Award to the eNtsa and the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research and the Engagement Excellence Project Award for FishForce and Eskom Expo for Young Scientists.

Emerging researchers in various faculties and fields were also honoured at the awards.


Researcher of the Year, Prof Janine Adams, Lifetime Research Excellence Award recipient, Prof Rossouw von Solms and Dr Cheryl Walter, winner of the Engagement Excellent Project Award.


2016/2017 Research and Innovation Report

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