The Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria (UP) officially opened the newly built Lesedi Complex at the Onderstepoort Campus on Friday 19 February 2016.
This world-class complex, a project made possible by a grant from the National Skills Fund, was completed late last year and is aimed specifically at creating facilities that will allow the Faculty to increase its annual intake of veterinary students. The complex houses a multi-disciplinary laboratory, the Veterinary Skills Laboratory, offices for Faculty Student Administration and Support Services, as well as the Student Study Centre.
Prof Darrell Abernethy, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, says veterinarians are crucial to the country’s economy and wellbeing for many reasons, including their contribution to national food security by ensuring the safety of food animal products, improving animal health and production, and nurturing emerging farmers.
‘We have made significant progress in recent years to ensure that the Faculty meet the aspirations and needs of the country. Our six-year degree programme now places much greater emphasis on livestock production and experiential training, and we offer a wide range of research programmes, many of which address pressing national needs such as controlling dangerous diseases in animals and improving the incomes of smallholder farmers. The Lesedi Complex significantly enhances our capacity to train undergraduate students and allows the Faculty to increase the annual intake of veterinary students from 140 to 190 to meet the growing demand for veterinarians in the country,’ says Prof Abernethy.
UP is currently the only institution in South Africa that trains both veterinarians and veterinary nurses. It has the foremost veterinary faculty in Africa, which is internationally recognised for the quality of its training and research. The Faculty has approximately 1 000 undergraduate students and more than 330 postgraduate students who are registered for a wide range of honours, master’s and PhD degrees.
The Lesedi Complex has been designed to form the new gateway to the Onderstepoort Campus and has strong, modern, South African architectural elements. The complex consists of three blocks linked by foyers, as well as the Sir Arnold Theiler Building and the Animal Hospital.
The complex consists of:
- a multi-disciplinary laboratory that is equipped with various types of microscope (compound, stereo and phase-contrast), used by both veterinary and veterinary nursing students for practical work involving microscopes, including histology, parasitology, pathology and reproduction;
- offices for Faculty Student Administration and Support Services;
- the Veterinary Skills Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility that provides innovative ways for teaching practical skills by means of various models, which reduces the need to perform practical procedures on live animals and while making it possible to teach under more controlled circumstances; and
- the Student Study Centre, where students can study and hold group discussions while enjoying snacks or beverages.
In 2015, the Director of the Veterinary Skills Laboratory received an award in the USA for a project entitled ‘Development, validation and implementation of in-house manufactured veterinary models for innovative teaching of clinical skills’. Through a community engagement initiative, the Faculty invited 20 young South Africans from the local community to take part in a six to eight week training programme for model development, allowing them to assist in the process of developing and producing the models. These learners completed a business course through BE@UP, which included project management and financial management, and are currently busy with their training to manufacture teaching aids.
As part of the same project, changes were made to existing lecture halls to accommodate the larger number of students. Changes were also made to the southern area of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital, adjacent to the new Lesedi Complex.
Certain aspects of the project are still underway, including the establishment of a computer laboratory with sufficient seating to accommodate an entire year group at the same time. The establishment of satellite clinical facilities and improvements to animal teaching facilities, aimed at accommodating the large student intake, are also being undertaken and are expected to be completed by the end 2016.