The University of Johannesburg has grown by leaps and bounds since the 2005 merger between the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU), the Technikon Witwatersrand (TWR), and the Soweto and East Rand campuses of Vista University. A grand merger that saw the birth of the university as we know it today.
With the exit of the illustrious Professor Tshilizi Marwala, a new dawn has come, and the mantle has been handed to Professor Letlhokwa George Mpedi. The new don looks to build on the foundation laid by Prof Marwala and also leave a legacy of his own in the fields of research, sustainable development, and achieving Millenium development goals.
In an official interview, AfricaLive spoke to the new University of Johannesburg Vice-chancellor on what his new role means to him and his plans for the future.
Here are some projects the university is undertaking.
UJ Researcher Pursues Alternative Energy By Converting Biomass Material into Biofuels
A Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Limpopo, Dr Mulisa Maumela believes that investing in biomass energy (renewable energy from plants and animal) can help sustain the country’s petroleum industry as it provides low-cost biofuels while saving the environment
Through his research project themed the “Conversion of Biomass Material into Biofuels”, Dr Maumela says there are prospects of finding an alternative, cheaper, sustainable, environmentally friendly methods for the production of transportation fuels and other important chemicals such as fuel additives.
UJ Solving South Africa’s Housing Gap By Building One House a Day With 3D Printing
In 2021, research from the Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) indicated that the backlog in urban housing is more than 2.4 million houses, with many families living in informal settlements.
In response to the South African housing crisis, in 2022 UJ invested in 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, to address SA’s social housing backlog. This was done alongside the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), which has extensively researched the impact of this project.
Stakeholders such as the Mampeule Foundation, a non-profit organisation aimed at improving the quality of life and access to opportunities for marginalised communities across South Africa, have provided R5-million grants spanning over five years to postgraduate students studying engineering and the built environment. The cement supplier AfriSam offers all the cement products needed for the 3D printing project. The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements has committed to providing serviced sites for constructing houses in Ethekwini Municipality.
UJ launches Neurodiversity Centre
Statistics show that 1 in 20 people are living with disabilities. The aim of the Centre is to address the neurodevelopmental learning needs of children and youth through a multi-pronged approach, including but not limited to:
- Training teachers and other stakeholders on neurodivergent learning needs
- Therapeutic and learning needs intervention for learners and youth
- Parent support and development
- Community engagement and empowerment
South Africa’s Power Generation Plans are Out of Date: An Urgent Rethink is Needed
The national power utility Eskom has been unable to provide a steady power supply due to ageing infrastructure and an abnormally high number of breakdowns. This has led to periodic electricity blackouts at times when demand has exceeded supply.
To alleviate power shortages in the interim, the Ministry of Mining and Energy launched an initiative to solicit 2,000 MW of emergency power from private developers.
But the plans aren’t panning out very well.
South Africa needs a detailed and thoroughly researched set of scenarios mapped out to inform a new electricity plan.