Mars One Candidate Debates Soft Matter Issues at Lindau Meeting

Mars One Candidate Debates Soft Matter Issues at Lindau Meeting
Dr Adriana Marais.

Post-doctoral researcher in UKZN’s Centre for Quantum Technology, Dr Adriana Marais, has made waves in her field not only in her quest to explore the quantum origins of life, but also due to her selection as one of the 100 finalist candidates for the planned Mars One journey in 2026. 

Marais was recently selected to travel to the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting in Germany which is dedicated to the field of Physics. Following her engagements at Lindau, Marais was featured in Nature’s Outlook publication as well as a recently-released video covering a discussion at a Science Breakfast for 100 of those who attended the Lindau meeting, aptly hosted by Mars Incorporated, on the topic: “Why Does Soft Matter Matter”? 

The discussion panel included Nobel Laureate, Steven Chu, and senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Antonio Redondo. The discussion of soft matter (biological materials that are deformed or altered by thermal fluctuations) included the potential of soft matter physics applications to play a role in solving issues facing the world today, including sustainability challenges. Panellists highlighted new emerging interdisciplinary research that is yielding results that could hugely benefit society. 

Marais spoke specifically about the soft matter making up living organisms. Her research has been characterised by exploration of the origins of life from the inanimate matter of which it is constituted, which is one of science’s biggest open problems currently. Her PhD, titled: “Quantum Effects in Photosynthesis, explored the role of quantum mechanisms in photosynthesis”. Lately, she is investigating whether methods from quantum biology could contribute to our understanding of the origins of life. 

Marais detailed the strides quantum biology research is making in the development of highly efficient, biologically-inspired, artificial photosynthetic systems that will contribute significantly to both renewable energy and food security. 

In her journey closer to being one of the final candidates hoping to make the trip to the Red Planet, Marais touched on the importance of appreciating and effectively utilising resources on earth. Poor resource utilisation has, Marais said, contributed to global challenges, and life on Mars would be characterised by a deep appreciation of life and resources taken for granted here.

author : Christine Cuénod
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UKZN hosts African Cultural Calabash and African Cuisine Event

UKZN hosts African Cultural Calabash and African Cuisine Event
UKZN’s 11th Annual African Cultural Calabash takes place this Friday (14 October).

UKZN’s African Music and Dance (AMD) Discipline will host the 11th Annual African Cultural Calabash and African Cuisine at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music on UKZN’s Howard College campus this Friday (14 October) starting at 19h00.

The event is organised by third-year African Music Outreach: Community Development students under the theme: Soul of Africa in One Voice.

AMD student, Mr Philani Thabethe, said: ‘We chose the theme simply because we feel it encompasses the spirit and unity of Africa. The concert itself showcases a variety of African music and dances from across the continent and pays homage to Africa and its soul and diversity.

‘The Calabash is an institution. Regular concert-goers and newcomers to the event say it is an amazing, learning experience. The concert helps us appreciate what Africa has, and is a celebration of our cultures and heritage,’ said Thabethe.

The evening’s guest speaker is storyteller Mr Lungisani Mavundla of Ukhozi FM, who is known for creating a platform for grooming and developing young poets.

Headlining the concert is Maskandi Bahubhe from uMzinto Jolvet, who joined the music industry as a recording artist in 2011, releasing three albums: Kuyasinda (2011), Mpundula (2014) and Iquantum (2015).  Bahubhe is reputed to be one of the best dancers/singers/storytellers in the maskandi genre.

Another act is Ubukhipha of Hluhluwe performing isigekle dance. They are the winners of the Sakhisizwe awards for best attire in 2013 and were best performers in 2015. Also on the bill are B’Scent-Shantu Musik Hausa-Fulani music and dance from Northern Nigeria, featuring the unique Shantu calabash.  B’Scent recently performed at the Loveworld music festival.

Legon Palmwine Band will perform Palmwine guitar music, an intricate Ghanaian guitar finger picking style that accompanies Akan storytelling.

Also on show are Nyuswa Home Boys isicathamiya vocal singers - four- time national isicathamiya champions at the Durban Playhouse, a SATMA awardee for best isicathamiya (2009), and winners of Isolezwe’s isicathamiya competition. The group is led by Thando Nu Luthuli, who teaches isicathamiya in the UKZN African Music and Dance programme.  Nyuswa Home Boys have performed in Brazil, the United States, and China.

Zulu poets Sabelo Mvelase and Brian Gwamanda will add their flavour of poetry.

Lecturer for the module Dr Patricia Opondo said: ‘Hosting the African Cultural Calabash provided an important learning experience for final-year students as they were taught how to curate a folk-life festival event and handle all the responsibilities involved in organising something of this magnitude. It also provides a great platform for artists from various genres of music/dance and from different parts of Africa to converge and share their cultural heritage.’

Refreshments after the Concert include enticing African dishes.

Tickets - R70 for adults and R35 for students – are available from Ms Thuli Zama at or Mr Philani Thabethe at

* This project is supported by an ANT Funding Grant from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Additional funding is from the National Arts Council of South Africa, Concerts SA and SAMRO Foundation.

author : Melissa Mungroo
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Decolonising Shakespeare - From the Origins of uMabatha the Zulu Macbeth

Decolonising Shakespeare - From the Origins of uMabatha the Zulu Macbeth
Participants at the Decolonising Shakespeare Colloquium.

UKZN’s Drama and Performance Studies Discipline within the College of Humanities recently hosted a colloquium titled: “Decolonising Shakespeare? Contestations and re-imaginings for a post-liberation South Africa”.

Featured were keynote addresses by theatre and performance art stalwarts, Welcome Msomi and Chris Thurman.

The colloquium coincided with the global commemorations of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.

Msomi’s address was made possible through support from the Department of Arts and Culture and the Living Legends Legacy Project.

Officially opening the colloquium, acting Dean and Head of the School of Arts, Professor Donal McCracken, said ‘decolonisation is revolutionary’ and that ‘the creative arts are the heart and soul of the University’. He further pledged his support to the Arts.

Msomi spoke about the origins of his ground-breaking production uMabatha, first staged in 1970 at the Open Air Theatre at UKZN, the first presentation in South Africa of an isiZulu version of a full-scale Shakespearean production.

‘Out of all of Shakespeare’s plays that I was able to read and perform, Macbeth seemed to find a home in the culture of the Zulu people. uMabatha is set in the early 19th century. The historical model is the legendary warrior-king Shaka Zulu and how his brothers plot to kill him, inspired by their aunt uMkabayi kaJama,’ explained Msomi.

He highlighted some of the similarities that stood out between Macbeth and uMabatha such as greed, ambition and assassination. Msomi further discussed the production during the apartheid era and how various audiences reacted to it and discussed contestations and re-imaginings for a post-liberation South Africa. Delegates were also treated to a five minute clip of uMabatha.

Msomi encouraged young people to write and perform stories related to their personal experiences, the political climate in Africa and in their vernacular. ‘The country needs an overhaul of its education system. We will see a massive revolution and theatre can play an important role for a dialogue on decolonisation,’ he said.

A highlight of the colloquium was the showcasing of the Robben Island Bible, which is a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which was sent to apartheid activist Sonny Venkatrathnam by his wife Theresa during his time in prison.

Six months before he left the island in 1978, Venkatrathnam asked his 32 fellow- prisoners in the single-cell section, which included the most senior leadership figures of the liberation movements, to choose their favourite passage from Shakespeare and sign their name alongside their chosen quote.

The names in the book include the political icons of South African Liberation movement, such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Saths Cooper, Strini Moodley, Neville Alexander, and Ahmed Kathrada.

Venkatrathnam addressed delegates at the Colloquium reflecting on some memories about his time on Robben Island, the story of how the Complete Works of Shakespeare was his chosen reading material, and the journey of the ‘Bible’ on the Island among his fellow prisoners.

author : Melissa Mungroo
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Kungani Bebizwa NgamaZulu?- Incwadi Entsha Yase-UKZN

Kungani Bebizwa NgamaZulu?- Incwadi Entsha Yase-UKZN
UMnu Mandla Ndaba nendodakazi yakhe uSnethemba.

Click here for the English version

Owayengumfundi futhi Ongumgcini-hhovisi KwezokuPhathwa NokuThuthukiswa Kwezobuholi Kubafundi uMnu Mandla Ndaba ubhale incwadi enesihloko esithi -Why Are They Called amaZulu? – okuyincwadi ehlanganisa umlando nezenkolo ekuthungatheni imvelaphi yawo.  

Yethulwe ngenyanga YezamaSiko, uNdaba uthe le ncwadi iphenya  imvelaphi yamaZulu njengabantu basebhayibhelini nendlela abebephila ngayo njengesizukulwane sikaMose wasebhayibhelini.

‘Incwadi ikhombisa ukuthi amagama esizulu akheke kanjani esuselwa ebhayibhelini futhi nokuthi incazelo yawo ilahleke kanjani ngenkathi behlangana nezinye izizwe. Ibuye futhi ichaze ngokuxhumana ngqo phakathi kokuyisiko lamaZulu  nebhayibheli, imicimbi esuselwe ebhayibhelini nobungozi obulethwa ulimi olungenamqondo,’ kusho uNdaba.

UNdaba uthe ubhale le ncwadi ngenxa yokuthi izindaba zethu azixoxwa kodwa kuxoxwa izindaba zabanye abantu ngathi – ubu-Afrika okungafani nenkolelo bu-Afrika’.

Umqondisi WoPhiko LwezeSayensi Nobuchwepheshe  - Isizinda SezoCwaningo  KwezoLwazi LweNdabuko, uSolwazi Hassan Kaya, uthe: ‘Incwadi isebenzisa udaba lwamaZulu njengomphakathi wase-Afrika nesiZulu njengolimi lwendabuko lwase-Afrika ukuze iqhakambise ubungxube bobudlelwane bamasiko nezincazelo ngoNkulunkulu oyedwa okhonzwa amasiko ahlukene.’

Ukwethulwa kwencwadi ekhempasini eHoward College bekuhlanganise inkulumo ekhuthazayo eyethulwe uNkz Gugu Mkhize; nomxhumanisi Womkhosi Womhlanga uNkz Nonkanyiso Conco.

Bekunandisa i-Sedaven High– Prelude; imbongi u-Outy Yomzulu, noZama Mkhize.

UNdaba uhloniphe indodakazi yakhe eneminyaka eyi-14 uSnethemba, okunguye omgqugquzele futhi obemkhuthaza ngenkathi ebhala le ncwadi ‘Ngaphandle kokuthandabuza, ngaphandle kokubonga uNkulunkulu, Ngiyayibonga kakhulu indodakazi yami ngokuba isisekelo empilweni yami njalo nje. Ungikhuthaze kusukela ngosuku lokuqala ngiyiqala le ncwadi ebuza imibuzo futhi exoxa ngezingxenye ezithize zayo nami.’

Usebhale izincwadi ezine futhi njengababhali abaningi, ubhekane nezinselelo emizamweni yakhe yokuzishicilela.

UNdaba,odabuka eMadadeni, e-Newcastle, ufunde eMadadeni College of Education wenza iziqu zakhe ze-BA eNyuvesi i-Durban-Westville. Umatasa neziqu zakhe zeMastazi KwezeNqubomgomo YezeNhlalo e-UKZN futhi uyasithola nesikhathi sokufunda, umculo nokubuka ibhola likanobhutshuzwayo phakathi kokuba ubaba wabafana bakhe abane nendodakazi yakhe.

Yize noma ekuthokozela ukusebenza nabafundi baseNyuvesi kodwa uhlela ukuba umbhali ngokugcwele esikhathini esingekude kakhulu esizayo.

Izincwadi zakhe ziyatholakala esitolo sezincwadi kwa-Adams noma umthumelele imeyili: noma ucingo: 072 292 4849.

author : Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer
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Law and Management Studies Academics in UKZN’s Top 30 Researchers List

Law and Management Studies Academics in UKZN’s Top 30 Researchers List
Professor Stephen Peté, Professor Maxwell Phiri, Professor Stephen Migiro, Professor Krishna K Govender and Professor David McQuoid-Mason.

Five College of Law and Management academics are in the University’s Top 30 researcher rankings for 2015.

They are Professor David McQuoid-Mason and Professor Stephen Peté of the School of Law; Professor Maxwell Phiri and Professor Krishna K Govender  of the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, and Professor Stephen Migiro of the Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

The Top 30 ranking comprises of researchers who have accumulated the most author units for publications in Department of Higher Education and Training accredited, peer-reviewed journals.

The five academics achieved the following number of productivity units (PUs) Peté – 600; Phiri - 546; Migiro – 529; Govender - 480, and McQuoid-Mason - 426.

College Dean of Research, Professor Marita Carnelley, congratulated the academics for their contribution to the University’s research output.

‘It is a great honour to have five academics from the College on the list especially as there were no College academics on the 2014 list. We wish to congratulate these academics for their hard work and persistence in getting their research published. They are an inspiration to us all,’ she said.

author : Thandiwe Jumo
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Nuclear Techniques to Assess Breastfeeding Practices

Nuclear Techniques to Assess Breastfeeding Practices
International Atomic Energy Agency staff (from left) Dr Cornelia Loechl and Dr Thabisile Moleah, with UKZN’s Professor Anna Coutsoudis and Dr Emorn Udomeskalee of Mahidol University.

UKZN’s Professor Anna Coutsoudis of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health attended the 60th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna, Austria, where she gave an address at a side event titled: “Nuclear Techniques to Assess Breastfeeding Practices”.

The event brought together more than 80 participants to hear about and discuss the benefits of breastfeeding, national interventions to encourage breastfeeding, and the contribution of nuclear techniques.

Exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months after birth has been proven to be the most effective way to ensure the health of children. According to the World Health Organization, breast milk is the natural first food for babies, it provides all the energy and nutrients an infant needs in the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life.

‘Breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and helps quicker recovery during illness. These effects can be measured in resource-poor and affluent societies.

‘The monitoring of breastfeeding patterns relies heavily on self-reported habits. Limited information is available on the quantities of human milk consumed and the time of introduction of other foods into infants’ diets. The lack of information is, at least partly, due to the difficulties involved in assessing intake of human milk. The conventional technique is to weigh the infant before and after each feed, which is called “test weighing”. However, this technique is time consuming and may disturb the normal feeding pattern. This is where nuclear techniques play a key role,’ the Conference heard.

‘The practical problems associated with test weighing can be overcome by using the stable isotope technique. The amount of human milk consumed by the baby over a period of 14 days can be assessed using the deuterium oxide “dose-to mother” technique, which involves giving the mother a drink of deuterium labelled water and following the disappearance of the deuterium from the mother and its appearance in the baby. Deuterium is a stable (non-radioactive) isotope of hydrogen with the symbol 2 H. It is given orally as deuterium oxide (2H2O) and after mixing with body water is eliminated from the body in urine, saliva, sweat and human milk. Stable isotopes have been used in human metabolic studies for over half a century. Stable isotopes of hydrogen emit no potentially harmful radiation.’

Said Kenyan Ambassador, Mr Michael Oyugi: ‘How do you measure progress in adequate breastfeeding of babies? Tracking progress in achieving global breastfeeding targets will heavily depend on the collation of accurate data. Applying stable isotope techniques provides us with a unique opportunity to assess breastfeeding practices.’

Coutsoudis praised the IAEA for its support in enabling studies to evaluate the effectiveness of breastfeeding promotion interventions, in particular in the context of a high prevalence of HIV.

The non-radioactive stable isotope technique, known as deuterium oxide dose-to-mother technique, is already being successfully used with IAEA assistance in almost 30 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean, to objectively monitor and assess the impact of breastfeeding promotion programmes for improving the health of mothers and their babies.

A Fellow of UKZN, Coutsoudis is engaged in extensive research on HIV and nutrition, and especially in breastfeeding.  She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and her research work has played an important role in the shaping of the WHO guidelines on HIV and Infant Feeding.

She previously served as President of the Technical Steering Committee of the WHO Child and Adolescent Health Unit.  Currently she is a member of a number of WHO Guideline Development Groups. She is also a recipient of the Science for Society Gold Medal award by the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Coutsoudis established the first community based breastmilk bank in South Africa specifically to provide donor breastmilk to AIDS orphans. She is currently the recipient of the GSK/Save the Children Health Innovation Award which enables her to scale up community based Human Milk Banks in KwaZulu-Natal using low cost technology for pasteurising breastmilk developed by the University of Washington’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

author : MaryAnn Francis
author email :

Inaugural Lecture Tackles Reproductive Health in SA

Inaugural Lecture Tackles Reproductive Health in SA
From left: Professor Betty Mubangizi, DVC Professor Cheryl Potgieter, Professor Pranitha Maharaj and Professor Pholoho Morojele.

Reproductive health is a vital part of general health and a prerequisite for social, economic and human development, says Professor Pranitha Maharaj of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies.

Maharaj was speaking during her Inaugural Lecture on the challenges and priorities of Reproductive Health in South Africa.

She shared lessons from her more than 20 years of work in the field of reproductive health, discussing some of the challenges facing South Africa while drawing on her research in the field and outlining what she believes are some of the priority issues in reproductive health today.

The lecture started by focusing on two studies she is involved in to understand the reasons for early childbearing among women as well as young mothers’ experiences and perspectives of pregnancy. The study was conducted among young African mothers in a KwaZulu-Natal township and another study was completed in a rural area in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

She found that in the communities, early childbearing was not uncommon and that early motherhood also impacted their schooling. The study engaged with the ongoing debate about Child Support Grants (CSG) in South Africa and their role in increasing teenage pregnancy.

‘There is a widely held perception that young women become pregnant because they want to access the grant and as a result, they dump their children with their grandmothers and spend the money on themselves. In the study, the young women made it clear that the CSG was insufficient to support themselves and their children, therefore they did not have children because they wanted to access the grant,’ said Maharaj.

She also drew attention to young fathers who were often marginalised due to factors that mitigate against what is considered an acceptable level of responsibility of fatherhood. Maharaj claimed that young fathers faced some of the same challenges as young mothers, such as the burden of an unplanned and sometimes unwanted pregnancy which impacted negatively on their academic performance and ultimately, their life chances.

‘The children often live with their mothers or their mothers’ families. Visits are strictly regulated and young fathers can only see their children at certain times. One of the main reasons for this was the cultural practice of paying damages, inhlawulo, to the family of the girl that they impregnated as a way of apologising to the girl’s family for having brought disgrace to them,’ said Maharaj.

Overall, Maharaj found that communication was a key factor in promoting safer and healthier sexual practices and that condom use within marriage was uncommon.  Research results further suggest that some couples were willing to use condoms at least some of the time if they perceived themselves at risk of HIV infection from their partners.

She noted that South Africa had one of the most progressive policies on sexual and reproductive health, and services were available free of charge in public healthcare facilities. However, ‘the challenges remain to make services accessible, affordable, and available to all segments of the population. More effort is needed to change the stereotypical views that prevent men and women from meeting their reproductive needs.

‘Making sure that all individuals have access to sexual and reproductive health services contributes to fulfilling men’s and women’s reproductive rights, providing more choices to best suit their needs. In turn, when women and men are healthy, their communities are stronger, economic opportunities are greater and countries are in a better position to meet the needs of their people,’ said Maharaj.

author : Melissa Mungroo
author email :

20th Poetry Africa International Festival on Show in Durban

20th Poetry Africa International Festival on Show in Durban
20th Poetry Africa International Festival runs from 10 to 15 October 2016.

The Centre for Creative Arts (CCA), within UKZN’s College of Humanities is hosting the 20th Poetry Africa International Festival which ends its run this Saturday (October 15).

Poetry Africa is arguably the largest and longest-running poetry festival in Africa. Over the years it has hosted a wide variety of internationally-acclaimed poets from all over the world, with the main focus on Africa. 

About 20 poets from South Africa, Africa, and different parts of the world feature during this year’s week-long edition. The programme includes a variety of performances, seminars and, most importantly, an archival exhibition of the past 19 years of the Festival.  

Director of the CCA, Mr David wa Maahlamela, said: ‘In our attempt at ensuring that UKZN becomes the foremost academic institution in bridging the yawning gulf between academia and local communities, this year’s Festival recognises the significance of cultural leaders in influencing positive change in society.

‘This is our contribution to the World Poetry Movement’s worldwide effort to condemn war and promote peace on earth. In addition to celebrating the festival’s 20 years of existence, we are paying tribute to the 200th anniversary of the conception of the Zulu Kingdom. We’re expecting to host representatives from the Royal House and other prominent leaders from different government structures.’

The Festival also pays homage to South Africa’s first National Poet Laureate and one of the symbols of isiZulu poetry, the late Professor Mazisi Kunene. Kunene is best known for his poem, Emperor Shaka the Great. The intellectual revolutionary that he was, he consistently wrote his works in isiZulu first, then translated them into English.

In acknowledgement of his scholarly work in the field of the intellectualisation of isiZulu, this week (10 – 15 October) has been declared Mazisi Kunene Week.

In partnership with the Mazisi Kunene Foundation Trust, the Living Legends Trust and the KZN Department of Arts and Culture will bestow the inaugural Mazisi Kunene Poetry Awards on two legendary poets, Dr Don Mattera and iNyosi yeSilo BM Mdletshe.

The Festival also hosts workshops in schools, community arts centres, tertiary institutions and prisons in Durban and Pietermaritzburg with the evening programme at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on the Howard College campus (UKZN).

UKZN’s School of Arts is hosting various seminars during the course of this week.

*Presented by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts, the 20th Poetry Africa is made possible by support from the eThekwini Municipality, KZN Department of Arts and Culture, Living Legends, The Goethe-Institut, Alliance Française de Durban, Mazisi Kunene Foundation Trust, and the World Poetry Movement. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the School of Arts, College of Humanities.

author : Melissa Mungroo and Fred Khumalo
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Masters Student Presents Paper at World Congress in Poland

Masters Student Presents Paper at World Congress in Poland
Mrs Kenalemang Nkwoji at the World Congress in Poland.

A masters student in UKZN’s School of Applied Human Sciences presented a paper at the International Political Sciences Association (IPSA) World Congress in Poland. 

Mrs Kenalemang Nkwoji, who is currently doing her master’s degree at the Centre for Communication Media and Society (CCMS), compiled the paper as part of her research for her thesis.   

The paper is titled: “Attitudinal Change and Behavioural Rehabilitation of Youth in Conflict with Law: Lessons from the film Tsotsi”

‘The paper is drawn from my current masters study,’ said Nkwoji. ‘It is based on preliminary findings from data I collected through in-depth one-on-one semi-structured interviews with eight juvenile offenders between the ages of 14-17.  The offenders were able to express how the film Tsotsi is applicable in their personal lives, and some divulged personal matters such as murders that they had committed as well as indicating that they were gang members.  

‘I focused on the specific subject because I selected one of the objectives of my research that was particularly in line with the theme of the conference,’ said Nkwoji. 

Nkwoji also said attending seminars and colloquia offered within the CCMS and the School of Applied Human Sciences steered her in the direction of getting international exposure as she had presented a paper at the 2015 School of Applied Human Sciences Post Graduate Annual Conference. 

‘I submitted my abstract for the IPSA world congress and several months later, I received an email that my abstract had been approved.’ 

Nkwoji says she was honoured to get the opportunity as she received encouraging feedback from the Congress. She thanked her supervisor and co-author, Dr Lauren Dyll, for her unrelenting support, the National Research Foundation (NRF) for the travel grant and UKZN. 

‘Research is not an isolated process - your supervisor is your mentor and your coach. Academic pursuits require a student who is flexible, tenacious, not afraid to ask questions, and who interacts with others.  Additionally, the student must be teachable and humble; be open to corrections and critique and remember that hard work pays off,’ said Nkwoji.

author : Reatlehile Karabo Moeti
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Law and Management Studies Academics Rewarded for their Contribution to Teaching and Learning

Law and Management Studies Academics Rewarded for their Contribution to Teaching and Learning
Dr Aradhna Arbee with College of Law and Management Studies Dean of Teaching and Learning Professor Kriben Pillay.

For their contribution to excellence in Teaching and Learning, College of Law and Management academics Dr Aradhna Arbee, Dr Karen Bargate and Dr Josue Mbonigaba were received top honours for their research articles.

The prizes which include R10 000 for first place, R5 000 for second place and R3 000 for third place were awarded by the College Teaching and Learning Office in recognition of  academics who are publishing or have published outstanding articles which will be featured in a Teaching and Learning compilation due to be published later this year.

“The Writing Centre: A site for discursive dialogue in management studies” was the title of Arbee’s article co-authoured with Mr Michael Samuel which won first place. The article was published in the South African Journal of Higher Education explores aspects of academic literacy development in Higher Education, in the disciplinary context of management studies. Specifically, it examines the effect of Writing Place support on Marketing students’ academic performance, focusing on a specific assessment task over a six-year period.

‘Over the period of the study, Writing Place users were found to perform significantly and consistently better than non-users. Implications of the findings, including issues around the role of collaboration between disciplinary and Writing Centre staff in developing graduates with the requisite disciplinary discursive practices, are considered,’ explained Arbee.

Arbee plans to use the prize money for a follow up study to this article that she is currently working on.

‘The study aims to explore factors underpinning students’ usage and non-usage of the Writing Place. Another project that I am currently busy with, also in the broad area of academic literacy development, looks at the use of infographics in Marketing education,’ she said.

Second place winner, Bargate’s article is titled: “Towards a model of teaching and learning in a Managerial Accounting and Financial Management writing-intensive tutorial programme”.

Third place went to Mbonigaba for his article titled: “Exploring the Reliability of Self-assessment and Peer-assessment in Oral Presentations in Economics: A sample of Postgraduate Students at a South African University”.  The article explores whether asking students to assess their peers’ work would improve their work effort and their own understanding of what is required.

‘The research article related to my classroom practice in the course: Economics of Health Care, in which I always strive to change teaching methods in a drive to provide the best possible services to students. Receiving this prize sent a message that my continuous efforts in searching for the best ways of teaching, in line with one of UKZN’s vision, are not in vain,’ he said.

Continuing on his contribution to teaching and learning, Mbonigaba’s article titled: “Multiple-choice questions and written questions matched according to levels of cognitive ability in an applied course: Evidence and practical implications”, is forthcoming in Africa Education Review. Mbonigaba is currently working on another article titled: “Problem-based Learning among Postgraduate Students in Economics” for future publication.

I felt happy when I learnt that my research article “Exploring the Reliability of Self-assessment and Peer-assessment in Oral Presentations in Economics: A sample of Postgraduate Students at a South African University” was recognised and awarded as a third best article at the College Research Day. The research article related to my classroom practice in the course: Economics of Health Care, in which I always strive to change teaching methods in a drive to provide the best possible services to students.

The literature has pointed out self-assessment and peer-assessment as good methods of teaching and assessment in Higher Education.  In this article, I was exploring whether asking students to assess their peers’ work would improve their work effort and their own understanding of what is required. I was also motivated by the need to see whether the practice can be recommended to colleagues as one of the teaching tools.

The past race relations in South Africa, which might imply perceived negative connections among different race groups in the class, made this class experiment to be different from other experiments in the past,  where non-race based connections among students have been reported to influence the peer-assessment outcomes elsewhere. The exercise sought therefore to explore the extent to which students would be fair if they were to allocate marks to fellow students and the extent to which they would be honest in their own self-assessment.

This teaching practice covered a small component of the course, the oral presentation, to avoid basing an experimental method on a significant component of the course. While peer-assessment marks agreed in ranking pattern with the lecturer’s marks overall, self-and peer-assessment marks were biased in an undiscernible pattern in each of the racial groups making up the sample. These results implied that caution should be exercised in using these assessments for marks especially in contexts where there are perceived intra-class negative connections.

Receiving this prize sent a message that my continuous efforts in searching for the best ways of teaching, in line with one of UKZN vision, are not in vain. Another piece of work that reflects my continuous effort in teaching improvement, “Multiple-choice questions and written questions matched according to levels of cognitive ability in an applied course: Evidence and practical implications”, is forthcoming in Africa Education Review. I am currently working on “Problem-based Learning among Postgraduate Students in Economics”, another research effort into teaching and learning to improve my practice. I am confident that these research efforts will be also rewarding in the future.  

author : Thandiwe Jumo
author email :

Heritage Month Sparks a Sense of Ubuntu for UKZN Res Students

Heritage Month Sparks a Sense of Ubuntu for UKZN Res Students
R-Res students from UKZN’s Westville campus donated clothing to the St Vincent’s Children’s home in Mariannhill.

A group of civic-minded UKZN students has donated clothing, bedding and toiletries to St Vincent’s Children’s home in Mariannhill, Pinetown.

Speaking on behalf of the R-Block Residence on the Westville campus, first-year Physiology student, Mr Sizwe Mgcina, said they organised the charity event to ‘promote the culture of giving through the University’ to the ‘less fortunate’.

Mgcina said they collected clothes from fellow res students, and washed and packed them as they were inspired to ‘evoke the spirit of Ubuntu’ during Heritage month. A donation of bedding was also secured from the Department of Student Housing through UKZN’s Mr Lethani Ndwandwe.

Mgcina paid tribute to House Com Secretary and third-year Environmental Sciences student, Ms Lindokuhle Mhlongo; House Com Sports and Recreation rep and second-year Pharmacy student, Mr Mvelo Buthelezi;

House Com Treasurer and BSC Environmental Sciences student, Ms Prisca Mncube; BCom 4 Foundation first-year student, Ms Siphiwe Ntuli; House Com-Community Development rep and second-year B. Community Development Studies student, Ms Sithandiwe Sibisi, and Mr Ayanda Lebakeng, who is doing first-year BSc Eng (Mech) and is responsible for events in the House Committee.

The students also thanked UKZN’s Mr Lethani Ndwandwe, Social Worker at the children’s home, Mrs Elda Mbatha, and UKZN Transport’s Mr Brian Fraser.

Mgcina encouraged anyone wanting to donate their time or clothing to St Vincent’s Children’s home to contact Mrs Elda Mbatha on 082 836 5723.

author : Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer
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UKZN Students Give Outstanding Performance of The Past is Prologue

UKZN Students Give Outstanding Performance of The Past is Prologue
UKZN students perform some of Shakespeare’s Classics in <em>The Past is Prologue.</em>

Talented students from UKZN’s Drama and Performance Studies Discipline starred in The Past is Prologue during the SHAKESPEAREmustFALL? Theatre Festival at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

The stage production is based on several of Shakespeare’s plays including The TempestMacbeth and Julius Caesar.

The show involves Shakespeare, played by Sfundo Sosibo, being propelled into the future, possessed of nothing but his own words and finding himself in a world where his works have been reduced to museum-like artefacts of a great tradition.

He is given the opportunity to speak to this while assisting student, Siri, played by Zibuyile Mkhize, and in so doing shatters the divide that separates his works from his living audience.

Audiences were then taken on a whistle stop tour through several of Shakespeare’s most famous works, reimagining them in performance with the production revitalising and resurrecting the theatrical Shakespeare.

UKZN Lecturer and Festival Director Ms Tamar Meskin said: ‘The production plays with ambiguity in seeking to “decolonize” Shakespeare by reinscribing his works with newly imagined meanings, viewed through newly created lenses, which can speak to the ethos of our time.

‘We do so to engage the stories and characters that can speak to and for us through time, but we also make them vehicles for commentary on our present. We cannot change the present by pretending the past did not happen or removing its symbols – abandoning memory is dangerous – we have to understand the past to change the present and shape the future we seek,’ she said.

The students found being a part of the production exhilarating and saw it as both a learning and creative experience. 

Sosibo said: ‘Often as a performer, we shy away from Shakespeare but we cannot deny the brilliance of his work and how relevant it still is, centuries later. Playing Shakespeare was daunting but to give him life onstage was such an amazing, fulfilling experience.’

Said Mkhize:  ‘Working alongside other students you also get to hone your skills as a performer and your love for performing theatre grows. You really get to experience working in an ensemble cast and as a first year student, I realised how much hard work and effort goes into a theatre production to make it successful and relatable to the audience.’

Ms Nemijia Govender, who plays Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, recalled her experience engaging with Shakespeare’s text. ‘Although I was familiar with his work, being given a script and having to learn and understand his work was intense, but by learning his work, I was able to perform it more accurately and with the correct emotion onstage. It made me appreciate Shakespeare as a playwright and to acknowledge the validity of his work and his relevant key themes of love, hatred, greed and passion.’

Ms Belinda Ndwandwe, who plays the “female” Cassius in Julius Caesar, said: ‘Being a part of this production goes beyond the language and we were given the opportunity to bring some of Shakespeare’s classics to life, as he intended, for theatre.’

Meskin added: ‘It has been an absolute privilege to work with this cast of UKZN students, who have engaged complicated and difficult text with vigour and passion and who have offered so much of themselves to the project. I was fortunate to be assisted in this project by three colleagues - Devaksha Moodley, Kamini Govender and Donna Steel - whose creativity and generosity remind me why I love theatre.’

author : Melissa Mungroo
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UKZN Researcher has Hand in Public Health Textbook Lauded by BMA

UKZN Researcher has Hand in Public Health Textbook Lauded by BMA
Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim.

UKZN’s Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim is one of four editors of the Oxford Textbook of Global Public Health (6th edition) acknowledged by the British Medical Association (BMA) at the recent 2016 BMA Medical Book Awards evening.

Highly commended in the Public Health category, the textbook is published by Oxford University Press and comprises 1 888 pages bound in three volumes.

The four editors are Roger Detels, Martin Gulliford, Abdool Karim and Chorh Chuan Tan.

The BMA Medical Book Awards are held annually to recognise outstanding contributions to medical literature. Books are awarded prizes and commended in 20 categories.

A BMA judging panel assesses books for their applicability to audience, production quality and originality.

Abdool Karim is Professor in Clinical Epidemiology at Columbia University, Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA and Honorary Professor in Public Health at UKZN.

She donated a complete set of the books to the UKZN Research Office. It is available at the EG Malherbe Library on the Howard College campus.

author : Smita Maharaj
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International Appointment for UKZN Local Governance Expert

International Appointment for UKZN Local Governance Expert
Professor Purshottama Reddy (right) pictured with the new President of IASIA, Professor Bianor Scelza Cavalcanti from Brazil.

School of Management, Information Technology and Governance academic Professor Purshottama Reddy has been appointed Vice-President of Programmes for the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA) for 2016 to 2019.

IASIA is an association of organisations and individuals whose activities and interests focus on public administration and management and activities of its members, including education and training of administrators and managers.

Reddy’s appointment was made at the IASIA‘s annual joint conference titled: “Building Capacity For Sustainable Governance”, which was held in Chengdu, China.

He presented a paper on: “The Subnational Dimension in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, and also chaired two sessions of the Working Group on Subnational Governance and Development, of which he is the Project Director.

Reddy also participated in a BRICS Public Administration Roundtable themed: “Improving Governance Capacity To Tackle Common Development Challenges”.

Reddy’s paper pointed out that since the SDGs replaced the MDGs, several international agreements and frameworks had been included in the post 2015 development agenda.  They were the Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction 2015 – 2030; Addis Abba Action Agenda on Financing for Development; Paris Accord on Climate Change; Habitat 111 and the New Urban Agenda and the African Union 2063.

‘There are distinct lessons that can be learn from the MDGs, namely greater ownership especially from developing countries; the process has to be bottom-up in terms of buy in and participation from subnational government and local communities,’ he said.

‘There has to be the required commitment; communication, co-operation and co-ordination between the different government spheres and international organisations to attain the goals. Subnational governments also have to be empowered and capacitated in this regard,’ added Reddy.

author : Thandiwe Jumo
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Fund to assist Financially Needy Academically Performing Medical Students aims for R1-million

Fund to assist Financially Needy Academically Performing Medical Students aims for R1-million
Left: TuSEF Fundraising Gala Dinner. Right: Some of the TuSEF Committee members visiting the Seliane family for approval and support of the initiative.

The Tumelo Seliane Education Fund (TuSEF), an initiative started by UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine’s Class of 2015 to assist financially needy academically performing students, plans to raise a minimum of 1 million by next year.

The fund is being organised together with the graduates of class of 2015 by current Medical students and alumni.

TuSEF’s creation was inspired by the late Tumelo Seliane, whose leadership and humility changed many lives at the Medical School. Established through the UKZN Foundation, it seeks to ensure that no student who is performing well academically, especially in the clinical years of study, will have to abandon their studies because of financial difficulties.

A lot of fundraising strategies are being planned. One already in operation involves graduates of class of 2015 and various staff members, alumni and other sponsors, contributing a minimum of R100 a month with the goal being to raise at least a million rand that will become an endowment fund from which students in need can benefit from the profits raised.

A fund raising Gala Dinner and official TuSEF launch was held recently with the plan being to make the dinner an annual function.

Guests included UKZN Chancellor and Treasurer General of the African National Congress, Dr Zweli Mkhize; KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo; Dr Ngogi Mahaye of the Department of Education; HoD KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Dr Sifiso Mtshali; renowned HIV/AIDS researchers, Professor Salim Abdool Karim and his wife Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim; Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, UKZN Executive Director of Student Services; Mr Melusi Yeni, Actor and Programme Director for the evening; Ms Amy Sinclair from Frontier Lab; representatives from ABSA; UKZN alumni and students; parents, staff and friends of UKZN.

People attending travelled from as far as Limpopo, Queenstown, Nkandla, Pretoria, and Cape Town, with many looking stunning in their traditional and formal attire.

Close to R300 000 was raised through contributions made from a variety of sources at the event and ticket sales alone.

Dr Dhlomo announced at the function that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health would partner with the initiative to ensure its progress.

TuSEF acknowledged Dr Mkhize’s assistance with the fundraising and his efforts in securing the support of businesses on the day of event and thanked all those who contributed towards making the dinner and the fundraising so successful.

For further information or

author : Asanda Xozwa
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Thermodynamics Research Unit Members at Conference in China

Thermodynamics Research Unit Members at Conference in China
From left: Mr Kuveneshan Moodley, Dr Caleb Narasigadu, Ms Sivanna Naicker; and Dr Mark Williams-Wynn.

Four members of UKZN’s Thermodynamics Research Unit (TRU) in the School of Engineering attended the 24th IUPAC International Conference on Chemical Thermodynamics (ICCT-2016) in Guilin, China.

They were PhD student Mr Kuveneshan Moodley, Lecturer Dr Caleb Narasigadu, MEng student Ms Sivanna Naicker and post-doctoral Fellow Dr Mark Williams-Wynn.

Williams-Wynn and Ms Sivanna Naicker were presented with IUPAC Poster Awards for their contributions.

The conference was held to present information on the latest achievements in chemical thermodynamics and calorimetry and to enlarge the frontiers of chemical thermodynamics into other related disciplines.

It was jointly organised by the International Association of Chemical Thermodynamics, the Chinese Chemical Society and Guilin University of Electronic Technology.

The keynote Rossini Lecture was delivered by Professor of Thermodynamics at Imperial College, Professor Martin Trusler, on behalf of Professor Kenneth Marsh, Adjunct Professor, School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering, University of Western Australia, who died shortly before the event.

Marsh was awarded the Rossini Lectureship Award posthumously for his ground-breaking work in chemical thermodynamic measurements. Because of the original nature of his work, Marsh designed many novel experimental apparatuses over the years to prove the validity of his results to reviewers who criticised papers that he submitted for journal publication.

Williams-Wynn observed that the major emphasis in chemical thermodynamics in Asia was on the modelling, simulation and prediction of systems for which experimental data currently exists.

Some interesting presentations focused on newer techniques for the measurement of chemical thermodynamic data, one being the use of differential scanning, which is a transient technique, as opposed to the more classical, equilibrium-based thermodynamic measurements.

During the final session, an interesting round table discussion was held, where the lack of application of newly developed technologies from the field of chemical thermodynamics, and the challenges facing the field, were discussed.

author : Fiona Higginson
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UKZN Representatives at Student Conference in Stellenbosch

UKZN Representatives at Student Conference in Stellenbosch
UKZN prizewinners Ms Kim Gounder (left) and Ms Adwoa Awuah at the SSAG student conference held in Stellenbosch.

Sixteen UKZN students participated in the Society of South African Geographers (SSAG) Student Conference in Stellenbosch.

The student Conference was held just before the SSAG centenary celebrations of a century of geography teaching and research at tertiary level in South Africa.

The student Conference took place over four days during which time students were given the opportunity to interact with specialists in the field of geography.

The event included an evening for students to socialise with each other and also take part in a geography quiz thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Students from across South Africa delivered a variety of presentations and impressed the audience with the quality and significance of their research findings.

The final day included a tour around Cape Town in which students were able to take in the scenery and enjoy some of the area’s culinary delights.

Proceedings culminated in an impressive gala dinner during which it was announced that Kim Gounder of UKZN’s Howard College was the winner of the best presentation award in the Human Geography category and Adwoa Awuah of UKZN had won the award for best poster presentation.

The Conference fostered a sense of pride in the Geography discipline and appreciation for the excellent scholarship at UKZN.

UKZN students thanked SAEES Management for funding the trip and said they were proud to be products of UKZN and, in particular, the Geography Department.

They also thanked Ms Susan Sherriff, Administrator at Howard College, for sorting all the logistics for the venture.

author : Renell Soobramanian
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WILL Committee Organises Grade 12 Career Day

WILL Committee Organises Grade 12 Career Day
Women in Leadership and Leverage Committee ‘It’s my future’ Day.

The Women in Leadership and Leverage Committee (WILL) from the College of Health Sciences (CHS) hosted a career day for the Grade 12 learners from Dr Nembula High School near Amanzimtoti.  

Participants heard about various career options offered by CHS including pharmacy, optometry, speech and hearing therapy, physiotherapy, sports science, medicine and nursing.  

The youngsters were also informed about student funding opportunities provided by the University. 

Pharmaceutical Sciences’ Senior Lecturer Dr Tricia Naicker coordinated the event with the pupils hearing various guest speakers giving details on a career in health sciences.  

Student Councillor, Dr Kamila Rawatlal, conducted a career profile assessment and informed the learners about coping with the demands of matric.  

 Dr Gloria Mfeka, who spoke about being a 21st century woman, encouraged Grade 12 learners to pursue their dreams with boldness. ‘If you feel a little fear in your heart, do it anyway,’ she advised.  

The career day was a great success and Naicker said it would become an annual initiative of the WILL committee. 

It is hoped the number of young folk attending will increase next year.

author : Sinenhlanhla Ngubane
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