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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

Department of English changed to empower students
2017-07-05

Description:Department of English  Tags: Department of English

Lecturers from the Department of English at the University of the Free State have been working
hard to create a robust learning environment for students through continuous assessment.
Photo: Sonia Small


A new curriculum, exciting third-year seminars, and a transition to continuous assessment. These are some of the changes made by the Department of English at the University of the Free State (UFS) over the past few years. The department, which also boasts four National Research Foundation (NRF) researchers, did this to tailor the curriculum towards the needs of its students and to foster a better culture of engagement.

According to Prof Helene Strauss, Head of the Department, the advantages of these changes are clear. “Staff have noted a significant improvement in both the basic writing and critical deliberation skills of our students, and in the responsibility they are taking for their own learning.” The new curriculum empowers students to take a position in relation to the knowledge they encounter in the classroom, thereby strengthening their own critical voice.

Taking continuous responsibility

One of the most significant changes for students was the fact that they have to take responsibility all the time. Prof Strauss says continuous assessment changed “last-minute cramming to near-daily, student-centred activities of reading, writing, and critical discovery.”

Because students have to prepare for lectures and reflect on materials, they are in a better position to internalise difficult debates and critical concepts. “Rather than telling students what to think, we help them develop flexible, critical tools to make sense of a changing world.”

Third-year seminars are another way of including forms of instruction that concentrate on the links between education and democracy, but still improve students’ ability to speak and write English accurately. Every semester, students can choose seminars from a range of topics such as ‘Witchcraft’ (Prof Margaret Raftery) and ‘The Art of Dying’ (Dr Mariza Brooks).

Research and associates around the world

Dr Marthinus Conradie, Dr Rodwell Makombe, Prof Irikidzayi Manase, and Prof Strauss are all NRF-rated researchers in the department.

The department also has affiliated research associates from countries including Zimbabwe, the USA, and Canada. Dr Kudzayi Ngara currently holds a competitive NRF grant for a project on Southern African urbanity, and Dr Philip Aghoghovwia recently received the prestigious African Humanities Programme Fellowship.

Under the guidance of Dr Ngara, the department has been able to roll out a new Honours programme on the Qwaqwa Campus. The campus now also offers students the opportunity to pursue MA and PhD studies.

Other highlights:
• Hosted the international Institute of the Association for Cultural Studies in 2015.
• Books published: Dr Susan Brokensha (with Burgert Senekal). Surfers van die Tsunami: Navorsing en Inligtingstegnologie binne die Geesteswetenskappe (SUN MeDIA, 2014); Prof Iri Manase. White Narratives: The depiction of post-2000 land invasions in Zimbabwe (UNISA Press, 2016); as well as co-edited volumes with Cambridge Scholars Publishing (Dr Oliver Nyambi) and Routledge (Prof Helene Strauss).
• Publications include three special journal issues (of ISI journals Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies; Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies; Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies).

 



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