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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

Service learning teaching strategy essential for the infusion of graduate attributes
2017-01-02

Description: Dr Pulane Pitso Tags: Dr Pulane Pitso 

Dr Pulane Pitso, Director: Institutional Performance
Monitoring within Performance Monitoring and Evaluation
Branch in the Department of the Premier, Free State
Provincial Government (FSPG).
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

“Public service delivery is not only about ‘government’s sector end products’, but is also fundamentally related to the ways in which the citizens can be best served at the point of client interface, as the primary beneficiaries.”

It is against this backdrop that Dr Pulane Pitso’s study explored the role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in infusing the curriculum with graduate attributes for improved service delivery. The study is entitled: Community service learning as a transformative tool for infusing the university curriculum with graduate attributes for improved service delivery.
 
Citizens the central focus in public-service delivery
Although with the advent of democracy, the South African public service introduced the Batho Pele “people first” initiative which is one of the key transformation-oriented initiatives to ensure that citizens are the central focus in public service  delivery. An extant literature indicates that more work by the government still needs to be done in terms of the institutionalisation and implementation thereof.

Notwithstanding that public service is primarily responsible for addressing challenges related to poor service delivery, Dr Pitso moved from a premise that a multifaceted and collaborative approach, underpinned by a concerted effort by all relevant sectors, is more likely to contribute significantly towards improving service delivery. Specific focus was given to sectors primarily mandated to lay foundations through training and development such as HEIs, since the nature and quality of public service largely depends on the nature, quality and relevance of the system of education.

CSL a transformative teaching strategy
The basis for her thesis, emanated from the contention that public service delivery is a dynamic process which cultivates into a citizen-government relationship.

“It is this relationship that makes the implementation of the Batho Pele initiative crucial in ensuring that the social fabric and moral character of government is not compromised, thus the sustainability and facilitation of the emerged relationship,” Dr Pitso says.

The study focuses on the notion of community service learning (CSL) as an increasingly recognised transformative teaching strategy. It transcends lecture halls and utilises communities as educational spaces to provide practical exposure to real-life experiences to students on both learning and serving the communities.

Instilling graduate attributes in students
Dr Pitso’s thesis, which was predominately qualitative in nature, comprised two main stages. The first stage of the study focused on determining the current state of the public service in terms of the implementation of the Batho Pele principles. Whereas with the second stage, the focus was on determining the extent to which the graduate attributes are instilled in students by means of an exit-level CSL module at the UFS.

Dr Pitso’s thesis, which was awarded to her on 30 June 2016, is the product of five years of hard work, commitment and perseverance. She said it would not have been realised if it had not been for the leadership and mentorship of her promoter, Prof Mabel Erasmus, and co-promoter, Prof Victor Teise.

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