The University of KwaZulu-Natal hosted national and international delegates during its inaugural International Partner Week held from 29 October to 1 November.

It was held at various UKZN campuses under the theme: Building Bridges and Transcending Borders.

The aim of the week-long engagements was to bring the international community to engage and network with the University’s academic staff. The engagements happened at various sessions which included seminars, panel discussions, individual meetings, and social and networking activities.

To kick off the week, a cultural extravaganza held at UKZN’s Killie Campbell Collections was to welcome guests and showcase different cuisines from other countries.  The programme for the evening was directed by author and poet, Gcina Mhlophe, while delegates enjoyed dishes that included Italian, Chinese, Indian, South African and Mexican cuisine. The guests were treated to different styles of South African dance and music.

UKZN Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku, welcomed dignitaries, saying he hoped International Partner Week is a start of something new. He said he was excited about the initiative and the future of the Higher Education sector.

Continuing with the week’s activities, a one-day colloquium was held at Howard College campus’ Unite building. Officially opening the colloquium, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, said while the University remains committed to addressing the needs and challenges of its regional and local contexts through various efforts, the advancement of African scholarship within a competitive, global Higher Education landscape also firmly remains one of its key focus.

‘With there being massive speed in the momentum of globalisation, so too has the rate of student flow beyond national borders. It is in this light that UKZN continues to work towards strengthening its efforts of increasing student and staff international mobility. This will not only create opportunities for more meaningful global partnerships within the international Higher Education scene, it will also expand access to student and academic talent,’ said Ramjugernath.

The University also used the opportunity to showcase its new strategic plan, research flagships, and some of its achievements in order to strengthen its international partnerships.

Keynote speaker, Professor L Jawahar Nesan, Vice-Chancellor of Saveetha University, India, whose talk was titled: Internationalisation: Boon or Bane for Social Transformation and Nation Building, urged universities to strengthen indigenous knowledge systems. He said education has trained people to serve the corporates instead of being socially driven and play a role in preserving knowledge gathered over the past thousand years, adding that the mission of a university can only be stronger once it has included the indigenous knowledge system.

Mr Mahlubi Mabizela, Chief Director for University Education Policy and Development at the Department of Higher Education and Training, presented the draft policy on the Internationalisation of Higher Education. He said the policy, which should be approved before the end of 2018, endorses the National Development Goal 2030 and would be monitored closely by government to ensure that internationalisation takes place at universities.

Professor Salim Abdool-Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), spoke on the latest research undertaken by the Centre in partnership with other researchers from around the world. Highlighting the high number of infections in women that still happen in the country, he said the Centre is looking at coming up with strategies that target women because the current ABCs (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condomise and Circumcision) are all targeted at men.

Abdool-Karim said they are also working on an antiretroviral implant that could prevent the transmission of HIV in women. The implant will have TAF (Tenofovir alafenamide fumarate) to protect women against HIV infection for up to one year.

Other discussions looked at international experience to enhance teaching and learning, international student integration and scientific and academic co-operation

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photographs: Rajesh Jantilal