Human Nutrition

Overview of the program 

The Ukwanda rotation for Dietetics is a 6-week integrated community-based service-learning rotation for final year dietetic students.  The purpose of the program is to expose students to the three fields of dietetics (community nutrition, therapeutic nutrition and food service management) integrated into practice, to equip students better to work effectively in the South African public health context. The program was initiated in 2012 and takes place on one of two rural training platforms located in Worcester and Hermanus. 

By the end of the Ukwanda rotation students should be able to:  

  • Describe the role and responsibilities of dietitians and other health care workers in the context of a rural, inter-professional health care team.  
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the social determinants of health and disease by formulating appropriate action plans.  
  • Reflect on the functioning of the health care system with a specific focus on primary health care and relevant nutrition programmes.  
  • Evaluate existing resources and systems, identify needs and participate in the process of improvement by collaborating with community members and / or health care workers.  
  • Demonstrate practical skills in providing sustainable nutritional care to people in resource limited settings through needs assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation.  
  • Identify and utilise opportunities for health promotion and disease prevention with individuals and groups.  
  • Facilitate learning for others and tailor information and/or interventions to be relevant and appropriate for the recipient.  
  • Demonstrate commitment and accountability to patients, other health care workers and society through ethical, compassionate, holistic, person-centred care.  
  • Cultivate commitment and implement strategies to maintain and improve your own physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being.  
  • Demonstrate a commitment to lifelong reflective learning by making the most of every opportunity, reflecting often and learning from challenges.  
  • Display strengthened interpersonal skills with a specific focus on effective team functioning and communication (written, verbal, visual and electronic).  
  • Express creativity in a resource limited setting by using existing resources efficiently and ethically.  

Local coordinator:  

Clinical facilitators: Hananja Donald (Hermanus) and Elria Joubert (Worcester), hold BSc Dietetics degrees from Stellenbosch University and have been part of the Ukwanda rotation since its inception in 2012.  Both worked as Community Dietitians for the Department of Health before as well as in the private sector. Their area of focus is community and public health nutrition. They are passionate about their field and exposing students to opportunities where they can practically implement their theoretical knowledge during the Ukwanda rotation. A lot of thought is given when compiling the outcomes and activities of this rotation to ensure that students are equipped to become effective dietitians. 

The Ukwanda co-ordinator, Dr Lynette Daniels, based at the Tygerberg campus is responsible for the overarching Ukwanda co-ordination. She is a lecturer in the Division of Human Nutrition, Stellenbosch University (SU). She holds a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from SU. Her focus area is community and public health nutrition with a key focus on maternal and child nutrition. Prior to joining the SU she worked as a Community Dietitian for the Department of Health in the Western Cape. 

Which communities are involved?  

The Worcester students work in the Cape Winelands district, including the Breede Valley sub-district (Touwsriver, De Doorns, Worcester and Rawsonville) as well as Witzenberg sub-district (Op-die-Berg, Prince Alfred’s Hamlet, Tulbagh, Wolseley, and Ceres). The Hermanus students work in the Overstrand sub-district (Gansbaai, Stanford, Hermanus Zwelihle, Mount Pleasant, Hawston and Kleinmond) within the Overberg district.  

Students have the opportunity to work at the following platforms and institutions during the Ukwanda rotation: 

  • Facilities of Western Cape Government Health (hospitals, community day centres, clinics and mobile units) 
  • Early Childhood Development Centres 
  • Primary schools 
  • Community Based Organisations 

How do the clinical rotations work?  

Longitudinal programme: 

Four dietetic students are selected for the longitudinal programme. These students complete their Community Nutrition, Food Service Management, Ukwanda and part of their Therapeutic nutrition internship in the setting of Worcester. 

Ukwanda rotation: 

The rest of the dietetic class are divided into 4 groups and are placed at the Worcester or Hermanus platforms for 6 weeks Ukwanda rotation.   

What is the benefit of the program to students 

Reflections of previous dietetic students on their experience of the Ukwanda rotation: 

  • How often do we get to glimpse into the lives of others? How often do we move out of our comfort zones?    How often do we dare immersing ourselves into a reality so different and so under-resourced compared to ours? Most people do not, by choice.    Perhaps for the fear of then no longer being able to ignore the problems of millions of South Africans, or no longer being able to quiet your conscience. Ukwanda means “To grow”, and it gently forced me do to this by removing the shutters from my eyes I did not even know existed, reminding me to use my privilege for the benefit of others. Though emotionally draining and physically exhausting, it was a life-changing experience”  Liezel Engelbrecht 
  • “GROWTH AND COMFORT DO NOT COEXIST. Temporarily stepping away from home into an unknown environment – an uncomfortable situation. Yet, I would describe this experience as one that was remarkable. Throughout this rotation I was exposed to opportunities that facilitated personal as well as academic growth. I was able to apply theoretical knowledge in a range of different settings; develop interpersonal relationships in a work environment as well as informal setting; develop greater self-confidence nonetheless improvement in communication in Afrikaans. Additionally, first-hand engagement with the community has been an invaluable experience; I have gained a deeper insight into barriers that contribute to the state of nutrition in South Africa. I am truly grateful for this journey of growth.” Sabeeha Abdullah 
  • “TWO BRAINS RUNNING. This block has been one of the most challenging but rewarding blocks I have experienced this year. It has brought me to a point where I feel confident that I am sufficiently prepared for next year.  And although it is cliché to say, the name ‘Ukwanda’ describes this experience flawlessly, as in Xhosa it means ‘’to grow, ‘to develop’ and ‘to make a positive difference in the community’.   The diverse range of opportunities we were exposed to in these 6 weeks is like nothing I have ever done before. This diversity has greatly contributed to my own personal development in areas such as adaptability, independence, and creativity. Immersing myself in the community has been invaluable, as it has given me new insight into the many over-looked barriers to health and as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.” We grew in many ways: confidence, conscience, creativity and collaboration” Tayla Saaiman 
  • “The value attained during this rotation from self-development to practical education and consultation skills is irreplaceable. It has solidified knowledge gained during the degree and made it more wholesome and concrete, aiding us to reach our full potential as healthcare professionals and the Dietitians we are destined to become. Working with so many different people with varying backgrounds has proved not only an invaluable experience but has gripped my heart, fuelled my soul, and reignited my passions for empowering and helping people. I will keep the flaming momentum of this sense of fulfilment and purpose burning.” Kenneth Franceschi