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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Finding your purpose in life

EXCITED: Moses Basitere tried on his graduation robes as soon as he fetched them. EXCITED: Moses Basitere tried on his graduation robes as soon as he fetched them.

Amongst the excited students graduating at this year’s autumn graduation is one lecturer who is just as delighted to be capped again.
Moses Basitere teaches engineering mathematics and engineering physics to first-year and second-year students in the Chemical Engineering Department.

He also gets his D Eng in Chemical Engineering having worked on a thesis entitled Performance evaluation of up-and down-flow anaerobic digestion reactors for poultry slaughterhouse wastewater treatment in South Africa.

The doctorate is all the more precious to him because his academic career almost finished before it started.
Basitere was devastated when he was academically excluded from UCT in his second year and grudgingly listened to a lecturer who told him to investigate CPUT as an alternative. Today he realises it was the best decision he ever made.
“I never failed a course again,” he points out.

Plus he figured out he liked teaching: “I discovered my purpose,” said Basitere.
Reflecting on the beginning of his academic career Basitere now realises that adaptation was his biggest problem back then.
“It was difficult to fit into the UCT culture and there wasn’t enough mechanisms to accommodate the rural students at the time.
“But here at CPUT, it was different. There was already a bit of diversity in the teaching staff back in 2005 and the way they taught… the lecturers cared whether we understood what was being taught,” Basitere said.

He finished his National Diploma in Chemical Engineering and then returned to do his BTech after his in-service stint at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station.

After his BTech, he started lecturing, part-time at first, and as he tutored students he thought: “Instead of complaining about transition of students from the rural areas I must be the change I want to see.”
As he taught he saw students running into the same problems he had experienced.
“So I started looking at interventions like using social media such as Facebook and Whatsapp to create a platform for learning outside the classroom to get the students to talk to each other for support.”

He also introduced electronic clickers in his class to allow students to anonymously answer questions. “It was a way to make them realise their views matter. Also, they can talk to each other about why they answered in the way they did.”

Basitere was awarded a Faculty of Engineering Distinguished Teaching Award for his contribution to teaching and learning in the Extended Curriculum Programme (ECP) Chemical Engineering in 2014 when he started working on his D Eng thesis.
At the same time as he published journal articles in chemical engineering, Basitere also started publishing in engineering education, so far four in each field.

He likes working with first-year students and always tells them: “I am preventing you from going through what I went through.”
Recently he was seconded as the coordinator for chemical engineering ECP and he is working on a psychosocial support programme targeting at students at risk of failing.

“I realise that with the engineering education research I am doing I have the power to influence policy,” said Basitere.

Written by Theresa Smith


Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.