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25 April 2019 | Story Mamosa Makaya

Since 2016, the University of the Free State Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) has received a grant from First National Bank worth R2 498 000, which supports tertiary bursaries for students with disabilities. Bursary holders are funded through CUADS, as the administrator of the bursaries.
  
These are students enrolled for various academic programmes who require academic assistance and/or assistive devices such as electronic handheld magnifiers, laptops, and hearing aids. The FNB grant also covers tuition, accommodation, study material and books, and meals.  The success of the grant is already evident, with one of the recipients having graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in December 2018. A second student was capped at the April 2019 graduations with a BSc Honours in Quantity Surveying.
 
Supporting the principles of the ITP

The UFS received the grant from FNB in instalments, starting in the 2016 academic year to date, supporting the needs of 40 disabled students. This grant and the work of CUADS speaks to and supports the principles of the Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP), namely inclusivity, transformation, and diversity. The vision of the Universal Access work stream is to enable the UFS to create an environment where students with disabilities can experience all aspects of student life equal to their non-disabled peers. The ITP provides for the recognition of the rights of people with disabilities as an important lesson in social justice and an opportunity to reinforce university values.

The successful administration of the grant to benefit past and present students is a ‘feather in the cap’ of CUADS, and is a shining example of the impact of public private investment and the endless possibilities that open up when there is a commitment to developing future leaders in academic spaces, allowing them to thrive by creating a learning environment that is welcoming and empowering. 



News Archive

UFS leads the way with GMO testing
2003-08-25

A formal agreement linking Africa’s first testing facility for genetically modified organisms (GMO) to an international organization was signed at the University of the Free State.

According to the manager of the GMO testing facility, Dr Chris Viljoen of the Department of Plant Sciences, the facility is now part of GeneScan, a world leader in food diagnostic testing, which has its headquarters in Germany with subsidiaries in the Unites States, Brazil and Hong Kong.

The facility at the UFS has been selected by the second largest international food company to do all its South African GMO testing for export products.

The GMO testing facility is the brainchild of Dr Viljoen, who is a specialist in the field of marker biotechnology and its applications in crop science.

He says the need for such a testing facility arose due to the international regulations on GMOs in food, especially Europe and Asia that requires South African exporters to certify whether their products contain any GMO.

“The regulations in Europe and Asia reflect a consumer need for choice in what they eat due to concerns over the safety of GMOs, as well as environmental and ethical issues. GMO testing and labelling allow consumers the right of choice to eat genetically modified foods or not. According to EU regulations, any product with a GMO content of 1% or higher is labelled as containing GMO.”

According to Dr Viljoen only four products in South Africa are currently GMO. They are white and yellow maize that have been made insect resistant, soya bean that is herbicide tolerant and insect resistant cotton. He says that the awareness of GMOs among South Africans is still very limited, especially in poorer communities, but it is likely to increase with the efforts being made in consumer education by government, seed companies and NGOs.

The testing facility has been established to accommodate the local as well as international market. The GMO testing at the UFS facility is performed using real time PCR, the most advanced means of GMO detection currently available, and using GeneScan developed technology that is recognized worldwide.
 

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