CCA staffers attend National Arts Festival thanks to Humanities DVC

CCA staffers attend National Arts Festival thanks to Humanities DVC
At the Grahamstown Arts Festival are (from left) Mr Sakhile Gumede, Ms Sylvia Vollenhoven, Ms Siphindile Hlongwa and Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

Two Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) staff members, within the College of Humanities, Ms Siphindile Hlongwa and Mr Sakhile Gumede, recently attended the film festival section of the prestigious National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Their visit was made possible by special sponsorship from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

Potgieter, who takes her leave to attend the Festival every year, decided to send Hlongwa and Gumede to experience the National Arts Festival, especially as some of the content of this year’s Festival tied in with and complemented work the two staffers do for Time of the Writer, the Durban International Film Festival, JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience and Poetry Africa.

Potgieter believes sending CCA staff members who specifically work within the sphere of film festivals ‘is crucial because to have the opportunity to engage and network in different spaces, ensures continued growth of ideas. It’s important at any stage of one’s career.’ 

Potgieter has been attending the Arts Festival for many years, and while there, she engages with several emerging filmmakers and writers, creating links between them and UKZN’s College of Humanities.

Gumede, who attended the Arts Festival for the first time, described it as multidisciplinary and diverse. ‘It was a great experience to be exposed to another festival especially as we often work on CCA festivals in the role of the organiser, hardly getting to fully participate and engage in the content.  Attending this Arts Festival allowed us to fully immerse ourselves as critical audience members,’ he said.

An event they attended with Potgieter was the screening of the 2008 documentary Triple Bill that examined the role the apartheid media played in gross human rights abuses. The documentary was made by award-winning South African journalist, filmmaker and writer, Sylvia Vollenhoven. Potgieter then attended Vollenhoven’s book launch and her subsequent production Keeper of the Kumm.

‘To see some of the documentaries that we have previously screened at DIFF being shown at the arts festival and to interact again with some of the artists we’ve worked closely with, shows that we’re doing something right as custodians of the four CCA festivals in exposing film talent and contributing to the art and film industry,’ said Gumede.

UKZN had a strong jazz and theatre presence at the Festival and Potgieter attended a jazz performance by the University’s music students. UKZN also presented a staged production by the Drama and Performance Studies students. Both events attracted a large audience.

Hlongwa and Gumede were also happy to see other UKZN staff members, particularly from the School of Arts, at the Festival.

Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Academic Attends Commonwealth Local Government Forum Conference

UKZN Academic Attends Commonwealth Local Government Forum Conference
From left: Dr Carl Wright, Secretary-General: CLGF; Rev Mpho Moruakgomo, Chairperson: CLGF; Professor Purshottama Reddy and Mr Des Van Rooyen, Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs in SA.

Professor Purshottama Reddy of the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance chaired a session at a Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Conference, titled “Economic Development: A Framework for Localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Johannesburg”.

The CLGF has been implementing a regional programme on Decentralisation and Local Economic Development (LED) in Southern Africa, with a view to enhancing the capacity of local government in service delivery, and ultimately achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It has supported the implementation of pilot projects in 15 municipalities in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Swaziland and, more recently, Malawi and Lesotho.

The Conference organised jointly by the South African Department of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) was held as part of the strategy to facilitate the exchange of experiences and develop the knowledge base within the region.

It was attended by the Ministers of Local Government from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region, executive municipal functionaries and high ranking local government officials from national governments, representatives of local government associations and development partners regionally and continentally.

Reddy also chaired a session on Sharing Country Experiences on LED: Initiatives, Good Practices and Challenges. The key issues highlighted included inter alia, lack of a broad and shared understanding of the LED concept and the ability to contextualise it within local government. ‘Many structures and entities within the municipality are involved with LED, however, they are not aware of it; some lack a national policy and legislative framework or the required institutional arrangements to facilitate the process and provide an enabling framework,’ he said.

According to Reddy political stability particularly in developing countries; sustainability of the LED initiatives and diversification of the local/provincial and national economy; stakeholder management and good co-ordination are some of the key ingredients for ensuring successful LED in local government.

‘The need for LED needs to be mainstreamed and integrated into all local government policies and monitoring and evaluation has to be built into the process to ensure success in local economic development,’ added Reddy.


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Launch of New R1.2 Billion KwaZulu-Natal Research Powerhouse

Launch of New R1.2 Billion KwaZulu-Natal Research Powerhouse
The Africa Centre (left) and KRITH buildings.

In a bold move to improve the health of people locally and globally, two research giants in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) are joining forces to form a ground-breaking new interdisciplinary institute to fight tuberculosis (TB), HIV and related diseases.

The new organisation, the "Africa Health Research Institute", is located at the heart of South Africa’s TB and HIV co-epidemic. It combines the renowned Africa Centre for Population Health’s detailed population data from over 100 000 participants, with the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB-HIV’s (K-RITH’s) basic science, experimental medicine and world-class laboratory facilities.

The new venture is made possible through R1.2-billion in grants from Wellcome Trust and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), with UCL (University College London) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) as significant academic partners.

The Africa Health Research Institute’s interdisciplinary “population to laboratory – and back to population” approach to addressing the TB and HIV co-epidemic comes at a critical moment. Despite advances in antiretroviral therapy and talk of the “end of Aids”, HIV and HIV-related TB remain devastating diseases - with TB among the leading causes of death in South Africa. The province of KwaZulu-Natal has the highest HIV burden, while TB is responsible for more than 14% of all deaths here. The emergence of drug resistant strains of TB and HIV meanwhile present a major public health crisis. 

The Africa Health Research Institute is committed to working towards the elimination of HIV and TB disease. To achieve this, the Institute will bring together leading researchers from different fields, use cutting-edge science to improve people’s health, and help to train the next generation of African scientists.

Wellcome Trust and HHMI are two of the largest funders of biomedical research and the establishment of the Africa Health Research Institute represents the first time these organisations have partnered in the global health arena. The complementary strengths of our partner institutions allow a broader scope of interdisciplinary, translational research that is relevant both locally and internationally and is underpinned by strong policy engagement.

Professor Deenan Pillay, Director of the Africa Centre for Population Health, and incoming Director of the Africa Health Research Institute, said: ‘KwaZulu-Natal is at the centre of the dual epidemics of HIV and TB. This is the one place in the world where the marrying of disciplines can have maximum impact on new HIV infections and TB transmission. We will link clinical and laboratory-based studies with social science, health systems research and population studies to make fundamental discoveries about these killer diseases, as well as demonstrating how best to reduce morbidity and mortality.’

Our ongoing research areas include:

Our laboratory facilities at the K-RITH Tower Building in Durban include state-of-the-art Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) labs, which allow scientists to safely work with dangerous airborne diseases such as TB. We are also host to Africa’s only microfluidic chip-making foundry, where scientists are working to develop low-cost, sample-in-answer-out disease diagnostic devices to address the HIV and TB epidemics.

The Africa Health Research Institute’s research is truly collaborative: we work with over 60 academic and clinical institutions in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa and the world.

Professor David Lomas, UCL Vice-Provost (Health) said: ‘UCL takes a collaborative approach to tackling major global challenges and forging successful partnerships is a key priority and strength of the School of Life and Medical Sciences. Our commitment to the Africa Health Research Institute builds on our role as one of the world’s leading centres for biomedical research.  The Africa Health Research Institute will become a significant global partner for UCL, in line with our Global Engagement Strategy, and will strengthen the translation of our research into new therapies that address the HIV/TB co-epidemic and benefit human health.’

Professor Mike Turner, Wellcome Trust Acting Director of Science and Head of Infection Biology, said: ‘The investment by Wellcome Trust and others in South African health research has undoubtedly improved the lives of people with HIV over the past 15 years. But growing resistance to HIV and TB treatments, and stubbornly high infection rates, mean we must redouble our efforts if we are going to sustain our hard-won progress.

‘Long-standing threats such as TB, HIV and increasingly the non-communicable diseases, will only be solved with a strong research base which combines different approaches. Individuals and teams at the Africa Health Research Institute will play a leading role in shaping and driving world class, locally driven and relevant research that improves human health. Ultimately, solutions to health crises will be driven by African scientists and, increasingly, African investment.’ 

HHMI President Robert Tjian said: ‘We believe this new research centre is well positioned to make the critical scientific advances needed to improve our understanding of and advance treatment for these two deadly infectious diseases. The unification of these institutes makes possible a spectrum of research previously unimagined by either the Africa Centre or K-RITH separately.’

UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said: ‘The unification is a major achievement. It maximises the opportunities for impact of world leading research on the twin epidemics of HIV and TB.’

Hannah Keal

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HEARD Hosts International AIDS Economics Network Pre-Conference

HEARD Hosts International AIDS Economics Network Pre-Conference
High level delegates at the 9th International AIDS Economics Network (IAEN) Pre-conference include Dr Michel Sidib’e (left), Professor Shiela Tlou (top left) and Ministers of Health and Finance.

Titans of AIDS economics came together for the 9th International AIDS Economics Network (IAEN) AIDS and Economics Pre-Conference in Durban on 15 and 16 July. The Pre-Conference was hosted by the network in collaboration with its organising partners the Health Economics HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, Avenir Health, the Rush Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

This meeting of high level AIDS researchers, economists and policy makers initiated the conversation on the HIV and AIDS response as an antecedent to the International AIDS Conference 2016 at Durban’s International Convention Centre. The event served its purpose of bringing together practitioners and scholars to develop a more unified understanding of the present challenges that impede the end of HIV and AIDS and offered practical solutions to sustainable financing that would ensure the ideals of an HIV and AIDS free generation is possible.

Participants included key global figures in the world of HIV and AIDS funding, research, policy and activism, such as the Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, Professor Sheila Tlou, who delivered the welcome address. Tlou said there needed to be more innovative approaches to the AIDS response and that prevention was key to ending the disease in our generation. She also stated that key figures in policy should consider how their political will was translated and that domestic resources should be increased to ensure the sustainability of the response in our region. 

A U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and United States Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, Ambassador Deborah Birx, delivered the keynote address. Her areas of financial concern, noted in the address, involved looking at sustained epidemic control in the era of flat funding and defining what an efficient sustainable response to HIV and AIDS really is. Other areas included examining the gender dynamics of HIV and AIDS where the aim was to reduce the amount of sexual violence girls experience and to increase the reach of the AIDS response to include men.

Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Michel Sidibé, also made an appearance on Saturday during the high level panel discussion on the future of AIDS financing. Sidibé, received an honorary Doctor of Administration degree from UKZN in 2016, for his contribution in the fight against AIDS. Sidibé said UKZN is the first university in Africa to honour him with an honorary degree.

In his address, Sidibé remarked that ‘financing AIDS should be our main concern’. Sidibé said we had all the knowledge and tools to solve this issue and that members should start thinking about people who were excluded in society, and invest more towards equity. He noted that this would be a dollar investment with maximum return as ‘it is not about cost but true investment’. Sidibé declared when considering investment the world would need to think about how to sustain gain and fast track towards ending AIDS. He added that the global community would soon face a crisis of treatment for which he offered three solutions:  a sustainable transition plan, access to ARVs at the best price, and better delivery of services.  Other participants included Ministers of Health and Finance, members of UNAIDS, PEPFAR, the Global Fund, the private sector and civil society.

While key messages from global leaders contributed a profound understanding and depth to the current dynamics of AIDS funding in the world today, a message delivered by Mr Steven Forsythe of Avenir Health on Friday resonated deeply with what could be understood as the true power bank of the AIDS response as he hailed those researchers from African Universities as the true ‘heroes of AIDS economics’.

One such local hero leading the campaign towards more equality-driven financing in Africa was the Executive Director of HEARD and the Research Chair at UKZN, Professor Nana Poku, who acted as host and moderator at the two-day event. Supporting the values of a more transparent health care system based on human rights and equity, Poku lead the tough conversation with global leaders on the high level panel about the way forward in AIDS financing. Poku questioned the leaders on the implementation of goal-driven policies in the AIDS response, creating an awareness around the accountability of policy planning in ending AIDS.

Thomais Armaos

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Three-Day Workshop for Young Planners

Three-Day Workshop for Young Planners

UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies, together with the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP), will host a three-day workshop in Durban in September.

The aim of the workshop is to bring together young professional planners from across the globe to provide fresh solutions to developmental issues which are common in many countries. The workshop is also intended to stimulate the professional interests and the development of planning skills of younger planners.

The workshop will be in a studio setting under the guidance of international and local experts from ISOCARP and UKZN.

UKZN academic, Dr Hangwelani Hope Magidimisha of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, said she hoped the workshop would bring together ideas that the municipality and the government would be able to implement.

‘This is an international event many young professionals from across the globe will be attending. They will bring with them experience which will tackle the challenges that the country as well as the continent face in the built environment,’ said Magidimisha.

She said the workshop would put UKZN on the map with regard to its planning, housing and architecture programmes.

The event will be attended by 90 participants from South Africa and Africa.

Karabo Moeti

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From Exceptionalism to the Challenge of Ending AIDS by 2030

From Exceptionalism to the Challenge of Ending AIDS by 2030
Professor Nana Poku, Executive Director of HEARD and Research Chair at UKZN, at the 9th IAEN AIDS and Economics Pre-conference.

The 15-year span of the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) was also the era of AIDS exceptionalism - that is, the AIDS pandemic was understood as a uniquely urgent global health emergency which drew unprecedented levels of political commitment and financial support. The achievements have been astonishing. Millions of lives have been saved, countless human agonies and social dislocations have been averted and a 38 percent reduction in new HIV infections has been achieved.

But the scale of what remains to be accomplished is no less daunting than what we faced at the start of the AIDS pandemic. There remain more than 20 million people awaiting enrolment onto ART programmes; and because ART is not a cure for AIDS but a form of life support, the care burden and financial costs of ensuring that those currently under treatment gradually move to second - and third - line medicines will increase rather than diminish. And behind the headline successes, there remain extensive difficulties: inadequate and patchy health systems, poor screening, breaks in supply chains, insufficient trained personnel and a worrying increase in transmissible drug resistance, to list but a few.

In addition to programmatic issues, in many parts of the world there remains persistent stigma attached to the most vulnerable and marginalised groups (sex workers; men who have sex with men; injecting drug users) as well as new, punitive legislation which will prevent those most at risk seeking medical advice and HIV services. At the same time, in many developed countries a new complacency has arisen, perhaps enabled by the mistaken belief that while AIDS is still extant, it is no longer a global crisis, or a calculable personal risk. It is disheartening to see that the rate of new HIV infections is now outpacing enrolments onto ART programmes - a deeply significant reversal.

The response of UNAIDS to the continuing challenge is the inauguration of a plan for zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths as a pathway to enabling the eradication of AIDS as a public health concern by the culmination of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030. Moreover, the plan calls for an accelerated “Fast Track” programme for the first five years to 2020 in order to accelerate the gains of the last 15 years, through a very rapid scale-up of ART provision and a revitalization of HIV prevention programmes. It is a truly ambitious plan of action - and it needs to be: the triumph of Millennium Development Goal 6 was more a reprieve than a victory - and one that requires considerably more than a consolidation of what has already been achieved. AIDS remains a global health emergency.

Unfortunately, the political and financial conditions that facilitated the global response to AIDS at such a high level are no longer present. Neither funding for AIDS nor Overseas Development Assistance more generally have fully recovered from the global financial turbulence of 2008. In addition, the struggle against AIDS is now sited within the Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 goals and 169 targets encompass practically every significant aspect of human development and planetary sustainability. Although costings for its panoply of challenges have not yet been debated and agreed, it is already clear that the profile of AIDS as a uniquely urgent global emergency must now assume a place alongside other urgent and costly priorities; and the sources of funding which have sustained the largest part of HIV and AIDS programmes for the last decade, cannot be relied upon to meet current needs, let alone more ambitious goals. (Current spending on AIDS is approximately $19 billion. UNAIDS is calling for an additional $8-$13 billion.) The case for AIDS funding will have to be advanced in a crowded arena, from a pool of funds which has already shrunk.

Yet advance it we must. UNAIDS projects that the cost of inaction over the next five years will be huge: the lost opportunity to save 21 million lives and prevent an additional 28 million people living with HIV by 2030, at an additional cost of $26 billion every year for antiretroviral therapy. All of the elements of an AIDS “perfect storm” are in place, against which we have decades of global solidarity, the morally awful and medically catastrophic prospect of a reversal of decades of progress and the voices of the many millions whose lives have already been saved.

Nana Poku

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Humanities Student Publishes Book

Humanities Student Publishes Book
Mr Khethani Njoko with his book: The Man in Me.

Social Sciences student Mr Khethani Njoko recently launched his book The Man in Me at the Durban Botanical Gardens.

The book, with a foreword by KZN MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, seeks to respond to the challenges facing a man in today’s society.

‘The book looks at seven aspects - Religion, Culture, Family, Economy, Technology, Post-modernism, and Socio-psychology - which have influenced and shifted the conscience of a man from one direction to another. It proposes solutions to the challenges that arise from these aspects,’ said Njoko.

The idea for the book came from Njoko’s own personal struggles of being abandoned by his father, gender-based violence and not having proper male role models to look up to in his life. ‘I found it very hard to forgive and all of this has taught me that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I am who I am today because of what I went through,’ he said.

Njoko is passionate about, what he calls, manhood restoration. He travels to universities across the country as part of his Man in Responsibility organisation, hosting seminars about the challenging life he led and how it has shaped him to be the person he is today. In his seminars he talks about manhood and the importance of knowing value, identity and character as a man.

‘A lot of young men have benefited tremendously from all my seminars and most of those who have attended say that their lives have changed for the better and they go on to become ambassadors for social change and display responsible behaviour,’ said Njoko.

His message to the youth is: ‘learn to believe in yourself first before others can believe in you’.

For more information and to buy a copy of the book, email

Melissa Mungroo

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Youth Participation in Post-Apartheid SA Debated by Panel

Youth Participation in Post-Apartheid SA Debated by Panel
From left: Mr Marshall Dlamini (EFF), Mr Sanele Mthembu (ANC), Mr Hlanganani Gumbi (DA) and Ms Nomzamo Nxumalo.

The School of Education, through the Community Development Association’s (CDA) Masakhane Youth Leadership Course, recently hosted a panel discussion titled: “Identifying Our Issues: Youth Participation in a Post-Apartheid South Africa”.

The discussions involved young South African political leaders and more than 250 Grade 11 learners from disadvantaged schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

The panellists were political party representatives Mr Hlanganani Gumbi (Democratic Alliance), Mr Marshall Dlamini (Economic Freedom Fighters) and Mr Sanele Mthembu (ANC).

The session was chaired by Ms Nomzamo Hope Nxumalo, the former National Leader of the CDA, who believes that the panel was ‘critical for introducing learners to issues they are passionate about while also making them aware of their role in society, especially as they will soon be eligible to vote’.

The panel discussed pertinent issues affecting today’s youth, while offering insight into how the learners could be effective leaders and agents of change in their communities. The emerging themes of the discussion centred on leadership, accountability and education. The panellists were in agreement that self-belief, respect and courage were vital in becoming an effective leader.

Mthembu called for learners to be accountable for their actions. ‘We are not vocal enough about issues that affect us. If you know who is selling drugs outside your schools, you should be doing something about that.

‘If you know your friend has a sugar daddy or a blesser, why aren’t you advising them to stick to their schoolwork instead or use social media to display pictures of that sugar daddy so these relationships can stop. If your friend is having unprotected sex, you should be telling them to condomise. Be in control of your life. Be conscious and deliberate about how you live your life,’ he said. 

Dlamini also called for free education. ‘It is your right to be educated. But for many, getting a tertiary education is too expensive. But we also can’t be a generation that always expects hand-outs. We need to educate ourselves in order to create jobs and facilitate change. Education should be used for the greater good.’

Said Gumbi: ‘We are not on the same level yet as developed countries in terms of technologically-driven education. For instance, teachers are still using blackboards instead of projectors and laptops for notes. This should change.’

Raising the question of whether schools are afraid of the racism conversation, Gumbi argued that the issue of racism should be incorporated into Life Orientation curriculums.

‘Without the introduction of deliberate discussions in schools and formal efforts for the poorest children to get into the best schools, we risk wasting another school cycle of learners who could be the change agents to our openly bigoted society. Where the system does not work, a more deliberate effort must be made to lead our society into the one our generation demands,’ said Gumbi.

Comparing the youth of 1976 to the current youth, Dlamini said: ‘As Black people, we are still fighting for restoration of our respect and dignity. The vision and dream remains the same. We should challenge the status quo. The youth has the responsibility to make a change. It starts with you.’  

Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Provides Career Tips for Young Folk

UKZN Provides Career Tips for Young Folk
Young learners at a PROTEC Career Day.

UKZN’s College of Health Sciences (CHS) in collaboration with the Programme for Technological Careers (PROTEC) recently hosted about 170 Grade 11 and 12 learners at a workshop designed to enhance their understanding of the importance of making good career decisions.

Hosted by CHS’s Student Support Services Counsellor, Ms Suzanne Stokes, the Career Matters, Skills and Tips workshop provided the learners with talks on how vital it is to make informed career decisions and to obtain the correct career Information.

‘A career becomes part of your identity, it allows you to grow professionally and intellectually,’ Stokes told the pupils.

Ms Ronelle Msomi of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science and Ms Paulette Naidoo of the College of Law and Management Studies’ teamed up with Stokes to present their respective college’s career programmes.

Learners on the PROTEC programme, primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds, are selected based on their ability in Maths and Science. The programme aims to ready them for university life by providing extra mathematics and science education on Saturdays and during holidays as well as career guidance and support.

The programme grooms the youth for careers in Science, Technology and Health.

‘The students are identified through an academic programme and based on their academic performance,’ said Stokes. ‘They are then invited to join Saturday school and vacation classes. Teachers from a variety of schools offer them tuition, guidance and support. A range of holiday programmes are put together for them, including  job shadowing, study programmes, and open days, similar to the one they just completed.’

Learners who attended the UKZN workshop were from Umbogintwini, Mandeni, KwaMashu, Tongaat, Nelspruit, Umlazi, Umkomaas and Kathlehong.

Nombuso Dlamini

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“Step Up” for Mental Health

“Step Up” for Mental Health
Walking the mental health talk!

The College of Health Science’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Departments recently organised a “Step Up” – for Mental Health Campaign in the form of a fun walk on Durban’s beachfront promenade to observe National Mental Health Awareness Month.

The walk was the first official activity of the KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group. About 350 people, including babies in prams and senior citizens, braved one of Durban’s coldest winter mornings to complete the walk.

Psychiatrist Dr Suvira Ramlall said the enthusiastic crowd epitomised the resilience and mettle of those affected by and working with mental illness and substance abuse.

Participants included mental health care patients, caregivers, practitioners, members of the public and private sector service providers as well as representatives of non-profit organisations and benefactors.   Participants walked 5km or 10km and were rewarded with medals for their participation.

 A vibrant group of organisations engaged with participants to provide much needed information, advice, pamphlets and display the creative handicrafts of chronic mental health care users.

‘Mental well-being is fundamental to the quality of life and productivity of individuals, families, communities and nations, enabling people to experience life as meaningful and to be creative and active citizens,’ said Ramlall. ‘Mental health activities enhance peoples’ well-being and function by focusing on their strengths and resources, reinforcing resilience, reducing risks and enhancing external protective factors.’

Organisations and institutions which participated included the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Nurture, Alzheimer’s SA, Durban and Coastal Mental Health Society, Rehabilitation and Upliftment Foundation (RAUF), Jullo Centre, Healing Hills and Akeso Psychiatric Hospitals, Ekuhlengeni Provincial Hospital, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Bessie Makhatini Foundation for Dementia Care in Lamontville and UKZN Howard College’s Student Society of Psychology, supported by the KwaZulu-Natal Branch of the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA).

Ramlall said the Mental Health Advocacy Group plans to make the walk an annual, and possibly national, event. ‘The advocacy group aims to change the structural and attitudinal barriers to achieve positive mental health outcomes. It plans to take action to help and support people affected by mental illness voice their needs, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services required, thus helping to promote social inclusion, equality and social justice,’ explained Ramlall.

The Mental Health Advocacy Group is an initiative of mental health care practitioners based at King Dinuzulu Psychiatric Hospital in Durban, which is a satellite training site of UKZN, and is supported by the KZN Department of Health, the South African Society of Psychiatrists, PsySSA, SADAG, Discovery Health, Sanofi Aventis, Akeso Psychiatric Clinics and the Durban Practicing Psychologists Group.

Nombuso Dlamini

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PhD Student has Article Published in The Lancet

PhD Student has Article Published in <em>The Lancet</em>
Dr Yogandree Ramsamy.

UKZN doctoral student, Consultant Clinical Microbiologist Dr Yogandree Ramsamy, has had an article she co-authored titled: “Antimicrobial Stewardship in South Africa: A Fruitful Endeavour”, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. 

The editorial was based on a study conducted in South Africa by a group of investigators who explored the avenue of Antibiotic Stewardship by focusing on a few interventions.

‘I was extremely fortunate to be asked by The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal to submit a comment that would accompany the final published manuscript by Dr Arian Brink and colleagues titled: “Antimicrobial Stewardship Across 47 South African hospitals: an Implementation Study”,’ said Ramsamy.

She said Brink and colleagues highlighted the fact that by focusing on a few vital interventions referred to as “low- hanging fruit”, antimicrobial use decreased substantially. Interventions targeted prolonged antibiotic duration and stopping antibiotics with overlapping or duplicate spectra.

According to Ramsamy, antimicrobial resistance has become a massive problem and is one of the greatest challenges to global public health today. ‘It is a problem which threatens the lives of millions. With the antibiotic pipeline running dry, there are only a few options left for clinicians to use when faced with life-threatening sepsis.’

‘Antimicrobials help treat and cure infections. Increasing resistance to these lifesaving drugs essentially means that many people face a future of incurable infections. This in turn would result in millions dying as a result of these infections,’ said Ramsamy.

A review published by Ramsamy in the World Journal of Surgery earlier this year titled: “Surviving Sepsis in the Intensive Care Unit: The Challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance and the Trauma Patient”, highlights antimicrobial use in the ICU. The review focuses on antimicrobial therapy in patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, specifically the Trauma Intensive Care Unit. ‘From my previous studies carried out in this unit (the Trauma Intensive Care Unit at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban) , it has come to light that the patient population admitted to an ICU must be considered prior to initiation of antimicrobial therapy.’  

The review focused on specific factors that needed to be considered prior to choosing an antimicrobial agent and how to make an informed decision with regard to the initiation of empiric antimicrobial therapy. It highlights the importance of pathogen surveillance within a given intensive care unit. 

‘Pathogen surveillance is used to guide empiric antimicrobial therapy and allows the clinician to make an informed decision regarding initial empiric antimicrobial therapy,’ said Ramsamy.  

The review highlights the concept of Antimicrobial Stewardship and responsible antibiotic prescribing in the ICU. It also provides scientific evidence that narrower spectrum antimicrobials can be used in specific patient populations admitted to an Intensive Care Unit. ‘The use of empiric broad-spectrum antimicrobials may not be necessary in all patients admitted to the ICU,’ said Ramsamy. ‘This coupled with antimicrobial stewardship and surveillance may provide a solution to the problem of AMR.’

Ramsamy coauthored The Lancet Infectious Diseases editorial with Professor David Muckart and Professor Koleka Mlisana. ‘I was honored to have Professor Muckart and Professor Mlisana as my co-authors on this comment, both of whom are great mentors. Their guidance, wisdom, support and confidence in my ability are much appreciated.’

She said Muckart and Dr Timothy Hardcastle were instrumental in compiling her review published in The World Journal of Surgery. ‘They both provided a wealth of experience and invaluable knowledge.’

Nombuso Dlamini

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Iqembu Labasekela Abalimi Likhuthaza Ukuxhaswa Kwezenhlanzeko Yabesifazane Ngosuku lukaMandela

Iqembu Labasekela Abalimi Likhuthaza Ukuxhaswa Kwezenhlanzeko Yabesifazane Ngosuku lukaMandela
Abasebenzi be-FSG (kusukela kwesobunxele) Nkz Temakholo Mathebula, Nkz Nellie (Nelisiwe) Khumalo, Nkz Bukelwa Groom (abahleli phansi), Nkz Nonhlanhla Mthembu, Nkz Avrashka Sahadeva and Nkk Gail du Toit.

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Iqembu Elisekela Abalimi i-FSG eSikoleni SezeSayensi YezoLimo, EzoMhlaba NeMvelo e-UKZN ligqugquzela ukwesekwa komkhankaso wokuhlinzekwa kwezidingo zenhlanzeko yabesifazane ezikoleni ezindaweni ezisemaphandleni lapho lisebenza khona njengomkhankaso wokugubha usuku i-Mandela Day.

Leliqembu liqokelele okudingwa abesifane kwenhlanzeko futhi lamukele noxhaso lwezimali lapho lithenga lezi zidingo egameni labasebenzi abaxhasile njengengxenye yokubamba iqhaza ekuzameni ukubhekana nesidingo emiphakathini entula kakhulu emaphandleni aseNingizimu Afrika. Uma kunikezelwa ngalezi zidingo eziningi kumantombazane ahlala kulemiphakathi, lokhu kusho ukuthi amathuba okuthi lamantombazane aphuthe esikoleni nawo ayancipha uma amantombazane eya esikhathini.

I-FSG ibike ukuthi ithole ukwesekwa okukhulu okuvela kubasebenzi abafundisayo nabangafundisi ngisho nakubafundi kanye nabasebenzi abahlanzayo imbala.

‘Owesifazane ohlanza ihhovisi lethu, uNellie, usisekele kakhulu,’ kusho uNkk Gail du Toit we-FSG. ‘Uhlanganise abangani nozakwabo ukuthi baphose esivivaneni waphinde wazijuba ukuthi ayothenga okudingekayo.’

I-FSG inethemba lokuthi izothumela lezi zimpahla ezikoleni zase-Bergville naseMsinga lapho isebenza khona kakhulu.

Iminikelo yamukelekile kanti ingalethwa emahhovisi e-FSG esakhiweni i-CEAD/Forestry ekhempasini yease-Pietermaritzburg. Iminikelo ewukheshi yama-R10 isikhwama  nayo yamukelekile futhi ingalungiswa ngokuxhumana no-Gail du Toit lapha, noma ucingo  033-260 6277.

Ngu-Christine Cuénod

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UKZN Ranked Top SA University for Engineering and Physical Sciences

UKZN Ranked Top SA University for Engineering and Physical Sciences
UKZN’s School of Engineering has been rated top in South Africa by Netherlands university.

In the recent CWTS (Centrum voor Wetenschap en Technologische Studies) Leiden Ranking, conducted annually by Leiden University in the Netherlands, the University of KwaZulu-Natal was ranked the top university in South Africa for Engineering and Physical Sciences.

The CWTS Leiden Ranking for 2016 shows which institutions had the best scientific performance out of more than 800 major universities worldwide. Four South African universities – UKZN, UCT, Stellenbosch and Wits - made the top 500, with the University of Pretoria coming in 512th.

The ranking is based exclusively on bibliographic data from the Web of Science database produced by Thomson Reuters, across a number of science indices, including maths, science, social science and arts and humanities. 

The overall ranking works by not only looking at the amount of published work but also how often a university’s work is cited in relation to other published work on the same or similar subjects.   

Plaudits go to the School of Engineering in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science for being ranked first in South Africa in Engineering and Physical Science.  The School has several excellent programmes that have contributed to its high level status.

It is the only School in the country to offer Bioresources (Agricultural) Engineering, and is home to several renowned research groups and a Centre of Excellence which have won recognition for advancing science to better society. 

‘This is a fantastic achievement,’ said Dean and Head of School, Professor Cristina Trois. 

In Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, the Eskom Centre of Excellence (CoE) is a multi-disciplinary research centre focusing on research in technology relating to HVDC, power systems and power electronics of alternating current (AC) systems. Its research supports the National Development Plan (NDP) of the South African Government. It is home to four state-of-the-art research laboratories: the HVDC Laboratory, the HVAC Laboratory, the SMART Grid Research Laboratory (the first of its kind in Africa for training, research development and integration of Smart Technologies) and the Vibration Research and Testing Centre (VRTC). 

In Mechanical Engineering, the Solar Car, Hulamin, has made headlines, being the first entry from an African team into the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia in 2015, finishing 13th of the 42 competing teams racing their futuristic green designs 3022km from Darwin to Adelaide. 

In Chemical Engineering, the Pollution Research Group conducts innovative research on water resources, waste water reclamation, the impact of effluents on local environments, sanitation systems, and other water-related environmental issues. Staff in the Centre are on the forefront of investigating affordable and sustainable sanitation solutions for Africa, working closely with the eThekwini Municipality to develop these solutions

In Civil Engineering, research is focused on environmental, coastal and hydrological engineering, developing, disseminating and applying state-of-the-art knowledge for solving environmental problems as well as on infrastructure and the carbon impacts of an urban bus rapid transport system. Research is undertaken on the re-use of construction and demolition material, and recycled asphalt in warm mix asphalt, concrete durability in road structures, and the prospect of replacing traffic signals with circles, in collaboration with relevant municipal and transport authorities. 

The School’s Land Surveying and Property Development qualification deals with the field of Geomatics, focusing on acquisition, processing, management, presentation and dissemination of information about the earth and features with a fixed location on the earth surface.

Christine Cuenod

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College of Humanities Appoints New Principal Academic Administration Officer

College of Humanities Appoints New Principal Academic Administration Officer
Mr Lwazi Dlomo.

Mr Lwazi Dlomo has been appointed the new Principal Academic Administration Officer in UKZN’s College of Humanities.

His duties will involve, among others, applications, admissions, registration of students, examinations and graduation.

Dlomo will assist the College manager implement processes and ensure correct application of university and college policies pertaining to the College academic administration, while also dealing with management of Academic support staff at the College Office.  

Dlomo, who has previously worked at the College of Humanities, believes his past experience and skill will help him in his new position.

‘My previous experience in dealing with student academic administration will assist me to improve service delivery to students and help to eliminate potential anomalies,’ said Dlomo.

The new role gives Dlomo the chance to analyse, report and make recommendations to improve students’ service delivery within the College, and to share innovative ideas for student service to be more effective and efficient.

‘I plan to explore and use all resources available to improve my academic qualifications,’ he said.

‘I will get the opportunity to see ordinary students coming from matric realise their dreams and achieve academically. The proud moments during graduation ceremonies will be priceless, especially knowing that I have somehow contributed to the achievements’, Dlomo said.

Nomcebo Mncube

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UKZN Blue Duiker Research Featured on 50|50

UKZN Blue Duiker Research Featured on 50|50
Ms Yvette Ehlers-Smith setting up a camera, (right) A Blue Duiker on film.

PhD candidate in the School of Life Sciences Ms Yvette Ehlers-Smith was interviewed in a 50|50 SABC-TV programme about her research on the blue duiker, or iPhiti, which she undertakes in the Indian Ocean coastal belt forests of southern KwaZulu-Natal.

Ehlers-Smith explained that research of blue duiker was one aspect of a larger research project focused on the impacts of changing land use on biodiversity, particularly of mammals.

The species is wide-spread throughout central and eastern Africa, but within the most extreme southern limit of its distribution, their numbers are thought to be declining.

‘The last two South African Red List assessments classified them as vulnerable to extinction,’ said Ehlers-Smith, describing it as worrying that the animals are not found in large numbers in nature reserves, instead co-existing with humans in coastal villages.

Ehlers-Smith gave an overview of the fragile creature’s habitat, detailing how it marks its territories, and explained that its name arises from the blueish sheen of its fur.

She highlighted major threats duikers face living in close quarters with humans.

‘It is important to raise awareness and change mind-sets,’ said Ehlers-Smith. ‘A few changes around your house might make a world of difference to blue duikers.’

The duikers’ diet of fallen fruit, bark, flowers, ants and foliage is provided by their forest habitat. The inquisitive yet cautious animal is threatened by habitat loss, and is preyed on by predators such as raptors as well as poachers, who hunt the antelope using snares and dogs. Snare patrols are regularly conducted to combat this.

Mr Craig Hosken of Crag’s View Wild Care Centre said he had found almost 100 blue duiker in snares to date. The duiker are also often trapped in fencing around holiday homes in the area, and fall prey to holiday-makers’ dogs.

The stripping of the forest floor by humans also has dire consequences for the duiker as the animals require the vegetative environment for cover, feeding and reproduction. This is a problem for the Leisure Bay Conservancy, as stripping of vegetation is difficult to police. Dense vegetation is viewed as a security risk, but is what the duiker needs to hide from predators. Ehlers-Smith says research shows that duikers prefer denser areas compared to more open patches.

Small, locally-operated conservancies springing up on the South Coast have become essential for the duikers’ survival. Development is a huge risk to the animals, according to Libby Goodall of the Leisure Bay Conservancy, who says many developers have little regard for the environment.

The blue duiker and other forest dwelling species depend on human action in preserving their dwindling coastal forest habitats.

Christine Cuénod

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Geography Students on Atlantic Research Cruise

Geography Students on Atlantic Research Cruise
Just cruising (from left) UKZN Master’s candidates Ms Camelot Radloff, Ms Samiksha Singh and Ms Amanda Khuzwayo.

Three Master’s candidates from the Discipline of Geography in UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) spent 10 days navigating the icy waters of the Atlantic on a research cruise.

Ms Camelot Radloff, Ms Amanda Khuzwayo and Ms Samiksha Singh, are completing their Master’s degrees in Paleoecology and aquatic systems bio-monitoring.

The cruise, for which the trio was selected from students throughout the country, involved daily lectures, skills training and deck work, exposing the students to what life as an environmental researcher on these vessels is like. The three students were part of a larger group including students from other universities and institutes.

The cruise specifically involved investigating climate change and its effects on ocean temperatures and wildlife.

Radloff, whose research is focused on a Holocene record of climate and environmental change from Lake St Lucia said: ‘I was eager to learn new concepts and techniques to better understand the interconnected dynamics of the ocean and atmosphere as these two driving forces shape global patterns across multiple scales.’

Singh, who is also an intern at the Institute for Natural Resources (INR), was happy to have broadened her skills from river bio-monitoring to encompass oceanographic research.

Khuzwayo, who plans to go on to PhD research, enjoyed exposure to a new field of research. Both her and Radloff’s research has involved considerable laboratory work, which made the extended time on a practical research trip exciting.

The three enjoyed interacting with new people with similar interests as well as seeing first-hand how climate change is affecting vulnerable, isolated areas in the Atlantic.

Christine Cuénod

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