Four doctoral students at UKZN’s Health Economics HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) took part in an intensive programme of workshops and seminars on qualitative research methods at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg (UG) in Sweden.
The trip was made possible through a bilateral National Research Foundation-STINT capacity-building research grant involving HEARD, UKZN and the University of Gothenburg.
The collaboration supports programmatic research and development activities, including student and staff exchanges, aimed at the implementation of joint research projects focused on health systems and HIV research in eastern and southern Africa.
HEARD’s PhD programme has recently expanded and is now one of the largest in the region. As part of the institution’s commitment to promoting excellence in scholarship on the African continent, HEARD’s doctoral programme aims to train and support 60 candidates over the next four years.
HEARD’s 2018 cohort of PhD students hail from across sub-Saharan Africa, including countries such as Ethiopia, the Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Research Director at HEARD Dr Kaymarlin Govender explains: ‘This partnership (with the University of Gothenburg) has been invaluable to HEARD’s interdisciplinary PhD programme by bringing collaborators from both countries to work in common areas of interest.’
Strategic connections were forged and HEARD’s students had the opportunity to present their research topics to an international body of academics.
It is clear that the efforts of HEARD and its partners have not gone unnoticed by its students. Remarking on the academic significance of the trip, PhD student, Mr Paul Mbanga said: ‘This was truly sweet music to my scholarly thirst and hunger pangs.’ Commenting on the importance of the trip in providing support for her PhD thesis, Ms Lillian Akoth Oogo said ‘the trip could not have come at a better time’.
The visit not only provided an opportunity for the exchange of information, but was also valuable in creating a cultural experience as students were treated to local cuisine and enjoyed sightseeing at maritime monuments including the Poseidon statue and the Sjoemanstornet.
Students also visited a Christmas and medieval market and enjoyed an ice ballet.
For Zimbabwean student, Ms Limkile Mpofu, the feeling of togetherness with her HEARD classmates provided great joy. ‘It was a get together for the students from Africa. It was such an amazing moment to see Africans coming together,’ said Mpofu.
As HEARD continues to bring together and invest in African scholarship with the aim of advancing health equity in the continent, future PhD candidates can look forward to the best in African education and development.
Words: Thomais Armaos