Participants at the Third African Health Research Ethics Symposium.

Participants at the Third African Health Research Ethics Symposium.

UKZN hosts Third African Health Research Ethics Symposium

Participants at the Third African Health Research Ethics Symposium.
Participants at the Third African Health Research Ethics Symposium.

The South African Research Ethics Training Initiative (SARETI) recently hosted their Third African Health Research Ethics Symposium (AHRES III) at the Protea Marriott Hotel. SARETI is a Masters in Social Science (Health Research Ethics) programme based at the School of Applied Human Sciences (Psychology).

The SARETI programme aims to improve and build African capacity of health research ethicists. Over the years SARETI has had over 60 scholars, 17 of which were delegates at this two-day symposium. The 17 scholars are from 14 different African countries.

The symposium was also attended by SARETI Executive Committee members, Professor Douglas Wassenaar (UKZN), SARETI Principal Investigator and Executive Head of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at Stellenbosch University, Professor Mariana Kruger; Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize (UKZN) and Director of the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED), based in Geneva, Switzerland, Professor Carel IJsselmuiden.

AHRES is a platform for SARETI graduates to present their research work and build connections with fellow SARETI trainees from other African countries. A parallel focus of AHRES is to build strong health research ethics networks across the African continent.

The two-day symposium had six themes, namely: Research ethics committee practices and functions; Knowledge of and compliance with research ethics; Special issues in research ethics; Research ethics in the field; National frameworks and REC systems; and, Research ethics leadership in Africa: What key scholarship does Africa need?

Graduates reflected on how their SARETI health research ethics training propelled their careers. Professor Felix Chukwuneke from Nigeria said the programme was a real eye opener for him as he was able to take the knowledge he gained to introduce and implement changes in the practices of health research ethics in his home country.

He believes his time at SARETI helped him gain perspective and fast-tracked his academic career, from a level 1 lecturer to a full Professor at the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Enugu Campus, Nigeria.

Ms Boitumelo Mokgatla from Botswana said, ‘I have had many opportunities since 2009, from engaging with Research Ethics Committees (RECs), donors, funders and research institutions. I have been involved in capacity building and training in Africa. And I have other career opportunities in the pipeline. My SARETI training continues to brighten my future.’

Members of the Executive Committee expressed their appreciation for the graduates and their satisfaction at the growth of SARETI over the years.

Prof Kruger said, ‘AHRES has become more complex, with deep scholarly reflection. We are ready for a PhD programme. I am proud of the progress made by our students. They say a good teacher is when the students surpass the teacher.’