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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

School of Medicine not closing
2009-10-22

There is no immediate threat that the University of the Free State’s (UFS) School of Medicine will be closing.

This was confirmed by Prof. Gert van Zyl, Head of the UFS’s School of Medicine and acting Dean of the Faculty of Health Science, following media reports that Prof. Andries Stulting has indicated in a meeting with other medical schools and parliamentary standing committee members that the School will have to close due to the serious problems in the health sector.

“This discussion should be seen in context. Prof. Stulting, in his capacity as acting Head of the School of Medicine, and on behalf of the School and the Faculty, sent a proactive warning to the Free State Health Department, the Member of the Executive Committee and the Premier of the Free State regarding the long-term consequences of the health crisis. This statement was not interpreted correctly. Everything that Prof. Stulting said has already been included in the position statement that the School released in May 2009. What is urgent, though, is that the problems that were identified at especially Pelonomi Hospital in May this year were still not addressed,” said Prof. Van Zyl.

According to Prof. Van Zyl, problems at Pelonomi Hospital include not enough beds, lack of funding for the health sector in the Free State and in some instances problems with filling vacant positions.

“Some of these problems have already been addressed by the Free State Department of Health. Our training platform includes not only Pelonomi Hospital, but also Universitas Hospital, National Hospital, the Free State Psychiatric Complex and several clinics in the Bloemfontein area. This means that there are other facilities available that function in order to provide appropriate training to undergraduate students. Therefore, training is not in immediate danger and the School will definitely not be closing,” he said.

“New first-year students will start their studies in 2010 and I can assure you that there will be adequate training opportunities to take in and train students. However, we do struggle with a bigger intake as requested by Government. I want to put Prof. Stulting’s remark in context: He referred to postgraduate students and therefore the specialists who are in training,” said Prof. Van Zyl.

According to Prof. Van Zyl the specialists in training is a problem that was discussed with the Free State Health Department – with specific reference to less time in operating theatres and the number of beds at Pelonomi Hospital. “We are of the opinion that, should the Department address this problem as a matter of urgency, there will be no long-term damage to the training of these specialists in training. These are the students that Prof. Stulting was referring to,” he said.

The School received more than 1 500 applications for undergraduate studies in 2010 – all of these applications met the minimum selection requirements for the 140 available places. “Our current undergraduate students are therefore not influenced and they will continue to receive the quality training for which the School is renowned,” he said.

Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-chancellor of the UFS, is aware of this and he satisfied himself as to the situation when he visited the hospitals in Bloemfontein on Friday, 9 October 2009. The national Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, was also informed of the School’s concerns when he visited the UFS in September 2009.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Deputy Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za  

22 October 2009
 

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