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Somalia's Minister of Education, Culture and Higher Education and delegation visit VUT

Minister Abdullahi Godah Barre, Somalia's Minister of Education, Culture and Higher Education, visited the Vaal University of Technology's (VUT's) Vanderbijlpark Campus on Friday, 22 February 2019. He was accompanied by Professor Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, the Somali National University (SNU) Rector; Ambassador Jamal Mohamed Barrow, of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Somalia in SA; Maria Ahmed Afrah, his Secretary; and Mr Abdi H Hirsi, Cultural Attach'e: Federal Republic of Somalia in SA.

In his welcoming speech, Professor Gordon Zide, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the VUT, reiterated the theme, "The audacity and tenacity of the unshakeable hope". He had used this theme for his 2019 academic opening address, which he delivered on Friday, 8 February. He informed the meeting of the need to find ways of developing the African continent together as institutions of higher learning. To this end, the VUT has taken the lead in community engagement.

The visit by the Somali ministry was the outcome of numerous visits undertaken by the VUT delegation to Somalia, with the support of two vice-chancellors (Professor Irene Moutlana and Professor Gordon Zide), who undertook to make discussions a reality.

The SNU's Jimale expressed appreciation for the warm welcome extended by Zide and the university delegation, and for the support of the South African Department of Higher Education and Training, which facilitated their visits during their week-long stay in SA. The support comes at a time when Somalia is perceived to be a no-go area.

Jimale reminded the meeting that Somalia was disconnected from the world because of the civil war that had ravaged the country 20 years ago and which had led to a high rate of unemployment.

This remains a challenge since there is a shortage of necessary skills to take the country forward. Therefore, the VUT remains vital in empowering the youth of Somalia so that they can come to SA and learn, then go back home to uplift the education system and plough back to their own families and communities through the support of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology.

Barre expressed appreciation to the VUT for extending support to Somalia by being the first university to offer scholarships as a way of helping to address the skills shortage in his country. The VUT is currently hosting five Somali lecturers in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology. They are the first beneficiaries of an exchange programme between the two institutions (the SNU and the VUT). Barre mentioned that the Somalis had been following politics in SA and were of the view that SA would never let Somalia down in their time of need. "Thank you, SA and VUT," he concluded.

Both universities have agreed to take the partnership forward through the following niche areas:

Water and Environment, inter alia: * Water-sensitive design * Solid waste management * Water resource management * Pollution control and remediation

Transportation Engineering, inter alia: * Transportation modes and infrastructure * Geotechnical engineering

Structural Engineering, inter alia: * Low-cost modernisation of structures * Construction and smart materials * Green building * Construction Management and complementary studies * Renewable energy, eg, solar energy * Teaching: technical/engineering education * Nursing * Computer systems * ICT

In closing, Mr Hlapolosa, Chairperson of the VUT Council, assured the minister and his delegation that he would follow up with the office of the vice-chancellor and principal to ensure that implementation does take place in order to make the pledge "VUT first" a reality. He thanked them for choosing the VUT first and, he concluded: "Let VUT continue to lead in the next few years."

The visit to the VUT was preceded by the Somali Cultural Show, which was hosted by the University of SA (Unisa) in partnership with Ambassador Barrow on Thursday, 21 February 2019. Professor Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Unisa, expressed the satisfaction of both Unisa and the VUT in linking with African countries.

In his closing remarks, Barre thanked Makhanya and his team for the warm welcome and expressed his wish to consolidate good governance between the two countries through the support of the South African Department of Higher Education and Training.

K L Mokotsi, Director: Marketing & Public Relations