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With many South African children falling victim to abuse, a new study has highlighted the valuable contribution post-mortem imaging can make in assessing the injuries suffered by children suspected to have been fatally abused.

Believed to be the first of its kind in South Africa, the study was conducted by senior lecturer in Diagnostic Radiography, Aladdin Speelman, for his doctoral thesis titled: Post-Mortem Computed Tomography in the Assessment of Fatal Child Abuse.

Speelman is among the hundreds of graduates who are being capped during CPUT’s Summer Graduation.

According to the study, there has been a worldwide decline in autopsy rates due to cultural and religious objections to the conventional autopsy and clinicians have had to find alternative ways to establish the cause of death.

It states that the increased application of post-mortem imaging in forensic pathology has resulted in researchers exploring the suitability of both post-mortem Computed Tomography (PMCT) and post-mortem Magnetic Resonance Imaging (PMMRI) to establish the cause of death, determine injuries sustained and whether this imaging modality can replace the autopsy in certain cases.

Speelman said skeletal injuries identified with diagnostic imaging is often the only evidence that a child is a victim of abuse.

“SA has a high rate of child abuse and child homicides and the many social dimensions thereof do not get the attention it deserves. Radiographers have a greater role to play in stemming this social anomaly. Research studies such as this can highlight the valuable contribution advanced imaging modalities such as PMCT can make in the diagnosis and management of child abuse.”

He said PMCT has an even greater advantage compared to conventional diagnostic imaging options as a full body can be scanned in less than one minute giving a broad overview of the child’s injuries often with great resolution.

“I was aware that internationally there has been steady growth in using advanced cross-sectional imaging in forensic medicine. This move has not yet started in forensic institutes in SA and hence my decision to test this modality in a sample of suspected fatally abused children.”

Thirty children, all younger than 18 years with a history of suspected fatal child abuse or sudden unexplained death, underwent a whole-body PMCT examination using a 64 slice Computed Tomography (CT) scanner, followed by a forensic autopsy. All PMCT studies were reviewed independently by two paediatric radiologists.

“To my knowledge this was the first study of its kind conducted in South Africa particularly involving children only. I sincerely appreciate the excellent guidance received from my two supervisors and the two paediatric radiologists who assisted me with the interpretation of the PMCT images. These two paediatric radiology experts were based in the United Kingdom and The Netherlands. Thanks to technology, their expert opinions could be obtained without any hassles.”

The study’s conclusions include that PMCT should serve as an adjunct examination to forensic autopsies of children whose demise was due to suspected fatal abuse, irrespective of the initial manner of death.

“PMCT must therefore be routinely employed as a supplementary examination to the forensic autopsies in the assessment of suspected fatal child abuse,” it states. 

Speelman said it was quite a challenge juggling the academic workload, administrative duties and collecting data and writing up the results.

“All PMCT scans were conducted after work so not to interfere with my undergraduate duties and also not to interfere with the normal CT scans scheduled at the research site. So, when a child met the inclusion criteria, I had to drive after work to the research site, which is a good 20 km away from the Bellville Campus. The three months of study leave also assisted me in consolidating my results and writing of my thesis.”

Speelman’s supervisors were Prof Penelope Engel-Hills, Adjunct Professor and former Acting Dean of the Faculty of Health and Wellness Sciences, and Prof Lorna J. Martin, Head of Division, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town.

“I think I have grown tremendously on a professional and disciplinary level. In addition, I also gained significant transdisciplinary knowledge in that I had learnt a lot about the science and application of forensic medicine (including the forensic autopsy) and PMCT imaging which is a fairly new field in radiology. I think the greatest joy I derived from completing this doctoral degree was knowing that my work met the scientific rigour of multi-disciplinary international examination, and in such a particularly new and emerging field. “

CPUT is ready to roll out the red carpet for more than 600 graduands who will be capped during our Summer Graduation on 13 December 2022.

Just over 500 undergraduates and 119 postgraduates will graduate during two ceremonies – the first scheduled for 10:00 and the second for 14:00 on Tuesday.

A total of 100 Master’s degrees and 19 Doctorates will be conferred. Fifteen graduands will have extra reason to celebrate after passing their qualifications summa cum laude while six have passed cum laude.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Chris Nhlapo congratulated the graduating class and said the qualification should be just one of many investments they make in themselves.

“Lifelong learning will keep you a step ahead of the pack, and capable of adapting to a constantly changing world.”

Both ceremonies will be livestreamed via the CPUT YouTube channel. Click here for more information.

CPUT’s South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC) recently hosted German Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Dr Robert Habeck on a site visit.

Habeck and a delegation of 40 German stakeholders, was on a trip to Namibia and South Africa focused on green hydrogen, renewable energy and skills development.

Habeck’s visit follows a commitment of €10 million in grant funding from the German development bank, KfW. The grant has been earmarked to build a wind tower and solar rooftop at SARETEC premises on CPUT’s Bellville Campus for the training of wind turbine service technicians.

Habeck was particularly interested in how the lives of these skilled artisans was improved as a result of the training they received. SARETEC Director Mokgadi Modise explained that the courses are mostly sponsored as a result of the specialised nature of the training, and as such students who are accepted for a place are well-resourced with a stipend, transport and other associated costs. She further added that the courses covered by the Sector Education Training Authorities also include regulated stipends.

CPUT Vice-Chancellor Prof Chris Nhlapo thanked the German audience for their government’s continued support of South Africa’s Just Energy Transition.

“We appreciate the support, and we understand that everything you appreciate also appreciates. You are helping us to build capacity for solar, wind and wave energy among others and we assure you that every cent is accounted for, and we will continue creating futures in the renewable energy sector,” he says.

Habeck also engaged directly with students who are currently completing the seven-month wind turbine service technician course and deployed at wind farms. One of those students was Amanda Shayi, who was previously an Eskom electrical technician.

She told Habeck that the course had challenged her and encouraged her to put fears of heights aside as she worked in completely different environments.

The Fundani Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) recently hosted the annual Research Innovation in Teaching and Learning Conference (RITAL) to discuss and debate teaching, learning, curriculum and assessment issues related to higher education.

The one-day conference funded by the University Capacity Development Grant (UCDG), was themed: Beyond the Pandemic: Rethinking and Revitalising our Pedagogical Practices in Higher Education Institutions was held on the Granger Bay Campus.

The RITAL conference brought together academics across the disciplines who are interested in discussing teaching, learning, curriculum and pedagogical practices beyond the COVID-19 pandemic at CPUT.

The Research Coordinator at Fundani, Dr Najwa Norodien-Fataar, who chaired the conference, said their aim was to enable academics to rethink and revitalise their roles as lecturers beyond the pandemic. Academics who were recipients of the Research Innovation Fund in Teaching and Learning (RIFTAL) also presented their research findings to the CPUT academic community. Approximately 60 academics attended the conference and participated in debates on various teaching, learning, curriculum and assessment matters. The conference attracted academics from the Faculty of Applied Sciences, the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment and the Faculty of Education.

“A key concern for all academics is to use technology meaningfully by placing pedagogy at the centre of student learning. Several presentations focused on pedagogy as central to productive learning at universities. A crucial aspect of pedagogy is to ensure that students engage with knowledge in a dialogical manner between lecturers and students and between students and students,” Norodien-Fataar observed.

The Director of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the Durban University of Technology, Prof Mncedisi Maphalala, delivered a keynote address which was titled: Re-imagining Higher Education online learning environments Post Covid-19 and beyond: A self-directed learning Perspective.

Teaching Excellence Award winner Dr Sweta Patnaik, from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, also provided a presentation and focused on how she consistently sought feedback from students regarding their understanding of the subjects she teaches. Patnaik emphasised that she always looked for innovative ways to ensure students learn effectively.

“A crucial message of the conference was to emphasise pedagogy as central to student learning. Several presentations focused on the relationship between pedagogy and technology-enhanced learning and how to ensure access to knowledge through our mixed, blended, and contact delivery modes,” Norodien-Fataar observed.

One of the presenters, Prof Jessy van Wyk, Head of the Department: Food Science and Technology, said the conference was “an enormous success, in my opinion”. “What really impressed me was the amount as well as the scope of the work done by so many staff at CPUT around delivering quality and student-centred Learning, Teaching and Assessment (LTA) to our students. The scope covers a healthy mix of one, research based on tried-and-tested methods (e.g., the Socratic method) as well as new theories and methods (with a particular focus on the digital space) and two, implementing those methodologies in the classroom and laboratories and evaluating the impact towards continuous improvement.”

In her presentation, Van Wyk stated that her department was able to develop new curricula aimed at producing graduates that are job-ready, practitioners capable of complex practice such as enhanced graduate employability. “Successfully developing and delivering these curricula are facilitated by the depth of experience in the department, as well as input from our wide network of partnerships, with industry, local and international universities.”

Click the RITAL blog link for more information: https://blogs.cput.ac.za/rital/

Thursday, 08 December 2022

MCD scoops four awards for excellence

The Marketing and Communication Department is ending the year on a high note – scooping four prestigious awards in recent weeks.

The awards are: the Marketing, Advancement and Communication (MACE) Award of Excellence - Gold Award for SMART Graduation December 2021; the MACE Award of Excellence Bronze Award for Virtual Open Day; the Silver Quill Award of Excellence for Virtual Open Day and the Silver Quill Award of Excellence for SMART Graduation December 2021.

The International Association of Business Communicators – Africa Region facilitates the annual Silver Quill awards programme, which recognises business communication excellence across the African continent. It salutes work that makes a significant contribution to business outcomes, and that is innovative and unique. Entries are scored independently by two evaluators, who reconcile scores together. They review each entry against the International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) standard of excellence, ensuring that communicators can demonstrate the impact their work has had on business goals. The aim is to encourage the pursuit of excellence rather than competition.

The MACE Excellence Awards takes place annually and recognises and celebrates excellence and the achievements of specialists and practitioners in marketing, communication and advancement in the higher education sector. Out of 171 entries from universities across South Africa, only 16 were awarded gold and 37 bronze.

Some of the comments the team received from the Silver Quill evaluators for the Virtual Open Day entry included:

“I commend you on creating an engaging platform that is unique and novel, and very relevant to a dispersed and tech savvy audience.

With reference to the SMART Graduation entry, the evaluators stated: “Congratulations on executing the project in a professional manner. We liked the look and feel of your videos and slides, they exude a feeling of warmth and connectedness. Your key message that CPUT cares, comes through clearly in the work sample.”

A proud Dr Garth Van Gensen, Director of the Marketing and Communication Department, said these industry awards show that the Marketing and Communication team were never happy to be average.

“We consistently provided innovative and creative solutions to satisfy the events and marketing requirements of the Western Cape’s largest university. We reinvented virtual events in a way in which the higher education industry had never seen before, and I am very proud of my team for consistently pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box. That is truly One Smart CPUT thinking.”

In terms of future plans, Virtual Open Day will run in parallel with a physical Open day next year and will feature a new user interface that lets visitors experience CPUT by creating a metaverse type experience that enables them to explore various parts of our campuses in 360 degrees.

Wednesday, 07 December 2022

Academics secure prestigious award

Department of Clothing and Textile Technology Lecturer and Curriculum Officer, Dr Sweta Patnaik, and Manager - Technology Station Clothing and Textiles, Shamil Isaacs, have won an international e-learning Excellence Award at the ECEL 2022 21st European Conference on e-Learning.

The awards ceremony was conducted at the University of Brighton, United Kingdom, where they we were presented with their certificate.

The award is to showcase innovative examples of e-Learning use. These examples are presented through case histories which can be written by academics, teachers, business professionals or students. The pair have created an integrated project around sustainability in clothing and textiles and entrepreneurship for exit level third-year students. The students worked around the project throughout the semester and there were multiple activities they had to achieve and meet their learning outcomes, e.g. surveys, market research, polls, creating an artefact, multilingual digital storytelling videos, final report and presentation which was assessed by the community. They were expected to create sustainable consumer preferred products out of waste i.e., clothing offcuts and fabric swatches which were freely handed down by retailers… “For this award category we created a google sites page from scratch where all the information shared within is of low-tech data for anyone to access and learn. This is the link to the website with embedded YouTube videos,” Patnaik remarks.

She continues: “We had to create all this and go through three stages to be finally invited as a finalist and then there at the conference through two rigorous processes to be shortlisted, therefore this winning came as a big surprise, and we enjoyed every moment of it along with our students. We had 12 strong competitors from all over the world, Microsoft USA being one of them who have been shortlisted as finalists for two consecutive years. Overall, the project has augmented learning in various forms:

  • Self-directed learning
  • Peer to peer learning
  • Collaborative and constructive learning
  • Creating a community of practice
  • Building in entrepreneurial knowledge.”

Reflecting on this feat, Patnaik says: “Milestones are accomplished over time from achievement after achievement. I feel very accomplished to have achieved this milestone in my life. It took a lot of work, but I am grateful that we not only achieved this but also touched on a very important aspect which speaks to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) goals such as sustainability. Not only this, but it has also helped in putting our department, faculty, and institution on the global arena all over again.”

Patnaik, who’s the first recipient within CPUT to win the DAAD UNILEAD Germany leadership course for the year 2021 and NMU rising star for the year 2020 adds that her students are the reason for her success “so all credit goes to them”. “If you ask me about my attributes to success then that must be the following: passion, optimism, persistence, creativity, self-discipline, a desire to Improve and a commitment to Learning.”

Issacs says they are using an e-learning platform and mode of delivery to teach students about Entrepreneurship within the framework of environmental sustainability, “in this case, adding value to waste material”.  “At the same time transferring this knowledge to disadvantaged communities as a means for them to generate an income,” Isaacs continues.

“Hopefully through these, students are spurred on to entrepreneurial endeavours and at the same time have an awareness of sustainability both from an environmental perspective and social /community perspective.  This award gives recognition to the role universities can play in transforming society.”  

Patnaik says the award gives her recognition and a platform globally to take the work to another level. “To the department of Clothing and Textile Technology as well as to the Technology Station, Clothing and Textiles it showcases the kind of work that we do and how it adds and enhances student exposure and knowledge. We are contributing towards CPUT’s Vision, its seven focus areas and its emphasis on SGDs, which we portray through our work.”

Tuesday, 06 December 2022

Alumna’s design showcased in Dubai

A project designed by an Interior Design alumna earned her a place in the finals of the 2022 edition of Prototypes for Humanity, recently held in Dubai.

Bronwen Smith developed the Integrated Sustainability Awareness System, an online platform for collecting information relating to a household's consumption of energy and resources, as part of her fourth-year dissertation project at CPUT.

Prototypes for Humanity (previously called the Dubai Global Graduation Show) is the most diverse assembly of innovations that have the power to change the world, with programmes and activities to raise awareness of global problems, celebrate solutions, and catalyse action for positive social and environmental impact.

Bronwen and senior lecturer Colleen Cocotos recently travelled to Dubai where they attended the exhibition and the final awards announcement by Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“I felt truly honoured and excited. It would be wonderful if this Sustainability Awareness System can receive further attention and possibly be developed into a marketable idea that will impact humanity. I have always been motivated to make people aware of how to live a more sustainable lifestyle,” said Bronwen.


Explaining how the platform works, Bronwen said information is collected through a smartphone application, which feeds into an online database.

“The information is analysed to generate understandable statistics that are freely available on the website. Anyone can access the statistics to track the impact of the system and to see how different areas measure up to one another.”

She continued: “Through encouraged regular interaction and a gamified or reward element to the user experience, consumers will learn how to make changes in their daily lives, making informed choices to enable them to have a reduced impact on the planet.”

The proud CPUT graduate, who hails from Plumstead, is completing a Master’s in Interior Architecture – Adaptive Re-use at Hasselt University in Belgium.

Cocotos said “Bronwen’s design was competing against Master’s and PhD submissions, she should be proud of having been selected, as a finalist in such a prestigious competition.”

“I thought that it was a genius idea, and she deserves to get further recognition for the development of the Sustainability Awareness System.”