Furthering one's knowledge base though sharing information not only from teacher to student but vice versa.
Know what is new in the world and in your field, but also add to that knowledge through your own efforts. A marriage of the two is what drives the agency to constantly strive to be the best.
The value that SANRAL adds to South Africa stretches far beyond its professional management of Africa's most sophisticated primary road network. It has earned recognition as a national asset that contributes to South African society and invests in communities through training, job creation, entrepreneurial support and empowerment programmes.
The agency does this in the spirit of Nelson Mandela, in this the centenary year, who said: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world".
One of the country's most talked-about future challenges is the need for skilled and trained human resources. The National Development Plan notes that "education, training and innovation are central to South Africa's long-term prospects".
SANRAL focuses much of its developmental resources on education and training initiatives designed to improve the quality of maths and science teaching. The latest results of global study Trends in International Mathematics and Science show that South Africa still ranks low in maths and science, despite major improvements in recent years. SANRAL's response is to support education programmes at schools, focusing on training and upskilling the educators who teach maths and science.
Through its partnerships with universities, SANRAL sponsors programmes that help bridge the gap between high school and tertiary education. Scholarships are offered to deserving learners and many of them have the opportunity to continue their studies through the financial support provided by SANRAL. For the financial year 2016/2017 we invested R4.3m in scholarships for 194 high school learners, from R2.99m and 196 learners a year earlier.
Bursaries awarded to students in the engineering disciplines help to create a pipeline of new graduates who will in future design, build and maintain the country's physical infrastructure. In the same financial year, we invested R8.5m in 133 university students as compared to 122 the year before. Fourteen were for post-graduate studies. SANRAL's Technical Excellence Academy in Port Elizabeth offers graduate students the practical experience required to be registered as professional engineers.
Within the public sector, SANRAL has set the standards for how to attract, retain and manage highly sought-after talent. Through its human resource strategy, it has put in place mentorships and coaching programmes that encourage innovation, knowledge sharing and career-long development. Higher education bursaries went to 52 staff members, of which 31 enrolled for postgraduate studies to instil SANRAL's emphasis on the importance of investing in education and research.
Roshan Morar is the Outgoing SANRAL Board Chair
The national roads agency's partnership with the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) since 2010 has continued to grow and deliver positive results.
When SANRAL decided to deviate from investment entirely in inanimate road infrastructure and turned to funding the Chair in Pavement Engineering at the University of Stellenbosch, it was clear that Madiba's wisdom had taken root on home soil. This was especially the case given SANRAL's primary objective of "development of human capital and capacity building in the field of pavement engineering".
The inception of the SANRAL Chair in Pavement Engineering in 2001 came at an opportune time, with foundations laid by the preceding pavement academics and Sabita Chairs at Stellenbosch University. However, only a handful of pavement engineering graduates was being fed into industry annually. There was a glaring need to create critical mass of postgraduate researchers, so the SANRAL Chair took on the challenge.
The stimulus needed for the creation of critical mass can be generated in several different academic spheres, including the attraction of experts into the programme from time to time to assist in presenting quality courses, innovative research that breaks boundaries, product and model development that benefits industry, among others. At the same time, a redress of the diversity profile in pavement engineering was required.
Through team work and sweat equity, the pavement engineering group at Stellenbosch University has managed to achieve growth in the key spheres of tertiary education. The growth brought with it unprecedented diversity, both from within South Africa and beyond its borders. Within five years, the postgraduate profile was transformed from isolated candidates of colour, to between 40% and 60% of students emanating from historically disadvantaged communities, a trend that has been maintained for 10 years.
The postgraduate programme in pavement engineering has gone from strength to strength over the past 17 years. Among the defining features is the Chair's cooperation with international universities in Rwanda, Brazil, China, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the USA. With regards to outputs, seven doctoral and 51 Master's degrees have been awarded under the study leadership of the Chair. More than 1 000 student courses have been completed in the same period, with the total number of course delegates exceeding 1 600. Undergraduate activities have also flourished, with inputs from the SANRAL Chair into Transportation Science, Advanced Design, Research Projects and Materials Science in second to fourth-year courses.
Statistics alone do not capture the essence of an academic chair nor do they give true meaning to nurturing and mentoring. An old African proverb says "It takes a village to raise a child". Within all of the activities of the SANRAL Chair lie mentors who bridge gaps between academic teaching, postgraduate knowledge and undergraduate learning; industry volunteers who present courses, examine theses and moderate standards; industry sponsors and benefactors who help to initiate research projects and procure equipment for the university; and students themselves who volunteer to inform and prepare scholars for careers in engineering.
With such inspiration from our future generation, there is no doubt of our conviction, and the SANRAL Chair and his associated team seeks to continue to build human capital in pavement engineering.
Professor Kim Jenkins is the SANRAL Chair at the University of Stellenbosch
I always give credit to the wisdom and visionary leadership of the two organisations, SANRAL and the University of the Free State (UFS), for mastering what has eluded many who are committed to change in education in this country whether through policy, research or schooling interventions funded by the private sector. While many agree that to address the challenges of improving the quality of teaching and learning in science and mathematics in the majority of schools in South Africa requires more than just a one-dimensional intervention from this or other stakeholder, few have found creative ways to do it.
The SANRAL Chair is premised on a multi-pronged intervention that includes doing cutting-edge research in science and mathematics education, postgraduate training of Masters and PhD graduates to provide highly skilled practitioners and researchers, recruiting and supporting talented high school students into the teaching profession, building and supporting professional communities of teachers (in each school, circuit and district) through on-going and targeted subject-based professional development in science and mathematics; and finally dissemination of research findings and lessons from practice through publications, seminars, colloquia and conferences.
The dual focus on both research and practice in science and mathematics education, or the targeting of re-service and in-service teachers, or even the development of high-level person-power in the form of PhDs, in tandem with the recruitment and support of newly graduated high school students who want to be teachers of science and mathematics, is what makes the SANRAL Chair initiative a truly multi-dimensional and unique intervention in science and mathematics education in the country.
In its three years of existence, since the launch in September 2014, the SANRAL Chair has supported and produced 15 PhDs and six Masters graduates in science, mathematics, technology and educational leadership studies. Many of the SANRAL Chair graduates have moved on to become key players in the education sector and continue to be movers and shakers in society. Among its prominent graduates or students, the SANRAL Chair counts two heads of departments at different universities in South Africa and Zimbabwe, two teacher-education college principals in Zimbabwe, a Deputy Director General in the National Department of Education in South Africa, a mathematics teacher of the year awardee, and a district director whose district has been recognised by the National Minister of Education as being among the top-three performing districts in the country in 2016.
The current pipeline of 43 Masters and PhD students in the SANRAL Chair consists of senior education officials from at least three countries in the region, namely South Africa, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. The sheer scale of recruitment at this level, together with the regional distribution of the candidates, would never have been possible without the financial contribution of the SANRAL Chair endowment.
To say the SANRAL chair is making a contribution to changing the landscape in science, mathematics and technology education in South Africa and the region is no exaggeration. The possibility of establishing and launching a regional Centre of Excellence (CoE) in science, mathematics and technology education to service the entire SADC-pool of countries is no longer just a pipe dream, thanks to the seed funding from the SANRAL Chair endowment!
Professor Loyiso Jita is the SANRAL Chair at the University of the Free State
This partnership with SANRAL has enabled me to develop a number of undergraduate and postgraduate training courses. The course with the greatest impact is probably the fourth year civil engineering course on transportation engineering. In this course, annually, around 100 students get trained in the fundamentals of geometric road design, pavement design and traffic engineering design. In a design project, students use SANRAL's data and are guided by SANRAL staff on the development of road upgrading alternatives. The SANRAL Chair has also organised a number of courses for SANRAL staff, among others, on Traffic Impact Assessment for staff of the statutory control sector within SANRAL.
We are, for example, looking at specific groups of people (women, urban poor and public transport users) using specific systems (public transport and walking) to specific destinations (factories, jobs and schools) and at specific times of the day. Using agent based modelling (ABM) approaches we are now also looking at how users of the multi-modal public transport system react to network configurations as well as hybrid models of paratransit and Bus Rapid Transit modes.
In another line of research, my students and I are looking into pedestrian infrastructure and behaviour in Africa. Using rich data on pedestrian activity around freeways from the SANRAL Freeway Management System (FMS) in Cape Town, we are estimating statistical models of pedestrian crossing choice, whereby pedestrians trade-off aspects of safety and convenience between the use of crossing facilities and at grade ‘illegal' crossings.
Empirical data shows these are very complex crossing decisions as some pedestrians choose between two very unattractive alternatives, yet have no choice but to choose one of them.
Related to this, we are developing a smart phone application that pedestrians can use to rate their walking environment. Using the app we, can track the routes of pedestrians and ask them to indicate (using various media) points of concern along their route. Our ambition is to use this research to contribute to projects like safe routes to school, access of public (open) spaces and for general pedestrian accessibility. Both projects allow us to establish associations between the built environment, walkability and crossing activity.
Following this research and with the generous sponsorship of SANRAL, I have also been able to organise the fifth International Choice Modelling Conference in Cape Town, where over 200 experts from all over Africa and beyond gathered to discuss the type of models we are using for the pedestrian crossing choice research.
All this work allows us to challenge the more traditional mobility-centric approaches in transport planning, which have dominated South Africa's planning practice. While this position was, and still is, challenged from a range of perspectives, I would suggest that my approach ‘within its limitations' responds to a need typical for cities in the global south, looking at various dimensions and at all the modes across the board.
In short, the role of SANRAL has been significant in my research and teaching, and beyond the endowment itself.
Associate Professor Mark Zuidgeest is the SANRAL Chair at the University of Cape Town
Roads are the life line of a country's economy, providing the network through which goods are moved to market. At the same time, roads are vital for the social development of a country, providing access to health facilities, schools and other services. Roads are costly to construct and maintain – a major highway can cost up to R50m per kilometre to construct. This means that it needs to be well designed for the expected traffic and environmental conditions to ensure a quality, safe service to all users.
However, due to a lack of funding and in some instances, a lack of capability and capacity in especially local government, the condition of some roads (mainly provincial and local) are deteriorating. The South African Institution of Civil Engineers (SAICE) reported in their Infrastructure Report Card (IRC) of 2011 that national roads rated as a grading of B (IRC gradings can range from A+ to E-). However, the SAICE IRC indicated that provincial roads rated D-; metropolitan roads C-; paved district and local municipal roads a D; and all provincial unpaved roads an E. These ratings are currently reviewed for the 2017 SAICE report card and initial indications are that the condition of roads has not improved, and in some categories has deteriorated.
The design of road materials and road pavements has become a more exact science. Materials can be engineered to withstand heavier traffic and harsher environmental conditions. They should also be durable and ageing, or degradation should be prevented as far as possible. To this end SANRAL, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the University of Pretoria have initiated a set of road materials testing laboratories that will assist improved design of road building materials.
Three laboratories are currently being constructed or upgraded with SANRAL funding: an academic laboratory to train students at the University of Pretoria, a reference testing laboratory on the University of Pretoria experimental farm that will be managed by the CSIR and an upgraded research laboratory on the CSIR campus. These laboratories will come into operation in 2018/19. The purpose of these laboratories is firstly to improve research into road building materials and design methods, and secondly to train students and technicians in road materials testing and design. The reference laboratory will be used to conduct reference testing of materials from critical road construction projects to assist with improving the quality of construction.
In addition to the above, SANRAL has funded several research projects at the CSIR to improve the design of roads. These include for example, the development of the new South African Road Design System (SARDS), research into bituminous materials and so on. These improved design methods, as well as the improved materials design capability mentioned above, will save the country hundreds of millions of rand once implemented. In addition, a number of new road engineers will be trained through these activities and will assist in addressing the current scarcity of road engineers in South Africa.
Professor Wynand Steyn and Dr Chris Rust
At times, we pursue dreams that are beyond our imagination and from time to time one needs a supportive friend to assist in reaching these dreams. This is what SANRAL has done for me.
SANRAL, through the office of the SANRAL Chair, Professor Jita at the University of the Free State, assisted with all my financial needs pertaining to this academic journey. With SANRAL's assistance, I was able to undertake a study, which investigated the role of school-based professional development interventions in enhancing teachers' classroom practices and curriculum decisions. I am happy to say I was able to see the study to completion and I graduated in 2015.
One of the conditions that the SANRAL Chair imposes on all its students is that they must present their study, or part of their study, at a conference and SANRAL assisted in this regard. I had the privilege of attending an international conference in Mozambique to present my study.
IT WAS A GREAT PRIVILEGE RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH SOME OF SOUTHERN AFRICA'S LEADING SCHOLARS AND LEARNING FROM THEIR EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCES.
I'm currently enrolled for a PhD study in which I investigate opportunities to learn that pre-service teachers are afforded in their initial teacher education programmes. In this instance as well, the SANRAL Chair has been kind enough to support me through this academic journey. I'm almost at the end of my investigation; it would have been difficult to be where I am with regard to the investigation if it was not for SANRAL's support.
My wish is to go on to be a world-class researcher and SANRAL has definitely assisted me in achieving this dream. Hopefully, I will attain a doctoral degree and this would have been a fruitful venture and a good investment both for me and SANRAL alike.
Thank you SANRAL.
David Maleho Letloenyane is a PhD candidate at the University of the Free State
I learnt about an opportunity to carry out doctoral research that was being sponsored by SANRAL at the Centre for Transport Studies in the University of Cape Town's Department of Civil Engineering.
The information was made available to me by the SANRAL Chair (Associate Professor Mark Zuidgeest who was also supervising my Master's thesis at the time). By enquiring further, I learnt that the requirements for the position were the successful completion of a relevant MSc programme and a willingness to carry out research work that is relevant to South Africa's transportation infrastructure and services sector. I then applied for the position and was fortunate to get accepted in January 2015 and I am on course to complete my work by the end of 2018.
MY PHD RESEARCH DEALS WITH THE IMPROVEMENT OF ROAD-BASED PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS WITH A SPECIFIC FOCUS ON THE MYCITI BUS RAPID TRANSPORT (BRT) NETWORK IN CAPE TOWN.
The outcome of my research is a tool that will help decision makers in the South African transportation policy and planning space to make better decisions regarding the choice of public transport routes and the allocation of resources such as infrastructure (road lanes) and economic resources, in order to provide equitable, affordable and attractive transit services for many more South Africans than is currently possible.
Lastly, I wish to express my profound gratitude to SANRAL for sponsoring my PhD and I look forward to adding value to society through this work.
Obi Nnene is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town