Distinguished Teachers’ Award for Education Academic

Distinguished Teachers’ Award for Education Academic
Professor Bheki Khoza received the UKZN 2020 Distinguished Teachers’ Award.Click here for isiZulu version

Education academic, Professor Bheki Khoza, has received a UKZN 2020 Distinguished Teachers’ Award (DTA).

The award, which recognises teachers who have a favourable and lasting influence on students and display evidence of an educational impact beyond the classroom, is open to all who teach at UKZN and promote the importance of excellence in teaching at all levels.

‘I am humbled by the award which motivates me to continue with what I have been doing,’ said Khoza. ‘I feel the DTA confirms that whatever activities I have been part of in teaching, supervision, research, leadership, learning, and community, contribute significantly towards University development, personal development, and community/societal development.’

He says in his teaching, supervision, and research, he is responsive to student and academic, societal, and professional needs with his teaching, supervision, and research strategies including extensive support during and outside the contact lectures and supervision. ‘I always encourage students to discover their identities and in so doing understand their needs through studies, before they use their competencies to address the demands of their societies and professions.’

Khoza’s teaching and supervision processes are framed by identification and understanding of all the curriculum concepts which support the integration of various technologies into education. ‘Curriculum concepts include educational goals (aims, objectives, and learning outcomes), content, assessment (formative, summative, and peer), time, teaching environment with resources (hardware, software, and theories), teaching, and learning activities, grouping, as well as teacher with student roles and responsibilities.

‘Working with these curriculum concepts is essential for me as they help me to understand each student’s rationale or needs for learning, whether personal, societal, and/or professional. When I teach or supervise students I use one-on-one sessions to establish each student’s requirements before we sign the UKZN Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). If it is not possible for my students to attend a face-to-face session, we use Skype or ZOOM,’ added Khoza.

He believes that awards such as the DTA are important because they constantly demand that academics develop portfolios of evidence measuring their performance every year.

‘If the majority of academics perform well in all these activities, the University’s ranking improves, attracting sponsorship, scholarships, and quality students from various communities,’ he said. ‘The award also helps academics, through these activities, find and understand their personal, University, and community or societal identities, in order to address their personal, University, and societal needs.’

Khoza co-ordinates various undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, while teaching and supervising postgraduate research in Education, Curriculum Studies, and Educational Technology. His papers have been published in local, national, and international journals. Publications focus on curriculum and educational technology issues, with a keen interest shown in the convergence of educational theory and technological platforms.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Humanities Student Excels at Swimming

Humanities Student Excels at Swimming
UKZN Education student, Ms Sasha Nordengen-Corris, who is excelling in swimming. Click here for isiZulu version

Education student, Ms Sasha Nordengen-Corris, has represented South Africa at various international surf swimming competitions and excelled.

At the Sanyo Bussan Cup held in Japan, Nordengen-Corris was the top female surf swim competitor, and was in the winning South African surf and rescue tube teams.

She also represented South Africa at the International Surf Rescue Championships held at North Beach in Durban, winning silver in the tube rescue event and bronze in the surf swim category.

Nordengen-Corris is also a budding entrepreneur, having launched an online water wear range called Mackintosh Waterwear that markets stylish products, which offer protection from nature’s extremities while at the same time being comfortable.

‘It is a struggle racing internationally, training and studying,’ she said. ‘My social life suffers because of my sport, study and business activities but it is so worth it. Every hour in the pool, with my books or behind my laptop are rewarding. I manage through endless “to do” lists and lots of time management.’

Her sport has taught her discipline, which in turn taught her how to manage her studies. ‘I will forever be grateful for the life lessons I have learned through juggling my studies and sport. The saying “busy people get things done”, is true in my case. I am always pushing myself to be better in every aspect of life. Thankfully, I am blessed with the ability to grasp concepts and learn easily, and this benefits me when I am away racing internationally and studying on my own,’ said Nordengen-Corris.

Her plans include teaching at a private school and launching two more online businesses. ‘My sporting possibilities are endless. I have my eyes fixed on World Champs Lifesaving in Italy later this year, as well as the Sanyo Cup in Japan in June. My mid-term sporting goal is FINA (French: Fédération internationale de natation, English: International Swimming Federation) World Champs next year and my long-term goal is Olympics in 2024. I had my hopes set on 2020 but due to sickness, I doubt I will be ready this year,’ she added.

Offering advice to other athletes and students, Nordengen-Corris said: ‘Take a positive outlook on life and everything will fall into place. You will find that when your outlook on life changes – in fact, everything around you does. Your studies become easier and your sport performances improve. Don’t wait for opportunities, create them! To first year students, keep doing sport! So often students stop sport after school. I highly recommend keeping fit and active as it helps with your concentration at university.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Alumna Takes “Inspiring Greatness” to Another Level!

UKZN Alumna Takes “Inspiring Greatness” to Another Level!
UKZN alumna, Ms Nontu Mgabhi, celebrates with family and supporters after her return from successfully completing the World Marathon Challenge.

Running a standard marathon (42,2km) is no mean feat – but UKZN alumna, Ms Nontu Mgabhi has upped the ante by running seven marathons in seven consecutive days on seven continents making history as the first African woman to complete the World Marathon Challenge!

Members of UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division were at King Shaka International Airport in Durban with other supporters to give Mgabhi a hero’s home-coming welcome.

The runner said being ‘resilient and efficient with time’ were key to her success as she and other participants had just 168 hours – including the time taken up by travelling between the start venues - to run the seven marathons on seven continents!

Challenges included flying for almost 80 hours and having time for only three showers due to the rigorous time constraints and delays caused by bad weather in Antarctica.

The intrepid traveller and sportswoman, who plans to conquer another demanding challenge next year, details of which she will reveal closer to the time, said her vision was to inspire people to overcome their fears.

Mgabhi raised more than R1.5m in sponsorship for the Khiphinkunzi Primary School in rural Mtubatuba in northern KwaZulu-Natal to help build five classrooms, two administration offices and improve the facilities at the under-resourced school.

To contribute towards much-needed improvements at the school, visit https://www.backabuddy.co.za/charity/profile/khiphinkunzi-primary-school or her website www.gobeyondforachild.com

She thanked her parents, James and Fikile Mgabhi, for always supporting her on her adventures. ‘It’s thrilling to see the excitement and the support because you don’t achieve something of this magnitude alone,’ she said.

Mgabhi acknowledged her key sponsors UKZN, sportswear brand Salomon, the Richards Bay Coal Terminal and the human resources consulting firm Powerpoint Lifestyles for the support and backing they gave her. ‘I am forever indebted to them,’ she said.

The marathons were held in the Antarctic, Cape Town, Australia, Dubai, Madrid, Santiago in South America and Miami.

Mgabhi was profiled in UKZN’s alumni magazine UKZNTouch before she set off on her latest adventure. To read more, visit: http://alumniaffairs.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/UKZNTouch/UKZNTouch2019_web-min.sflb.ashx

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Albert Hirasen


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Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Top Researcher

Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Top Researcher
Dr Veron Ramsuran received the UKZN Vice-Chancellor’s Award for 2019.Click here for isiZulu version

High impact researcher in the College of Health Sciences and KRISP, Dr Veron Ramsuran, says he is thrilled to be the winner of the prestigious UKZN Vice-Chancellor’s 2019 Award valued at R150 000.

The award is presented annually to a pre-eminent researcher at UKZN in recognition of outstanding research achievements and the international reputation acquired.

UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku, congratulated Ramsuran, saying: ‘Please accept my heartfelt congratulations on this prestigious award. I wish you well and trust that it will assist you in your future research endeavours.’

Ramsuran, who graduated with a PhD from UKZN concentrating his research on host factors associated with HIV disease, completed the bulk of his doctoral work in two United States laboratories - the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, and the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas.

He later became a postdoctoral research fellow at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard before returning to South Africa as a senior lecturer at UKZN. He now holds several posts including Group Leader at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), UK Royal Society Future Leader African Independent Research (FLAIR) Fellow; Associate Scientist at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), and guest researcher at the National Cancer Institute at the NIH.

He has also received numerous honours and awards and serves as an editor on two leading international immunology journals.

His work involves examining the effect host genetics play on HIV and TB and he has a special interest in examining the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genes, the epicentre of disease associations across the human genome, as determined by genome wide association studies. He is also interested in factors contributing to the differential HLA expression.

Ramsuran recently also received the Future Leader of African Independent Research (FLAIR) Collaboration award which he shared with UKZN’s honorary scientist at Oxford University in England, Professor Philip Goulder. The UK Royal Society award will fund their joint study that aims to find out why female babies have a two to three-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV compared to male infants. The researchers believe an epigenetic mechanism (changes not located on the DNA sequence effecting how genes function) may be responsible for the protection in males and this will be investigated further.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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A-Rating a Boost for Honorary Professor’s Conservation Work

A-Rating a Boost for Honorary Professor’s Conservation Work
Professor Colin Chapman received an NRF A1 rating.Click here for isiZulu version

Honorary Professor in the School of Life Sciences Colin Chapman has been awarded an A1 rating from South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF), recognising him as a respected, leading international scholar in his field who consistently produces high quality and impactful research outputs.

Chapman has spent almost four decades conducting research in the tropics, focusing on tropical forest ecosystems, and on what is required for successful forest conservation efforts. He has been cited over 35 000 times, has published more than 490 articles, and works within a well-developed network of research colleagues. His projects have attracted about R165 million in research funds, thanks to the focus they place on matters of urgent conservation priority.

Priorities include efforts to understand the roles of disease, nutrition and stress in determining primate abundance and how best to conserve the world’s biodiversity. Chapman has spent more than 30 years conducting research in the Kibale National Park in Uganda, which has provided him with an extensive dataset focused on climate, plant and animal community dynamics, and conservation or human activities in African forests, all critical to efforts to understand the effects of climate change and forest disturbance.

Chapman has received numerous accolades during his career - he is a Killam Research Fellow and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and in 2018, received the Konrad Adenauer Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and an Office of an Academician at Northwest University in Xi’an, China.

‘It is a great honour to receive such a high ranking from the NRF and I am extremely pleased,’ said Chapman. ‘The award will help me advance projects and training in conservation and restoration ecology, all critical in the response to the current state of the earth.’

Chapman completed a PhD in Anthropology and Zoology at the University of Alberta, followed by post-doctoral research at McGill for two years and at Harvard University for a further three years. He has been an Honorary Lecturer in the Department of Zoology at Uganda’s Makerere University since 1990, and in 1995 became a Conservation Fellow with the Wildlife Conservation Society. He was a faculty member in Zoology at the University of Florida for 11 years, returning to McGill in 2004 where he held a Canada Research Chair Tier 1 position in Primate Ecology and Conservation.

He has held a position at George Washington University since last year that allows him more time for conservation efforts. He was a member of the Committee for Research and Exploration at the National Geographic Society for nine years.

The accomplishments that Chapman says inspire the most pride are the humanitarian work he has done during his research. He received the Velan Foundation Award for Humanitarian Service in recognition of philanthropic activities that included aiding rural communities by establishing schools, clinics, a mobile clinic, and ecotourism projects focusing on chimpanzees and crater lakes.

He joined UKZN as an Honorary Professor in 2017 and has focused on advancing principles of conservation biology and training the next generation of South Africans and Africans to lead efforts to conserve biodiversity. He says this effort has been enhanced by his collaborations with Professor Colleen Downs, South African Research Chair in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape at UKZN.

‘A real sense of urgency has grown in conservation,’ said Chapman, ‘readily apparent with respect to forest loss and climate change.’

Chapman has focused his work on conservation areas with the greatest need - mostly on primates, and more recently, elephants. He says habitat restoration will be an essential component of any conservation or management strategy aimed at preventing extinctions, particularly of threatened forest species confined to forest fragments, which could occur before the end of the century if action is not taken.

‘I plan to use this new ranking to develop and refine general principles in restoration ecology, which has typically been plant oriented, and towards what I like to call “animal restoration ecology”,’ said Chapman.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Alumnus Completes Fulbright Teaching Assistant Programme

UKZN Alumnus Completes Fulbright Teaching Assistant Programme
UKZN alumnus, Mr Mboniseni Dlamini.

UKZN School of Education alumnus, Mr Mboniseni Dlamini, has completed a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Scholarship programme in the United States.

Dlamini received a Fulbright FLTA grant based on academic and professional achievements, as well as leadership potential.

A qualified English Language teacher, registered with the South African Council for Educators, he served as a teaching assistant at Pennsylvania University and took language courses at the university. While in the USA, he shared his language (isiZulu) and culture with US communities as well as being a cultural ambassador encouraging Americans to travel to and study in South Africa.

‘Through this once in a lifetime opportunity, I rediscovered the joy of learning and teaching,’ said Dlamini. ‘As a language teacher, I was able to reflect on my own teaching methodologies, while reconsidering how I teach and also spend valuable time thinking critically about my pedagogy,’ said Dlamini.

Offering advice to other students, he said: ‘When rare opportunities present themselves, grab them with both hands. Do not look down upon yourself because of your background - life is all about taking risks and challenging yourself irrespective of your background. If I can do it, so can you.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Coronavirus Origins and Transmission Debated at Seminar

Coronavirus Origins and Transmission Debated at Seminar
The UKZN panel on the coronavirus discussion: Professor Tulio De Oliveira, Dr Richard Lessels, and Dr Nokukhanya Msomi.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) led a seminar at UKZN on the origins and transmission of the deadly coronavirus currently plaguing about 36 countries and territories around the world.

The seminar examined how prepared South Africa is to respond effectively should there be an outbreak of the virus in this country.

The debate focused on the genome, epidemiology, and clinical features of the virus, which is reported to have killed more than 2 600 people globally, the vast majority of them in China where the source of the disease has been identified as a market in the city of Wuhan where live wild animals are sold.

Scientists in China say the endangered pangolin may be a host of the virus which is apparently similar to two viruses that circulate in bats.

The Head of the Virology Discipline at UKZN, Dr Nokukhanya Msomi, said: ‘So far in South Africa there are no reported cases of infection. There are screening measures at all ports of entry and authorities are in the process of procuring the necessary equipment to ensure efficient testing for and detection of the virus.’

Words and photograph: Lihle Sosibo


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Emerging Scholar Research Award for CCMS Student

Emerging Scholar Research Award for CCMS Student
CCMS student, Mr Akwasi Bosompem Boateng.

The Common Ground Research Network of the University of Illinois in the United States selected UKZN PhD student Mr Akwasi Bosompem Boateng for its emerging scholar award in recognition of his outstanding research work.

Boateng, who is at the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), said he was proud his work had been recognised by the international academic community.

‘Being chosen as an outstanding scholar from among many graduate students across the globe through a competitive selection process makes me feel honoured,’ he said.

His PhD project is titled: Facebook Usage in Political Communication in Ghana: The Case of Two Political Parties, which explores how social media, especially Facebook, is used by political parties for engaging and interacting with stakeholders.

He argues for technology appropriation for relationship management in the advancement of political agendas. The study employs a mixed method approach through the concepts of technology appropriation, relationship management and agenda setting to theorise the usage of social media in political communication.

Professor Donal Patrick McCracken of the School of Applied Human Sciences is supervising the research.

Boateng is looking forward to becoming a post-doctoral research fellow at the CCMS so he can further develop his academic skills. He believes that this will prepare him for an academic career, which will fulfil his passion for imparting knowledge to the future generation of leaders.

His message to fellow students is: ‘Explore the many opportunities available and do your best in pursuing goals in order to excel. No matter where you are, your efforts could be recognised if you work hard.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Recruitment Campaign Attracts Top Students to Specialise in Data Science

Recruitment Campaign Attracts Top Students to Specialise in Data Science
Top performing Maths scholars who registered at UKZN for a BSc degree majoring in Data Science.

A strategic recruitment campaign by UKZN’s Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS), Professor Delia North, has reaped excellent rewards.

North explained that the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution had produced an insatiable demand for graduates highly skilled in data analytics, resulting in a critical shortage of such specialists nationally and internationally. ‘Data Science is an interdisciplinary field involving scientific methods, processes and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data,’ said North.

In 2018 the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that the demand for data scientists would outstrip supply by 60%!

In the light of this, the SMSCS designed a suite of qualifications in the discipline and last year launched its BSc Data Science degree while a BSc Honours degree in Data Science will be offered next year, along with a Postgraduate Certificate and a coursework Master’s degree in Data Science. 

‘The suite of Data Science qualifications is destined to place UKZN in a very strong strategic position nationally to contribute towards alleviating the extreme shortage of high-level data scientists in the country,’ said North. ‘All degrees are underwritten by an international statistics software company, Statistical Analysis Software (SAS), which is the gold standard for data analytics software in banks, government and major companies, around the world.’

Last year North deliberately targeted top performing youngsters with a flair for the mathematical sciences, and exposed them to the exciting field of Data Science as a possible future career path, through a series of targeted outreach activities among UKZN’s feeder schools.

North was delighted when during 2020 registration, nine top-performing Durban matriculants signed up to study towards a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Data Science at UKZN. 

The maths whizz kids include two sets of twins – Ms Saurie and Ms Salurie Padayachee, and Ms Timaha and Ms Ashraya Udho.

Their colleagues are Ms Thenuja Pillay, Ms Holisha Chetty, Mr Revlen Ganesh, Mr Callyn Barath and Mr Aaron Naidu. 

They are all ultra-high achievers with Naidu being the winner of the 2019 South African Mathematics Olympiad and the Tertiary Mathematics Olympiad, as well as being the top matriculant in KwaZulu-Natal and second in South Africa in the 2019 National Senior Certificate examinations, with an aggregate of 96.71%, including 100% for Mathematics.

At an informal function hosted by the SMSCS for the standout new recruits and their parents, North encouraged the group to network with each other and form a support group. 

She thanked the parents for having faith in UKZN and assured them that the Data Science programme had excellent staff as teachers and mentors who would guide their children towards successful future careers.

‘With a Data Science degree there are lots of different directions to go in,’ said North. ‘I want you all to push the boundaries of the field.

‘Young bright minds such as yours are essential if UKZN is to contribute to new theories in Data Science. South Africa will benefit when high-end, data-savvy scientists such as yourselves enter the world of business.

‘The world is your oyster - UKZN will support and grow you in whichever direction you choose to go,’ added North.

Words and photograph: Sally Frost


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GSB&L Champions Programme Welcomes New Cohort of Social Entrepreneurs

GSB&L Champions Programme Welcomes New Cohort of Social Entrepreneurs
Social entrepreneurs who are joining the 2020 Champions Programme.

The Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) Champions Programme recently welcomed 10 social entrepreneurs into its 2020 cohort.

The programme, which is currently in its seventh iteration, is a social enterprise development intervention that is part of a partnership between the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department (EDTEA) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Speaking on the success of the Champions Programme, its facilitator, Professor Shahida Cassim said that the 10 month social entrepreneurship development programme is producing change makers that are innovating the social entrepreneurship landscape.

‘We had 60 applicants and selected only 10 individuals who are focused on enriching their communities. It is an honour and a privilege for me to nurture these social entrepreneurs who don’t care about enriching themselves but are passionate about bring transformational change to their communities and beyond. All of our alumni are not only running sustainable enterprises but are on the cutting-edge of innovation and even operating globally,’ she said.

For entrepreneurs, Ms Sbonile Sithole and Ms Portia Mdakane of Nquthu, experiencing the harsh realities of living in a rural area plagued by unemployment is what drove them to be job creators.

‘As a person who comes from a poor rural place, I have adopted the vuk'uzenzele (get up and do it yourself) mind-set,’ said Sithole.

‘This is why I’m empowering women and the youth with cooking and baking skills for better employment opportunities or for them to run their own businesses. I’m also venturing into the agribusiness side where I am in the process of producing my own wine using beetroot, so I am very excited to be part of the Champions programme and gaining new skills to expand my business,’ said Sithole.

Mdakane, who is in the fashion business, says she is upskilling the youth to inspire them to develop a job creator mind-set rather than a job seeker one.

‘For Nquthu residents, the nearest town with employment opportunities is Newcastle which is a couple of hours drive away,’ said Mdakane. ‘This means that people have to leave their homes and their children behind resulting in a lot of child-headed households and poverty stricken homes. Some young women are having babies in order to get social grants, which is further adding to the problem as the money they get is insufficient to feed the family. I am hoping to be a positive influence in breaking this vicious cycle and help more people in my community to put food on the table,’ she said.

EDTEA representative, Mr Patrick Mbokazi said the strategic partnership had yielded positive results through producing leaders who were informed about local economic development and the needs of the people in their communities.

‘We are very proud of this partnership as the skills these entrepreneurs are gaining are crucial for the transformation of South Africa’s economy, especially also as we are working on developing a policy on social entrepreneurship,’ said Mbokazi. ‘We are looking forward to being part of your journey and helping you to achieve your mission of growing your enterprises.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Siphosethu Dlamini


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