The University of Venda (UNIVEN) in partnership with Statistics South Africa and the Department of Social Development successfully hosted the 14th Population Association of Southern Africa (PASA) Conference from 10-12 July 2019 at UNIVEN. The conference was held under the theme, ‘coupling population and health data for sustainable development in Southern Africa region’ and aimed at advancing population scholarship in the region through sharing of population related research and programmes, interaction of scholars and practitioners, as well as exposure to new methods and issues in demography. The conference started with a pre-conference workshop for students and was facilitated by Dr Lufuno Makhado and professionals by Prof Mark Collison.
When welcoming the participants, the Deputy Dean in the School of Health Sciences Dr. Lindelani Mushaphi said that it is a great pleasure for UNIVEN to host the conference. “We are hoping that through this conference, we will have serious interactions that will enable us to learn a lot from each other.” She told the participants and delegates that she believes that this collaboration will have long term benefits where the participants will continue to engage and interact and eventually see the benefits among the students, society and community at large.”
The Director in the Department of Social Development, Dr Leon Swartz, said they are grateful for the University for it’s remarkable support they have provided in accepting to host the conference as well as allowing the Local Organizing Committee to use the facility when planning for the conference.
Dr Swartz outlined that their Department has further committed to finance PASA for the next coming years. “We have increased the contribution from R200 000 to R250 000. This illustrates how the Department view PASA as a key partner to tackle population development in the region. According to Dr Swartz, there should be bi-annual conferences to allow other PASA members in SADC to attend the conferences. He commended the students for their level of presentations and indicated that the students must be given a certificate of attendance in future.
The outgoing PASA President Dr Godswill Osuafor echoed Dr Swartz sentiments and expressed a heartfelt gratitude to UNIVEN and the School of Health Sciences for honouring the invitation to host the conference. Dr Osuafor said that PASA is a scientific regional organization that encompasses demographers, population scientists, socio-scientists, health researchers, policy makers, development partners giving a broad spectrum of population, health, development and other issues affecting human in Southern Africa. “We must enforce our efforts to ensure that everyone enjoys a highest attainable standard of health. I congratulate everyone whose paper were accepted for the presentation in the conference.”
Presenting on ‘Triangulation: comparing datasets to improve insight into demographic dynamics’, the Keynote speaker Prof Mark Collinson said that challenges facing population density in Southern Africa are reality, data, and knowledge, apartheid history and colonial legacy, massive inequality, unemployment, colliding epidemics of HIV, TB, and non-communicable diseases, and high levels of temporary labour migration. Prof Collinson said triangulation validates findings, improves accuracy, and provides new perspectives. “The national census HDSS data examples are population age-structure, household definition, migration and settlement change, civil registration and vital statistics,” Prof Collinson added. Prof Collinson also presented on ‘South African Population Research Infrastructure Network (SAPRIN): A national initiative to improve and sustain access to longitudinal population and health data’.
During the gala dinner that took place at Porche-Villa Hotel in Muledane, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Prof Jan Crafford was pleased to see so many students attending the conference. “We should provide the right type opportunities for our young people especially for our University graduates. By so doing, we can turn this county around within few years, because it is a massive asset that is completely under utilitized.” Prof Crafford applauded the conference organizers for a job well-done especially the School of Health Sciences. “I hope that this collaboration will deepen and double the number of students presenting. It is only through collaboration and networking that we are going to achieve the critical mass that is required to take our country forward.”
The conference was comprised of 52 posters presentations and more than 60 research papers that were presented. The winners of the best student presentations were as follows: Overall best presenter which is The Jeremy Gumbo Award went to OM Lesothlo from University of Botswana (R5000); I Mbewu from Walter Sisulu University (R4000); N Mona from University of KwaZulu-Natal (R3000) and L Farlene from University of the Witwatersrand (R2000). The best poster was awarded to LN Miyambu and KM Ngake from North West University which was a joint poster.
The new PASA council members was also announced as follows: Ms Pye Mabote (President), Dr Sibusiso Mkwananzi (Vice President), Dr Enoch Ngome (Secretary General), Zamokuhle Charlotte Biyela (Treasurer), Nokwanele Noxolo Ncobo (Additional Member), and Hoily Lorato Khata (Student Representative).
The incoming PASA President Ms Pye Mabote thanked Dr Ousafor for being the PASA President and for a good job he did during his term. “We need to strengthen interaction and collaboration with other academics and scholars in the SADC region. We must lobby for more funding. We will still support the students and encourage them to participate in PASA matters, capacitate them and make sure that most of them present papers,” said Mabote. Although the PASA council will sit to discuss the next conference venue, the attendees suggested that it should be held at the University of Botswana.
In her closing remarks, the Dean of the School of Health Sciences Prof Tshilidzi Mulaudzi thanked PASA and its partners for identifying UNIVEN as the host of this year’s conference. “this has made us realize our potential as a school that we are able to host conferences of this magnitude. We also appreciate the pre-conference that we had. We really need collaborations of this nature.”
The three days conference provided an excellent platform for demographers, population scientists and professionals from related fields to interact and share their knowledge on research findings as well as experiences.
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University of Venda
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Date: 17 July 2019