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73rd Graduation Ceremony – CoNAS Presents 275 students

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The Vice Chancellor of the University of London, Prof. Wendy Thomson has emphasized the role of higher education in shaping individuals and societies. “Makerere University and the University of London have tens of thousands of talented graduates now contributing to social and economic development and tackling global challenges both at home and around the world, in areas that include education, health, law, business, technology and a range of fields critical to sustainable development,” she noted while delivering her Commencement Lecture on the first day of the 73rd graduation ceremony, 13th February 2023. Citing the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 that proclaimed the right to education, directed to the full development of the human personality, the strengthening of respect for human rights, the promotion of global citizenship, and sustenance of the global commons, Prof. Thomson said strengthening higher education would greatly transform nation states across the globe. “The University of London is scoping deeper engagement with the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) in its mission to expand doctoral education and build research capacity to address key challenges including health, education, climate, natural resources and deep social and economic questions of equality and sustainability. We know that graduates of ARUA institutions – including our own graduates across Africa are key to long-term sustainable development,” she said. 

Delivering her Commencement Lecture, Prof. Wendy Thomson, Vice Chancellor, University of London emphasized the role of higher education in transforming societies.
Delivering her Commencement Lecture, Prof. Wendy Thomson, Vice Chancellor, University of London emphasized the role of higher education in transforming societies.

Visiting Uganda and Makerere for the first time, Prof. Thomson noted that it was a great opportunity for the two Universities to renew their historical ties and strengthen collaboration.  “At a time when Makerere has reached its centenary, this is a splendid opportunity for both institutions to reflect upon our special relationship and look to a future collaboration,” she said. The relationship between the two institutions dates back to 1949 when Makerere became a university college affiliated to the University College of London.  With the establishment of the University of East Africa on 29th June 1963, the special relationship with the University of London came to a close and degrees of the University of East Africa were instituted. On July 1, 1970, Makerere became an independent national university of the Republic of Uganda, offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses leading to its own awards.

Prof. Thomson congratulated the graduands upon the ‘very important milestone’ given the challenges placed on study and health care services during the pandemic. “I would also like to express my recognition and respect to your family and friends who have supported you through your studies to reach this joyful moment. I have a daughter who has just begun university in England, and I appreciate the financial and emotional calls that are made on parents and families during a university education.”

The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni challenged the incoming members of Council and the University Management to work out plans for equipping students with skills to fight moral decadency in society. Photo credit: Twitter/@JanetMuseveni
The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni challenged the incoming members of Council and the University Management to work out plans for equipping students with skills to fight moral decadency in society. Photo credit: Twitter/@JanetMuseveni

Graduation statistics

Three Colleges presented students for the award of degrees and diplomas on the first day of the 73rd graduation ceremony of Makerere University. These include; the College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), the College of Health Sciences (CHS) and the School of Law. CoNAS presented 275 graduands, 84 female and 192 male. Of these, 7 graduated with PhDs (3 female, 4 male), 38 with MSc (7 female, 31 male) and 130 with BSc (74 female, 156 male). The PhD graduates include; Dr Samuel Ojelel, Head, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology; Kajumba Pamella Katalihwa (Department of Physics), Mukalazi Hebert (Department of Mathematics), Nayebare Gumoteyo Jacintha (Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies); Okello Alex (Department of Physics); Kimuli Philly Ivan; and Nankinga Loy (Department of Mathematics).

Dr Samuel Ojelel, Head, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology was one of the PhD graduands from CoNAS.
Dr Samuel Ojelel, Head, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology was one of the PhD graduands from CoNAS.

A total of 13,209 students will be awarded degrees and diplomas of Makerere University during the 73rd graduation ceremony that ends on Friday, 17th February 2023. Of these, 6803 (52%) are female and 6406 (48%) male.

Remarks by the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports

In her remarks, the Minister of Education and Sports. Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni who attended the ceremony virtually congratulated the graduands and appreciated the parents and guardians for the sacrifices made to ensure their children acquire quality education. She equally appreciated the faculty of Makerere for committing time to educate the students. The Minister applauded the University Council for the new strategy that seeks to increase graduate students at Makerere and pledged more government support towards research. She challenged the incoming members of Council and the University Management to work out plans to equip students with skills to fight moral decadency in society, focusing on the fight against HIV/AIDS and corruption. “Each individual life has a purpose and if that purpose is not discovered, life becomes meaningless. Do what it takes to prepare students with integrity and humility to enable them fulfil God’s given purpose,” she advised.  She urged the graduands to use the skills acquired at the University to develop the country.

CoNAS Principal, Prof. Winston Tumps Ireeta presenting PhD graduands.
CoNAS Principal, Prof. Winston Tumps Ireeta presenting PhD graduands.

Remarks by the Chancellor

The Chancellor, Prof. Ezra Suruma congratulated the students for successfully completing their respective programmes of study and research. “One of my favorite quotations is from the Gospel of John chapter 17. Jesus is praying to God and He says: I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” (John17:4)NIV. This implies that finishing the task God has given us to do brings glory to God and to us. So by accomplishing what brought you to Makerere University, you have brought glory to God, to your parents, to your supporters and to your country.”

He paid special tribute to members of staff for the excellent work done to prepare the graduands. “Despite the severe challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to both staff and students, they persevered and today marks your successful victory over all these challenges. The university leadership and teachers as well as the graduands deserve our gratitude for a job very well done.” He also appreciated the parents, guardians and sponsors for supporting the students.

Dr. Loy Nankinga graduated with a PhD in Mathematics.
Dr. Loy Nankinga graduated with a PhD in Mathematics.

Prof. Suruma thanked the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni for the unwavering support to the University. “At a time when the national budget is very tight you have ensured that Makerere University continues to receive the financial support it needs to maintain and even surpass its record of excellence in education and research. We appreciate you for being exemplary as a mother, a guardian and a true champion of morality in Uganda’s education sector. Together with His Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni you have persistently supported Makerere University in particular and the Education Sector in general. We thank you very much for taking the time to celebrate Makerere University’s 73rd Graduation Ceremony with us.”

Former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Livingstone Luboobi congratulating Dr. Nankinga.
Former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Livingstone Luboobi congratulating Dr. Nankinga.

The Chancellor thanked the University Council, under the Chairmanship of Mrs. Lorna Magara for putting in place the right policies and controls to guide and steer the Institution. He commended the University Management under the leadership of Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe for ensuring that the policies are successfully implemented.

He encouraged the graduands to remain hopeful even in the midst of affliction. “Worry and anxiety come to all of us, although they don’t improve anything. But faith and trust in God has worked miracles for me. I sincerely encourage you to trust in God. The God who has enabled you to survive COVID and to complete your programme here at Makerere is alive and real.”

Mr. Okello Alex graduated with a PhD in Physics.
Mr. Okello Alex graduated with a PhD in Physics.

Remarks by the Vice Chancellor

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe appreciated the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni and First Lady, Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni for the support that led to the creation of the Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) in the 2019/2020 financial year with initial funding of UGX 30 Billion. “The Research and Innovation Fund has transformed Makerere tremendously, with very many innovations in agriculture and food security, health, engineering, education, and the social sciences that are already changing the lives of our people. Beyond the 826 grants issued by Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund to date, we have taken a strategic decision to use part of the funding to support PhD research grants. This is in line with Government efforts to develop Uganda’s knowledge economy. We are hopeful that this will help unlock the potential of Makerere to substantively contribute to national development,” he said. He also appreciated the President for the generous contribution of UGX 800 million towards the year-long Mak@100 celebrations. He equally applauded the development partners whose generous support has trained the majority of PhDs, as well as a number of Masters and Post-docs. “I commend the Government and People of Sweden for the biggest staff development programme in the history of Makerere University. Sida support to Makerere University came to an end in June 2022 with more than 500 (staff at Makerere University and other Public Universities) obtaining PhDs and more than 1,000 obtaining Masters’ degrees. We are in consultation with the Swedish Embassy to explore alternative ways of research collaboration.”

Prof. Juma Kasozi, Deputy Principal CoNAS.
Prof. Juma Kasozi, Deputy Principal CoNAS.

The Vice Chancellor appreciated the MasterCard Foundation for the e-Learning Initiative aimed at addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teaching and learning and therefore enhancing Makerere University’s resilience to future disruptions in teaching, learning and research. “I would like to thank the other stakeholders who are providing scholarships to enable bright, but economically disadvantaged students to attain education at Makerere. These include the Madhvani Foundation, the Government of Uganda through the Higher Education Students Financing Board, the Embassy of China, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Government Ministries, State House, NORAD and many others. I thank the Higher Education Students’ Financing Board for the award of loans to students’ for both undergraduate degree and diploma programmes. The Board has so far supported a total of 1,853 learners at Makerere University since 2014 and this year, a total of 114 Students Loan beneficiaries are graduating.”

Some of the MSc graduates celebrating their achievement.
Some of the MSc graduates celebrating their achievement.

Regarding infrastructure development, the Vice Chancellor said plans were in high gear to renovate halls of residence starting with Lumumba and Mary Stuart. “We commend His Excellency, the President for his strategic engagements with the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to provide the required funding for the renovation of all Halls of Residence and Schools of Medicine.”  

Prof. Nawangwe urged the graduands to be proud and good Ambassadors of the Alma Mater and to put to good use the knowledge acquired to transform their communities and country at large.  

Natural Sciences

Call For Applications For Masters Scholarship Under The Biosorption For Sustainable Small-Scale Gold Mining In Uganda (BioGold) Project

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The JICA Building, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS) as approached from the Mary Stuart Road Roundabout, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

BioGold Project is a three-year collaborative project among five academic institutions including, Kyambogo University, Makerere University, Gulu University, University of Pretoria and University of Continuing Education, Krems, Austria funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation under the APPEAR Partnership. The project will combine principles of biosorption and chemical remediation to treat contaminated wastewater, tailings, rehabilitate contaminated soils so as to protect vulnerable ecosystems surrounding artisanal gold mining (ASGM) areas in Uganda. This study will design biochar composites from locally available biomass to enhance mercury removal from wastewater and tailings as well as rehabilitate mercury-contaminated soils making them fit for agriculture. The project envisages to train and build capacity of young researchers in Uganda. As such the project has been allocated an MSc. position under Component II, to support to full-time student to undertake studies in Austria. The successful MSc candidate is expected to undertake research on characterizing, optimizing biochar and modify the biochar to improve the sorption capacities.

The project consortium is now inviting qualified and interested persons to apply for nomination for the award of the scholarship. The project has strong preference for female candidates, therefore strongly encouraged to apply.

Eligibility criteria

In addition to APPEAR requirements https://appear.at/en/implementation/embedded-scholarship-application, the applicants should:

  1. Not be older than 30 years (women not older than 35)
  2. Demonstrate interest and capability to work in the priority themes
  3. Present a concept note to provide understanding of the subject
  4. Have a minimum of second- upper class bachelor’s degree in any of the following programmes: BSc in Chemistry, BSc in Environmental Science, & BSc in Environmental Engineering

Benefits

The successful applicants will receive a full scholarship (up to 24 months) which includes;

  1. Return air ticket and visa costs to Austria
  2. Monthly stipend of €1000 while in Austria to cater for personal welfare, accommodation and local movement
  3. Research related expenses.

Application process

  1. A complete application form
  2. A one-page motivation letter
  3. Curriculum vitae (maximum 2 pages)
  4. A completed Master Scholarship Application Form for Embedded APPEAR Projects
  5. Copies of Academic documents
  6. Photocopy of the passport and/or ID
  7. Recommendation letters from two academic referees.
  8. All applications must be sent electronically to Dr. Mary Kaggwa (marykaggwa@kyu.ac.ug) and copied to Dr. Peter Akoll (peter.akoll@mak.ac.ug) and Dr. Denis Nono (d.nono@gu.ac.ug) not later than 5.00pm East African Time on 20th June 2024.

Members of staff with former students interested in biochar technology and its use in heavy metal removal are requested to share the advert with them.

Full Advert and Application form may be accessed below.

Note: Only successful applicants will be contacted.

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Natural Sciences

Mak Researchers Set Out to Address the Challenge of African swine fever in Uganda

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Professor Charles Masembe, CoNAS, Makerere University. Image:ASF

The Project is supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).

Overview

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral haemorrhagic disease of domestic pigs; and has recently spread to new areas including Eastern Europe and in Asia as far as Papua New Guinea. This disease has neither vaccine nor treatment and is currently a big challenge to many smallholder pig farmers in Uganda. In Uganda, ASFV genotype IX has been reported to cause outbreaks on a regular basis and is an impediment to development of the swine industry. The disease was previously reported with a mortality of 100%. However different forms of the disease have recently been observed in domestic pigs. Indeed, some studies have shown that pigs that survive ASF become resistant to the same viral isolates although they do not produce classical neutralizing antibody. These observations could have the key for vaccine development strategies.

The Principal Investigator of ASF-RESIST, Dr. Charles Masembe; an Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences (ZEFS), CoNAS, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda
The Project Principal Investigator (PI), Prof. Charles Masembe.

The research project

Through a project titled “African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda”, a team of researchers led by Prof. Charles Masembe from the Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences at Makerere University registered the need to correlate clinical studies of ASF virus with full genome sequences and virus structural data to identify potential candidate genes for vaccine development. The team set out to isolate and characterise highly virulent and low virulent ASF viruses circulating in the swine population in Uganda using next-generation and Electron Microscopy to inform the development of ASFV vaccines and other therapeutic strategies. The team also set out to sequence the whole genome of low and high-virulence African swine fever viruses circulating in the domestic pig population in Uganda; compare the whole genome sequences of low and high-virulence ASF viruses in Uganda, and to find genomic variations and their effects on the virulence and viral evolution. Whole blood and organ tissue samples together with clinical-epidemiological information, were collected from acute and chronic cases of pigs in reported ASF outbreaks in the districts of greater Masaka, Greater Gulu, Mukono, Wakiso, Kakumiro, and additionally in other districts were outbreaks were reported during the study period. The project was supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF). Other members on the project are; Assoc. Prof. Vincent Muwanika (Co-PI), Dr. Rose Ademun (Scientist), Dr. Mathias Afayoa (Scientist), Dr. Tony Aliro (Field Scientist), Mr. Peter Ogweng (Field Scientist),  Mr. Mayega Johnson Francis (Lab Technologist), Okwasiimire Rodney (Lab Technologist), and Mr. Bright Twesigye (Administrator).

The Project team at the research dissemination workshop in Gulu District. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
The Project team at the research dissemination workshop in Gulu District.

Dissemination of the research findings

On 15th May 2024, the project team held a workshop at Doves Nest Hotel in Gulu District to disseminate the research findings, and to fact check by mapping pig farms, abattoirs, slaughter slabs, and pork restaurants in both Gulu District and Gulu City for on-going and future research.

The workshop was officially opened by the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Gulu District, Mr. Okidi Cosmas James on behalf of the CAO. In his remarks, Mr. Okidi appreciated the project team, noting that the workshop was timely since piggery as a poverty alleviation programme had been embraced by most farmers as a replacement for cattle. Sharing his experience, he expressed concern over the increasing threat of ASF, a factor he said was undermining the growth of the swine industry in Uganda.

Prof. Masembe interacts with the participants during the workshop. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Masembe interacts with the participants during the workshop.

During the meeting, the Project PI, Prof. Charles Masembe presented the status of ASF research in Uganda and globally, highlighting the complexity of ASF, dangers of ASF, ASF diagnostic advances, importance of keeping pigs and scientific efforts to control ASF, including the advances in the development of the ASFV vaccine. 

Other presentations focused on ASF control and prevention mechanisms, potential role of production systems in ASF transmission, community involvement in disease control, spatio-temporal spread of ASF at the wildlife-livestock interface, the role of carrier pigs in ASFV transmission and maintenance, biosecurity implementation and challenges. All these presentations evoked discussion points from the participants. Participants expressed the need to understand how ASF is transmitted, and the extent to which farmers can trust veterinarians since they are considered to spread the disease. They highlighted the need to institute quarantine during ASF outbreaks and called for sensitization on the acceptable methods for disposing off infected pork. Another concern arising from the meeting was the need to understand if ASF is zoonotic and if not, why ASFV infected pork should not be eaten. Participants also sought guidance on why farmers should continue to keep survivor pigs if they spread ASFV, and why the government has not constructed slaughter slabs in all villages to control the spread of ASFV.

Participants in an exercise to map out pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants in their respective sub counties to support the research process. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
Participants in an exercise to map out pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants in their respective sub counties to support the research process.

Recommendations by participants;

  1. Strengthening community awareness through different production departments in the district and city by organizing workshops as closer to the farmers as possible for example at every parish or ward.
  2. Makerere University ASF research team should collaborate with Gulu University, Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Studies so that ASFV diagnosis and research is jointly done at the University which is nearer to the farmers for quick response to ASF outbreaks.
  3. City, District, and sub-county leaders should formulate a by-law to enforce the implementation of ASF control and prevention methods.
Mapping pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
Mapping pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants.

During plenary, participants were tasked with mapping pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants in their respective sub-counties in Gulu District and Gulu City, in addition to generating a comprehensive farm/farmer list in the two areas. Mapping was successfully done and presented for purposes of clarity by each team representing a particular sub-county. The participants were then given a template to populate on the farm/farmer list since they could not recall all farms/farmers name and their mobile phone contacts.

Participants pose for a group photo. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
Participants pose for a group photo.

Remarks by Gulu District RDC

In his closing remarks, the RDC of Gulu District, Mr. Oryem Auric thanked the research team for choosing the district for the workshop, noting that the feedback from the participants indicated that the workshop was very beneficial to them. He pledged to dedicate some of the free airtime offered to his office on Radio Mega, a popular FM Radio Station in Gulu City affiliated to Radio Uganda, towards the popularization of the project activities. He reiterated that the objectives of the project were in line with the current Government of Uganda programme on wealth creation through the Parish Development Model and the 4 acre model of which piggery is one of the means recommended for poverty alleviation by the President of Uganda. He called on the farmers to embrace and utilize the knowledge acquired to improve their farms and increase their household incomes.

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Natural Sciences

CoNAS Annual Report 2023

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Cover page of the CoNAS Annual Report 2023. College of Natural Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS) is one of the 10 constituent Colleges of Makerere University with over 2,000 students and 153 members of staff spread across 2 schools and seven departments namely: School of Physical Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Geology and Petroleum Studies) and School Biosciences (Departments of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology; Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences; and Department of Biochemistry and Sports Sciences). The College is the cradle of basic sciences at Makerere providing a foundation for all applied sciences offered at the University. This report is a presentation of the performance of the College in 2023.

Key highlights include performance of the College at the 74th graduation of Makerere University, the award of an Honorary Doctor of Science to Prof. Leif Abrahamsson for his contribution to the development of Mathematics in the East African region, the development of an E-Supervision Web Portal (https:/mastersresearch.ug/) to support the tracking of Masters Research supervision processes, the formation and operationalization of the Biology Society of Uganda (BioSU), support rendered towards the development of aquaculture in the country, the development of five high-value nutritious products (baby food, sauce, maize meal, snacks, and seasoning) using Mukene through the NutriFish Project, the development of an application for tracking fish catches as a measure to prevent overfishing, development of solar tent driers – greenhouse-like structures that reduce the risk of contamination – provide clean and efficient storage and drying, especially during the wet season subsequently reducing post-harvest losses, equipping students and members of the general public with skills needed in the installation and maintenance of solar energy Photovoltaic systems and biogas plants, the Joint African- Nordic Conference in Mathematics, as well as the 2023 Eastern Africa Algebra Research Group and Women in Sage workshops. The report also highlights the research grants received in the course of the year, conferences held, community engagements, activities by students, awards received by the different members of staff, staff publications, and matters of Human Resources at the College.

Management conveys appreciation to all development partners and the Government of Uganda for the support extended towards the different projects at the College. We also thank the University Council and Management for creating a conducive environment for both staff and students to explore their full potential.

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