TATA Invests in UKZN Postgraduate Students

TATA Invests in UKZN Postgraduate Students
The 2016 TATA Scholarship recipients with UKZN and TATA representatives.

Twenty-four UKZN postgraduate students were awarded prestigious TATA scholarships at a ceremony held on the Westville campus.

The scholarships are awarded to top performing, disadvantaged postgraduate students from different fields to assist them with funding their academic studies.

In his official welcome address, UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, congratulated the students, and reminded them how the University valued them as ‘it makes it easier for us to grow our nation.

‘We can’t wait to see you collecting your degrees and changing the world for the better.’

Van Jaarsveld thanked TATA for the continued support the organisation provided to UKZN students ‘as investing in the youth is the best thing a nation and the University can do’.

Executive Director and Head of TATA’s Distribution Vertical, Mr Len Brand, said 66% of the equity share capital of TATA Sons is held by philanthropic trusts, which support education, health, livelihood generation and art and culture. 

He said their belief was that when one did business with a community, they needed to give back.

Masters in Housing student, Mr Thabiso Tenza, said he had feared he would have to put his studies on hold but now the scholarship would help him complete his degree.

Town and Regional Planning recipient, Mr Ntlahla Tshezi - the first child in his family to attend university - said pursuing a postgraduate qualification was one of the toughest decisions he had to make and it had been questioned by many. He thanked UKZN and TATA for making the dream of an African child possible.

Below is a list of all recipients:

1

Mr Vusumuzi Mahlaba

2

Mr Owen Thabiso Tenza

3

Mr Sphiwe Zulu

4

Mr Mbonisi Luanda Gumede

5

Mr Ntlahla Tshezi

6

Mr Thembinkosi Ngcobo

7

Miss Thabisile Beauty Mchunu

8

Miss Bonisiwe Masinga

9

Miss Nontokozo Precious Ndlovu

10

Miss Thobeka Zondi

11

Mr Sicelentethelelo Theobold  Dlamini

12

Miss Nwabisa Ngquku

13

Mr Thobani Goodman Velenkosini Mkhwanazi

14

Mr Ayanda Doncabe

15

Miss Adhila Casmond Khan

16

Miss Noqiniso Nonsindiso Mathenjwa

17

Miss Sinenhlanhla Ophelia Ntshangase

18

Miss Sithembile Molefe

19

Miss Nonkululeko Mvundla

20

Mr Sipho Enos Mchunu

21

Mr Phumlani Selby Nzuza

22

Mr Ndabezinhle Emmanuel Hlongwane

23

Miss Lindokuhle Surprise Maphalala

24

Mr S`phamandla Erick Khwela


author : Sithembile Shabangu
author email : Shabangus@ukzn.ac.za

Ukuvulwa Komcimbi Wezinkondlo i-Poetry Africa Ube Nesasasa Elikhulu

Ukuvulwa Komcimbi Wezinkondlo i-Poetry Africa Ube Nesasasa Elikhulu
Izimbongi nabaculi bendawonye ngobusuku bokuvulwa komgubho wezinkondlo wama-20 i-Poetry Africa.

Click here for English version

Uhlu lwezimbongi ezingama-25 ezivela emhlabeni jikelele zithokozise izethameli ngosuku lokuvulwa komcimbi walonyaka wezinkondlo i-Poetry Africa  obubanjelwe e-Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

 Lo mgubho ubuhlelwe isizinda i-Centre for Creative Arts esiyingxenye yeKolishi LezesiNtu e-KZN.

Kuvulwa lo mcimbi bekugujwa iminyaka engama-20 we-Poetry Afrika, iminyaka engama-200 yobukhosi bakwaZulu neminyaka eyishumi kwadlula emhlabeni imbongi uMazisi Kunene.

Isonto lomhla we-10 kuya kowe-15 kuMfumfu liqanjwe njengesonto likaMazisi Kunene.

Owayengumqondisi we-CCA u-Peter Rorvik ukhulume ngemigubho eyayinedumela eminyakeni engama-20 eyedlule kanye nokukhula kwesibalo sezithameli, iqhaza elibambayo ekuthuthukisweni kwalomgubho e-Afrika nangaphande kwayo kanye nokulethwa kwezinkondlo ezikoleni.

‘Ubuhle nokuhluka kwalo mgubho ukuthi uhlanganisa amasiko ahlukene kakhulu futhi ukhangisa ngeNingizimu Afrika, uphinde ube nomthelela oletha uguquko lomqondo,’kusho u-Rorvik. ‘Ukhuluma ngezinselelo ngesimo sezwe nesomhlaba jikelele. Kumele kukhunjulwe ukuthi i-CCA ixhumanisa iNyuvesi nomphakathi futhi ingumphumela wezinjongomasu ze-UKZN.

Iphini LeSekelashansela EliyiNhloko YeKolishi LezesiNtu uSolwazi Cheryl Potgieter ugcizelele ukweseka kwakhe lo mgubho nomkhankaso wemfundo yamahhala ngokuthi:’Ubuholi budingeka kuzo zonke izinhlaka ukuze kuqinisekiswe ukuthi iphupho leNingizimu afrika entsha liyafezeka.’ Umeme izimbongi ukuthi zisebenzise umkhakha wazo ukukhulula imfundo ephakeme.

Ekhuluma ngokugujwa kweminyaka engamakhulu amabili yobukhosi bakwaZulu, uDkt Mangosuthu Buthelezi uthe izinkondlo zinomthelela futhi zikhombisa ngomphakathi kanti zigcine isiko lobukhosi bakwaZulu bungaphazamisekile. Izinkondlo ziwuhambo lokuvumbulula. Ngiyawuthakasela kakhulu lo mgubho ne-UKZN ngokuhlanganisa izimbongi nokuletha izinkondlo ezikoleni nokuhlonipha uMazisi Kunene owayengumvikeli omkhulu wesiko lesiZulu,’ usho kanje.

Kuhlonishwa uKunene, umgubho – ngokubambisana neMazisi Kunene Foundation, uMnyango WezobuCiko NamaSiko nesikhwama i-Living Legends Trust – bahlomulise izimbongi ezimbili ezihlonishwayo , iNyosi yeSilo uMnu B.M Mdletshe noDkt Don Mattera, ngezindodo zokuqala ze-Mazisi Kunene Poetry Awards.

Izimbongi, ebezivunule ngezendabuko, zihaye izinkondlo zazo, kwancanywa izihlwele ngezinkondlo ebezihaywa.

UMculo wasuku ubuhlinzekwa yinkakha eyi-Ethekwini Living Legend nomfundisi wase-UKZN, uDkt Sazi Dlamini.

Phakathi kwezicukuthwane ebezihambele lo mgubho bekukhona isishoshovu somzabalazo wenkululeko uMnu Mac Maharaj; unkosikazi kaKunene, uNkk Mathabo Kunene; umxoxi wezindaba ohlonishwayo, uDkt Gcina Mhlophe; unkosikazi kowayenguMongameli waseNingizimu Afrika uNkk Zanele Mbeki, noyi-Living Legend, uMnu Welcome Msomi.


author : Melissa Mungroo
author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

Prominent UKZN Scientist and Researcher Elected to Academy of Science of SA

Prominent UKZN Scientist and Researcher Elected to Academy of Science of SA
Professor Colleen Downs.

Professor Colleen Downs, South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, has been elected to the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).

‘I am very grateful to my peers and colleagues for nominating me, as well as their support over the years,’ said Downs.

Downs, who was awarded the SARChI Chair last year, has been part of the School of Life Sciences at UKZN in Pietermaritzburg since 1994, and is known for her expertise and contributions to terrestrial vertebrate ecology which have played an important role in many conservation activities around Africa.

Animals which she has conducted interdisciplinary physiological, behavioural and ecological research on range from Nile crocodiles to hadedas.

With nearly 200 publications to her name, Downs’ research has reached a wide audience, and in addition to appearing in numerous prestigious journals, has also been featured on popular platforms such as BBC Earth.

She has consistently been named the top-published woman academic at UKZN, and has supervised more than 60 postgraduate students, many of whom have gone on to achieve notable accolades in their fields.

She was also recently named Honorary President of BirdLife South Africa, and her international recognition includes Fellowship of the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU).

Downs is interested in how changing land use affects biodiversity and ecosystem health, and has invested time exploring the urban ecology of various species and their persistence. Her research has had considerable impact, including the re-classification of the Cape parrot Poicephalus robustus as a distinct species, with implications for its conservation status.

Downs chairs the Cape Parrot Working Group and, going beyond her academic activities, has contributed to the annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day for 19 years, using her expertise to rally support and generate important information and publicity for the endangered species. This is one of the many areas in which she prioritises science education.


author : Christine Cuénod
author email : cuenod@ukzn.ac.za

Masters Student Wins R30 000 Prize at College of Health Science Research Symposium

Masters Student Wins R30 000 Prize at College of Health Science Research Symposium
Mr Kashmeel Maharaj.

UKZN masters student Mr Kashmeel Maharaj won the first prize of R30 000 for his oral presentation at the College of Health Sciences Research Symposium titled: “Comprehensive Screen to Identify and Confirm M Tuberculosis PNCA Mutations that Confer Resistance”.

Maharaj, who will use the prize money to attend an international conference of his choice, completed his BSc in Bio-Medical Sciences and BMedSc Honours in Human Physiology through UKZN and is currently completing his dissertation for an MSc in Medical Microbiology degree.

He is employed as a Laboratory Technologist in the Pym Lab at the African Health Research Institute, formerly known as the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH).

Maharaj spent just over two and a half years working as a Laboratory Technician at Lancet’s reference TB diagnostic lab in Richmond, Johannesburg, where he was first exposed to tuberculosis and the public health crisis that it poses, particularly with the emergence of drug resistant Tuberculosis.  This inspired him to pursue a career in research in understanding drug resistance in tuberculosis in order to contribute knowledge towards the fight against TB.

Pyrazinamide is a crucial antibiotic in the treatment of tuberculosis as it allows for the shortening of treatment down to the current six-month regimen for drug-susceptible tuberculosis and is also a vital component of new experimental treatment regimens.

The emergence of drug resistant TB is a major public health concern and early detection of drug resistance is paramount in the fight against Tuberculosis as it allows for the customisation of individual patient treatment regimens leading to more favourable outcomes as well as a reduction in the transmission of Tuberculosis.

‘Advances in technology have allowed us to detect drug resistance towards other drugs, such as rifampicin and isoniazid, more rapidly using genetic based approaches which identify “mutations” (alterations of the DNA sequence), in specific “genes” (DNA sequences which code for components of cells), as the specific genes and mutations have been well investigated and characterised,’ said Maharaj.

‘Mutations in the pncA gene of tuberculosis are the primary driver of drug resistance to pyrazinamide, however the full spectrum of mutations which confer resistance is still unknown. Our research utilised genetic manipulation of the tuberculosis bacteria in order to create a “pncA mutant library” or population of bacteria containing every possible mutation in pncA. After screening our mutant library in two separate testing systems, we were able to identify 411 mutations which we predict to confer resistance to pyrazinamide.

‘Selected pncA mutants identified in our screens were tested using current diagnostic tools to validate our results and underwent additional testing to identify the mechanism by which the specific mutations cause the drug to be ineffective. This research represents a massive step towards a genetic based test for pyrazinamide as in combination with the current diagnostic platforms available for other drugs, it will aid in speeding up of diagnosis of drug resistance and lead to more favorable patient outcomes,’ he said.


author : Sinenhlanhla Ngubane
author email : Ngubanes2@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN hosts Media Cities Conference

UKZN hosts Media Cities Conference
Professor Cheryl Potgieter (centre) with participants at the Media Cities: Mapping Urbanity and Audiovisual Configurations Conference.

UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) recently hosted a seminar linked to the Media Cities: Mapping Urbanity and Audiovisual Configurations Conference.

The Conference facilitated synergies between media theory and textual considerations on the one hand and political economy and urban spatial considerations and imagery on the other.

Opening the Conference, Deputy Vive-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Cheryl Potgieter said the conference was ‘important because it engages with theory, practice and intervention, linking to transformation of the country and social cohesion’.

Emeritus Professor Keyan Tomaselli said: ‘Cities are now analysed as networks by geographers and town planners, architects and civil engineers. Included in this mix now are media and cultural scholars, film students and tourism researchers.’

According to Tomaselli, the international Media Cities Conference brings together scholars of all these disciplines who discuss cities as communication networks, representation, cultural nodes and tourist destinations.

‘This event to some extent emerged out of a three-year study by CCMS students of Durban as a Film City. Some of the research presented arises from UKZN students who worked on the project. The UKZN partner in this conference was Bayreuth University in Germany, where staff and students have also been working on the topics. Bayreuth and UKZN are linked by a formal inter-institutional collaborative agreement,’ said Tomaselli.

Delivering one of the keynote addresses, Professor Tom O’Regan of the University of Queensland in Australia spoke on: “Revisiting Film Cities and Film Services”.

O’Regan gave an overview of the concept of film cities and the distinct policy and industry development approaches and trajectories associated with it.

He  discussed opportunities, challenges and limitations place-based actions and actors face in facilitating production, noting that ‘film cities logics have become a broader way of describing and thinking about the multifaceted ways places can facilitate their film and TV participation’.

The other keynote address was made by Professor Gustav Visser of Stellenbosch University who provided a spatial analysis of the filming industry in urban South Africa and related it to general economic and social geographies in two South African cities Cape Town and Johannesburg which have identified the filming industry as a key development strategy.

Visser outlined an agenda for future research, in particular pertaining to urban South Africa. ‘There is a broader urban planning and geography project at hand. Questions need to be asked about how the filming industry interacts with other government programmes and the ongoing transformation of physical and symbolic spaces in urban South Africa.’

Selected papers from the Conference will be published in the Journal of African Cinemas while Urban Forum has offered to consider more papers on political economy and geographically.

An outcome of the Conference was the development of a research group whose work can impact city, provincial and state policy.


author : Melissa Mungroo
author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN Academic Contributes to Feature in Prestigious International Journal

UKZN Academic Contributes to Feature in Prestigious International Journal
Professor Kevin Kirkman at the NutNet site at the Ukulinga Research Farm.

Professor Kevin Kirkman of the School of Life Sciences has contributed to a feature on grassland diversity in the journal Nature.

The feature deals with niche dimensionality - a theory concerned with accounting for biodiversity - examining how resources in a niche can affect productivity of that area of grassland and its resultant biodiversity or lack thereof.

This research is a result of collaborations between researchers working on a number of sites around the world, including at UKZN’s Ukulinga long-term mowing and burning trials, one of the longest-running ecological experiments in the world.

The connected sites are a part of the Nutrient Network (NutNet), which involves ecologists replicating the same experiments on sites across nine countries to observe the results produced in various systems. In this particular study, researchers added limiting nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), which produced a decline in plant diversity at all 45 sites in North America, Europe, South Africa and Australia.

Kirkman explained that each niche, defined by the resources in that space, has species or a number thereof that can occupy that space. All the plants, for example grasses and forbs, compete for the same resources, some of which are limiting to plant growth, such as NPK.

‘Most natural ecosystems have multiple limiting resources - in South Africa our grasslands are largely limited by nitrogen and phosphorus,’ said Kirkman.

‘With more nutrients supplied to niches, some plants compete more effectively for nutrients and fare better, reducing diversity and causing plant species loss. This increases biomass, particularly of certain species that respond well to added nutrients, and induces a shift from below ground competition for nutrients to above ground competition for light.

‘The implications of this are far-reaching, as there are factors causing an increase in limiting nutrients to grasslands, for example deposition of nitrogen from industrial fallout. Grasslands, the dominant vegetation covering South Africa, provide resources for agriculture and wildlife, stabilise soil and ensure constant supply of good-quality water, and facilitate tourism,’ said Kirkman.

‘We all rely on grass to survive. South African grasslands are among the most diverse in the world and the ecosystem services provided by these grasslands are dependent on this biodiversity, therefore an understanding of dimensionality in grassland ecosystems is critical to understanding and modelling diversity loss.’

Research of this nature is ongoing through the NutNet collaboration, with Ukulinga continuing to play an important role. The researchers would like to have more sites around the world, particularly in Africa and South America, to strengthen their research and the recommendations for conservation that result from it.


author : Christine Cuénod
author email : cuenod@ukzn.ac.za

From the Mongolian Plains to the Professoriate

From the Mongolian Plains to the Professoriate
Professor Sheng Bau with his family on the occasion of his Inaugural Lecture at UKZN.

Newly-inaugurated Professor of Mathematics, Professor Sheng Bau, has travelled a long way both geographically and academically in his illustrious career. 

Born in Inner Mongolia in 1959 as the eldest son of a herdsman, he received a BSc with distinction from the Inner Mongolia University of Nationalities in Tongliao, China, in 1982. Bau then moved to New Zealand to pursue an MSc, which he received with distinction in 1988 from the University of Otago, Dunedin.  Exactly three years later, he was awarded his PhD in Mathematics from the same university.

Bau initially joined the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 1999, and after an academic career that saw him appointed as a Professor no less than four times at other universities, returned to UKZN at the beginning of 2015.

‘Professor Bau’s return to our University is something to celebrate,’ said Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Delia North.

Bau’s inaugural lecture focused on problems and results in graph theory and geometry.  ‘A brief look at a few problems and results in graph theory and elementary geometry shows the beauty, simplicity and unity of mathematics,’ said Bau. ‘I will speak in praise of this beautiful and immortal subject, and in praise of the fine society in which our work is conducted.’  

In a highly accessible presentation, Bau reviewed some of the major open problems in graph theory and elementary geometry and reported on progress made on these problems and on closely related topics.  He described mathematics as directly relevant and freshly vibrant – a subject that was accessible, open and always available. “This humble and young subject of pure mathematics has direct, powerful and precise applications in many fields of Science and Technology including modern computer core technology, Information Technology and Genetics,” said Bau.

‘Beauty is the first test. There is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.’ He cited famous English mathematician Hardy. ‘Different views in mathematics can be resolved through peaceful and intelligent discussion.’

Bau’s research areas include graph morphisms, reductions, cycles in graphs, Toeplitz graphs, separability, analytic methods, dimensions and discrete geometry.

Professor Bau is a Fellow of the Institute of Combinatorics and its Applications, and a member of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).  He has been a reviewer for the American Mathematical Society Mathematical Reviews since 1999. He is a lifetime member of the Australasian Combinatorial Mathematics Society and was secretary general of the Chinese Combinatorics Society during 2006-2008, and Vice Director of the Chinese Combinatorics Society during 2008-2010.

Professor Bau is referee for a dozen highly ranked mathematics journals including Discrete Mathematics, Networks, Information Processing Letters, SIAM Journal for Discrete Mathematics and the Journal of Graph Theory. He is also on the editorial board of three international journals in mathematics.

Bau ended his lecture by thanking his supervisors, colleagues, collaborators, students and family.


author : Sally Frost
author email : frosts@ukzn.ac.za

Chemistry Lecturer Receives Prestigious Young Academic Prize

Chemistry Lecturer Receives Prestigious Young Academic Prize
Dr Vineet Jeena (second left) with fellow recipients and NRF Executive Director: Human and Institutional Capacity Development, Dr Romilla Maharaj (fourth left); NRF Executive Director: International Relations and Cooperation Vice-President: European Research Council, Professor Maart Saarma (fifth left) and NRF Executive Director: International Relations and Co-operation, Dr Aldo Stroebel (far right).

Lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Physics (SCP), Dr Vineet Jeena, has received an award recognising his achievements and affording him the opportunity to initiate and establish a working relationship with a leading European researcher in his field.

Jeena was one of only five South African academics honoured with the NRF/ERC Young Academic award, the only recipient in the field of Chemistry, and the only UKZN academic selected.

This award recognises the Thuthuka grant-holding academic as promising for his efforts in his field of green chemistry, especially in the establishment of a research group consisting of four postgraduate students working on environmentally-themed synthetic chemistry. The group is particularly interested in investigating alternatives to toxic solvents and reagents used in synthetic processes in order to enable the more environmentally-friendly manufacture of, for example, medicines and drug therapies.

This collaboration is made possible by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the European Research Council (ERC), which are the implementing agencies of an agreement between the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the European Commission (EC).

Jeena was presented with the award in Cape Town where he took part in events commemorating 20 years of this partnership, with a commitment being made to maintain and advance academic collaborations between Europe and Africa.

Appointments in Cape Town included the opportunity to meet Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor and the heads of the EC to discuss achievements and challenges in the fields of the award recipients.

Jeena’s European collaboration will be with Professor Martin Albrecht of Bern University in Switzerland where he will spend several months next year. The time spent there is intended to spur on long-term collaboration between the academics, enhance relationship between their institutions, and produce output in the form of research and publications.

Albrecht, who has visited UKZN before, has expertise in the field of catalysis, an area of importance for green chemistry.

Jeena, who has been lecturing at his alma mater since 2013, spoke of the award as an excellent opportunity to enhance his research and build a lasting, mutually-beneficial relationship with Albrecht and his team.


author : Christine Cuénod
author email : cuenod@ukzn.ac.za

Miss Lab Medicine Plans to Help ‘Bust’ Cancer

Miss Lab Medicine Plans to Help ‘Bust’ Cancer
Winners of the SASCO beauty pageant with the adjudicating team.

The South African Students Congress (SASCO) branch on the  Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine campus recently hosted a Miss Laboratory Medicine beauty contest aimed at raising awareness around the issue of breast cancer and, most importantly, to remind those who are already diagnosed that they are beautiful irrespective of their situation.

Ms Pamela Jali, a second-year Medical student, was crowned queen.

Said SASCO branch secretary Mr Nkosinathi Ndebele: ‘In October the first thing that comes to mind is that it is breast cancer awareness month. Millions of women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and unfortunately many of them end up losing the battle because they were diagnosed in the late stages of the disease.

‘Predictions are that by 2030 the incidence of cancer in South Africa will have increased by 78%, which means that early detection remains key. As Medical students, we believe that our duty is to promote healthy behaviour and health awareness in our communities.’

First princess was Miss Zekhethelo Pearl Mbhele of Ladysmith while second princess was Miss Nondumiso Carolìnà Mpakama of the Eastern Cape. There were 13 entrants in total and 10 were short-listed to participate in the pageant.

The main organiser of the event, Miss Sibusisiwe Mbuqe, said: ‘The aims of the pageant, apart from creating breast cancer awareness, were also to ensure that the cultural diversity of our various communities is recognised, that we equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge to make a difference in our community, that we understand the concept of feminism and come up with a common vision for young women at Medical School and continue to emphasise the importance of women in our community.

‘We as SASCO were looking for someone who is confident, outspoken, elegant, able to interact with a crowd, has political and social knowledge and who could be a great ambassador and spokesperson for SASCO. We found that in Pamela Jali, who is blessed with beauty and brains.’

SASCO raised sponsorships for the event which they hosted jointly with UKZN’s Peer Wellness programme.

The queen received a R3 000 prize, her first princess R2 000 and the second princess R1 000.

Jali, who matriculated at Pinetown Girl’s High, was excited about winning. ‘During the contest, we were judged on our confidence, articulation, creativity, elegance and physical appearance. To be honest I never planned to enter as I’m not popular at the Medical School but I am looking forward to being the perfect ambassador for SASCO.’ 


author : MaryAnn Francis
author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

Health Sciences Academics Score NRF Excellence Awards

Health Sciences Academics Score NRF Excellence Awards
NRF award winners Dr Pragashnie Govender and Mr Sooraj Baijnath with the Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor.

Dr Pragashnie Govender and Mr Sooraj Baijnath of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences are 2016 National Research Foundation (NRF) Excellence Award winners.

‘We are really humbled to be acknowledged at the same event as some of South Africa’s A-rated researchers. This award makes us realise the impact of the work being done by scholars in our country,’ said Govender.

Govender is a passionate researcher with more than 15 years’ experience in the field of Occupational Therapy and is involved in qualitative and mixed methods research.

She is fascinated by research as it provides an opportunity to give a ‘voice’ to those being examined and hence she has developed an interest in understanding how knowledge is translated and consumed to bring about change.

Govender says receiving the award was a highlight in her career and she feels blessed to be surrounded by amazing colleagues within her Discipline of Occupational Therapy, including her PhD supervisor Professor  RWE Joubert; Academic Leader Professor Kitty Uys; Professor Mershen Pillay of the School of Health Sciences as well as by colleagues from other disciplines within Health Sciences.

Apart from the NRF award, she has a SAFRI-FAIMER Medical Fellowship, an MRC National Health Scholars Programme Award and is the recipient of the CHS-Young Researcher grant.

Baijnath, who won the NRF Achievement Award in the men’s category, said the accolade was the result of hard work by his research team within the Catalysis and Peptide Research Unit. This team uses mass spectrometry imaging to investigate the distribution of TB and HIV drugs in the brain,

The study has allowed researchers to determine which current treatments effectively combat these infections in the brain.

‘My research supervisor, Professor Thavi Govender and my mentors, Dr Tricia Naicker, Dr Sanil Singh and Professor Gert Kruger, have all been instrumental in my success as a scientist.’

Baijnath, who has an undergraduate degree in Physiology and Microbiology, conducts research in the field of medical and pharmaceutical sciences.

He is looking forward to completing his PhD which, he says, will be his greatest achievement thus far.


author : Lihle Sosibo
author email : sosibol1@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN Lecturer Chairs Conference on Peace Building in the Great Lakes Region

UKZN Lecturer Chairs Conference on Peace Building in the Great Lakes Region
Dr Joseph Rudigi Rukema (second right) with delegates at the conference.

A Senior Lecturer in UKZN’s School of Social Sciences, Dr Joseph Rudigi Rukema, was the Chairman of a regional conference on peace building in the Great Lakes Region.

The Conference, held in Goma (North-Kivu Province) Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was organised by Sub-Saharan Africa University (SSAU) in North-Kivu (Goma) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in collaboration with the Durban University of Technology’s Peace Building Programme, and the International Centre of Non-violence in Durban.

Rukema is also Founder and President of the Management Council of the Sub-Saharan Africa University, President of the Africa-International Alumni Association and Founder of the Centre for Languages and Culture Promotion.

The Conference brought together 100 delegates from the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

Participants included academics; policy makers; civil society members; representatives of local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), members of the media and delegates from community based organisations.

The aims of the Conference were to:

 * Make the concepts of conflict transformation and peace-building better understood and accepted, and to encourage their application to current Great Lakes issues.

* Establish or strengthen networks between different universities and colleges which currently teach in the area of peace-building or which may do so in the future.

* Establish or strengthen linkages with non-university bodies (government, NGOs, faith communities) so as to promote the principles and practice of peace building.

The Conference was followed by visits and intense interactions with faith-based communities in Goma with particular focus on the role they play in promoting peace and the culture of non-violence. 

Rukema says he strongly believes that the role of universities is not only about teaching and conducting research but also about what is taught and how results from research can be used as tools to transform the socio-economic and political conditions of communities.

‘This means how do we convert our challenges into opportunities through teaching and research?  The role of institutions of education is to transform society through teaching, research and to put forward innovative ideas to solve problems that affect humanity, including all forms of conflicts.

‘Education gives us all human values ??that distinguish us from other natural species. These values ??include the capacity to prevent conflict and manage it whenever it occurs and to introduce peacebuilding where violence and injustice are the order of the day,’ said Rukema.

‘While institutions of learning play a creative role in shaping and reshaping our societies through teaching and research, for sustainable development to be achieved they need to create partnerships with different existing institutions such as faith based communities, civil society, NGOs and government institutions.’

‘This means that development is a collective process and cannot be achieved if left to one sector of the society. It is in this framework that the Conference was organised bringing together academics, policy makers, and members of faith-based communities, NGOs, and the media to reflect collectively on issues of peace building in the Great Lakes Region,’ said Rukema.


author : NdabaOnline
author email : Josephr1@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN Hosts Youth Skills Development Programme

UKZN Hosts Youth Skills Development Programme
Pupils from Umbumbulu and KwaMashu participating in an architectural venture to uplift their communities.

The School of Built Environment & Development Studies (BEDS) recently hosted learners from Umbumbulu and KwaMashu as part of the School’s visioning programme which involves Andrews University in the United States, eThekwini Municipality and a local NGO, Siyabanakekela.

The learners were tasked to work in groups of 10, alongside architecture students from Andrews University in an effort to uplift the communities of Umbumbulu and KwaMashu through innovative architectural designs that would be implemented in stages by the team.

‘Through architecture, we hope to change the communities for the better,’ said Professor Andrew von Maur of the United States. ‘The learners are part of this process and contribute immensely to their communities. It also opens their eyes to career prospects, especially in the fields of architecture and community development.’

The pupils presented what they had learned through interactive story-telling and engaged in a panel discussion on youth development and education facilitated by project leader, Professor Ernest Khalema, involving UKZN Architecture Lecturer, Mr Laurence Ogunsanya, representatives of Andrews University’s School of Architecture, uMbumbulu Councillors, and eThekwini Municipality officials.

Said Khalema: ‘Our strategy in community development is to link up with potential NPO and NGOs which will mutually benefit students and communities. We are aware that developing such partnerships takes time, hence the engagement with Siyabanakekela and the Ubuntu project. Their partnership with Andrews University is something that we are developing and hopefully we will come up with an agreement to work together with the Ubuntu project and Siyabanakekela.’

UKZN Architecture students also conducted a project review for Andrews University students in partnership with the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

Said Ms Zandile Majola of eThekwini Municipality: ‘This project equips learners from poor communities with the necessary skills to make good career choices. As the eThekwini Municipality, we support this project and we commend UKZN, Andrews University and Siyabanakekela for their efforts.’


author : Melissa Mungroo
author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

Conference Organised by Postgraduates a Great Success

Conference Organised by Postgraduates a Great Success
DVC Professor Cheryl Potgieter (fifth left) with the award-winners.

Decolonising the Humanities and Social Sciences in South Africa was the theme of the Annual Postgraduate Conference of the School of Applied Human Sciences (SAHS) hosted at the Innovation Centre.

Opening the Conference, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, said the forum was an important space for the next generation of academics who were sharing their research and contributing to knowledge production, transformation and decolonisation.

‘I am glad to see that the Conference is both interdisciplinary and collaborative because as the Humanities and Social Sciences we should engage critically with natural scientists and engineers for transformation, social change and decolonisation,’ said Potgieter.

The keynote address was made by the Head of the Archie Mafeje Research Institute at the University of South Africa, Professor Sabelo J Ndlovu-Gatsheni, who spoke on “Decolonising the University and the Problematic Grammars of Change in South Africa”.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni noted that the Conference was taking place at a crucial time when students were engaged in a legitimate struggle for the decolonisation of the university in general and free education.

With an emerging “student archive”, he distilled what must be learned from this archive while venturing into the history of the university in Africa and the struggle for African universities and the “five grammars” of change: Transformation, Africanisation, Indigenisation, Diversification and Decolonisation.

‘Our engagement with the idea of the university-from being a university in Africa to a genuine African university - is responsive to the challenges facing African people, including the pertinent one of funding. The curriculum changes we are doing and the decolonisation of institutional cultures that are patriarchal, sexist and racist must not be simply a compliance activity but part of well thought out imagination cascade re-humanising the world to define a better tomorrow,’ he said.

The following awards were made:

Speaking on behalf of the award winners, van Niekerk said: ‘We have all worked very hard and being recognised is quite amazing. It has spurred us to complete our research and we are motivated to do our best.’

*The Conference was planned and organised by postgraduate students, specifically masters and PhD students, who formed an organising committee to take care of the scientific programme and other aspects of the proceedings. The students worked collaboratively with the postgraduate monitoring and support division led by Dr Thandi Magojo and Dr Jean Steyn, as well as the academic and support staff.


author : Melissa Mungroo
author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

College of Health Sciences Student Support Services Hosts Workshop

College of Health Sciences Student Support Services Hosts Workshop
The organising committee with presenters: from Left: Mrs Wulganithi Thaver, Ms Suzanne Stokes, Dr Saloschini Pillay, Dr Paulette Naidoo, Ms Roshanthni Subrayen and Ms Buhle Donda.

A Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Workshop on student counselling identity, community of practice and reflective practices within the Higher Education context, was hosted by Student Support Services (SSS) in the College of Health Sciences (CHS), in collaboration with the KwaZulu-Natal region of the South Africa Association for Counselling and Development in Higher Education (SAACDHE).

Attended by academic development officers, academic leaders, registered counsellors, psychologists and social workers from KwaZulu-Natal’s Higher Education Institutions (HEI), the workshop explored the needs of students while reflecting on their own practices. It encouraged collaborative strategies and broadening of their own interventions.

Presenters focused on a range of topics including students with visual impairments and inclusive practices, community psychology, study processes and performance, and using tools to inform interventions.

Ms Roshanthni Subrayen; a registered social worker and co-ordinator of the Disability Support Unit based on the Edgewood campus, presented her study titled: “What’s Next and What’s New. Learning Communities for Students with Visual Impairments in their Teaching Practice Placements”.

Subrayen critically explored the experiences of Bachelor of Education students living with visual disabilities and reflected their lived experiences while completing their teaching practices at schools; furthermore, reflecting on the adaptations made by these students, in both under-resourced and resourced schools.  ‘Openness of schools and learners to others, respect for differences and acceptance requires planning, which includes sharing of knowledge and responsibility. The concept of cyclic cooperative disclosure of disability has a great impact on the performance of student teachers; which reflected the acceptance by learners of student teachers living with a visual disability,’ said Subrayen.

UKZN’s College of Law and Management SSS Counselling Psychologist, Dr Paulette Naidoo, presented on viewing student counselling through the lens of community psychology.

‘Current research has reflected on the role of student counselling to include promoting holistic student development, academic retention and throughput, but very little on the experiences and perceptions of their own role and practice in Higher Education,’ said Naidoo. She further explored how psychologists within the role of student counselling made sense of their personal identity, what work factors impact on this identity as well as the implications of experiences of identity. 

Naidoo reflected on the notion of student counselling as an emerging community psychology approach; the core-self influenced by different levels within the Higher Education community; the student population, the academic and non-academic departments, institutional management and the greater South African society. 

Developmental Lecturer in the School of Clinical Medicine, Ms Buhle Donda, presented her study titled: “Exploring the Correlation Between Study Processes and Performance in a Cohort of Transnational Joint-trained Returning Undergraduate Medical Students: a South African-Cuba Experience”. She examined the processes and performance of students re-entering the South African Higher Education system, with a focus on transnational joint-trained students.  She shared the levels of students’ motivation and performance, and the links between the two.

Donda also echoed challenges with transnational education, prejudices and biases as well as the differences in learning. ‘Motivation can be negatively or positively impacted by changes in curriculum, learning environment; and as an independent variable, can stimulate learning and promote success,’ she said. She recommended continuous and intensified support for students.

In a presentation titled: “Utilising Tools to Inform Interventions (individual and group sessions), Reflective Practices”, Educational Psychologist Ms Suzanne Stokes explored the role of student support from a Community Psychology perspective and how to implement High Impact Practices.

SSS Manager at CHS and SAACDHE national executive member, Dr Saloschini Pillay, noted that the series of workshops planned for later this year were a build up to the annual conference in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017. She indicated that the CPD activities served as an excellent platform for collaboration among professionals in the Student Support space.

Pillay acknowledged SAACDHE for sponsoring the CPD workshop.


author : Nombuso Dlamini
author email : dlaminin10@ukzn.ac.za

Grade 7 Pupils Encouraged to Choose School Subjects Wisely

Grade 7 Pupils Encouraged to Choose School Subjects Wisely
Grade 7 pupils at a youth leadership course.

The Community Development Association (CDA) partnered with UKZN to conduct a Masakhane Youth Leadership Course for Grade 7 pupils. 

The youngsters, who were from a variety of Durban schools, were given an opportunity to attend the leadership course at UKZN.

The main focus of the programme is to help develop the next generation of youth leaders and encourage critical engagement with social issues.

Learners were given advice about good leadership qualities and career guidance direction.

CDA mentor Mr Sakhile Ngcobo said the programme brought together both private and public schools so learners could absorb new skills and ideas.

‘This programme was specifically for Grade 7 because we wanted to encourage them to choose their subjects wisely as that will enable them to apply for University courses they want to do. The learners were also given a heads-up about what to expect in high school,’ said Ngcobo.

Said Greenwood Park Primary School teacher, Miss A Williams: ‘It was very exciting for our learners because they acquired new skills and also had a chance to interact with children from other schools.’

Acting Dean and Head of the School of Education, Professor Thabo Msibi, said: ‘The Masakhane Youth Leadership Course provides first-hand experience of life in institutions of higher learning while equipping learners with the tools to critically interrogate their local spaces with a self-motivated solution-centred lens.’ 


author : Nomcebo Mncube
author email : Mncuben@ukzn.ac.za

Mechanical Engineering Group Manufactures SA’s First WIG Hovercraft

Mechanical Engineering Group Manufactures SA’s First WIG Hovercraft
Left: The WIG hovercraft team, Mr Kai Broughton, Mr Duran Martin, Mr Dylan Williams and Mr Nino Wunderlin, with their hovercraft in progress. Right: What the WIG hovercraft will look like once completed.

An undergraduate final year project group in Mechanical Engineering is building South Africa’s first Wing-In-Ground Effect (WIG) Flying Hovercraft - the Typhoon.

The group, comprising Mr Kai Broughton, Mr Nino Wunderlin, Mr Duran Martin and Mr Dylan Williams, has been working all year on the proof-of-concept, full scale prototype and will demonstrate it at UKZN’s Engineering Open Day on 28 October. The vehicle makes use of a hovercraft base for amphibious surface operation and will utilise the ground effect phenomenon for low altitude flight. 

Supervisor Professor Glen Bright initiated the project as a flying off-road vehicle.

‘After some research, the students then convinced me to adjust the project slightly to make it a WIG Flying Hovercraft,’ said Bright.

A WIG craft is a combination of a marine craft and aircraft which takes advantage of the ground effect phenomenon experienced by an aircraft when they fly in close proximity to the ground, explained the team. The effect is the enhanced lift and reduced drag a wing experiences when it is travelling within one wing span of the ground, resulting in an enhanced lift-to-drag ratio and a greater flight efficiency.

Their research led them to investigate flying hovercraft created overseas by the addition of wings and a tail onto a conventional hovercraft to achieve ground effect flight.  The group has attempted to improve on the ground effect flight technology in the full-scale prototype they have designed and manufactured.

The creation of such a vehicle in South Africa could have niche applications in several fields including recreation, commercial and transport, and could also be used to reach otherwise inaccessible areas for purposes of search and rescue, exploration or conservation.

‘The benefit of this type of vehicle to these industries include air and amphibious operation, cost effective and fuel-efficient transportation, access to remote areas, good ride quality and safe operation,’ said Broughton. ‘They are faster than boats and cheaper than aircrafts, and there is no need to have a flying licence to operate one.’

The aim of this prototype is to prove that ground effect flight is achievable with a hovercraft, and to demonstrate its potential for the already mentioned applications.

However, the project has not been without its challenges, especially those of time, cost and team capacity. Hovercraft design has also presented challenges in the form of drag at takeoff (from water) and the selection of an ideal hovercraft base vehicle. The group has managed to manufacture the prototype at a fraction of the cost of commercially available hovercraft.


author : Christine Cuénod
author email : cuenod@ukzn.ac.za

Late Poet and Writer Mafika Gwala Remembered Fondly at Lecture

Late Poet and Writer Mafika Gwala Remembered Fondly at Lecture
Poet and writer Mandla Langa (second left) seen with some of Gwala’s friends and family.

The second annual Mafika Gwala lecture was delivered at UKZN by South African poet, short story writer, and novelist, Mandla Langa, who spoke about Gwala and his quest for a humane society.

The lecture was hosted by the College of Humanities together with South African History Online and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. It coincided with the second anniversary of the death of Gwala - poet, writer, editor and member of the Black Consciousness Movement.

Representatives of Gwala’s family, including his eldest sister, Rosemary, attended.

In his address, Langa recalled fond memories of his friendship with Gwala linking them to how Gwala, often through his literary works, managed to contribute to the dismantling of apartheid.

‘Through his many works, he captured the essence of the struggle and gave his best to help heal people affected by apartheid. We were in exile together, and talked about the struggle in a different country. It gave us a different perspective. We still face adversities in our country but we must remember that hope always lies ahead,’ said Langa.

Three books, Mafika Gwala Collected Poems, edited by Mandla Langa and Ari Sitas; Alfred Qabula Collected Poems edited by Ari Sitas, and The Flight of the Gwala Gwala Bird by Ari Sitas, were launched at the lecture.

The books are seen as an important contribution to restore the power of the voice of one of the most influential poets and political activists in the 1970s and 1980s.

The book launch led to a discussion between Langa and Sociologist, Writer, Dramatist and Civic Activist Professor Ari Sitas with both speakers agreeing that Gwala’s poems are also symbolic in terms of the contemporary period. ‘Gwala’s works are contributing to the continuous process of decolonisation,’ said Sitas. ‘He stimulated this. We see the current generation fighting for this. The Arts and its poets and writers have a role to play for transformation and decolonisation.’

Acting Dean for Research Professor Pholoho Morojele said the lecture promoted transformative thinking and engaged with critical issues of transformation, social justice and equity. ‘Gwala’s poems resonate with the current situation of the country and can influence younger minds to take the country forward,’ he said.

CEO of South African History Online and good friend of Gwala, Mr Omar Badsha, said the lecture was not only a celebration of Gwala’s work but significant as it spotlighted the work of many other artists who were prominent in the apartheid struggle. ‘It also allowed for a discussion on contemporary issues relating to artists, the current situation in the country and the role of the Arts in decolonisation,’ said Badsha.


author : Melissa Mungroo
author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za