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The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Department of Student Counselling and Health hosted a webinar on MS Teams, on 15 June 2021, to commemorate Youth Day (16 June). Mr Sihle Mbanjwa facilitated the webinar in cooperation with DUT’s Sister Soori Wardthen, from the DUT Student Health Clinics, Department of Student Counselling and Health.

Dr Vincent Zishiri presented on: Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 on Building Graduate Competencies. Dr Zishiri is the Technical Executive Manager at Higher Health, an implementing agency of South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).  

“One of the silver bullets of dealing with COVID-19 is being in ventilated spaces. I think this point is very important, particularly where we are now in the vaccination programme. It is the phased approach to vaccination where we initially saw people with higher risk factors, so people who are more exposed to the virus through their line of work particularly, patients in healthcare workers and final-year students. The next phase is that we know that COVID-19 affects people with comorbidities, for example, people with uncontrollable diabetes have a much higher risk of contracting the virus. Any age above 60 are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Therefore, phase two of the vaccination phase is going to be targeted to vaccinate the elderly people, then phase three is for the general population,” said Zishiri. 

Representing the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Department of Social Welfare Development was Nombulelo Meyiwa, who is a social work policy developer. Meyiwa touched on the issue of substance abuse. “Some people use drugs because of peer pressure, some use them because they are bored and some use drugs because they are stressed. We have different kinds of illegal drugs with different effects, for example, mandrax, cocaine, ecstasy and so on. The negative effects that these drugs might have include anxiety, paranoia, high body temperature, some even get stroke and heart failure if they overdose,” she said.  

She further spoke on drug addiction and its effects as well as the role played by the Social Development Department. “When someone is addicted, it causes emotional stress for family and friends which can lead to violence because emotions get triggered easily. The role of the Social Development is to render intervention that are guided by the Acts, as well as the National Drug Masterplan. We have four levels of intervention which are prevention in awareness, early intervention, treatment and aftercare and integration. We also have programmes to raise awareness,” she said.

Motivational Speaker and KZN Higher Health Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator, Mr Oziel Mdletshe delivered a personal motivation that was mostly based on his health, specifically his HIV status.  

“My message to young people at the DUT community is that as long as you understand who you are, empower and equip yourself then you will be able to deal with matters in your surroundings,” he said.

Mdletshe then delved on current social topics that are crucial in society, such as gender-based violence, mental health, and discrimination of the members of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) community.  

“As young people, we need to stand up and condemn the behaviour of mistreating and killing members of the LGBTQ community. A tragic scenario happened in Kwa Makhutha in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where a young woman was killed because of her sexuality. Our institutions are a better platform to empower young people. COVID-19 has made us think differently about our lifestyles and to socialise differently. I am HIV positive, and I have survived COVID-19, my point being that when we come across situations like these, we need to find a way to deal with them by seeking in depth knowledge on how to manage the situations.” he said. 

Former Treasurer General of the Student Representative Council (SRC), Musa Mbonambi gave some background history of Youth Day and its significance. “Black students were fighting against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction. We should advocate for this day as it is an important part of our history,” she explained. 

Pictured: One of the speakers at the webinar, former Treasurer General of the Student Representative Council (SRC), Musa Mbonambi.

Nikiwe Sukazi 

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