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Author: Supplied
Published: 04/04/2024

After about three years leading the Africa Centre team as interim director, Dr Munya Saruchera is stepping down to focus more of his time and energy on teaching, research and collaboration. (And, as a happy consequence, his garden.) Let’s find out more about his new role at the centre.

You have maintained your role as senior lecturer throughout your directorship. What will change now?

I will resume my role as senior lecturer on a fulltime basis to focus more on my academic work. This includes teaching the ethics module for both the PgDip and MPhil programmes. I will also copresent a master’s course on corruption and health at the SU School for Public Leadership with Prof Pregala Pillay as well as a master’s course in the sociology of sustainable agriculture at the SU Faculty of AgriSciences.

Will you still supervise MPhil and PhD students?

Yes. This year I am supervising 12 MPhil students from the Africa Centre across a range of topics relating to HIV/Aids management, as well as four PhD students. In addition, I’m cosupervising another four PhD students registered at other SU departments, namely the School for Public Leadership, the Division of Health Systems and Public Health and the Faculty of AgriSciences.

What about your own research? Will you focus more on that too in your new role?

Definitely. I will undertake research with various collaborators at SU and beyond. In this regard, I’m excited about having been selected for two SU initiatives. The first is the Public Squares initiative, managed by the Division for Research Development (DRD). It is a research development programme that aims to support collaborative research, encourage bold and creative ideas, develop competitive grant proposals, and cultivate new transdisciplinary focal areas. My submission, titled “One health collaborative hub on rural-urban migration, land use change and disease dynamics in South Africa”, was selected as one of the 11 Public Squares (out of 27 expressions of interest) that will receive support in 2024.

I’ll also be participating in the SUNRISE programme, SU’s version of the national Future Professors Programme. The programme will focus on collaborative learning and scholarly exchanges, providing a supportive environment for academic growth and development, underpinned by mentorship and guidance. A total of 35 candidates from nine faculties are taking part.

Are you hoping for less demanding workdays? If so, what will you do with the extra time?

Certainly, I especially look forward to spending less time on admin-related work such as meetings, staff supervision and managing service providers, which took most of my time. I will spend more time in my vegetable and flower garden at home. My family have already bought me new garden tools, a camping chair, playing cards and an adult colouring book to show their support! I also intend to get back into a habit of sleeping eight to nine hours a night and avoiding after-hours work.

Long-term team member Dr Burt Davis will take over as interim director. Any words of wisdom for him?

You are the director the Africa Centre has been waiting for. Put your best foot forward and while you’re at it, don’t forget to negotiate with the universe for a 28-hour day, because you will need it. May the wind always be on your back to propel you forward!

And your message for the rest of the team?

Let us keep on building the centre into an entity that our children will want and be proud to work for. The Africa Centre’s new vision and strategy need all hands on deck.