UKZN Students Share Knowledge to Enhance Success

UKZN Students Share Knowledge to Enhance Success
Peer Wellness Mentor Programme (PWMP) mentors show off their certificates following the PWMP certification ceremony.

UKZN’s College of Health Science’s Student Support Services Unit in collaboration with the College Teaching and Learning Office recently held a Peer Wellness Mentorship Programme (PWMP) certification ceremony. The programme which is unique to the College at UKZN has 774 mentees and 43 active mentors who had a total of 4 447 sessions with mentees across three campuses: Westville Campus, Howard College and the Medical School.  

‘It is part of the college initiative to strengthen the first-year experience of students and to contribute to their adjustment to higher education and enhance their overall success. The need for a Peer Wellness Programme is critical to the support of first years,’ said Mrs Wulli Thaver, Student Development Officer at College Student Support Services. Despite the entry into university being a very exciting experience, it places many demands and challenges on students which is necessary for them to overcome in order to achieve academic success.’

Thaver said research confirmed that the majority of students who drop out of or fail higher education courses do so in their first year, resulting in the first year being termed as a "make-or-break" year.

Sport Science student Ms Nombulelo Gidigidi said she enjoys being part of the programme.  She said the challenge that she faces as a mentor is trying to convince students who are struggling academically to stay in the programme.

‘First year is a make-or-break year, so students need both academic and peer mentors to help them adjust to campus life,’ said third year medical student and mentor Mr Bonginkosi Mafuze. Mafuze and seven others in the programme took it upon themselves to mentor students academically for at least three hours a week. According to him the students really appreciate the service.

Dr Saloschini Pillay, College Manager: Student Support Services, said: 'The College of Health Sciences is currently the only College with a structured, collaborative programme between the support and academic sector, designed to enhance student success. She further noted that the Peer Mentoring programme formed one part of several strategies that the CHS has in place to enhance the 1st year experience of our students, contribute to their overall adjustment and success and respond to the requirements of the AMS Policy. We enjoy a dynamic group of mentors, who displayed initiative and creativity in their engagement with our students from pre-registration onwards.’

Professor Ntombifikile Mtshali, College Dean: Teaching and Learning, said the PWMP was really working, and thanked all the mentors for dedicating their time to helping new students in their transition from high school to tertiary life.  ‘Being a good mentor means being at your best at all times. The survival of the first years depends on the mentor’s role. The first years depend on the mentors in the absence of their parents.’ Mtshali thanked the mentors on behalf of the college, telling them that their contribution was a lifetime investment.

Professor Fanie Botha, College Director: Professional Services, said it was enlightening to hear positive feedback about the programme. He thanked the mentors for completing the programme. ‘Keep up the good work and thank you for being giants in the programme,’ he said.

Thaver said this year saw Student Support Services take more responsibility for the programme at all sites of the College, which allowed them to get to know each one of the mentors better.  ‘We have gained much insight from the mentors and our first years, which will certainly help in planning our 2014 programme,’ she said.


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International Scientists Join the School of Health Sciences

International Scientists Join the School of Health Sciences
Dr Bahareh Honarparvar (left) and Dr Adam Skelton (right) who recently joined UKZN’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Discipline.

UKZN’s School of Health Sciences has welcomed two new international Scientists - Dr Bahareh Honarparvar of Iran and Dr Adam Skelton of Wales - into its fold.

The two health experts have an outstanding repertoire of research skills and will dedicate their time to postgraduate recruitment and the school’s research output.

Honarparvar, based in Pharmaceutical Sciences, received her PhD in Physical Chemistry (Computational Chemistry) in Iran before starting research on computational HIV drug design as a computational Postdoctoral Fellow at UKZN from July 2010 to June 2013. 

Honarparvar’s research interest is mainly in applying computational medicinal chemistry approaches (molecular dynamic simulation, molecular docking, and binding free energy calculation) to investigate enzyme-inhibitor interactions for synthesising novel drugs related to different diseases. 

She is a curious and adventurous researcher ‘I always want to know more about life. I believe in developing my life and research career. In 2010, I felt a need to start afresh in a different country and the breakthrough came in the form of Professor Gert Kruger, a UKZN Specialist in Organic Synthesis and Computational Chemistry. 

‘I told myself that we have a lot of HIV and Hepatitis in my country, so if I get this experience at UKZN I can apply that knowledge when I go back home and also in my pharmaceutical research around the world. So I decided to leave Iran and accept the offer at UKZN. 

‘As an Iranian Scientist with a physical disability, I will not allow the wheels on my wheelchair to stop my will for life,’ said Honarparvar.

Skelton, also based in Pharmaceutical Sciences, is an expert in a range of molecular modelling techniques, mostly centered on classical molecular dynamics and quantum mechanical calculations.  

He earned a Masters degree in Chemistry from the University of Cardiff in 2002 before embarking on a PhD in Chemistry at Warwick University in England from 2004 to 2008, specialising in molecular modelling of the interactions between biomolecules and inorganic surfaces. 

From 2008 to 2011 he started his postdoctoral studies at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Vanderbilt University in the United States, performing molecular modelling research on quartz/water/electrolyte interactions.  

In 2011, he moved to the University of Dayton to perform research on molecular modelling of lipid bilayers and ion channels and ab initio calculations of silica cages.  

Skelton joined UKZN in 2012 to do research in drug design and molecular modelling of biological systems as a Postdoctoral Fellow. His research interests are modelling synthetic channels in lipid bilayers, simulating the interaction between biological molecules with inorganic surfaces and modelling biological systems. 

‘I am grateful to the School for granting me the opportunity to excel in my field and for providing me access to state-of-the-art laboratories,’ said Skelton. ‘I have been doing molecular modelling research, ranging from materials and science to biological systems. Now, I am concentrating more on cell membrane and synthetic ion channels as well as drug enzymes interactions for drug discovery.’ 

University staff and students are encouraged to approach both researchers with a view to research collaboration, grant writing and co-supervision of postgraduate students. 

-Nombuso Dlamini


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Multi-Million Rand Award to UKZN Scientists for Cutting-Edge HIV Research

Multi-Million Rand Award to UKZN Scientists for Cutting-Edge HIV Research
Professor Tulio de Oliveira received an award certificate from the Honourable Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Advocate Tshililo Masutha at a prestigious MRC Awards Gala Dinner.

Professor Frank Tanser and Professor Tulio de Oliveira from UKZN’s Africa Centre for Health and Population studies were recently awarded a R16.5 million grant to fight HIV drug resistance and transmission in rural KwaZulu-Natal. The grant, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) Flagship Projects is part of the MRC’s strategy to sustain vibrant medical research in South Africa. 

With the expansion of HIV/TB treatment in South Africa and over 1.8 million patients on antiretrovirals (ARVs), drug resistance is fast becoming a growing concern. Despite significantly rolling out ARVs country-wide, attention to the management of individual patients with resistance strains has been neglected. Drug resistance testing is considered expensive, time consuming and dependent on high-level technology (such as genetics, biotechnology and bioinformatics). However, the focus is likely to change now. 

‘HIV drug resistance is a very serious problem in South Africa, and the recent advances in resistance testing technology and in understanding patterns of transmission will allow us not only to extend the life of patients failing treatment but also to produce policies of national interest that save hundreds of millions of rands in government programmes in the next few years,’ said de Oliveira.  

Tanser and de Oliveira produced two groundbreaking studies that were published in the leading scientific journals, Science and Nature respectively. Tanser’s study found that widespread antiretroviral therapy curbed the rate of new HIV infections in Africa. de Oliveira’s study indicated that genomic data which can be used for the clinical management of patients with resistance strains and to understand patterns of HIV transmission, can now be produced cost effectively-locally.  

This award will allow de Oliveira, a Bioinformatician, and Tanser, an Epidemiologist specialising in GIS, to work together to produce a unique framework to understand HIV-1 transmission and resistance. In addition, the award will allow them to collaborate closely with six other leading research groups based at UKZN (HEARD, K-RITH, HIV Pathogenesis Programme, Computer Science, Genetics and Infectious Diseases) to develop a framework to prevent HIV transmission and resistance. 

Tanser added, ‘We are delighted to have received this award. It provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to understand patterns of HIV transmission and drug resistance in hyper-endemic southern African populations. The results will contribute directly to establishing the most effective treatment and prevention strategies in such settings.’ 

Professor Moses Chimbari, UKZN’s Dean of Research at the College of Health Sciences argues, ‘A multi-disciplinary approach is needed to understand these complex problems in order to translate research results into policies of national interest and to ensure that southern Africa’s HIV treatment programs are highly effective. In this regard we welcome this award and expect it to contribute substantial scientific insights into ways of halting and reversing the HIV epidemic.’  

-       Maryann Francis


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Young Health Scientists Wow the Crowd with Novel Research

Young Health Scientists Wow the Crowd with Novel Research
From left: Professor Johan Van Heerden, Professor Keymanthri Moodley and first prize winner in the laboratory-based category at the Symposium, Ms Y Pillay.

Upcoming researchers wowed the audience with their novel research in topical health themes during the recent College of Health Sciences Young Health Scientist’s Research Symposium at UKZN. 

First prize winners included Ms Y Pillay in the laboratory-based category, Mr Y Naicker and Mr A Sookraj in the clinical-based category and Ms F Akhbar and associates in the community-based category.

Pillay, an honours student in Medical Biochemistry, presented on: “Effects of Two Novel Chemically Synthesised Carbazole Derivatives on the HepG2 Cell Line”.   

Hepatocellular carcinoma represents 80 percent to 90 percent of primary liver cancer cases worldwide. The structural features of carbazole compounds and their derivatives confer a range of pharmacological activities including effects on DNA, enzyme activity and cytotoxicity, highlighting possible therapeutic potential as anti-cancer agents. 

Pillay’s study found that compound five and compound six display progression toward cytotoxic effects on liver carcinoma cells, providing evidence of the therapeutic potential of these compounds to stop cancer progression, thereby acting as successful anti-cancer agents.

Naicker and Sookraj, both honours students in the Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences (Exercise Science), presented on Skin Microvascular Reactivity in Physically Active Students. Their study aimed to determine the effect of aerobic fitness on skin microvascular reactivity and the association between cardio-respiratory and body composition variables and physical activity levels on microvascular reactivity. 

Microvascular is the portion of the circulatory system composed of the smallest vessels, such as the capillaries, arterioles, and venules. Previous studies have found that aerobic fitness improves microvascular activity hence reducing cardiovascular risk. However, many of the studies have focused on children and adolescents. What makes this study novel is its focus on university students. 

Naidoo and Sookraj’s study participants were 26 physically active male students, who were matched for age.  Their findings indicate that aerobic capacity, ventilator threshold and fat mass are independent predictors of microvascular reactivity. This finding has applications for exercise interventions aimed at improving microvascular health by focusing on these independent predictors which through targeted aerobic exercises can reduce cardiovascular risk.

The winning team in the community-based category presented a study titled: “Adverse Event Reporting in HIV Clinical Practice by Healthcare Professionals in the eThekwini Health District”.

This study was conducted to determine whether adverse events are being spontaneously reported by doctors, nurses, pharmacists and post basic pharmacist assistants caring for HIV/AIDS patients attending public health facilities, in the eThekwini Metro Health District.  

Results of the study indicated that 82 percent of all health care professionals stated that they were aware of Standard Operating Procedures on adverse reporting, however only 72 percent followed them properly when reporting.

The team further discovered that spontaneous reporting is limited by the lack of knowledge on the reporting process itself and the lack of human resource capital available.  This was because many of these institutions were both under-staffed and inadequately equipped to deal with adverse drug events reporting and lack of proper communication between patients and health care professionals due to overload of work as well as language barriers. Health care professionals believed that adverse event reporting could be increased by increasing staff, creating online databases for reporting and offering in- service training.

Guest speaker at the event and one of the adjudicators, Professor Keymanthri Moodley of the University of Stellenbosch said: ‘I am impressed at the high standard of these studies but moreover by the ethical considerations that were strictly adhered to reflecting UKZN’s commitment to embedding ethics in its curriculum.’  

-       Maryann Francis


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Engineering Inspired by Nature Key Theme at Conference

Engineering Inspired by Nature Key Theme at Conference
From left: Mr Killian Nair, Mr Kasheel Goberdhan and Mr Akhil Gangaram’s Downhill Racing Project was voted best project by the RobMech Conference delegates.

Engineering inspired by Nature was the key theme of the address by UKZN alumnus Horst Weinert at the RobMech Conference.  Weinert, who obtained his MSc in Engineering from UKZN and now works in the education division of the German Engineering company, Festo, spoke on: “Festo Bionics:  Mechatronics Innovations Inspired by Nature”. 

Horst posed the questions: ‘How can we learn from Nature?  How can we be more creative?’  ‘What we do is to take natural elements and bring them into something we can work with in an industrial environment,’ he said.  ‘Bionics is about how one links technology with Nature, and also, ourselves - how we interface with machines, how we interface technology with our thoughts.  The core of everything we do is mechatronics.’ 

A mechatronic invention discussed by Horst was the Smart Bird.  ‘It has always been a dream of man to fly,’ he said.  ‘People have been trying this for so long – to get an ornithologically correct bird into the sky.  New lightweight batteries make this possible.’  Horst said that with the lightweight design, the question was how light one could go and still fly. 

Another mechatronic example discussed was the Nano Force Gripper, for which the common gecko served as inspiration.  The Nano Force Gripper gripped purely by touching, not by suction or magnetic force.  ‘The biggest trick is to get it to let go,’ said Horst. 

Horst advocated bringing people together from all kinds of research disciplines to start talking. ‘Solutions to complex engineering problems require a networked inter-disciplinary approach,’ he said.  ‘University researchers and Government need to talk to each other to create solutions for industry. 

‘Universities should look at their curriculum and ask:  What are machines in factories doing, that is not being taught in universities?  ‘Our objective is to motivate, inspire and kick start innovation,’ he said. 

Horst explained that with Bionics, all the work started with the natural model, with “something out of nature”.  Once the technical principle was extracted, a bionic adaption could occur, which in turn led to an industrial application. 

Horst said he was passionate about education.   ‘Our biggest work is to bring universities and industries together.  ‘Bring Industry into the classroom.  Then the step from classroom to industry is easy.’  

His message to UKZN was to compete in national and international bionics and mechatronics competitions, in order to benchmark what they were doing. 

Horst’s address formed part of the Sixth Robotics and Mechatronics (RobMech) Conference, hosted by UKZN’s Mechatronics and Robotics Research Group in conjunction with the South African Institution of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE) and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.  

Conference Chairman and School of Engineering Senior Lecturer, Dr Riaan Stopforth, said the annual Conference provided a platform to showcase and gauge the current state of advanced robotics and mechatronics in South Africa.  

The Conference was open to all industries, research institutions and hobbyists and brought together researchers, academics, application engineers, users and policy makers.   ‘I hope that the RobMech Conference has acted as a platform for industry partners to collaborate with research institutions on research topics, to allow for a boost in research, innovation and development,’ said Stopforth. 

As an added attraction, delegates at the Conference had the opportunity to view UKZN’s final year Mechanical Engineering Open Day projects.  Best project award went to the Downhill Racing Car Project group, while the best paper award went to Mr Ritesh Kanjee, Mr Asheer Bachool and Mr Johnson Carroll for their Vision-Based Adaptive Cruise Control Using Pattern Matching. 

-       Sally Frost


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Microbiology Alive and Well in KZN, Says UKZN Dean

Microbiology Alive and Well in KZN, Says UKZN Dean
Honours students in Microbiology, Ms Shanice Naidoo, Ms Bhavna Rampath and Ms Thurisha Moodley at the 26th SASM-KZN Annual Symposium for Microbiology.

Microbiology and Biotechnology are in a very healthy state in KwaZulu-Natal, according to Professor Bala Pillay, Dean of Teaching and Learning in UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.  

‘These are the leading disciplines that will make the greatest contributions to the challenges facing our continent in the areas of water, food, agriculture, human health, and the environment,’ he said.

 Pillay was addressing the 26th annual Symposium of the Society for Microbiology in KwaZulu-Natal (SASM-KZN) hosted by UKZN’s Discipline of Microbiology at UKZN’s Innovation Centre on the Westville campus. 

The annual Symposium gives young researchers at Honours and BTech level an opportunity to showcase their research findings among their peers in the province. 

Pillay, who is a trained Microbiologist, said the KZN Symposium was the most successful regional conference of the South African Society of Microbiologists.  ‘We have sustained this conference for over 26 years.  It is a great platform for young scientists at the Honours and BTech level from the three tertiary institutions in the province, namely, UKZN, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the University of Zululand. ’ 

Pillay said that the Symposium had become highly competitive.  ‘Even though this Symposium is for entry-level scientists, we find lots of potential for innovation,’ he said. 

The keynote address was delivered by Ms Elisabeth Freeman, President and CEO of the American organisation, the International Centre of Professional Development (ICPD), which aims to facilitate access to careers.  Freeman spoke on: “Industry Mentoring:  A Catalyst for Life Science Innovation in Africa”. 

Freeman posed the following interactive question to the delegates:  ‘What is the one way that you contribute positively to your community?  What are you good at?  What obstacles are stopping you?’ She stressed the important role mentors can play in developing young talent, and removing such obstacles.   

The 26th Symposium saw 66 young scientists present a diverse range of research, which Pillay said was both cutting edge and applied research that was relevant to KwaZulu-Natal. 

After a successful day of presentations, prizes were awarded to the top three presenters in each of two venues. The Microbiology Department, UKZN (Westville) made a clean sweep of the awards in the first venue - Ms Nicole du Plooy won first prize with Ms Lekita Singh second and Mr Joash Govindsamy third.  In the second venue, Ms Shanice Naidoo of DUT was the winner with Ms Carla Dalais also of DUT second and Ms Varnika Singh (UKZN-Genetics) third. 

Academic Leader for Biotechnology in the School of Life Sciences on the Westville campus, Professor Ade Olaniran, gave a warm vote of thanks to his organising committee as well as paying tribute to the students’ supervisors ‘who continue to conceptualise and sustain great research ideas’. 

 -       Sally Frost


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National Atmospheric Sciences Workshop at UKZN

National Atmospheric Sciences Workshop at UKZN
Attendees at the 29th Annual Conference of the South African Society for Atmospheric Sciences.

The 29th Annual Conference of the South African Society for Atmospheric Sciences kicked off with the first Atmospheric Remote Sensing Education and Training (ATM-Reset) Workshop hosted by UKZN’s  School of Chemistry and Physics. 

Attended by more than 43 students and researchers, the programme included presentations from renowned international speakers. 

Professor Ramakrishna Reddy of Sri Krishnadevaraya University in India, assisted by UKZN’s Dr Raghavendra Kanike, delivered the opening lecture titled: “Aerosol and its Importance”, followed by Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman (UKZN) and Dr Mathieu Rouault (University of Cape Town) delivering a presentation on: “Matlab”.

Delegates were also treated to a lecture on: “High Power Radar Probing of Atmosphere and Ionosphere”, by Professor Balarama Rao of the National Remote Sensing Agency in India, assisted by Dr Nkanyiso Mbatha of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). The workshop ended with a presentation by Professor Hassan Bencherif of Reunion assisted by Mr Jeremiah Ogunniyi of UKZN.    

The Workshop was followed by the 29th Annual Conference of the South African Society for Atmospheric Sciences, which attracted 120 participants from various countries, including 68 postgraduate students. The main theme of the Conference, held for the first time in the Durban area, was: “Towards Quantifying and Qualifying the Earth’s Atmosphere”.  

SANSA Earth Observation Directorate’s Dr Jane Olwoch presented an overview of the recent national space agency initiatives on Earth Observations.   

SASAS President Dr Mathieu Rouault said the aim of SASAS was to stimulate interest and support for all branches of atmospheric sciences and to promote collaboration between organisations and institutions interested in atmospheric science in Southern Africa. This included meteorology, agro-meteorology, climatology, air quality, ocean-atmosphere interaction, troposphere-stratosphere interaction, physical oceanography, hydroclimatology, numerical modeling and instrumentation.  

The keynote address, delivered by Dr Thierry Lebel, Director of the Institute for Research Development in Grenbole, France, was titled: “The West African Monsoon: Contribution of the AMMA Multidisciplinary Programme to the Study of a Regional Climate System”.  Lebel is the Project Leader of one of the European programme frameworks studying African monsoon and climate impacts.  

Review Chair Dr Raghavendra Kumar said the Conference had produced about 200 pages of electronic conference proceedings which were now accredited by the Department of Education in South Africa. ‘The articles are of high quality and have been peer-reviewed by relevant experts,’ he said. 

Professor Pendyala Balarama Rao of the National Remote Sensing Agency, India, described the Conference as ‘timeously organised and well planned with frequent communications and an attractive coastal venue’. 

-       Leena Rajpal

 


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UKZN Students Visit Technology Innovation Agency’s Bioprocessing Platform

UKZN Students Visit Technology Innovation Agency’s Bioprocessing Platform
Third year Microbiology students with demonstrators and UKZN staff members.

The biotechnology platform of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) at Umbogintwini recently hosted 175 third year students from the Microbiology Department in the School of Life Sciences as well as 10 demonstrators and two UKZN staff members.

Field trips to industries/facilities employing biotechnological and/or microbiological processes form part of the practical component of the Microbial Processing module.

The bioprocessing platform which opened in 2007,  provides services at a reduced cost to entrepreneurs thus lowering the business risk to a project and the TIA.

During the visit students were addressed on topics including technical support, skills development, innovation, entrepreneurship, commericalisation, access to diagnostics opportunities in resource poor communities and scientific collaborations to enable delivery of affordable, rapid diagnostics technologies and reagents for clients.  

The talks were complemented by a tour of the low humidity, molecular and protein laboratories at the Institute of Diagnostic Research. The students could not enter the Hybridoma laboratory due to the strict gowning procedures required, however they were shown pictures of the equipment and the processes undertaken. This was followed by a tour of the Analytical and the Microbiology laboratory where students were exposed to different equipment such as the HPLC, GC, Fluorescent spectrophotometer, biosafety cabinet, ultrafreezer, and phase contrast microscope.

The students were also shown the general procedures such as chemical storage, disposal of different waste streams and SHE processes, while at the fermentation suites they saw a bioreactor in operation. 

TIA’s Ms Elaine Ram said: ‘The Bioprocessing Platform takes pleasure in hosting future researchers and entrepreneurs and through these visits, hopes to have planted a seed that will steer these young minds to invention and innovation.’ 

Manager of the agency Mr Halalisani Gumede said the Bioprocessing Platform was delighted to expose young UKZN scientists to technology in action. ‘We encourage and support such initiatives where students are given hands on experience to the operations of the platform.’ 

UKZN’s Dr Roshini Govinden said: ‘I am extremely grateful to the TIA for accommodating such a large class.  I took my first class there in 2010 and have returned every year.  The students are very excited to hear from the various tenants of the platform and see the early steps of product development – from the laboratory to small pilot scale assessments prior to marketing.  The more adventurous students are encouraged to believe that if they have good ideas there is some avenue that they can access to assess feasibility of their innovation as well as source funding to explore their ideas.’ 

-       Leena Rajpal


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Rural Health Expert Addresses UKZN Gathering

Rural Health Expert Addresses UKZN Gathering
From left: Head of the Department of Rural Health Dr Mosa Moshabela with Dr Ronald Ingles and the Director of the Centre for Rural Health, Dr Bernhard Gaede.

UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health recently hosted Dr Ronald Ingles, well-known for his book: An Uneasy Story- the Nationalising of South African Mission Hospitals (1960-1976).  

Ingles, who had been based in the rural All Saints Mission hospital in the former Transkei, recounted his experiences to an audience comprising mainly rural health and public health experts.  

Having qualified in the United Kingdom as a Medical Doctor, Ingles served in the Royal Air Force before arriving in South Africa in 1958 to assist in the All Saints Mission Hospital. His book focuses on the handover of the All Saints Hospital, one of 109 in the country, to the government of the time and the challenges experienced delivering healthcare in a rural setting.  

His presentation which recounted the typical life of a rural doctor about 50 years ago, is relevant to current medical doctors in country areas. Ingle said: ‘A typical week in the life of a rural doctor involved the pressure of clinical work, numerous interruptions, balancing outpatients and ward work, and restricted referral options, which meant that you had to do a lot yourself. 

‘One’s skillfulness in many branches of medicine, far from dwindling away, increases. Medicine is a determined and sympathetic practice of the right principles adapted to the total circumstances of your patient and we remind ourselves that we must do the best under the circumstances, not hopelessly, but with ingenuity and imagination, always of course trying to improve the circumstances.’  

Ingles recalled an example of when he had to be re-skilled to deal with life in the country. At the hospital, he treated many babies who presented with malnutrition and Kwashiorkor. The infants were admitted and fed until their weight improved and then discharged only to relapse. He soon realised that ‘living and working within another culture meant re-thinking yourself as much as them’.  

The recurring illness led to the establishment of Kwazondle Uphile — a Nutrition Rehab Unit (NRU) — away from hospital wards. Here, mothers were educated on improved nutrition for their children, changing the mindset of treating the ill to educating as a means of prevention.  

Ingles said the key requirements for success in delivering healthcare in a rural setting included supportive teamwork, working with the local leadership, expert clinical skills in order to improve clinical outcomes in a poor resource setting, resourcefulness and generalism - described as meeting as many clinical challenges as possible including crossing the boundaries of many specialities. 

Ingles recalled that at the hand over of the All Saints Hospital to the Transkei Health Department he had said: ‘As this is done, I make this plea: Where our skills and our resources may be short, our greatest asset is in people – their inborn capacity to respond to leadership which is dedicated to their needs. Wherever and whenever man is hard pressed, the way forward is to draw on this resource by consultation at all levels, from the highest to the lowest. This consultation is a priceless resource upon which any great task may be built up with hope.’ 

‘Ingles’ presentation highlighted the challenges facing rural hospitals and public healthcare in general, even today,’ said public health scientist Dr Paula Diab. ‘Rather than forget the past, we should be reflecting on the experiences of older colleagues and learning from past successes and failures.’  

* Ingles left the All Saints hospital to join the Transkei Health Department in Umtata where he promoted primary health care and was an invaluable support to many doctors working in Transkei at the time. He later joined the Department of Family Medicine at MEDUNSA and retired from clinical work in 1992. 

-       Maryann Francis


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Online Education Portal Prepares Students for Exams

Online Education Portal Prepares Students for Exams
From left: Mr Marc Kornberger; Mr Leo Deodutt, and UKZN’s Head for Student Village Mr Luvuyo Mthimkhulu.

The School of Accounting, Economics and Finance’s partnership in an online education initiative titled UVillage is aimed at addressing major issues around education by offering extra academic support to students. 

The electronic education portal launched in June this year is an online hub providing students with free accredited learning materials to assist them improve their academic performance. 

Students who access the education portal will enjoy the benefits of video tutorials, online quizzes, past exam questions and summarised lectures. Commenting on the School’s involvement, Senior Lecturer Mr Leo Deodutt said: ‘The initiative is an exciting one as it not only collaborates with Schools within the College of Law and Management Studies but extends nationally in partnership with most universities in South Africa.  It thus gives our students exposure to the most up to date and ground-breaking teaching and learning techniques.’ 

Student Village Director Mr Marc Kornberger said the programme was already yielding positive results.  ‘From our pilot in June we found that service has been really well received by students and in our focus groups 100 percent of students said the service helped them pass.

‘We are focusing on techniques that take hundreds of hours of lecture time and summarise key concepts in just a couple of hours. Through this we plan to curb the high failure rate by giving students exactly what they need to get ahead and pass,’ said Kornberger. 

The organisation is also working with UKZN’s Statistics Department to put together videos, past papers and quiz questions based on UKZN’s Statistics syllabus. This process will be completed in time for the end of year final exams. 

For more information on UVillage visit: www.uvillage.co.za 

-       Thandiwe Jumo


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Rural Health Chief Geared to Advance Transformation of Medical Curriculum

Rural Health Chief Geared to Advance Transformation of Medical Curriculum
Dr Mosa Moshabela.

UKZN’s Department of Rural Health, the first in South Africa, recently appointed Dr Mosa Moshabela as its Head and Chief Specialist.  Moshabela’s brief is to drive the vision of the Discipline which is to build academic scholarship that promotes use of trans-disciplinary evidence, knowledge and experience in the complex and under-resourced field of rural health.  

Over the years Moshabela has led the process in which several clinical and lay health care programmes as well as research projects were translated into a number of scientific publications. His PhD investigated rural health care systems and user behaviour in South Africa, with special reference to equity, access and utilisation patterns for rural patients seeking and using antiretroviral treatment. 

 He was recently awarded a prestigious Discovery Foundation Academic Fellowship Award to support his career development as a clinical specialist in pursuit of a research scientist career.  

‘Our vision is to anchor the Discipline of Rural Health at UKZN, by building academic scholarship that promotes use of trans-disciplinary evidence, knowledge and experience in the complex and under-resourced field of rural health. The great potential for academia to provide solutions for the problems in our society today is limited by the tradition of working in silos, when problems in our communities are not discipline-bound.’ 

Moshabela stressed the importance of innovative trans-disciplinary thinking, training and working across disciplines which are urgently needed to systematically address social determinants of health and health inequities in order to uplift health and wellbeing, particularly at the margins of the health care system. 

‘I hope to contribute to the transformation of rural health through the creation of platforms to achieve rural academic excellence, and more specifically to build scholarship in the trans-disciplinary field of rural health and development.’ 

Moshabela was previously the Regional Health Advisor for the Millennium Villages in West and Central Africa, based at the Millennium Development Goal Centre in Mali/Senegal. Also affiliated to the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the United States as a Public Health Specialist, he lead a team of technical experts to support implementation of programmes in Nutrition, Child health, Maternal health, and Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis sub-sectors, relevant to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for health. 

-       Maryann Francis


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CCMS Student a Winner in Food Writers Competition

CCMS Student a Winner in Food Writers Competition
CCMS student Ms Trushka Soni is one of five winners in the Young Food Writer’s Competition.

Ms Trushka Soni, a student from the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), was one of five winners in the Young Food Writers Competition sponsored by the South African Egg Industry. 

An aim of the competition was to discover the country’s most promising food writers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. ‘I am extremely happy to be among the five winners and it was a great experience for me as I am passionate about both cooking and writing,’ said Trushka.  

‘I had to create two recipes using egg as the main ingredient and make one of the dishes and take a picture of it. I then had to motivate why I should be selected for the programme.’ 

The competition gave Soni the opportunity to meet and mingle with South Africa’s top chefs Siba and Reuben.

She won a Kenwood kitchen appliance and a one-week internship at a leading publication. This opportunity for work experience will give her an idea of the everyday functioning of a magazine and the requirements of a career in food journalism.  

 - Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Lecturer Co-Edits New Book

UKZN Lecturer Co-Edits New Book
Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul who co-edited a new book Participation in Community Work: International Perspectives.

Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul of the School of Applied Human Sciences co-edited a new book with two Norwegian colleagues, Professor Anne Karin Larsen and Ms Greta Oline Hole.   

The book, Participation in Community Work: International Perspectives, has contributions from eminent scholars throughout the world.   

Sewpaul said: ‘The book highlights that participation is central to community work and that the theory-practice-research nexus is an important one, not only with foregrounding research, but with practice that provides fertile ground for theorizing about community work. 

‘Discourses on participation must of necessity include other aspects of global discourses, such as human rights, direct democracy, the power of context, social justice, social inclusion and social cohesion, and related discourses on poverty, inequality, exclusion and marginalisation.  They also speak to the power of dreams, hopes and visions for change,’ she said.  

Following critiques of conventional definitions and some of the existing models of community work, Sewpaul & Larsen, in the concluding chapter, offer alternative definitions of community work, community organisation and community development. They propose a radical ecological approach that accords with their emancipatory philosophy, bringing together issues from power and intersectional influences to environmental sustainability and species biodiversity into an integrated whole.  

-        Melissa Mungroo


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Humanities Post-Doctoral Fellow on TV Discussion Panel in USA

Humanities Post-Doctoral Fellow on TV Discussion Panel in USA
UKZN’s Dr Gunasekharan Dharmaraja (left) with Mr Vishvanathan Rudrakumaran, and Dr T. Devanathan.

Humanities post-doctoral Fellow Dr Gunasekharan Dharmaraja was recently invited to New York by one of India’s television channels WIN TV, to discuss the future of Tamil Eelam, the homeland of Tamil people who live in Ceylon Island.  

In the interview Dharmaraja said: ‘I am really happy to be interviewed by WIN TV. More than being interviewed, I personally feel privileged to contribute towards the freedom of Tamil Eelam. 

‘Palestine, Tibet and Tamil Eelam are not simply the demand for separate nations, but they are the yardsticks of humanity. Fighting and speaking for Tamil Eelam, Palestine and Tibet make you feel like a human being who is concerned about the fundamental rights of humanity.’  

During the TV plenary session he was in discussion with the Prime Minster of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, Mr Visvanathan Rudrakumaran, and the President of the Indian People’s party, Dr T. Devanathan.  

Dharmaraja said: ‘The plenary session discussed the various ways of carrying forward the struggle to get back the homeland which has been occupied by Sri Lanka. It plans to bring the genocide by forces of the present Sri Lankan government into the limelight.

‘It further requests people everywhere, intellectuals and the international society to join the Tamil people in their struggle and help them to save the innocents who are suffering in the concentration camps in Sri Lanka and also enhance their struggle to reach the final destination, Tamil Eelam.’

He pointed out that sessions of this nature were important as they demonstrated the determination of Tamil Eelam. 

-        Melissa Mungroo


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NRP Donates Books to the Reading Association of South Africa

NRP Donates Books to the Reading Association of South Africa
Workshop participants reading a collection of New Readers Publishers books.

New Readers Publishers (NRP) based at the Centre for Adult Education recently donated books as gifts for speakers at the 8th Annual Reading Association of South Africa (RASA) conference.  

Founding members of the KwaZulu-Natal branch of RASA, NRP Project Manager, Ms Sonya Keyser, and former colleague, Dr Elda Lyster, viewed the book donation as an opportunity to showcase the work of NRP to promote reading.  

Ten gift sets each containing ten books were given to the conference speakers. Each set consisted of English, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho and Afrikaans readers and a book of teachers' resource material.

‘Every year one of the provincial branches of RASA hosts the annual RASA conference and this year it was in Gauteng,’ said Keyser. 

‘RASA is a non-profit, volunteer-based organisation which meant RASA Gauteng relied on donations and sponsorships to assist them in hosting the annual conference. The mission of both RASA and the NRP is to promote reading and writing. NRP staff continue to volunteer their time and donate books where appropriate.’  

Keyser said NRP was currently involved in running a series of workshops under the auspices of RASA KZN on encouraging and motivating adults to read. Workshops are scheduled for Edendale and Newcastle before the end of the year. 

 NRP plans to work with educators from farm schools and NGOs in rural areas in the Eastern Cape early next year. 

-        Melissa Mungroo


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African Psychology Explored in Inaugural Lecture

African Psychology Explored in Inaugural Lecture
Professor Augustine Nwoye of the School of Applied Human Sciences at his Inaugural Lecture with College of Humanities DVC Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

Professor Augustine Nwoye of the School of Applied Human Sciences recently delivered his Inaugural Lecture titled: "What is African Psychology the Psychology of?"   

Nwoye said he was both delighted and honoured to present his Lecture and to be a part of the College of Humanities.  

‘Given my long standing interest in African psychology, I feel convinced that I made the right choice to take up an appointment in such a School in which I see my esteemed colleagues valuing what I value, namely: the advancement and propagation of “the best that is thought and said” in Western and African psychological traditions.’

In his Lecture, Nwoye examined the precipitating influences in the emergence of African psychology stating that part of the reason for its emergence was to interrogate and challenge the meaningful relevance of American and European theories and practices for African contexts. 

He argued that African psychology came into being to give a more constructive direction to the theme and pattern of psychological research in continental Africa; and in that way, to join forces with African History and African Literature in the ‘ontological and epistemic project of trying to rid the African geopolitical self and its past of erasures, omissions, fabrications, stereotypes, and silences of colonial scholarship’. 

He went on to discuss  the history of delayed arrival of African psychology in African universities pointing out that reasons responsible for this delay were fundamentally related to the fact that most African universities came into being already encumbered by the painful and humiliating colonial experience that caused the whole continent and its peoples, to lose belief in its cultures and traditions, philosophy and religion, psychology and medicine, names and stories, and rituals and ceremonies. And this scenario severely overshadowed any early attempts to introduce African perspectives to psychology in African universities. 

Looking at the future directions of African Psychology, Nwoye said: ‘The future of African Psychology is indeed very bright. It is envisaged that the field will continue to develop and intensify in the future, along the lines of the continued mapping, elucidation, and consolidation of the field in African universities.

‘It is also envisaged that some visionary African universities will soon go beyond the mere exercise of mounting degree courses in African psychology at the undergraduate level to the higher initiative of establishing research chairs and graduate programmes in African psychology.’ 

In conclusion Nwoye said: ‘African Psychology is the psychology of the pan-African peoples and their cultures and societies aimed at evolving an African-centred psychological study, sophistication and wisdom that is more inclusive and appropriate for addressing the real and the miraculous in people’s lives.’

Introducing Nwoye ahead of his lecture, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, described him as a professor the College of Humanities and the University should be proud of.  

‘The title professor and [especially] full professor, is not one that you earn very easily. Rather, it is an accolade that requires tremendous hard work, dedication and commitment. The partners are the support networks in much of the research that one does and it is for this reason that the attainment of full professorship is quite special to the individual and underscores their perseverance and discipline.’ 

Potgieter said inaugural lectures were ‘very special’ to the UKZN as well as the College of Humanities because it gave individuals the opportunity to showcase their intellectual scholarship.  

-        Melissa Mungroo


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Phd by Publication Method Unpacked

Phd by Publication Method Unpacked
UKZN’s Acting Academic Leader of Research in the School of Clinical Medicine, Dr Veena Singaram, during a workshop on completing a PhD through published work.

UKZN’s Acting Academic Leader of Research in the School of Clinical Medicine, Dr Veena Singaram, recently conducted a workshop on the Perils and Pleasures of PhD via Publication. 

The workshop at the Nelson R. Mandela Medical School aimed to empower and motivate academics in the College of Health Sciences to consider the PhD by Publication method of obtaining a PhD. 

The workshop was organised by the Women in Leadership and Leverage Committee (WILL) for Postgraduate students and UKZN staff interested in completing a PhD through published work. 

Singaram discussed the benefits and challenges of writing publications for a PhD study and described how to structure the studies, thesis and the examination process. She also shared her experiences of being a doctoral student at Maastricht University in the Netherlands where  journal review process exposed her to a wider academic and professional community within her research domain introducing her to new perspectives and enhancing  her analytical and writing skills. 

Singaram said  factors be considered prior to embarking on a doctoral study via publications included university requirements, supervisors’ experience and  pedagogical stance, the research subject matter, capacity and working style, intellectual property-transfer of ownership to publishers and  issues of co-authorship. 

To achieve a PhD via publication, the submission should take the form of a collection of three to five original papers, an introductory and discussion chapter. The student was expected to be the first author in all the submitted publications.   

Singaram supports obtaining a PhD via publication as an alternative from the traditional route of thesis submission as it has great advantages.  The route facilitates the peer-review process, and therefore gives the candidate a greater chance of success in obtaining the degree as the quality of the work has been already assessed. 

 ‘Since many candidates move on to academic careers and postdoctoral positions, it’s good to have the work already published to a wider audience and an established research profile,’ she said. 

 ‘To some, the writing of papers is less daunting than a single monograph, and the acceptance of their first papers in a recognised peer-reviewed journal, motivates and guides them to completion.’ 

She said all of this had to be done in close consultation with the supervisor and university structures, since the work has to represent a clear body of knowledge relevant to the research topic. 

Professor Irene Mackraj, Acting Academic leader of Teaching and Learning (LMMS), said the current challenge at tertiary institutions was to increase the cohort of PhD students and also their research output. Workshops assisted in facilitating this process. 

‘WILL aims to empower young women in academia and provide them with the tools needed to obtain success in the completion of their postgraduate degrees and research endeavours. We hope the workshop will provide PhD candidates and those thinking of embarking on PhDs, with the necessary information on how to obtain the degree through the publications route,’ Mackraj said.    

-       Nombuso Dlamini


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Legal Dictionary to Bridge Literacy Gap for First-Year Law Students

Legal Dictionary to Bridge Literacy Gap for First-Year Law Students
Law academic Mr Khulekani Zondi (centre) and law students who are part of the team working on a bilingual glossary of legal terms.

UKZN’s School of Law is creating a bilingual glossary of legal terms to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds who struggle to understand concepts mainly because of language barriers. 

The aim of the handy reference tool is to ease the understanding of concepts introduced at a first year level to English and isiZulu-speaking students by providing them with definitions of legal terms in both languages.   

The first edition, hopefully available for use by the class of 2014, will contain terms relevant to following areas of law:

•  Law of Contract

•   Law of Property

•   Law of Delict

•  Criminal Law

•   Constitutional Law

Maritime Economics and Law Lecturer Mr Khulekani Zondi, who heads the project, said the new bilingual glossary would be more comprehensive than anything currently available. 

‘Research has revealed that in most cases students conceptualize in their mother tongue and yet are expected to convey the answers in English, which to some is a second or third language. There is thus a need for a tool which breaks the lingual barriers to understanding in teaching and learning settings,’ said Zondi.  

 ‘Research revealed that most students judge one another on the basis their fluency in English thus creating a burdensome onus and a stigma for those who might not understand a particular term that appears during the course. This makes it difficult for such students to ask the lecturer to explain a particular term.’  

For research purposes, Zondi works with a team of students. Second-year students identify terms they perceived as difficult in the introductory modules to the law degree ie Introduction to law and Foundations of South African law while their third year colleagues provide the English definitions of the terms identified. 

Final year and masters students assist in providing translation from English to IsiZulu. Other team members are responsible for the compilation of a database of the identified, defined and translated terms. 

The language development office recently organised a verification workshop which consisted of a variety of experts from bodies such as the Department of Arts and culture, the office of the Provincial Legislature, the Pan South African Language Board and the South Africa Norway Tertiary Education Development Programme (SANTED). 

-       Thandiwe Jumo


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UKZN Vice-Chancellor First Recipient of New MRC President’s Award

UKZN Vice-Chancellor First Recipient of New MRC President’s Award
Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.

UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, has received a prestigious award from the Medical Research Council (MRC) for ‘exceptional contributions to medical research’. 

The MRC President’s Award was presented to Makgoba by the Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi during a gala dinner in Cape Town. 

‘The MRC congratulates Professor Makgoba on being the first recipient of the MRC President’s Award, a prestigious new award created to recognise exceptional contributions to medical research in South Africa,’ said Professor Mike Sathekge, Chairman of the MRC Board.  

UKZN’s Chair of Council Mrs Phumla Mnganga said Makgoba’s passion and contribution to research and indeed medical research were widely recognised. ‘His contributions in advancing the research endeavour at UKZN are significant. He challenged conventional paradigms in academia and paved the way to transform the academic landscape opening opportunities for young black scientists to engage in research and scientific studies both here in South Africa and abroad.’ 

The citation captured this contribution: ‘Professor Makgoba has made an outstanding and lasting contribution to South African medical science, holding up and enhancing the reputation of science in this country and in the international community, and encouraging and supporting young scientists.  

‘He continues this service now as Vice-President for Planning and Review of the Paris-based International Council for Science. Professor Makgoba’s contributions to medical science are vast and numerous. He served as President of the MRC during the difficult years of AIDS denialism in South Africa. Under Professor Makgoba’s guidance, the MRC became a considerably larger and more efficient institution, ensuring the relevance for South Africa of many of the research programmes supported and fostered by the MRC.  

‘He has insisted on the highest ethical standards in the conduct of medical research and has had a major influence in the transformation of the South African science landscape.’ 

Mnganga added: ‘I recall his bold public stand in addressing the AIDS denialism in our country and has at times stood for scientific integrity against considerable interference… It is his clarity and forthrightness in dealing with these and other issues that have done much to guard the reputation of South African science and medicine. 

‘I congratulate Professor Makgoba for his bold leadership, his vision and his fortitude in enriching our country’s research agenda.’

 


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KZN Rhodes Scholarship Recipient Achieves Success Despite Adversity

KZN Rhodes Scholarship Recipient Achieves Success Despite Adversity
The Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Law, Professor Managay Reddi, and law student Mr Ntokozo Qwabe at the launch of the UKZN Student Law Review Journal.

UKZN final year Law student Mr Ntokozo Qwabe (23) is the 2013 recipient of the KwaZulu-Natal Rhodes Scholarship to further his studies at Oxford University in England. 

The scholarship is awarded annually to intellectually gifted and motivated young people with a genuine commitment to serve society. The challenges of growing up in Eshowe in a family of 13 children, all dependent on the sole income of their father who was employed as a caretaker at a high school in Durban, inspired Qwabe to study law at UKZN. 

‘When I started my LLB in 2007 at the age of 16, I faced severe financial and socio-economic difficulties which culminated in me dropping out of university and being forced to work as a cashier at Checkers Supermarket from 2008 to 2010. 

‘I returned to UKZN in 2010, working hard over the years to achieve 29 distinctions, 20 Certificates of Merit and six Dean’s Commendations among other awards. I am proud of being able to bounce back from a very challenging situation,’ said Qwabe. 

For Qwabe studying law is not only about empowering himself but also empowering those around him to think of ways to respond to the issues facing the country. This led to his co-founding of the UKZN Student Law Review Journal which features articles, case notes and book reviews written by UKZN undergraduate and postgraduate law students. 

Now Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Qwabe said:  ‘My achievements show that regardless of the disadvantages students may be suffering, there is no excuse not to go out there and use their potential to the full. I am aware that there are fellow students who like myself face enormous socio-economic challenges. I hope my example inspires them to realise that nothing is impossible.’  

Qwabe also founded and Chairs the Rural Students’ Society, is on the executive committees of the Black Management Forum and the Students for Law and Social Justice, and was selected to represent UKZN at the international African Human Rights Moot Court Competition in which the University is ranked 10th.

Qwabe’s long-term goals include practising as an Advocate in Public Law, and ultimately following in the footsteps of his role model, the late former Chief Justice Pius Langa, and becoming a Judge at the Constitutional Court. 

His immediate academic plans include using his Rhodes Scholarship to study for two masters degrees.

In his first year, he will study towards a BCL in Public Law and explore courses such as Comparative Public Law, Comparative Human Rights Law, International Economic Law and a course in Jurisprudence and Political Theory. In the second year, he plans to pursue an MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy.

‘I am wary of being confined to Law as it is a limited tool for change. There are various community development projects I will be involved in and would like to see blossoming,’ he said. 

Before leaving for Oxford in September next year, Qwabe will do his articles as a candidate attorney at the law firm, Webber Wentzel.  

Dean and Head of the Law School, Professor Managay Reddi said:  ‘Mr Qwabe’s achievement has been possible through his dedication to his law studies and to participating in student organisations and activities aimed at the upliftment and promotion of the development of our country. The School of Law has been an integral partner in supporting students like Mr Qwabe who are determined to make a difference to the lives of all South Africans by inspiring young people to aspire to great heights. Mr Qwabe’s determination to make a difference, despite the challenges he faced, has earned him his just rewards. We wish him every success in his studies at Oxford and in all his future endeavours.’ 

-        Thandiwe Jumo


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