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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

Communication Science lecturers walk away with Best Teachers Award
2015-11-26

The winners: Jolandi Bezuidenhout, Rentia Engelbrecht, Jamie-Lee Nortje with Prof Milagros Rivera (Head of Department of Communication Science).

Jolandi Bezuidenhout, Rentia Engelbrecht, and Jamie-Lee Nortje are the names behind the award-worthy A-Step programme. These lecturers in the Department of Communication Science at the University of the Free State (UFS) have been facilitating extra class for students in the extended programme since 2008. On 12 November 2015, they celebrated a major milestone when the programme received the Excellence in Teaching and Learning Innovation Award.

The annual awards are hosted by Dr Lis Lange Vice-Rector: Academic at the UFS, and administrated through the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

It was the first time that the Faculty of the Humanities had received the award. The lecturers were named the Best Teachers in the UFS, emerging in first place in the category: Student Engagement and Learning.

The A-Step sessions form part of a governmental programme dedicated to supporting students by offering diverse curriculum-related activities. Students attend two classes per week where they are equipped with language and life skills. As of 2015, the sessions were expanded to benefit not only the extended programme but all 788 students in Introduction to Verbal and Nonverbal Communication (KOM114).

“The activities are based on theoretical work we do in the mainstream classes,” explained Nortje. Primarily, the activities are meant to “help the student engage the work in a meaningful way so that they can understand it,” she said, which is why the sessions are designed in a fun and creative way.

The ‘Best Teachers’ organised and developed the A-Step sessions collectively and diligently over the years. The award, and the improved students’ academic performance, bears testimony to the effectiveness of their teaching style.

Marissa Grobbelaar, the Academic Staff and Development Project coordinator at the CTL, commended the lecturers’ efforts. Grobbelaar believes that “the way they approached their teaching and the passion which was evident in it,” was one of the reasons they deserved the award.

A former A-Step student, Rorisang Sekhasa, attested that, “the programme was very helpful because you get to have one-on-one sessions with your lecturer, and understand the work better. What was done in class is elaborated on in detail.”

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