South Africa, Pretoria – Covid-19 can not stop the University of Pretoria (UP) from rewarding academic excellence. Forging ahead despite the crisis, vice-chancellor and principal Professor Tawana Kupe recognised 110 of his best academics in a virtual ceremony, the first in the institution’s history.
He said this had by no means downplayed the significance of the prestigious event. “We have been celebrating UP’s academic achievers for more than 20 years.
“The world is in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and UP has not been left unscathed, and so, for the first time ever, the awards ceremony is taking place under extraordinary circumstances.”
Kupe said the academics shone in their respective disciplines and were included in the list of the National Research Foundation-rated scholars for the outstanding work they had done over the past year.
The vice-chancellor said he was a strong advocate of the crucial role played by tertiary education institutions in not only producing relevant, impactful research but partnering with various sectors to address prevalent issues.
He highlighted how the university’s academics and students added value in the response to the challenges brought about by Covid-19.
“Our staff and students have risen to the challenge with energy and passion, to make a meaningful impact in the societies we live and operate in.
“Some final-year medical students from UP volunteered to man a hotline for people who had questions about Covid-19.
“The Department of Family Medicine developed a highly efficient Covid-19 screening protocol that provides holistic health support to communities in need.
“Furthermore, two UP students developed a mobile app for homeless shelters to access assistance during the pandemic. Also, an academic from the Department of Family Medicine developed a series of animated videos to educate the public about Covid-19.
“Research conducted by four UP academics found a correlation between lower temperatures and the faster spread of the virus.
“It is actions such as these that ensure that UP continues to shine as an innovative university. This explains why the university continues to deliver excellence in research,” said Kupe.
Guest speaker at the event, Professor Achille Mbembe, described the ceremony as a “celebration of an institution and of the great minds that constitute its soul and flesh”.
The National Research Foundation A1-rated researcher, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a distinguished author, also highlighted the role played by academics like Kupe in promoting the sustainability of the Earth’s natural resources.
Mbembe said: “Kupe is helping to deepen the idea of the university in this planetary age. In the planetary age, we have to confront two issues. The first is planetary habitability, which speaks to the Earth we share, albeit unequally, and the way in which it needs care and repair. The task we have is to devise mechanisms to take better care of it and to repair it.”
The second issue was the need for technological escalation.
And for the first time ever, the university presented the Conversation Africa Communication Excellence Awards. Dr. Molapo Qhobela, chief executive of the National Research Foundation, was on hand to congratulate recipients.
Four UP academics were awarded the coveted A-rating, six a B-rating, 55 a C-rating, three a P-rating and 17 the Y-rating.