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Ukzn-Cogta Partnership to Boost Disaster Management Skills

2013/04/12 11:49:39 AM

A strategic partnership between the Discipline of Public Governance in the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance (SMIG) at UKZN and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) is on the cards in a bid to address skills shortages in disaster risk management (DRM) across the country.

Dr Fayth Ruffin

This emerged out of a series of meetings convened by COGTA’s National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) and Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) over six months and a recent two-day curriculum development workshop hosted by the Discipline which saw role-players from academia, NDMC, PDMC and local municipalities gather to develop a reciprocal partnership based upon capacity-building in DRM and SMIG student eligibility for COGTA-funded bursaries.

The workshop created a platform for academics and public sector officials to interact and explore approaches to incorporating DRM into the Public Governance curriculum, establish the training needs of personnel associated with DRM and identify research and publication opportunities in this area.

According to Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Public Governance, Dr Fayth Ruffin, who facilitated the workshop and is responsible for steering the partnership along with Lecturer Mr Bongani Qwabe, DRM is a burgeoning field in South Africa that requires further development.

‘DRM is among essential trends in regional and global public administration and its interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary nature require collaboration amongst Disciplines, Schools and Colleges at UKZN as well as between other universities, government and civil society.  The curriculum development workshop provided a forum for interactive exchange to ensure students are equipped as critical thinkers with leadership and management skills and abilities that shape DRM initiatives in accordance with societal demands,’ said Ruffin.

A salient need identified by public sector officials present was building the capacity of councillors and practitioners in communities across South Africa. With this in mind, the Discipline of Public Governance is in the process of formulating short courses through the University Extended Learning (UEL) Programme that encourage community awareness and participation in disaster risk management focusing on prevention, recovery and rehabilitation.

Research in the area of disaster risk management is underway among postgraduate public administration students with a number of Honours and Masters students exploring this field.

Qwabe indicated that DRM is one of the most neglected fields of service delivery, and that capacitating students and communities will help in addressing much-needed DRM strategies while meeting national legislative mandates. Research on DRM will not only build knowledge in the field but especially assist local legislators and policy-makers with designing integrated development plans inclusive of DRM risk reduction strategies, he explained.

According to Ruffin, UKZN and the Durban University of Technology are the only Higher Educational Institutions in the province actively engaging with the public sector to address the DRM skills shortage. Ruffin said the Discipline planned on encouraging partnerships with other Higher Education Institutions and civil society organisations to develop skills in disaster risk management.

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