Twenty- four (24) interns who were part of the first cohort of the COVID-19 Psychosocial Internship Programme (CPIP) were recently honoured in an award ceremony.
The multidisciplinary programme is run by the Ma’at Institute, which is based in the School of Applied Human Sciences (SAHS) within UKZN’s College of Humanities. CPIP is a culmination of a partnership between UKZN, Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA), the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), and various partners in KwaZulu-Natal.
Derived from the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality and justice, the Ma’at Institute seeks to provide psychosocial support and promote skills transfer through various interventions.
In his welcome address, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize, acknowledged the importance of the partner institutions.
Noting how the COVID-19 pandemic relies heavily on medical advances, he shared the importance of the human aspect and how the programme was designed to fill that gap. Mkhize explained the purpose of the Ma’at way, which is based on the principle of Ubuntu and how this philosophy was integrated into the internship training.
He said: ‘As an institution of higher learning, it’s important for us to connect with the community. We need to harness all the community centres, as centres of excellence, learning and engagement; and this particular project has allowed us to practice this philosophy where we learn from the community, and the community learns from us.’
DHET Deputy Director-General, Mr Zukile Mvalo, highlighted how the project seeks to change the conditions of South Africa in favour of the vulnerable. He also remarked on how the implementation of the CPIP was timely in addressing issues associated with the global pandemic, such as anxiety and depression.
HWSETA Chief Executive Officer, Ms Elaine Brass, discussed how the project went beyond addressing the psychosocial effects of COVID-19 but also addressed issues of Gender-Based Violence and mental health.
She said: ‘Picture 24 young, brave people taking up an internship in an unknown world. A University that wanted to help communities in hotspot areas, a partner who agreed to execute the dream, and HWSETA who wanted to make a difference in its sector. As ten professionals, we all got together, and we have certainly made a difference – and this is what we are celebrating today.’
Mrs Yolokazi Mjoli, a mentor in the programme, reflected on the difficult times at the Institute due to the increased numbers of deaths and sicknesses, the high number of unemployment, job losses and social ills caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Remarking on how the interns worked tirelessly with a passion for providing the counselling and psychosocial support needed, she expressed how she learnt a lot and thanked the Institute for the experience and for opening doors career-wise.
Interns Ms Fundile Ndlanzi and Ms Nokukhanya Zondi highlighted how they provided counselling telephonically and made a difference by touching people’s lives affected by COVID-19. Extending their gratitude for being able to participate in the programme, they thanked the Institute for the experience.
KwaZulu-Natal Sports and Recreation Department Head Dr Thobile Sifunda highlighted why the need for psychosocial support is vital in South Africa. Noting the country’s ranking as the most unequal in the world, she added how the pandemic exposed its systematic differences.
She called for knowledge transfer to occur not just in the College of Humanities but in all other Colleges and Schools within the University for society to be transformed and sustainable. ‘We have the capacity, passion and ability to change society in this Institution because the seed that has been planted at UKZN’s Ma’at Institute is a seed that must be nurtured and seen everywhere.’
Sifunda encouraged individuals to own their identities and narratives, be in control, and manage their spaces and communities. She emphasised the need for Africans to view themselves with pride and affirmation; and further echoed the sentiments of her book titled: I Refuse to be Called Black – Unapologetically African, which seeks to highlight the multiple, dynamic and historically grounded educational practices that centre African lived-experiences and knowledge systems.
Dr Nontobeko Buthelezi, Lecturer in the Discipline of Psychology and project manager of the Ma’at Institute, evaluated the risks of entering an unchartered terrain with the programme. Acknowledging all the partners, she said: ‘The biggest partner was the Institution that trusted us with this project: UKZN and Professor Mkhize, who was there with us from the beginning.’
She thanked Dr Sibonisile Zibane, Social Work Academic Leader, and her colleagues, including Dr Maud Mthembu who collaborated with the interns to write a children’s book turned movie on the pandemic titled: Uhambo Lwami Ngesikhathi Sekhovithi. Buthelezi recognised the interns for their drive and determination; and partners HWSETA and DHET for being able to think outside of the box in addressing COVID-19 related challenges and supporting them with this initiative.
She extended her thanks to the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA), Sibakhulise, Fuze Institute, Durban Youth Radio (DYR), Izwi LoMzansi FM, Ace Foundation, eThekwini Municipality and the KwaZulu- Natal Department of Education for being receptive gatekeepers. She also acknowledged the many organisations that continue to provide support for the Institute’s initiatives and placements for their interns.
Interns were awarded certificates for completing the programme.
Senior lecturer in African Languages, Dr Gugu Mazibuko, was the programme director for the event, while Mr Victor Sithole and Ms Zinhle Madela provided the night’s entertainment.