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30 March 2021 | Story Dikgapane Makgetha | Photo Supplied
Social Work students at the UFS are working with the relevant stakeholders in an Engaged Teaching and Learning service-learning project to promote and respect children’s rights.

The protection of children’s rights is the principal achievement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda. Emphasis has always been on the promotion and respect of children’s rights. Since the SDGs are grounded in a child rights-based approach, the University of the Free State (UFS) Social Work students – by engaging in a multi-disciplinary methodology – involve all the relevant stakeholders in their Engaged Teaching and Learning service-learning module project. 

The social partners, which included the South African Police Service (Child Protection Unit), the Department of Social Development, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Health, faith-based organisations, and other children’s advocacy agents, were involved from inception until the apex launch of the project. 

Access to basic human rights

In their exit level, fourth-year Social Work students participate in community work practicums, which incorporates the theoretical development process in adherence to the objectives of their community work. The initial phase of the project involved the situation analysis exercise, which the students implemented through collaboration with the Rekgonne Primary School action committee. 

The outcome of the survey indicated that some learners were exposed to physical and sexual abuse. It was also found that they did not have access to basic human rights such as education, health care, and social grants due to the absence of the required legal documents. From the interactive discussions that took place during the launch, it emerged that some children do not have birth certificates required for school registration and access to social grants. 

Through the students’ community project, a platform was created where important skills and information could be shared among all important role players (who are in different professions and guardians of children’s human rights). It is believed that since learners are spending more hours in school, educators would be the primary detectors to notice signs of negligence and potentially adverse circumstances among their learners.

Role players collaborate to make a difference

Through the scholarship of engagement, students succeeded in engaging with the community to attend to societal challenges (violated children’s rights). In order to realise the outcome of the project, continuous collaboration among all role players must be sustained. All parties adopted a resolution to create safe environments both at school and at home by supporting families and caregivers.

Government partners that participated were determined to strengthen protection systems and improve child welfare, reinforcing the implementation of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.  Educators were empowered and supported in the mandate of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC). This is an initiative that involves stakeholders in improving the quality of education for all children and addresses issues of safety and well-being for all children. 

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Extending new discoveries in the deep subsurface – UFS paper published in Nature Communications
2015-11-30



Scanning electron microscopy of some of the Eukarya recovered from two different mines. (a) Dochmiotrema sp. (Plathyelminthes), (b) A. hemprichi (Annelida), (c) Mylonchulus brachyurus (Nematoda), (d) Amphiascoides (Arthropoda). Scale bar, 50 µm (a,b), 100 µm (c), 20 µm (d).

Following the discovery of the first Eukarya in the deep subsurface (Nature, 2010) by a research group from the Department of Microbial, Biochemical, and Food Biotechnology at the University of the Free State (UFS) and their international collaborators, intense interest has developed in understanding the diversity of more complex organisms living in these extreme environments.

Prof Gaetan Borgonie from Extreme Life Isyensya, together with a group of UFS researchers, took this research further, resulting in a paper on this research released in Nature Communications – impact factor 11.47.  This paper is an extension of the first reports of more complex life at great depths, and their abilities to survive these harsh conditions.

Ten authors from the UFS contributed with the array of expertise needed to define this discovery. The group was supported by staff from the different mining groups, long-term leading collaborators from the USA and Canada, and the idea specialist driver of the paper, Prof Borganie.

“After a sampling campaign that lasted more than two years, we identified that Platyhelminthes, Rotifera, Annelida and Arthropoda are thriving at 1.4 km depths in fissure water up to 12,000-years old in the South African mines of Driefontein and Kopanang,” said Prof Borgonie, who was appointed as associated researcher in the Department of Microbial, Biochemical, and Food Biotechnology.

This paper really opens a “can of worms” so to speak. According to Prof Esta van Heerden from the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the UFS they extended to define protozoa and fungi. “However, they are present in low numbers,” she said.

Characterisation of the different species reveals that many are opportunistic organisms. In house-adapted video equipment was used to film inside the fissure for the home of the organisms.

This is the first-known study to demonstrate the in situ distribution of biofilms on fissure rock faces using video documentation. Calculations suggest that food, not dissolved oxygen, is the limiting factor for population growth. The discovery of a group of complex multicellular organisms in the underground has important implications for the search for life on other planets in our solar system.

More articles

The strange beasts that live in solid rock deep underground
A microscopic ‘zoo’ is found deep, deep underground

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