Mrs Elaine and Professor Deresh Ramjugernath

UKZN Signs MOU with Health and Welfare SETA on African Traditional Medicine

UKZN’s Discipline of Traditional Medicine recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Health and Welfare SETA (HWSETA) at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine campus.

Themed: Taking African Medicine to Greater Heightsthe event also featured performances by the Ikusasa Lethu group which comprised of UKZN students who performed African traditional music and dance.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of UKZN’s College of Health Sciences, Professor Busisiwe Ncama; said she was very proud to host such an important event that recognises traditional medicine. She mentioned the University’s Traditional Medicine Laboratory – on the Howard College campus – as a facility that was established to connect traditional healers with students as well as restore the dignity of African traditional medicine through research excellence. ‘I would like to thank HWSETA for providing bursaries in the study of traditional medicine, moving this discipline from a “Cinderella discipline” to the forefront of research,’ said Ncama.

Professor Nceba Gqaleni, Honorary Professor at UKZN and member of the Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council of South Africa, highlighted how the University had incorporated traditional healers and their medicine into the curriculum to teach health professionals and students that they were not the only professionals in the health field. He also applauded UKZN as the first institution to sign an agreement to work with traditional healers in health sciences. ‘We are responsible for claiming the national heritage that is traditional medicine as an African invention – and that is a huge role to play,’ he said.

A series of interventions have been launched through traditional medicine including:

•    UKZN’s Traditional Medicine Laboratory used to provide key investigations for in-vitro studies (non-communicable diseases, tissue regeneration and infectious diseases);

•    A book launched in August 2018 called: Foundations of African Traditional Medicine, A Nguni Perspective;

•    The development of African reverse pharmacology that has had its first clinical trial in Edendale Hospital (Pietermaritzburg);

•    The curation of efficient training programmes for traditional healers on HIV; and

•    The implementation of medical referral letters endorsed by the Department of Health that traditional healers can give to their patients.

Mrs Elaine Brass, HWSETA CEO, said she was honoured to be a part of the momentous occasion. She welcomed the signing of the MoU and the strengthening of a partnership between HWSETA and UKZN. She also congratulated students holding bursaries towards the study of traditional medicine and wished them well on their studies. ‘Know that you are playing an important role in strengthening this field of study. We look forward to a breakthrough being made in the future providing not only a cure for HIV, but also for cancer,’ she said.

UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, acknowledged the impact traditional medicine has made globally on government policies. He also thanked the Department of Health for strengthening its partnership with the University. ‘I’m excited and honoured that HWSETA is joining the University in formalising traditional medicine and training, making it on par with western medicine,’ he said.

Mr Vukani Khoza, Director of Traditional Medicine at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, urged UKZN to prioritise areas of research that are a priority to the department and thanked Ikusasa Lethu for performing and preserving their heritage in traditional music. ‘I am grateful for this occasion and look forward to a long-lasting partnership with the University that will be as equally beneficial for the traditional healers,’ Khoza said.