On Wednesday, 12 February 2020, the University of Venda (UNIVEN) signed a Memorandum of Agreement with GladAfrica Foundation. The GladAfrica Epilepsy Research Project (GERP) grant worth more than R3m, has been awarded to the UNIVEN’s School of Health Sciences for a period of four years. 

This partnership will benefit the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces since the research will be conducted in communities within these two provinces. The signing ceremony took place at UNIVEN Sports Hall. 

Mr Noel Mashaba (Left) and Prof Jan Crafford (right) during the signing of the MoA

This four-year partnership will research the effects of epilepsy in order to develop an awareness programme, cultural congruent intervention programme and epilepsy life skills manuals (for primary and secondary schools) for the affected communities of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. This initiative has been endorsed and supported by Epilepsy South Africa. 

This initiative is in line with the GladAfrica Foundation Trust’s social investment programme of action which seeks to, among others, empower previously disadvantaged communities by providing them with information and tools that can improve the quality of their lives. 

Epilepsy is one of the health conditions that remain highly stigmatised within our communities. It is a condition that can affect anybody, old or young as it has no boundaries. According to Epilepsy SA, epilepsy affects 1 out of 100 people and about 66% of the underlying causes of epilepsy are unknown (idiopathic epilepsy). People who suffer from epilepsy are often ignored by their families and communities due to lack of understanding of this health condition. There is a need to destigmatise epilepsy and raise awareness on its causes and medication options applicable to different types of epilepsy. 

Mr Noel Mashaba exchanging MoA with Prof Jan Crafford

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Prof Jan Crafford voiced that this project which has been awarded to the School of Health Sciences made UNIVEN proud. It is a very important project for us as UNIVEN because it even came at the time when we are reviewing our new Strategic Plan 2021-2025. “I can assure you that this partnership will fit well in this new strategic plan because it talks about research and improving the lives of our people. We thank GladAfrica Foundation Trust for trusting in us”. 

Co-Chairperson of GladAfrica Foundation Trust, Mr Noel Mashaba who is one of the people living with epilepsy explained that epilepsy is a very painful disease to live with. He said he previously experienced several epilepsy seizures which were painful because he would even bite his tongue as a result of seizures. Mr Mashaba further expressed that people who are living with epilepsy seizures don’t live freely because it can attack you at any time anywhere. “Today what is happening here is a dream coming true because I wanted research to be conducted and bring results about epilepsy”, said Mr Mashaba 

Mr Mashaba alluded that the biggest problem with epilepsy is not a disease but the knowledge about this disease. “This is a global burden yet there is little knowledge about it.” He said that the breakthrough about himself is when he got the little information about epilepsy. “It is for this reason that we as GladAfrica Foundation Trust approached UNIVEN to conduct research about epilepsy. We need information about the impact and what needs to be done in order to deal with this scourge”. Mr Mashaba encouraged researchers to collect as much data about epilepsy as they can, especially in rural communities. He thanked Prof Rachel Lebese for engaging with him regarding epilepsy. He further thanked UNIVEN for agreeing to this partnership. 

Dr Lufuno Makhado, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Public Health, School of Health Sciences

Dr Lufuno Makhado, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Public Health, School of Health Sciences, who is also the Project Leader introduced the project research team. He explained that there are seven postgraduates students who are currently funded by GladAfrica Foundation Trust to conduct research about epilepsy in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. This Launch was also attended by community members from some of the villages where the research is being conducted. 

Below are pictures of other speakers: 

Representatives of the University Management and Staff, GladAfrica Group and Foundation Trust Executives, GERP team and partnering stakeholders posing for a photo

Issued by: Department of Communications & Marketing 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 

Date: 17 February 2020