UKZN Professor Awarded R37 million Gilead Grant

UKZN Professor Awarded R37 million Gilead Grant
Professor Thumbi Ndung’u.

The Director of UKZN’s HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP), Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, has been awarded a R37 million grant by Gilead Sciences for a project titled: “The FRESH Study: Females Rising through Education, Support and Health (FRESH) Acute HIV Infection Cohort”.

The money is a portion of 12 grants totalling R308 000 000 awarded by Gilead last month in support of HIV cure research. The affiliated projects will be conducted by leading academic institutions, non-profit organisations and community groups worldwide. 

They will focus on three key areas of research - translational research, efficacy studies in animal models, and community perspectives of HIV cure.

Ndung’u said he was very excited about the grant because the project it supported also fell in line with objectives of another of his major projects – an Africa Health Research Institute programme titled: “The Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE)”.

‘The study will generate knowledge that will inform vaccine development and HIV cure strategies and, as such, will help to advance African science and fight HIV and AIDS.

‘We will continue a programme that has been in existence for three years, identifying women with acute HIV infection as early as possible following infection and following development of detectable viral load. Study participants are then given antiretroviral therapy immediately. We want to measure the viral reservoir to see where the virus hides and understand why it is so difficult to cure HIV infection and examine whether early treatment can reduce the reservoir to an extent where it becomes easier to eradicate the virus completely.’

Ndung’u said he and his colleagues would also study the transmitted founder virus. ‘We know from previous studies that there’s a bottleneck in transmission such that only a single virus species is transmitted and we want to understand the nature of this early transmitted virus.  We will also study immune responses against HIV to understand whether early treatment can improve the quality of immune responses to an extent where the immune responses can then eliminate the virus or control it for a long time without the need of antiretroviral drugs. The long-term goal is to see if early treatment can augment immune responses, which would be important for the development of an effective vaccine or to achieve long-term viral suppression without drugs.’

He described his programme as unique in that it combined social empowerment and basic science. ‘We recruit high risk females, providing them with social services in the form of an empowerment curriculum, thereby reducing their vulnerability to acquiring HIV. Through education and the acquisition of relevant skills, we hope to mitigate some of the circumstances that put them at risk. At the same time, they are screened and if infected, we initiate an intervention to treat and help them but also to answer pressing scientific questions that will lead to a vaccine or a cure.’

author : Kim Waddilove
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Uthisha wase-UKZN Uhlabane Ngendondo Yefilimu Yezithombemdwebo Embungazweni Womhlaba

Uthisha wase-UKZN Uhlabane Ngendondo Yefilimu Yezithombemdwebo Embungazweni Womhlaba
Uthisha uNkz Michelle Stewart nzinye izithombemidwebo ezisefilimini yakhe ethi: <em>Big Man</em>.

Click here for the English version

Uthisha waseSikoleni SezobuCiko uNkz Michelle Stewart unqobe indondo Yefilimu Yezithombemdwebo Evelele ngomsebenzi wakhe obizwa nge-Big Man emcimbini i-Euro Kino Czech International Independent Film Festival.

Leli filimu likhethwe kwangama-857 njengelivelele kwababekulesi sigaba.

‘Angikakakholwa namanje kodwa ngithokoze kakhulu ngoba lihehe amajaji futhi lizokhangiswa ezethamelini zomhlaba,’ kusho u-Stewart. ‘Bengingakulindele ukunqoba nhlobo.’

Le filimu iyingxenye yezifundo zakhe zeziqu ze-PhD, imayelana nesimo esiyinganekwane lapho u-Big Man (umholi) eshweleza ngenxa yezenzo zakhe ezinonya. Kuleli filimu u”Big Man” umholi wangesikhathi sobandlululo eNingizimu Afrika u-BJ Vorster,’ kusho u-Stewart.

Uthe le filimu ligqugquzelwa yindaba yasebhayibhelini yeNkosi uNebhukhadinezari, owayeyinkosi yaseBhabhiloni owajeziswa uNkulunkulu ngenxa yonya lwakhe. Ifilimu isuselwe eZahlukweni Zasebhayibhelini esesibili nesesine encwadini kaDaniyeli eThestamenteni elidala lasebhayibhelini.

‘Ifilimu ithathe iminyaka emihlanu ukuhlanganiswa kusukela ekuqaleni kokuthwebula kuya ekudidiyeleni  ngenxa yobucayi bemidwebo ebidinga isineke uma kudwetshwa futhi kupendwa ngesandla okuthathe ama-90% alefilimu, kusho u-Steward.

Le filimu isebenzisa izinhlobonhlobo zezindlela zokwenza izithombemdwebo njengokusetshenziswa kwamaphepha okunhlobonhlobo-stop-motion paper cut out, i-cell animation, ne-flash animation ne-paint on glass.

‘Kwabasebenza ngezithombemidwebo abasathuthuka, lo mkhakha uyithuluzi elinamandla kakhulu lokuzwakalisa ilaka lakho njengeciko. Kodwa ukuze uphumelele noma yikephi, kumele uzinikele ekusebenzeni kanzima.’

author : Reatlehile Karabo Moeti
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UKZN Student Wins Award at Global Change Conference

UKZN Student Wins Award at Global Change Conference
Ms Nasiphi Ntshanga with her certificate at the Global Change Conference.

PhD candidate in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences Ms Nasiphi Ntshanga has won the prize for the best student presentation at a UKZN-hosted national Global Change Conference.

The forum was the 3rd biennial National Conference on Global Change, held in Durban under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

Ntshanga’s presentation featured her PhD research on the effect of land cover transformation on the climatic stability of Cape Lowland vegetation.

Her research aims are to determine what proportion of the climate space of the historical extent of the major lowland vegetation types will be lost under future climate change and what the combined effect of transformation and climate change is on climatic stability for lowland vegetation.

‘As the environment changes, we need to be better-equipped to deal with the changes and how we react to them,’ said Ntshanga.

‘The ultimate goal of my doctoral studies is to produce a tool which can be used to help manage fragmented landscapes.’

Ntshanga, who decided to pursue a PhD because of her passion for learning and curiosity about the world, realised after completing her master’s degree that the work she wanted to do would require getting as much knowledge as possible.

Her supervisor is Dr Jasper Slingsby, an expert in Fynbos who introduced her to this system, while her co-supervisor is UKZN’s Professor Serban Proches.

Ntshanga, who attended the previous Global Change Conference, said presenting at this edition resulted in hoped-for interactions, feedback and potential for future collaboration.

‘My research links to the broader theme of global change in that it explores how different global change drivers interact, and how we can manage the interactions in a fragmenting landscape.’

Ntshanga said she was impressed by the number of younger students, especially those doing Honours, who presented at the conference and did well.

‘We need more mentorship in the Discipline,’ said Ntshanga. ‘When I was an undergraduate, doing postgraduate studies meant you would probably end up lecturing and being over-qualified for any job, resulting in very few carrying on with their studies. Even with enough funding, a good project and supervisor, we need mentors, especially women scientists.’

Ntshanga is considering the possibility of postdoctoral studies. ‘I am ready to dive in, work on big projects, supervise more students and do some exciting stuff,’ she added.

author : Christine Cuénod
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Three Top 2016 Matriculants Enrol at UKZN Medical School

Three Top 2016 Matriculants Enrol at UKZN Medical School
From left: Miss Romal Naidoo, Mr Reece Govender and Miss Shivana Jugernath.

Three of the top 2016 National Senior Certificate (NSC) matriculants in KwaZulu-Natal – including the No 1 pupil - have enrolled for an MBChB degree at UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine this year.

They are Miss Romal Naidoo, Mr Reece Govender and Miss Shivana Jugernath, who are among the total of 250 first-year students accepted to study for the degree at UKZN.

Naidoo, who attributes her success to perseverance and faith, says being the top matriculant in KwaZulu-Natal had been a wonderful surprise for her.

Naidoo decided to enroll for an MBChB at UKZN at the end of her Grade 11 year at Danville Park Girls High School in Durban. She said she enjoyed a variety of subjects and so considered a number of study options but opted for medicine in the end.

Govender said he was excited about experiencing tertiary life and it has always been his dream to become a medical doctor. He matriculated from Wingham Heights Secondary School in Queensburgh and is the No 2 matriculant in KwaZulu-Natal.

Miss Shivana Jugernath says since a young girl she has dreamed of working for the non-profit world medical organisation, Doctors Without Borders.  ‘I read a book about the work that they do and ever since, I wanted to work for them.’

Jugernath, who matriculated at Marklands Secondary School in Chatsworth, says she is nervous and excited about studying at UKZN. ‘I hope it will be academically enriching and will equip me with the skills I need to help people.’ Jugernath is the No 14 matriculant in KwaZulu-Natal.

Professor Rob Slotow said the College and the Medical School in particular, was very proud about being the first Institution of choice for top KZN high school learners. ‘The Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine has a long tradition of excellence in training medical practitioners both at the undergraduate level and as medical specialists.’

author : Sejal Desai
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Law Academic Completes Inaugural Acting High Court Judge Tenure

Law Academic Completes Inaugural Acting High Court Judge Tenure
Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama.

UKZN’s Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama served as an acting judge of the Bisho High Court in the Eastern Cape in November and December last year.

During her tenure on the Bench, Ntlama - who grew up in the Eastern Cape - heard civil and criminal matters and dealt with case flow management, an experience she describes as an ‘eye opening one’.

‘I was fascinated by the silent rules and procedures of adjudication which I found very exciting. The high level of discipline a judge is required to exercise in the application of the law in promoting the integrity of the judicial process is indicative of the progress that has been made since the attainment of democracy,’ said Ntlama.

‘I was thrilled to preside over matters in court with the counsels arguing their cases before me. I enjoyed the role of getting points of clarity and ensuring that adherence to the values of the new dispensation were upheld.’

Ntlama’s first judgment: Ndlovu v State (CA&R14/2016) [20160 ZAECBHC involved a ‘stay- in nanny’ who kidnapped a three-year-old girl holding her for a month while she demanded a ransom. The case received wide media coverage and gave Ntlama a taste of justice in action.

‘This was exciting as it took me out of my enclave and expanded my abilities to apply the law in a concrete situation and to analyse evidence and apply the law to reach a fair and just decision,’ said Ntlama.

‘My background as an academic enriched my theoretical perspective of the law into a practical reality. I will always treasure the experience and now have more to offer my students.’

author : Thandiwe Jumo
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UKZN Academic a Champion for UN’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative

UKZN Academic a Champion for UN’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative
Dr Annah Bengesai.

College of Law and Management Studies Teaching and Learning Unit Head Dr Annah Bengesai is part of an international group of 170 women and men from developing and developed countries championing women economic empowerment under the United Nations Women’s Empowerment initiative.

The 2016-2017 Champions for Change are were selected from over 4 000 applicants from the private sector, civil society and academia. To qualify for the nomination, applicants had to campaign on a month long online rally on how they would contribute to women economic empowerment, this is how Bengesai’s social media initiative titled: “It starts with a girl: creating safe and healthier transitions” made the cut.

‘I created the Facebook page in 2015, it provides a platform to discuss some of the issues that hinder the achievement of girls, mainly focusing on reproductive health. This has always been an interest of mine and I was influenced to start this page after reading the 2014 UN Gap Report which focused on gender equality. I am also currently doing research on gender inequality in educational outcomes,’ said Bengesai.

Working in three groups namely, Advocacy and Social Media; Business Development and Skills Development the champions will be involved in a series of innovative initiatives both online and in their local communities over the next four months to promote women empowerment. Bengasai says she is looking forward to networking with academics and activists from all over the world.

‘This programme encourages networking with other academics and activists across the world. I am also working closely with a mentor from Empower Women, and this has been an opportunity for me to learn new skills. This initiative also increases my visibility and offers many opportunities for networking,’ she said.

For Bengesai being part of this programme will not only allow her to contribute to a cause she is passionate about but it will also contribute towards her research.

‘I am currently working on a research project surveying employability skills needed for women (in Zimbabwe and South Africa) to better access jobs as well as to become entrepreneurs . I will also be piloting a financial literacy course with the BCOM Foundation Students as part of their extra-curricula activities,’ she said.

author : Thandiwe Jumo
author email :

HEARD Launches Flagship Population Project

HEARD Launches Flagship Population Project
HEARD recently launched a flagship project aimed at key populations in SADC countries.

UKZN’s Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) hosted the official launch of a flagship project which aims to link policy and programming through research for at risk populations in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, including members of the LGBTI community and other at risk youth.

The project, created under a mandate from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), ultimately seeks to ensure the removal of barriers to access in health care systems in Africa. Barriers include those that are both systemically and socially entrenched, particularly for key young people in SADC countries.

HEARD has been awarded a significant research grant to conduct operational research in five major SADC countries - Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Together with project partner African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), HEARD will seek to progress the current knowledge base of research of key populations in the SADC countries while strengthening each country’s own capacity for critical reflection and policy implementation.

Bringing together key project staff of UNDP and AMSHeR as well as a core team of HEARD researchers at its offices on UKZN’s Westville campus, HEARD launched what is intended to be one of the most impactful and progressive research projects in the region.

Over the next four years HEARD will embark on targeted research with the goal of strengthening policy environments in specific SADC countries. Research will be conducted in-country and also outside South Africa’s borders covering key thematic areas that concern young key populations, such as exclusion, gender identity, risk behaviour, violence and service barriers.


Key young populations in southern Africa face significant barriers to accessing HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services. Many of these barriers originate from country laws and policies that are punitive, discriminatory, conflicting and restrictive. Barriers include the criminalisation of same sex relationships; age restrictive laws prohibiting young people’s access to HIV testing, contraceptives, abortion and SRH services (or only with parental consent), and restrictive policies on the provision of SRH commodities in schools and prisons.

In order to improve HIV/SRH outcomes in key young people, HIV/SRH legal, policy and strategy environments need to be strengthened and monitored. This project seeks to support national governments in reviewing and reforming country laws and policies and to facilitate citizen input and accountability for implementation. The underlying theory of change is that effective and sustainable responses for HIV/SRH will require (1) a reduction of the stigma associated with HIV/SRH and most affected populations, (2) a legal environment that is gender-sensitive and that enables access to and use of key prevention, treatment services and commodities and (3) the political will to include and protect marginalised key young populations in policy and governance.

The long-term objective of the project is to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes for young key populations in SADC countries, while at medium-term, the project seeks to strengthen HIV/SRH related rights of key young populations in law, policy and strategy in five SADC countries. The project focuses on young sex workers of all genders; young men who have sex with men; young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people; young people who inject drugs, and young prisoners.


Under the Executive Director of HEARD, Professor Nana Poku, a core team of highly qualified and experienced researchers will undertake baseline studies in each of the five countries, collaborating with local research institutions and project partners on the ground. One of the objectives of this baseline is to identify research gaps as well as the most pertinent questions for the operational research component of the project.

The operational research will take place in each of the five countries on context-specific questions, while cross-cutting themes will serve as a basis for cross-country research and comparative analyses. As this type of research on young key populations in the five countries is very limited, HEARD seeks to proactively share the knowledge and resources derived from this project – and other ongoing research projects of HEARD on SRHR – through a portal with a wider audience.

Its core researchers will contribute to the portal on a regular basis, aiming to build up country profiles of the SRHR and young key populations contexts that scientists, policy makers, non-governmental organisations, but also students, can use to rapidly increase their knowledge on these issues. 

author : Thomais Armaos
author email :

Chemical Producer Gives UKZN R1.3m for Student Development

Chemical Producer Gives UKZN R1.3m for Student Development
Together at the donation handover are Mr Mark Antonie (left) and Dr Albert van Jaarsveld.

LignoTech SA, a subsidiary of the Norway-based chemical producer, Borregaard, has invested R1 350 000 towards nurturing the next generation of students at UKZN.

General Manager, Mr Mark Antonie, presented the donation – part of the company’s Corporate Social Investment Initiative - to UKZN Vice-Chancellor, Dr Albert van Jaarseveld, at the LignoTech plant in Umkomaas.

UKZN will use the money to fund second and third-year students who have an average pass rate of 60% in the Disciplines of Accountancy, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.

A requirement of the investment is that 80% is used to fund Black students with the remainder split among other race groups. The maximum bursary for each candidate is R75 000.

Antonie said the donation was in response to recent media coverage highlighting the plight of students who lack funding to complete their studies. Education and Training were important and the company’s ongoing partnership with UKZN played a vital role in this area.

Van Jaarsveld thanked Lignotech for their generous support, saying that with student funding every cent counted and their donation would help struggling students.

The fund, to be administered by the UKZN Student Funding Centre, will include students from the “missing middle”. It is estimated that at least 18 returning students will benefit from the allocation.

Executive Director of the UKZN Foundation, Professor Anesh Singh, said: ‘2016 was a difficult year for Higher Education in respect of student funding. It is therefore encouraging to receive support from LignoTech and other donors who acknowledge that the University alone cannot fund students from the “missing middle”. I thank LignoTech for its contribution to this noble cause of giving the gift of knowledge.’

* According to its website, Borregaard Lignotech is the world’s leading supplier of lignin-based binding and dispersing agents producing environmentally friendly alternatives to oil-based chemicals. The company has more than 60 years of experience in specialty chemicals; lignins and lignosulfonates with its products being used as dispersing agents in concrete, textile dyes, pesticides, batteries and ceramic products - or as binding agents in animal feeds, briquetting and various dust suppression applications.

author : Indu Moodley
author email :

Environmental Sustainable Action and Community Development Conference Hosted by UKZN

Environmental Sustainable Action and Community Development Conference Hosted by UKZN
Conference participants visit the Mariannhill Landfill Site during the first Environmental Sustainable Action and Community Development Conference, hosted by the School of Education.

The Science and Technology Education Cluster within the School of Education hosted an Environmental Sustainable Action and Community Development Conference.

The Conference attracted Science, Mathematics and Technology educators, businessmen and women, academics and students who shared curriculum-related environmentally sustainable issues in a theoretical and practically based approach, while promoting research and civil action to improve and develop Science and Technology programmes/curricular/actions in response to current and future needs.

The interactive Conference addressed various topics such as media literacy empowering citizenship, the Palmiet Nature Reserve and educating for waste management. There was also a drama activity and a field trip to the Mariannhill Landfill Site.

UKZN Lecturers Dr Nadaraj Govender, Dr Ronicka Mudaly and Dr Angela James presented their research on preservice science teachers’ views and reflections of science, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) and their perspectives on the inclusion of IK holders as teachers in the academy, in the context of teaching environmentally sustainable development practices.

James explained: ‘Pre-service teachers were engaged in a university module that prepared them for transformative pedagogy, to teach the South African school curriculum. The university module included IKS, scientific issues pertaining to IKS, and preparing students to garden, using agricultural sustainable practices.

‘African izinyanga (medicinal knowledge holders) were invited and they shared their knowledge of IKS and skills of agriculture and sustainable development practices during teaching,’ she said.

Their findings indicate that preservice teachers’ views of science, IKS and their relationships are in harmony with the envisaged UKZN IKS policy and Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) policies. The study has implications for further planning of transformative pedagogies in teacher education.

author : Melissa Mungroo
author email :

UKZN Scientist Excels in Number of Peer-Reviewed Papers Published

UKZN Scientist Excels in Number of Peer-Reviewed Papers Published
Prolific peer-reviewed papers publisher Professor Gert Kruger.

Professor Gert Kruger of UKZN’s Catalysis and Peptide Research Unit (CPRU) has published a total of 300 ISI scientific publications - a ‘tsunami of papers full of sound and fury’.

From early in their careers, scientists and academics are challenged by the ‘publish or perish’ maxim and need to go through the ‘peer review’ process in which peers in their field decide whether to accept or reject a paper or request modifications.

Kruger’s multidisciplinary research interests include Health Sciences, Organic Chemistry, and Pharmaceutical Chemistry while his research specialties span asymmetric synthesis, peptide synthesis, cage chemistry, NMR elucidation of macromolecules, TB-cage drugs, and HIV-PR inhibitors.

He has been among UKZN’s Top 30 researchers on seven occasions.

In his 21 years at UKZN, Kruger has graduated 52 PhD and masters candidates, managed 26 Post-doctoral Fellows and is currently supervising about 17 postgraduate students. Kruger, and his team at the CPRU have also obtained grants of more than R13 million to support research projects and student funding.

His 300th paper, recently published in the prestigious Angewandte Chemie International Edition, is titled: “Gaining Momentum: Sulfonimidamides in Medicinal- and Agrochemistry”. It highlights the emerging interest in the pharmacologically active sulfonimidamide moiety as reported in both conventional and patent literature.

Kruger and colleagues said interest in this sulfonamide isostere was modest from the first report on its medicinal chemistry application in 1979 up to 2012. However, since 2012 there had been increased numbers of patents and publications with sulfonimidamide functionality.

‘The reason for this is attributed to a parallel development in new synthetic methodologies to access the hexavalent S=N derivatives in general. Sulfonimidamides are expanding the chemical space for drug designers into novel territories and will definitely form part of a modern-day medicinal and agrochemist´s toolbox.’

The CPRU is renowned for driving research excellence. Colleagues of Kruger’s and Principal Investigators include Professor Thavi Govender, who has reached an impressive 220 ISI publications, and A-rated scientist Professor Fernando Albericio.

Other lead scientists include SciLifeLab Drug Discovery and Development’s platform Director Professor Per Arvidsson of the  Karolinska Institute, and UKZN’s Professor Tricia Naicker, Dr Glenn Maguire and Dr Bahareh Honarparvar.

The CPRU recently received a research grant of about R7 million from the National Research Foundation (NRF) for scholarships towards postgraduate training next year. The money is to be used to further research in bacterial and HIV drug resistance and also covers student support and running costs of the research undertaken. It will support five post-docs, 19 PhDs, 24 masters and 21 honours students.

On hearing about Kruger reaching the milestone, colleagues commented: ‘On behalf of the CPRU team, we congratulate Professor Kruger on his outstanding achievements and salute his consistent willingness to help others succeed. He is truly an inspirational scholar.’

author : MaryAnn Francis
author email :

Public Health Medicine Hosts Exchange Students

Public Health Medicine Hosts Exchange Students
Ms Ashley Samuel, CHS DVC Professor Rob Slotow and Ms Diamond Clark-McQueen.

The School of Nursing and Public Health is hosting two exchange students from the United States in the Discipline of Public Health Medicine.

The students are from the Florida Agriculture and Mechanical (FAMU) College of Pharmacy at the Institute of Public Health (IPH).

They are involved in a six-week Global Health Internship Program to get exposure on global health issues through mentorship by academics from the Discipline of Public Health Medicine.

‘The internship is designed to give the Public Health masters students first-hand experience in global health issues. It also provides them with an advantage when competing for jobs in the field,’ said Senior Lecturer, Dr Tivani P Mashamba-Thompson.

The programme aims to make students more competitive for employment in governmental and non-governmental agencies where knowledge of international systems is pertinent to the jobs.

The students, Ms Ashley Samuel and Ms Diamond Clark-McQueen, are part of the first group of students to join FAMU’s global health programme directed by assistant professor in epidemiology, Professor Yussif Dokurugu.

The students expect to explore public health issues in South Africa and have some hands on experience with public health research.

Mashamba-Thompson has put together a programme that will enable the duo to gain experience in the public health field in KwaZulu-Natal. ‘I will also supervise them alongside Professor CP Brown of FAMU, who is accompanying them during the internship,’ she added.

Their first week involved meetings and reading background information on projects they will be involved in, while during their second week they joined Public Health Specialist, Dr Steve Knight, on a field visit to Pholela.

‘They will be joining multiple public health projects and take part in fieldwork in order to get some hands on experience,’ said Mashamba-Thompson. They will write a compressive report at the end of their visit and present this to the Public Health Medicine journal club.’

The FAMU Global Health Program internship is designed to provide opportunities for FAMU to add to a diverse workforce of individuals able to analyse public health issues both at home and abroad.

Mashamba said that the FAMU Global Health Program was chosen due to Professor ME Soliman’s association with the organisation.

author : Nombuso Dlamini
author email :

Exciting Orientation Week for First Year students

Exciting Orientation Week for First Year students
UKZN hosts exciting Orientation Week for first year students.

First year students were welcomed to UKZN through a comprehensive, action-packed orientation week at the four Colleges.

A busy programme saw students being briefed on relevant topics such as campus safety, student support services, student governance, how to use the library and the LANs, student housing and residence life, sports facilities, student funding and, most importantly, essential university work habits for success.

First years at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science enjoyed fun and interactive science shows. Ms Sibonokuhle Gumede of Pinetown Girls’ High said she was looking forward to starting her BSc degree in Computer Science and Information Technology, while Ms Fundiswa Msomi of Nsikayethu Comprehensive Secondary School was happy with her choice of studying for a BSc Agriculture degree.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, advised first year students to be open-minded, to participate in community development and to experience the diversity of UKZN. ‘Have a vision and goals. Work towards the goal of graduating. See it, believe it and do it,’ said Potgieter.

SRC President on the Howard College campus, Ms Kuhle Ntuli, encouraged students to avoid procrastination, to join clubs and societies and to always strive for excellence. ‘We have an open-door policy and we are here to equip you for the outside world and to ensure you graduate.’

First-year Psychology student Ms Bronwyn Olivier was excited about studying at the College of Humanities. ‘I’ve always wanted to be a psychologist and UKZN is the best institution for me to pursue my dreams.’

 Ms Saiyuri Govender, who aims to be a criminologist, was also thrilled to be studying at UKZN. ‘There’s no other place I’d rather be than at UKZN.’

The College of Health Sciences held a series of orientation programmes for its first year students and those moving to the next phase in the College. The programmes were held in different venues, including on the Westville campus, at the Medical School and on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

College students, including those at the School of Health Sciences and the School of Nursing, were given a warm welcome on the Westville campus where they were introduced to some of the College staff members.

First year MBChB students took the Hippocratic Oath as a landmark event on their journey to qualify as medical doctors.  ‘Being a medical doctor is not about driving Lamborghini cars, rather it’s about adhering to a calling to save lives,’ said Dean of School of Laboratory Medicine & Medical Sciences (SLMMS), Professor Musa Mabandla, during his address.

Orientation for the School of Clinical Medicine’s fourth-year and fifth-year students took place on the Medical School and Pietermaritzburg campuses. The students were then transported to Empangeni as part of the College’s Decentralised Clinical Training Platform (DCCTP) facilitated by DCTP Manager, Mrs Siphiwe Mathonsi.

Mathonsi assured the students that the University and the Department of Health had taken all the necessary measures to ensure that their stay at Empangeni would be comfortable. ‘The University has provided safe accommodation, transport, internet access, video conferencing and a student counsellor,’ said Mathonsi.

On the academic development front, students were advised by Academic Development Officer, Ms Amanda Xulu, to take ownership of their academic progression and seek help if they were not coping.

Clinical Medicine Paediatrics and Child Health Head of Department, Professor Refiloe Masekela , assured fourth-year students that that they were about to begin the best years of their studies where they would meet real patients and use stethoscopes. She encouraged them to conduct themselves in a professional manner by ensuring that they dressed appropriately and treated their patients with respect.  ‘The days of casual wear are over, lets respect our patients,’ said Masekela.

All students were encouraged to manage their time effectively and that if ever they needed assistance the administrative staff was always available.

First year College of Law and Management Studies students were given practical tips on ‘how to survive’ and achieve success during their academic career at their orientation events  held on the Howard College, Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses.

Students were addressed by summa cum laude graduate, 2016 Ellie Newman Moot Court winner and Emma Smith Scholarship recipient, Ms Kriyanka Naidoo, who gave them advice on how to be a top achiever.

‘I am passionate about law and I love this degree. The Law School is an amazing place and you have great lecturers so use your potential and do great things,’ she said.

Another speaker was Law graduate, Mr Amin Matola, a former Moot Court finalist, a qualified attorney of the High Court of Zimbabwe, and recipient of several prestigious Scholarships. Matola shared some of his experiences of being a Law student and getting a master’s degree and his passion for teaching and learning which has seen him join the Law School as a Lecturer.

Students were also encouraged to look into value- adding, extra-curricular activities such as joining student societies like the Students for Law and Social Justice, Black Lawyers Association, the Debating Union and the Student Law Review, which broaden understanding of law and also equips them with vital leadership skills. 

On the Management Studies front, students heard from Alumni, Ms Carley Jane Cumming, who completed her articles, qualified as a Chartered Accountant at Deloitte and went on to work for the company’s Canadian branch. She is now a Lecturer at UKZN.

After the formal proceedings, the students participated in an upbeat programme during which they played interactive games and went on a tour of the campus to familiarise themselves with its layout.

author : UKZNDabaOnline
author email :

Civilian Cerebral Gunshot wounds - The South African Experience

Civilian Cerebral Gunshot wounds - The South African Experience
Dr Victor Kong, lead author of the study.

A group of UKZN health professionals has published results of their research into civilian cerebral gunshot wounds (GSWs) providing a unique South African perspective on the issue.

The incidence of such wounds is relatively uncommon outside military activity and existing literature on the topic in civilian life comes mainly from the United States.

This prompted the UKZN team to do their research which by all accounts has never been done before in the developing world.

Published in the ANZ Journal of Surgery, the study was undertaken by the team who are all experienced in trauma and critical care.  They included Dr Victor Kong, Professor Petra Brysiewicz, Professor Damian Clarke, Professor Benn Sartorius, Dr John Lambert Bruce, Dr Grant Llewellyn Laing and Ms Jocinta Odendaal as well as a British doctor, Dr Ellen Jerome, who worked at Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg for a year.

The team conducted a retrospective study of all patients with isolated cerebral gunshot wounds managed by the Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Trauma Service (PMTS) over a five-year period from 2010 to 2014, recording 102 injuries, 94 of which were due to interpersonal assault while six were due to attempted suicides. Of the total number of patients, 94 were male.

The study also found that 54% of the patients were based in urban areas and were transported to the PMTS on average after six hours of the incident while those living in rural areas arrived within 15 hours. Patients from rural areas were initially transported by ambulance to their local rural district hospitals before being transferred to the Pietermaritzburg Trauma Centre. Delays in patients receiving prompt and timeous treatment resulted in a significant difference in mortality rates between those from urban areas as opposed to those from rural areas.

Research results indicate that rural patients have a worse outcome than urban patients in KwaZulu-Natal, raising the issue of discrepancies in outcome among communities based on access to resources. The study provides support for ongoing attempts by UKZN to develop a disseminated training programme in the province in an attempt to improve the care available to rural surgical patients and ensure that these discrepancies are reduced and ultimately eliminated.

This South African study is unique due to the high number of civilians being victims of interpersonal gunshot wounds as well as the fact that rural trauma patients have a higher mortality rate than their urban counterparts. Outside the few major metropolitan trauma centres, almost all rural hospitals are often understaffed and ill equipped for managing trauma, necessitating transfer to urban hospitals.

The authors reflected that despite the generally perceived negative outlook of patients with cerebral GSWs, about 70% of survivors had a reasonably good clinical outcome bearing in mind that long-term neurological outcome data and functional status of survivors were lacking.

The authors recommend that management must be individualised in order to optimise the outcome for these patients.

They added that in order to improve patient outcomes, further study was required to explore the many reasons for delayed presentation within the trauma system.

author : MaryAnn Francis
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Centre for Jazz hosts Mrubata Hauser Project

Centre for Jazz hosts Mrubata Hauser Project
The Mrubata/Hauser Project performed at UKZN’s Jazz Centre.

UKZN’s Centre for Jazz and Popular Music and Rainbow, iSupport Music Business and Concerts SA hosted a performance by the Mrubata/Hauser Project, on 8 February.

The Mrubata/Hauser collaboration came to life through a friendship which began in Switzerland when McCoy Mrubata and Mark Hauser were introduced by their mutual friend, Mark Roth. The two saxophonists struck up an almost immediate friendship and over the years embarked on a project which has found ways to exchange the music of Africa and Europe.

The band features top South African musicians: Paul Hanmer on keyboard, Thembinkosi Mavimbela on bass guitar and Bernice Boikanyo on drums, with Mrubata on tenor saxophone and flute and Hauser on alto- and soprano saxophone.

Music Discipline Leader Professor Chats Devroop said: ‘UKZN is proud to host this group of musicians, who over the years have moved the South African project into the future and continue to extend its boundaries through collaboration garnering the respect and recognition for our music globally.’


author : Melissa Mungroo
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UKZN Peer Education Programme Driver Tells of Experiences

UKZN Peer Education Programme Driver Tells of Experiences
Mr Lungisani Gcumisa.

UKZN Peer Education Programme driver, Mr Lungisani Gcumisa, recalls time spent with the Organisation:

‘It has been a great privilege and honour for me to have served in helping drive the Peer Education Programme at grassroots level at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for the past two years. The time spent learning about the programme in co-operation with peers and the University community has been remarkable and unforgettable. This learning curve resulted in me experiencing a strong personal attachment to the set up while working with other young people. I increased my knowledge about HIV and AIDS, learning a lot about the social challenges faced by a young person each day out there.

‘Working with young people, especially in the university environment, is never easy coming as it does with challenges that require a strong and persistent individual, especially when there is a difference of opinions. I have personally learned a lot about leadership through Campus HIV and AIDS Support Unit (SHASU), which was a continuation of what I experienced during my four years at Love Life.

‘The Peer Education involvement showed me how to educate my peers and community members on HIV prevention, how to help those infected and affected by HIV but, above all, I learned how not to discriminate and stigmatise those infected, including the LGBTI community.

‘We are living in denialism where most young people do not want to accept that we are part of those who are at risk through our daily behaviour, and form the daily percentage of incidences and prevalence of the pandemic. ‘Commitment, action and implementation will allow for truly sustainable results for people everywhere,’ said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

‘Previously, I had been ignorant and naive about the importance of having one sexual partner. The issue of prevention for various infections including HIV, STIs and pregnancy to mention a few, was the last thing I thought of. When I was still under 30 I had so many life regrets and having unplanned kids was also not a good thing. The benefit of joining Peer Education helped me to restructure my life, making safety the priority and minimising risky factors such as substance abuse and lack of sexual education. I am able negotiate how and when to have sex with someone.

‘Furthermore, the Non-Autocratic Programme Leaders provide one with a sense of belonging through a platform of an upward communication approach for innovation and proposing of ideas with the limited resources given to them. The academic learning and teaching environment would not have been in such a good space without the committed CHASU family and different stakeholders.

This is the result of varied training, unwavering support and supervision during awareness, and the advantage of exploring our confined environment by enabling us to have a golden key by being part of the 2016 International AIDS Conference. I have taken it upon myself to be part of the everyday response team to the call of the Fast-Track approach by UNAIDS to reach a set of time-bound targets - reducing new HIV infections by 75%, 90 90 90 and reducing the risk of transmission by 2020.

‘I feel my efforts have not been in vain and I want to continue being part of the change I want to see in the collective global fight in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.’

author : Lungisani Gcumisa
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2017 Siyanqoba Maths Programme off to a Good Start

2017 Siyanqoba Maths Programme off to a Good Start
Emeritus Professor Poobhalan Pillay addresses the new crop of Siyanqoba Maths Olympiad Training Programme pupils.

The UKZN chapter of the Siyanqoba Maths Training Programme got off to a great start recently when 153 learners from 27 schools competed for selection into the programme by writing a test.

There was a test for competitors in Grades 7-9 and another for those in Grades 10-11.

The programme forms part of the Department of Science and Technology (DST)-funded initiative in collaboration with the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF).

The olympiad training programme is an outreach project for high school students throughout the country who show particular ability and interest in mathematics. It covers enrichment material which is not found in the school curriculum and aims to improve South Africa’s international competitiveness in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science and Guest of Honour, Professor Delia North, addressed learners encouraging them to take advantage of every opportunity that came their way during the course of their studies. She also thanked members of the School who helped to administer the important outreach project.

Professor Poobhalan Pillay, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics in the School, and local co-ordinator of the programme, said between 80 and 100 learners would be trained for the first round of the South African Mathematics Olympiad (SAMO) to be held in March.

He said since 2011, UKZN had been one of eight South African tertiary institutions which was part of this national initiative. During this period, six learners who trained at UKZN reached the top 10 in the country - a laudable achievement as more than 80 000 learners participate each year in the SAMO Round 1.

author : Sally Frost
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Health, Trade, Environmental and Business Matters Explored at Research Day

Health, Trade, Environmental and Business Matters Explored at Research Day
School of Accounting, Economics and Finance Research Day participants.

The School of Accounting, Economics and Finance (SAEF) began the 2017 academic year on a productive note with the hosting of its Annual Research Day and Biannual Postgraduate Research Seminar at the Ascot Conference Centre in Pietermaritzburg.

The seminar, championed by the School’s Academic Leader for Higher Degrees and Research, Dr Harold Ngalawa, featured 38 presentations from the School’s academic staff and PhD candidates, covering a broad range of topics in accounting, economics, finance and education, including health, environment and business matters.

‘Against a background of a difficult academic year highlighted by #feesmustfall demonstrations, we managed to organise the most successful research day in the history of the School.

‘The number of presentations nearly doubled, the participation by Accounting staff was overwhelming, and attendance was very high, compared to the previous year,’ he said.

The School’s Acting Dean and Head, Dr Mabutho Sibanda, who received an award for being the School’s top researcher, said it was heartening to see that staff and students were prioritising research.

‘This marks the fourth consecutive year that the School has hosted a Research Day and I am proud to say that this year we have almost doubled the number of presentations compared to 2016. I appreciate the effort made by academics and support staff in making this venture a success as research enables this School to move forward,’ said Sibanda.

Other research award recipients included Dr Claire Vermaak, who was recognised for graduating the most students in 2016, and Ms Mishelle Doorasamy and Dr Farai Kwenda who were named second and third top researchers respectively.

To find out more about the papers presented at the conference visit:

author : Thandiwe Jumo
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Efficient Management System Needed for Sustainability of Point-of-Care Diagnostic Services in Resource Limited Settings – study finding

Efficient Management System Needed for Sustainability of Point-of-Care Diagnostic Services in Resource Limited Settings – study finding
Ms Nobuhle Dwayisa.

The sustainability of Point-of-Care (POC) diagnostic services in low and middle income countries is dependent on a lean and agile quality management system, according to a study conducted by UKZN’s School of Nursing and Public Health student, Ms Nobuhle Dwayisa.

Titled: “Lean and Agile Point-of-Care Diagnostic Services Quality Systems Management for Low- and Middle-Income Countries”, Dwayisa’s research discusses quality indicators for diagnostic tests in relation to the defined quality-Assured criteria for POC diagnostics in resource-limited settings.

‘The study is an evaluation of the quality management system of POC testing in primary health care clinics,’ said Dwayisa.

The aims of the research were to conduct an audit of the most universally used POC diagnostic test in rural primary healthcare clinics in KZN - the HIV rapid test - and to determine if any deficiencies existed in the quality management systems for primary health care clinic-based HIV rapid testing services.

Revealed in the study was that although the majority of the primary healthcare institutions that were audited showed high levels of adherence to recommended World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for quality management systems of POC diagnostics, there is still a lot of room for improvement in order to provide quality POC diagnostic services in such settings.  

‘The main goal of clinical activities such as POC diagnostic services are to provide the highest quality service, given the resources available,’ said Dwayisa.

She believes contextualising the implementation of POC diagnostics is one of the key elements in ensuring the effectiveness and sustainability of these services.

‘The regulation of POC diagnostic testing using appropriate quality management systems is imperative to control and support all testing processes in order to ensure the reliability of results for users,’ said Dwayisa.

The World Health Organization stipulates a set of criteria for POC diagnostics in rural and resource-limited settings. These are known as quality-Assured criteria which involve affordability, sensitivity, specificity, user-friendly, rapid and robust, equipment, free and deliverable to those who need it.

‘These results could help improve the quality of POC diagnostic testing in primary healthcare clinics in rural areas and thus improve healthcare in those areas,’ she said. She believes her results could also bring awareness regarding any possible deficiencies in POC diagnostic testing that is conducted within primary health care clinics and as such help to improve the quality of POC testing in those institutions. 

Dwayisa had to overcome a number of challenges as she had to study and work full time; ‘Working and studying full time in my final year was challenging. There were times I felt I couldn’t carry on but the Lord was with me and helped me pull through. I was also blessed with an amazing supervisor in Dr Tivani Mashamba-Thompson and the wonderful support of my husband I saw the hand of the Lord in my life and I am truly grateful,’ said Dwayisa.

She is keen to get more involved in public health based work. ‘I love working with people and helping to improve their lives. I may also consider lecturing in the future.’

author : Nombuso Dlamini
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UKZN Hosts Successful 2017 Parents Day

UKZN Hosts Successful 2017 Parents Day
Parents Day a resounding success at UKZN.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s 2017 Parents Day held on the Howard College, Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses was a great success.

The annual event allows University staff to engage with parents and share useful information about the support given to their children while at the University.

Parents also heard about the various scholarship packages and funding options available.

Among parents and eager first year students at Parents Day at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science on the Westville campus was Ms Zethethelo Mjwara of Umbumbulu who - after matriculating at Adams College – was all set to start her BSc, focusing on Biological Sciences. 

College Dean of Teaching and Learning, Professor Bala Pillay, and Dean and Head of the School of Life Sciences, Professor Ade Olaniran, were on hand to give her encouragement and advice.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, advised parents/guardians to encourage their children to start studying immediately as the University was committed to equipping graduates with relevant education in an environment conducive to excellence.

Dean and Head of the School of Applied Human Sciences Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize, spoke about the importance of the Humanities saying: ‘The Humanities are the foundations of society and at the College of Humanities we train critical thinkers to address the social ills of society and contribute to the humanisation of the technical sciences.’

Mrs Adelaide Mqadi of Imfume on the South Coast believes her daughter, Londeka, will do well in her first year of a Bachelor of Arts degree. ‘She has worked hard in matric and she will work hard here at University. I am proud that she has come this far. I’m really looking forward to see Londeka graduate - I will be there in the audience telling everyone that she’s my daughter!’

Registration, housing and funding were the key areas of discussion at the College of Law and Management Studies’ Parents Day.  An information sharing session held on the Howard College, Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses enlightened parents keen to know how the College would support their children.

During his address at Howard College campus, UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, assured parents that they had made the right choice in supporting their children to pursue a qualification at an institution with a rich heritage of scholarly excellence.

He said the University was committed to teaching and learning, despite the challenges of the nation-wide #feesmustfall protests. ‘One of the challenges we face in our current climate, and a concern for many parents, is the possibility of national student protests. Rest assured, UKZN’s management remains committed to ensuring a safe teaching and learning environment for all our students and has engaged with government and other stakeholders to do all we can to make sure this happens,’ said van Jaarsveld.

At Westville campus, the  Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of College, Professor John Cantius Mubangizi, addressed parents’ concerns with the help of academics, representatives from Teaching and Learning and Student Funding. The team spoke about important issues including the state of student residences and student protests.

‘At UKZN we are serious about teaching and learning and are fortunate to have dedicated lecturers who go above and beyond the norm to provide students with the best learning experience,’ said Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Rob Slotow during his welcome address to the parents of Health Sciences students.

‘Entrance to the University of KwaZulu-Natal is highly competitive and we have a proud legacy of attracting high performing and gifted learners – from both urban and rural schools.’

Slotow assured parents that they had made the correct decision to enroll their children at a university which has held the number one position in South Africa in terms of research output for three consecutive years.  ‘We are also currently ranked the number one University in the country in the disciplines of Physical Sciences and Engineering.

‘We produce true innovators. People who will question the world and look within themselves to change it for the better. Research shows that 84% of our graduates are employed within six months of completing their respective qualification. Our graduates are therefore highly sought after both locally and internationally.’

Academic Leader: Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences (Sport Science), Professor Johan van Heerden, shared with parents and guardians the College’s general academic rules for degrees, diplomas and certificates, among other issues.

author : UKZNDabaOnline
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Tips to Get Students Through the Year Successfully!

Tips to Get Students Through the Year Successfully!
Mr Tsepo Mkhwanazi.

Many problems and challenges university students face during the academic year can be overcome with efficient organisation and planning, says UKZN alumnus and Industrial Relations Consultant, Mr Tsepo Mkhwanazi.

Mkhwanazi (23) of HRTorQue Outsourcing in Durban offers students the following advice to get the most out of 2017:

Plan everything

When studying, working or having to do both, demands are high so scheduling tasks is vital to get the job done and the study work completed successfully. Downtime is crucial but if you don’t plan your own downtime, you will probably never get much!

Accept that your life will not be balanced

If you expect to have a good day and the day becomes challenging, you may struggle to get through it. However, if you accept that it is quite possible that the day could be dreadful and it turns out to be much better than expected, you will be able to take full advantage of the situation.

When working and studying, weekends and evenings are for study and weekdays are for work

My schedule is: 12am to 5am – sleep; 5am to 6am - jogging; 6am to 7am - shower and leave for work; 8am to 4:30pm - work; 5pm to 6:30pm  - change and leave for night class; 7pm-11pm – night class.

I try to stick closely to this schedule, adding extra hours of sleep on weekends and on public holidays.

Exercise is key - you need to be ready for whatever

Mental and physical health are enhanced through regular exercise so make sure you do at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Learn to Prioritise

When work pressures start to bear down on you, learn to prioritise tasks and pick up the slack by trading sleep for naps.

Have a good support system

There will, without doubt, be days when you feel very flat, lacking energy and drive.  Those are the times when you need a friend, a confidante, a family member to confide in and help and encourage you to build yourself up again. In my case, I always turned to my girlfriend or my mother who is a very strong but empathetic woman.

Have a cause and have faith

I did my honours degree while working to pay tribute to my late grandfather who always encouraged me to do better. I also did it for myself, to prove I could do whatever I turned my mind to and to prove to people who told me it couldn’t be done that in fact it was possible. I have very strong faith in myself and my abilities.

Some relationships will suffer

If you work while studying, you will probably not have a lot of time to socialise and may end up losing friends. However, true friends will stick by you through thick and thin.

Anxiety is good, procrastination is bad

With always being on the move and working on numerous projects, it is sometimes easy to procrastinate which is a thief of time. I believe there is a big difference between being productive and being so called “busy” which can be a form of laziness.

Have a close relationship with your classmates and lecturers

If you study while working, you will struggle if you do not have a good relationship with colleagues and lecturers.

For example, in instances where I couldn’t attend lectures due to work commitments, classmates covered for me and lecturers helped as well. 

Be part of a study group

Being part of a study group can have huge benefits as long as the leader is informed and efficient, otherwise it could be a case of the blind leading the blind.

On the issue of how to operate during times of student unrest on campus, Mkhwanazi had this advice:

‘Everything in life depends on how you look at it. Students should take advantage of the days the University closes due to unrest. If a deadline gets pushed back because of problems on campus, you get the advantage of an extension and the opportunity to focus on your projects without a distraction. That is where you need to be disciplined and strict and take advantage of the situation.’

On the issue of staying focused, he says this: ‘I know how hard it is to attend university with a disadvantaged background - the odds are stacked against you. You will have problems with housing, finance and other necessities. It pays to always remember why you came to university and get on with your work.’

And the final word: ‘I always wanted to be able to tell my mother to stop working and hand her keys to a brand new house and car. My mom always did her best to make sure we got a good education but that sometimes meant having to go to school on an empty stomach. I grew up wanting more, I knew there was a better life. I wanted to live by the beach, have a good job and give money to my mom every month.

‘I now live near the sea, have a good job and although my mother does not need financial help from me, I do my bit to make her smile as often as I can. That is faith and that is God!’ 

author : Tsepo Mkhwanazi
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Hamilton Naki Fellow sets his sights on Improving Mental Health in KwaZulu-Natal

Hamilton Naki Fellow sets his sights on Improving Mental Health in KwaZulu-Natal
New Head of UKZN’s Department of Psychiatry, Professor Bonga Chiliza.

A former recipient of the prestigious Hamilton Naki Research Fellowship and the CINP Rafaelsen Young Investigators Award, Professor Bonga Chiliza, has been appointed Head of UKZN’s Department of Psychiatry.

Chiliza returned to his alma mater to take office on the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine campus at the beginning of this month.

Previously, he served as an Associate Professor at Stellenbosch University and Senior Specialist Psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry at Tygerberg Hospital.

Chiliza is passionate about improving mental health and was inspired as a young fourth year UKZN Medical student serving in local hospitals. He said he found patients with mental illnesses interesting after seeing many with severe psychotic problems improve significantly after treatment.

‘I thought it would be rewarding to work with people with serious mental illnesses and I hoped that by helping them I would get great job satisfaction,’ said Chiliza. ‘As I got to know more about psychiatry, I realised that the brain is really the final frontier in medical discovery. We are yet to discover so many things about how it works and becomes ill. The study of neurosciences is definitely where all the exciting discoveries are at the moment.’

His research interests include schizophrenia, consultation-liaison psychiatry, health services and medical education. He has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and also served on a number of NGO boards, including the SA YMCA, Life Choices and Harambee.

Chiliza has a vision to ensure the provision of responsive and accountable psychiatry to the people of KwaZulu-Natal. ‘We will continue to improve the teaching and learning of psychiatry by both undergraduate and postgraduate students. I am looking forward to participating in the College of Health Science’s and KZN Department of Health’s Decentralised Clinical Training Platform. We will focus on strengthening primary health and district mental health services so we can deliver the services to our people.’

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Professor Jonathan Burns, Chiliza will continue to enhance clinical research by increasing collaboration with other departments, particularly those at universities in Africa. ‘There are a number young African psychiatrists who are doing amazing research with very limited resources in places like Ibadan, Nigeria and Makerere University in Uganda.’

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences and Acting Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Rob Slotow, said: ‘I am very pleased to welcome Bonga back to the UKZN family and wish him every success in his new position.’

author : MaryAnn Francis
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