Life After Breast Cancer

Life After Breast Cancer
Cancer survivor, Ms Lucinda Johns.

UKZN Lecturer Ms Lucinda Johns shared her personal story of breast cancer with UKZN staff and postgraduate students at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine campus.  

Johns’ “talk” was organised by the College of Health Science’s Women in Leadership and Leverage (WILL) committee, an organisation that aims to empower young women in academia.  

Johns said her struggle against breast cancer had not been an easy one, but she overcame it all with the help and support from family, friends and hand-picked doctors she could trust.  

A registered Counselling Psychologist and a Lecturer on the Howard College campus, Johns has been in remission for nine years.  

At the age of 32, a diagnosis of breast cancer challenged her to reflect on her life and she found that sharing experiences with others in similar circumstances yielded invaluable knowledge and support.  

Johns firmly believes her professional training and self-resilience provided her with the tools to cope with the management and treatment of her cancer.  

A nipple discharge compelled her to conduct a breast self-examination. With the support and encouragement of her two cousins, she went to seek advice from her doctor and provided a discharge sample and underwent an ultrasound. Both tests yielded a negative result for cancer.  

She was then advised to undergo a mammogram, the results of which indicated Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS).  

She went through the tests on her own not wanting her parents to be frightened and alarmed until she knew the diagnosis.  

The first surgical procedure she underwent was a lumpectomy. After the surgery and confirmation of DCIS, she was advised that she required a mastectomy. With the permission of her surgeon, she decided to wait for two days before she had the mastectomy. She needed to spend time with her parents, family and friends to explain the reasons for the procedure.  

Having disclosed to her family and friends, they reacted differently; there was surprise, disbelief, avoidance and numbness. Some even asked: ‘How can you do this to us?’ Johns realised that the cancer was not only affecting her but her entire family. Though it was a difficult time, she said: ‘Family and friends had to understand that I had to make these decisions on my own.’  

She felt she was not fully prepared for the surgery and knew it would be emotionally challenging for her. One of her coping strategies was to document the process by taking photographs of her breasts before and after the mastectomy.  

Johns also stated she made a decision to select her medical team including an Oncologist.  

She realised knowledge is power and for her to beat cancer she needed to know more. She had done some research on breast cancer before the official diagnoses and has continually educated herself about her cancer and her medical needs.  

Her treatment included adjuvant hormonal therapy. After 18 months, Johns and her oncologist decided to stop treatment due to the side-effects. Some of the side-effects were early menopause at 33, weight gain and memory loss. Throughout the treatment process she documented the changes in her life as a woman and as an academic.  

For three years, she did not enlist the help of a formal support group before joining the C-Sisters in 2007, a group of women who decided to host informative workshops on breast cancer.  

The C-Sisters, due to their personal experiences with breast cancer, acknowledge there was a need for practical information. They decided to write a comprehensive book with help from relevant medical professionals and breast cancer survivors. Johns was one of the contributors to the book and was part of the editorial team. The first book specifically focused on KwaZulu-Natal resources and was published in 2010.   

In 2011, Johns played an instrumental role in having the book translated into isiZulu and in publishing a national edition of the book.  

She has been a guest speaker for several cancer support groups, done radio interviews about her experience and facilitated training workshops at CANSA.  

Johns is currently registered for her PhD in the Discipline of Psychology. Due to her personal experience with breast cancer, her PhD will explore women’s narratives on the breast cancer experience.

-     Nombuso Dlamini

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College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Visits Harding

College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Visits Harding
Harding learners thrilled to receive goodie bags from UKZN.

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (AES) delivered a presentation at the Harding Career Day Expo organised by the Department of Education, Umuziwabantu Municipality and community leaders.  

UKZN’s Ms Patience Mdlaka, addressing the 1 500 Grade 12 learners from about 11 high schools in and around Harding, explained what was involved in attending UKZN including the acquisition of bursaries, scholarships, financial aid and other assistance offered. She also highlighted entrance requirements for studying at the University.  

This was followed by the showing of the UKZN and AES College video which the learners enjoyed.  

At the UKZN exhibition stand, learners and educators had access to UKZN’s Study Guide, AES College brochures and Central Application Office (CAO) forms. Learners also received College goodie bags.  

A teacher from the Oxford International High School, Ms Ncumisa Ndabeni, said: ‘We were extremely fortunate to have UKZN staff address our learners on issues the youngsters are not generally aware of.  The literature supplied was extremely beneficial to both the learners and educators.’

-     Leena Rajpal

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School of Mechanical Engineering Students Visit Durban Port

School of Mechanical Engineering Students Visit Durban Port
UKZN Mechanical Engineering researchers, students and staff from the Vibration Research and Testing Centre visited the Port of Durban.

Mechanical Engineering researchers, students and staff from UKZN’s Vibration Research and Testing Centre (VRTC) visited the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) Port of Durban.

The group was welcomed by UKZN alumnus Mr Eugene Rappetti, a Senior Marine Engineer of the National Ports Authority, who hosted the visitors to a presentation on TNPA, a tour to the engine room of the tug Uthukela and a boat trip on the newly acquired berthing launch around the harbour.  The students enjoyed the tour while Rappetti explained the port’s core business. 

In addition, the students were shown the tug’s mechanism, infrastructure at the Marine Services Department and current projects at the port. 

UKZN’s Mr Pravesh Moodley said: ‘The main aim was to find out if there could be any collaborative research projects between the VRTC and TNPA and to also expose the postgraduate students to the marine engineering environment.’ 

UKZN student, Daniel Kubelwa, commented, ‘It was a very exciting and educational tour for us as we saw Transnet’s various infrastructures and core operations. I was interested in the discussions around the vibration challenge the tug boat's engine-propulsion system presented for Transnet. It is hoped that the vibration challenge can be brought to our state-of-the-art Vibration laboratory to be resolved at research level,’ said Kubelwa. 

Rappetti said: ‘Transnet is currently investing infrastructure and wanting to build capacity in skills as well. We therefore welcome the students to our ports to see capital projects in action. We need to strengthen our research and development.’

-      Leena Rajpal

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UKZN Student Wins Mandela Rhodes Scholarship

UKZN Student Wins Mandela Rhodes Scholarship
Ms Cerene Rathilal.

Ms Cerene Rathilal, an Honours student in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, has been awarded a prestigious Mandela Rhodes Scholarship to further her studies in any field she chooses.  

The Scholarship is aimed at promoting leadership excellence in South Africa, pinpointing young students who display potential in both their academic endeavours and leadership ability, giving them the opportunity not only to further their studies but also to receive training to enhance their leadership skills.  

Being selected from numerous applicants around the country is an indication of Rathilal’s remarkable capability, in both academics and leadership.  

Rathilal says she decided to apply ‘because it is more than just a bursary. It is one of the most prestigious scholarships in Africa and apart from financial assistance; it provides young individuals with an encouraging platform to focus on key social issues in Africa’.  

Rathilal, who matriculated in 2009 from Greenbury Secondary School in Phoenix with seven distinctions, began her studies towards a BSc at UKZN, completing a triple major in Applied Maths, Pure Maths and Statistics and graduating summa cum laude. She is currently completing her BSc (Hons) in Pure Mathematics.  

She has elected to pursue her Masters degree in Mathematics at UKZN next year, focusing on the area of Knot Theory, under the expert supervision of Professor D Baboolal and Dr P Pillay.  

Knot theory is a branch of topology, which mainly focuses on the study of three-dimensional objects called knots and links, with applications extending from chemistry and molecular biology to quantum mechanics.  

Rathilal is also focused on giving back to the community. This year she and two colleagues started a programme called Maths Development Initiative aimed at providing scholars in the Phoenix area with free Mathematics tuition. She was inspired to begin the programme to combat the exploitation of students in Phoenix who were paying employed teachers for extra tuition, leaving a vacuum for those who could not afford the extra fees. Disappointed with the status quo, Rathilal found like-minded friends to join her in her undertaking.

-     Christine Cuénod

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UKZN Academic Claims US National Academy of Science Award

UKZN Academic Claims US National Academy of Science Award
Professor Colin Everson.

Professor Colin Everson of the Centre for Water Resource Research (CWRR) has been awarded a Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) Science grant by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF).  

The grants are awarded annually to scientists in developing countries who submit winning proposals applying for funds in order to conduct research on topics relevant to USAID. Of the hundreds of applications submitted by the 87 eligible countries, 53 grants were awarded world-wide and only four grants were awarded to South African researchers, one of whom is Everson.  

Everson’s research focuses on cosmic ray moisture probes, instruments which measure soil moisture and have the potential to provide hydro-meteorologists with new methods of evaluating surface soil water, allowing for water resource managers, engineers, and agriculturalists to monitor the relationship between the ground and atmosphere.  

According to Everson, this technology has the potential for broad application, for example in water demand forecasting, irrigation schedules and harvest indices as well as promising to improve the utilisation of irrigation water, especially in a water-scarce region such as South Africa.  

‘In future, the technology, which uses naturally-occurring cosmic rays for sensing soil moisture, could allow, for example, a sugarcane farmer to estimate the bio-mass of a sugarcane crop through the measurement of thermal neutrons using these probes,’ says Everson, referring to just one of the enormous benefits of research into the application of this technology.  

The award of this grant opens up the opportunity for this long-term research to move forward and impact on water-usage throughout South Africa.  The cosmic ray probes, which measure data over 34ha, can also be utilised for predictive weather and climate models by measuring soil-water content and providing suitable observations where they have previously been lacking.  

Additionally, this project should improve the quality of soil moisture data that feed into the South African Flash Flood Guidance System, which provides alerts to the public based on current and predicted rainfall.  

This internationally-recognised project also forms part of the international COSMOS network, which measures soil moisture on the horizontal scale of hectometres and depths of decimetres using cosmic-ray neutrons.  

Currently there is only one COSMOS site on the African continent, however Everson’s project envisions the addition of six or seven sites in South Africa alone thanks to the award of this grant as well as support from the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) Research Infrastructure Support Programmes (RISP).

-     Christine Cuénod

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Ikolishi Lezifundo Zezempilo Lamukela Ithalente Elisha

Ikolishi Lezifundo Zezempilo Lamukela Ithalente Elisha
USolwazi Benn Sartorius.

USolwazi Benn Sartorius uqokwe njengoSolwazi eKolishi lezifundo zeZempilo eUKZN lapho ezosekela aphinde abambisane nakho konke okuphathelene noCwaningo futhi aqinise umkhakha wezeMvelozibalo-biostatistics aphinde aqhubeke nokwenza ucwaningo lwakhe. 

Iziqu zikaSartorius zihlanganise ezobudokotela (iPhD) kwi-Biostatistics, iminyaka emibili yokuqeqeshwa ngaphansi kwe- Applied Field Epidemiology Fellowship (European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training [EPIET]) kanye nezeMSc kwi-Epidemiology ne Biostatistics. Ucwaningo lwakhe lugxile kakhulu kule mikhakha ikakhulukazi uhlangothi lwezempilo yomphakathi. 

‘IPhD yami yangifakela ugqozi ezintweni eziphathelene nemiphumela kwezempilo yokungalingani, izinkomba ngokwezempilo kanye nokuxhumana ngokwenani labantu nomthelela walezi zinkomba. Ngizoqhubeka nokwenza ucwaningo lwami lwamanje kodwa sengiqalile ukubheka ngasohlangothini lwezifo ezingathathelani njengomdlavuza kanye nezinto eziphathelene nendlela esiphila ngayo ezinomthelela kulemiphumela,’ kusho uSartorius.

USartorius unekhono eliyisimanga emkhakheni we-Applied Field Epidemiology (isibonelo ukugadwa nokuphenywa kokubhebhetheka kwezifo) kanye nokwakhiwa kwezinqolobane zolwazi ezihlobene nokuphathwa kwalolu lwazi ngezindlela ezahlukene.

Unemibhalo eshicilelwe engama 25 ehlolwe ozakwabo umhlaba wonke kanti naye useke wahlola imisebenzi yabanye ozakwabo baphesheya abahlanu. Usecije abafundi abaningi beziqu ze-MSc kanti usecija nabeziqu zobudokotela (PhD). 

‘Ngikuthakasele kakhulu ukuqokwa kwami eUKZN futhi nginethemba lokuthi ngizokwazi ukulekelela iKolishi emizamweni yalo yokukhulisa isibalo kanye nesimo socwaningo,’ kusho uSartorius. 

Click here for English version 

-     Nombuso Dlamini

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Startup Visa Canada Initiative Assists Entrepreneurs

Startup Visa Canada Initiative Assists Entrepreneurs
GSB&L academics and students with representatives from GrowLab.

Local entrepreneurs got an opportunity to explore international sources of finance available to support startup businesses during the Startup Visa Canada programme hosted by the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L).  

The innovative programme reinforced the School’s vision of playing a critical role in developing a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem and also allowed the GSB&L to host the largest startup weekend ever in Africa in September.  

The Startup Visa Canada initiative was facilitated by Vancouver-based startup accelerator organisation, GrowLab.  

For the South African leg of the trip, GrowLab’s executive team of Mr Mike Edwards and Mr Jonathan Bixby accompanied by South African tech entrepreneur Mr Gary Boddington interviewed entrepreneurs in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.  

Edwards, the Executive Director of GrowLab, said it was important for accelerator organisations to build a relationship with universities as that was where future entrepreneurs were moulded.  

‘We need universities such as this one to host us because we get exposed to talent and great ideas. As a retired entrepreneur I am interested in building ecosystems involving university Professors and entrepreneurs who will be exposed to our community and build a bridge between countries,’ he said.  

Boddington of Durban is Chief Executive Officer of Fodio, a company that provides financial, transactional and technology services.  He shared his story of how as an entrepreneur he struggled to penetrate the international market when he relocated to Canada and why initiatives such as the Startup Visa Canada programme were crucial for a thriving startup culture.  

‘When I started my business in Durban things such as a startup visa did not exist and it was a long process to get into Canada. That is why these sort of programmes are important as they give entrepreneurs who want to get their foot into the European market a starting point.  

‘Through relationships with universities such as UKZN we are able to give entrepreneurs the support they need for their startups. We interviewed 10 people during the event and we were very impressed by the high calibre of ideas and we cannot wait to develop them further,’ said Boddington.  

At the networking session, aspiring entrepreneurs got the opportunity to pose their questions to the experts about venture creation, capital needed to start a business and technology entrepreneurship.

Overall winners, Mr Anieto Anthony and Mr Pfano Mashau, spoke about the progress they had made in launching their innovative concept named Reminder – a micro-chip product which alerts owners if they have forgotten their valuables.  

They shared their challenges about the technology aspect of the process and received enlightening and practical solutions from the panel on the way forward.  

Anthony and Mashau will get an opportunity to expand their business into the international market with GrowLab giving them a free Canadian visa, seed funding, mentorship and a collaborative workspace for three months.  

GSB&L’s Dean and Head, Professor Stephen Migiro, thanked Edwards, Bixby and Boddington for their valuable input and discussed future collaborations with them which could benefit GSB&L students.

-     Thandiwe Jumo

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College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Showcases Postgraduate Research

College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Showcases Postgraduate Research
UKZN students and staff at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s Postgraduate Research Day.

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (AES) hosted its Postgraduate Research Day at the UNITE Building on the Howard College campus.

Postgraduate students within the College had an opportunity to participate in the Research Day through poster and oral presentations, which were divided into a four categories: (i) Chemistry and Physics, (ii) Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, (iii) Agriculture and Environmental Science and (iv) Life Sciences.

The panel featured judges from the academic and industrial sectors with those from industry including representatives from Unilever, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), the CSIR and Eskom. The event was well attended with over 300 students, staff and industrial visitors present. 

Dr Tozamile Rubuluza, an Investment Case Specialist at TIA, said: ‘It was delightful to see and hear about advancements in sciences, especially those which intend to improve the lives of ordinary people. It was evident that research can be aligned and relevant in uplifting the standard of life for our communities. Importantly, the demographics of the presenters showed a high level intake of postgraduate students from the African communities. That is encouraging for the country and the continent.’

Operations and Special Project Manager at CSIR, Mrs Felicity Blakeway, said: ‘The event was a day of high energy and anticipation. The quality of the oral and poster presentations was excellent, and students and supervisors alike are to be complimented.  Such an initiative helps in the growth of our next-generation researchers, and the appropriate prizes of contributions toward conference attendance are excellent.’

A Senior Engineer at Eskom, Mr Mohamed Fayaz Khan said: ‘From an industry standpoint, this event was an eye opener into the intellectual potential available to South Africa in the coming years. More impressive was the ability of the students to articulate their very complex and innovative research in a manner which was accessible to a wider audience. This is a critical skill to ensure that the research being undertaken is translated into real world solutions for both industry and society. Initiatives like this help bridge the gap between industry and academia and I can see many positive spin offs from the day’s event.’

The function ended with the awarding of the prizes sponsored by the University Research Office, Schools within the College, as well as the Technology Innovation Agency, SAPREF, Unilever, Eskom, THRIP, the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation. Prizes included sponsorship to attend an international or local conference.  

Prize winners in the oral presentations for the different streams included:

  1. Chemistry and Physics: Ms Yasmeera Ismail won first prize with her paper titled: “Free-Space Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) through Multiple Entanglement”, whilst Ms Nomfundo Mahlangeni took second prize with a paper titled: “Novel Chalcones and Dihydrochalcones Isolated from Cyrtanthus obliquus L.F Aiton Bulbs”.
  2. Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science: Mr Oscar Ngesa was the winner in this stream with his paper titled: “Spatial Joint Modeling and Mapping of HIV and HSV-2”, whilst Ms Anisa Ragalo was second with a paper titled: “A Hyper-Heuristic Approach Towards Mitigating Premature Convergence in Genetic Programming”. 
  3. Agriculture and Environmental Science: Mr Nicholas Moyo won this section with a paper: “Energy Flux and Water Use Efficiency Measurements in a Maize and Soybean Cropping in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands”. Mr Tatenda Musimwa was second, his paper titled: “Why SR52 is such a Great Maize Hybrid”.  
  4. Life Sciences: Ms Charlotte Ramadhin won top honours presenting: “Optimisation of the UptiBlueTM Assay for Rapid, Accurate and Reliable Determination of IGF-I Bioactivity”. Ms Letricha Padayachee took second prize with a paper titled: “Regulation of the Thioredoxin System in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae”. 
  5. The winning poster presented by Ms Sandipa Bhikraj was titled: “Old (III) Pseudomacrocyclic Bis (Pyrrolide-Imine) Schiff base complexes: Potential Chemotherapeutic Agents”. Runners-up were Ms Chengetanai Mushonga, Ms Ellen Thipe, and Ms Lerato Hlaka.

-     Leena Rajpal

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UKZN Lecturer Volunteers at Autism Clinic

UKZN Lecturer Volunteers at Autism Clinic
UKZN Lecturer, Dr Tsholofelo Mhlaba, and Action in Autism founding member, Ms Liza Aziz.

UKZN Lecturer in the Discipline of Public Health Medicine at the School of Nursing and Public Health, Dr Tsholofelo Mhlaba, participated in the monthly Action in Autism Screening and Diagnostic Clinic for children with autism from rural and impoverished households.  

Parents with autistic children and children with special needs attended the clinic from different parts of KwaZulu Natal to consult two volunteer doctors - Specialist Psychiatrist, Dr S Salduker and Paediatric Neurologist, Dr V Govender.  

The monthly clinic at the Action in Autism Centre in Sydenham, Durban, is run by Salduker who co-opts the support of other specialists in the field.  

According to the organisation’s founding member, Ms Liza Aziz, the free monthly diagnostic and assessment clinic has already dealt with more than 400 children, from as far afield as Jozini, Highflats and Kokstad.  

‘It is the first time that many of these children have been screened by a specialist in the field of autism and this service therefore helps many children in the far outlying areas of KwaZulu-Natal,’ she said.  

The purpose of the intervention was to diagnose as many children as possible and refer them to the appropriate institutions for further assistance.  

Action in Autism is a non-profit organisation established by parents of children with autism to act as a support and fundraising body. The central focus of the organisation is to improve the quality of life for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their caregivers.  

‘In KwaZulu Natal there are no schools that cater solely for children with autism and the facilities available are completely inadequate for the vast numbers of children diagnosed. Therefore Action in Autism’s most important goal is to access educational resource and medical support for all people with autism in KwaZulu-Natal,’ said Aziz.  

The organisation’s data base has hundreds of desperate parents searching for educational intervention and support for their children. Aziz called on the government to take a more active role in autism; ‘We need more specialist doctors to volunteer to be part of this. More and more children slip through the cracks and are only diagnosed at about age 10 or later.’  

Mhlaba said insufficient research was being done on autism and supported efforts for work to be carried out through the centre.  

Ms Simlindile Mjoka (28), mother to a 10-year-old autistic girl, said she had not been aware her child had the condition. ‘I thought my daughter was deaf and slow.’  

Mjoka enrolled her daughter at the Durban School for the Hearing and Learning impaired last year and it was there that she learned about the clinic.  

She took her daughter to the clinic and was referred to the Durban Children’s Hospital for further treatment.  

In 2009 the organisation established an Early Learning Intervention Centre and Resource Centre, which aims to build partnerships between people with ASD, their families and the community to provide information, services, learning and research. 

The resource centre provides on-going support to families and community members who support people with Autism.  ‘It is the only walk-in resource centre in KwaZulu-Natal and provides crucial service to a marginalised, vulnerable sector of society,’ said Aziz.

-     Nombuso Dlamini

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Maths Conference at UKZN


The 56th Annual Congress of the South African Mathematical Society (SAMS), bringing together mathematicians from all branches of the Discipline - including mathematics education - in South Africa and internationally, was held recently at UKZN.

‘The primary objective of the South African Mathematical Society, and hence this Conference, is to promote the Discipline of Mathematics in all its facets as well as to promote excellence in the learning, teaching and research in the discipline,’ said Professor Precious Sibanda of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

‘A major highlight of the event is the award of the SAMS medal for research distinction to an outstanding South African mathematician, who in the view of the Society has produced “substantial research, carried out in South Africa, which does credit to South African Mathematics”.’  The 2013 award went to Professor Themba Dube from UNISA whose research is in the area of Topology.  Last year the award was won by UKZN academic, Professor Jacek Banasiak.

This year’s Conference attracted about 200 delegates.  There were five plenary sessions – two of them presented by academics from the Universities of Birmingham (UK) and Eötvös Loránd (Hungary) - and also 120 contributed talks by delegates.

The Congress Dinner was held at the Royal Showgrounds and was attended by Msunduzi Municipality Councillor Mr Dumisani Pungula. The municipality was one of the major sponsors of this event.

Pungula congratulated SAMS on the success of the event. The prizes for the best research presentations in the masters and PhD categories were presented at the dinner. 

The last SAMS congress held in Pietermaritzburg was in 1993, exactly 20 years ago, at the then University of Natal.


-     Barrington Marais

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Academic Presents Workshop on Mindfulness and Fear

Academic Presents Workshop on Mindfulness and Fear
Dr Ian Player with his wife, Ann, and Professor Kriben Pillay.

UKZN’s Professor Kriben Pillay led a workshop on mindfulness and fear at the Phuzamoya Dream Centre based at the Karkloof home of world-renowned conservationist, Dr Ian Player.

Pillay, Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College of Law and Management Studies, facilitated the workshop as part of his on-going community engagement and research.

Player, who started the Centre in 2009, was introduced to dreams about 30 years ago by his friend, Sir Laurens van der Post in his book: C G Jung and the Story of our Time

The purpose of the Dream Centre as it is currently structured is to provide a forum for interesting discussions about people’s internal lives - the wilderness within that Player refers to - with the belief that such informed debate is enriching.

Dream Centre Co-ordinator and Clinical Psychologist, Ms Sheila Berry, wrote the following in an email to Pillay after the workshop: ‘Your presentation is still very much alive in the minds of many of the people who attended the event.  The afternoon session was certainly most entertaining and I really appreciated the humour and laughter you brought to the event.  It is unusual for almost the whole audience to stay on after tea and never before have they stayed on till after 6pm, and would have been more than happy to continue for another 20 minutes had I not brought the session to an end.

‘May I ask what magic you cast over the audience that kept them spell-bound and clearly oblivious to the fact that night was falling, when these dream gatherings are billed as afternoon events?  It must have been your interesting presentation of how we are almost genetically pre-disposed to being captive to our many assumptions that foster an acceptance of illusions.’ 

Pillay also introduced the audience to John Sherman’s Inward Looking which, linked to mindfulness, has shown to be for many a transformative act that dissolves the context of fear that plagues most human beings; a context that keeps alive ill will, greed and delusion.


-     Kriben Pillay

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New UKZN-Developed Technology to Aid Mining Search and Rescue Missions

New UKZN-Developed Technology to Aid Mining Search and Rescue Missions
The quad rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by UKZN Masters student Mr Sibonelo Motepe for mining search and rescue missions.

MSc student in Mechanical Engineering (Mechatronics) Mr Sibonelo Motepe, under the supervision of Dr Riaan Stopforth, has developed a quad rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for use in search and rescue missions in the mining industry.

Rescue missions in mines often present serious challenges and rescuers cannot always identify the exact location of victims and what the area conditions may be like along the rescue path. Use of the new vehicle will help solve many of these problems.

The UAV is controlled from a remote location over Wi-Fi and relays data to a ground control station. The data relayed includes the video visual of the rescue site. The UAV has human detection capabilities and the results of the detections are also sent to the ground station.

The research was done in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) projects aimed at improving mining technology and safety. The CSIR sponsored the project as it was in line with the research the institute is currently undertaking.

Motepe is currently in the corrections phase of his MSc, and will meet with Stopforth once he receives his results to discuss to what extent the CSIR will implement the research discoveries he has made.

Speaking of his future endeavours, Motepe said: ‘I have already started working on a PhD proposal which I plan to register as soon as my corrections are done and results are out for MSc. My PhD focus will be on using artificial intelligence for power system stability. This is mainly a result of my undergraduate studies in Electrical Engineering (heavy current), which I still have a passion for.’


-     Barrington Marais

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School of Life Sciences Soccer Team Shines

School of Life Sciences Soccer Team Shines
The victorious School of Life Sciences soccer team.

The School of Life Sciences on the Pietermaritzburg campus has re-established its soccer team to compete in the Staff League against sides from the Gardens, Chemistry, and Estates departments.

Despite a patchy start to the league campaign resulting in two defeats, the team is now unbeaten in their recent league games and are top of the log!

The team has come a long way from two years ago when they were regularly defeated by the opposition (sometimes losing by double digit scores!). This year however, under the watchful eye of coach George Carelse, the team has found excellent form playing an attractive, attacking style of “pass-and-move” football.

The team comprises academic and technical staff, postdoctoral researchers and postgraduates. It is an international team, with players hailing from seven different countries.

The league, which plays at lunchtime on Thursdays during winter and spring, is looking to grow and develop next year.  Everyone involved sees this as a great way to keep fit, make new friends, and have fun outside the workplace.


-     Karl Duffy

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Drive to Increase Postgraduate Enrolments

In an effort to improve postgraduate enrolments in the College of Law and Management Studies, Finance staff in the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance on the Pietermaritzburg campus recently hosted a workshop for the School’s potential Masters candidates.

The aim of the workshop was to empower students by providing information on the benefits of doing their masters degree at the School.

Lecturers and SAEF staff Mrs Kerry McCullough, Ms Ailie Charteris, Mrs Jerusha Singh and Professor Darma Mahadea told the students about the entry requirements, the application process, possible research topics and the proposed Finance Cohort System and Workshop Series. Ms Carol Brammage ran a session on writing a concept note which has to accompany the masters application.

Masters students attending the workshop were able to collect application forms, discuss details of their research topics (which ranged from accounting to economics and finance).  Participants also spoke about challenges they faced in respect of funding. The potential for Masters Students to work as undergraduate tutors in the school, as well as some possible funding opportunities were highlighted.

The students also received guidance on the importance of collecting data for their research timeously, and balancing their studies. Academics were available to answer any questions during an informal tea-time gathering.

Through this initiative and other recruitment drives the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance looks forward to an improvement in postgraduate enrolments next year.


-     Thandiwe Jumo

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UKZN at Indo-Global Education Summit in India

UKZN at Indo-Global Education Summit in India
From left: Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama, Mr C D Arha, Dr Veena Singaram and Dr Prem Ramlachan.

With a goal of increasing postgraduate, postdoctoral fellowship, research and academic collaborations, UKZN was part of a large group of international delegates at the Indo-Global Education Summit in New Delhi, India.

Apart from South Africa, there were delegates from the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Canada, Singapore, Phillipines, Switzerland, Libya and India.

The primary focus of the summit was to establish links for academic collaborations and student recruitment between the institutions. In fulfilling the purpose, the objective was to provide a platform for the institutions to showcase themselves as international institutions of choice. In line with this objective, UKZN’s attendance was to negotiate innovative and sustainable means of attracting foreign students, postdoctoral research fellows and establish areas of collaboration for future research exchange and academic programmes.

The UKZN team comprised the Head, International Student Office (Westville campus), Dr Prem Ramlachan; Academic Leader Research: College of Health Sciences, Dr Veena Singaram, and the Dean of Research: Law and Management Studies, Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama.

The Summit was opened by the Chairman of Indus Foundation, Mr C D Arha.  The UKZN team made keynote presentations that focused on the Impact of Global Collaboration at UKZN and the Research Agenda of the four Colleges, highlighting the following:

     - UKZN as a research-led institution
     - How is UKZN making a difference globally?
     - How India is making a difference at UKZN?
     - Some unique cutting-edge research within the Colleges
     - Remission of fees as a way to attract potential candidates 
     - Possible funders for post-doctoral research fellows 
     - Opportunities for study and further collaborative research at UKZN 
     - Core Research themes within each College

The Team also engaged in panel discussions, one-on-one meetings for academic collaborations and recruitment of students with a question and answer session.

One of India’s national strategic goals - educating 20 million students by 2020 - was highlighted, presenting a large potential market from which foreign institutions such as UKZN could recruit students and explore academic and research collaborations with Indian institutions and other global participants.

Some of the outcomes emanating from the Summit highlight factors on how UKZN can develop strategies to address effective academic and research collaboration and recruitment of foreign students are:

     - Universal mindset
     - Quality assurance
     - Inclusiveness
     - Differentiated responsibility
     - Employability Curriculum (in line with industry)
     - Private sector
     - Networking
     - Consortia approach


     -  Prem Ramlachan

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UKZN Research Put Into Practice

UKZN Research Put Into Practice
Dr Zolani Dyosi (THRIP), Mr Ephraim Baloyi (DTI), Professor Deresh Ramjugernath (UKZN), Ms Nkuli Shinga (DTI), Mr Gregory Diana and Mr Siphiwo Soga (Small Enterprise Development Agency-SEDA).

A combined Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Research Foundation (NRF) and Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) delegation visited a research project site at UKZN headed by Mr Gregory Diana of the School of Engineering.

The project is a collaborative venture between Technology and Human Resources Programme (THRIP), Magnet Electrical Supplies and UKZN to investigate more energy efficient and cost effective ways to supply hot water. 

The research involves implementing several pilot projects at Edgewood and other UKZN campuses to investigate the effect and impact of hot water usage. Of a total of 11 residences, three were fitted with heat pumps while the remainder were left with electric boilers but the heads on the showers were changed from conventional to energy efficient units. 

Diana delivered a presentation on his research to the delegation. The research showed significant Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) savings through usage of the innovative off-peak hot water thermal storage system. Diana's research showed that further co-ordination of such operations with the prevailing electrical tariff and other energy saving measures resulted in Operational Expenditure (OPEX) savings. The system also has potential for savings for both formal residential and informal settlements. 

‘The research involves a new, innovative approach towards understanding  and co-ordinating every day usage, usage patterns  and operations with the prevailing utility tariff structures whilst making optimum use of available technology,’ said Diana. 

After the presentation, the delegation viewed the technology used at the Beechwood Residence at Edgewood campus. They were extremely impressed with what they saw. 

‘THRIP funding realised good value in that it allowed an alternative and novel approach to be achieved which resulted in the IDC offering to support a pilot project in the residential sector through the formation of a spin-off company,’ said Diana. ‘In addition, UKZN will benefit from the research through improved hot water services to all its residences and significantly lower operational costs. This project covers many aspects of the innovation system value chain.’

Chief Director: Innovation and Technology Unit at DTI, Ms Nonkululeko Shinga, said: ‘The energy efficient off-peak thermal storage water system project which is piloted at the Edgewood campus is a true example of an innovation with enhanced impact on social upliftment. This THRIP-supported project brings industry, academia and government together to focus on the energy conversation challenge. The Department of Industry is proud to be associated with it.’


-     Leena Rajpal

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The UKZN Griot: Of Jumping and Jabbering

The UKZN Griot: Of Jumping and Jabbering

Keyan G Tomaselli*

The 1992 film, White Men Can’t Jump, got it wrong.  Hey, man, I know this ’cos I got the College award last year for doing the best research on indigenous knowledge systems (IKS). Similarly, ‘academics can write’.  I know this ’cos The Mercury’s occasional column, ‘Academic Voices’, is authored by academics. These columns make sense to ordinary newspaper readers, though The Mercury’s readership is the educated business sector.  A content analysis of this column suggests that Big Words are not always needed except in the financial pages where economics-speak is found.  Usually, the jargon is parked at the door to the newsroom.

Complicated theories can be usually expressed in ordinary language. Now, that’s progress, that’s communication and that’s also entertainment. If reading is not pleasurable, then folks won’t read – except as a chore in preparing to write exams.  That’s punishment. In the film industry where I once worked, producers only read scripts and contracts – they never read books or articles on film. They left the creative reading to directors.

It can take a lifetime to learn to write properly, let alone accessibly. But academics are not rewarded for accessibility, relevance and usefulness. We are often entrapped in our own prison-house of language. This is our citation currency.  

When we do finally learn how to write accessibly, our own peers sometimes turn on us. Some of my IKS manuscripts and books have drawn scathing reviewer responses.  ‘Good for the local newspaper’, or a travel mag, was what one wit wrote.  He was really enjoying himself in wrecking IKS considerations by complaining about my manuscript’s easy reading. I know who he is. Discourse analysis, impenetrable as it is, can indeed be useful. By being “critical”, Eurocentric and denying home grown theory and methods, he was able to ignore the innovative critical indigenous methodologies developed by me and my multiethnic, multigendered, multiracial, multilinguistic, multinational, multidisciplinary team in our work amongst first peoples.  Indeed, our subjects appreciate our methodology more than do some reviewers. But the book got published anyway and talks on it have been invited by colleagues in many countries. Write a book and see the world.

Our indigenous hosts are the ones who argue the most for writing that they can understand. They want inclusion, participation and recognition. They want to know that they are part of the academic value chain. Jargon cuts them out.

When writing is accessible, the cry is ‘Not academic!’ Academics can’t write like this, we are told by reviewers (but not by publishers) who are held hostage by assessors who use decidedly unacademic language in making their points.

Rather, we must jabber for each other in obscure code, or our so-called peers will try to ensure that we don’t get published. Even when I do write obscurely (as may be necessitated in taking on obscurantism as I recently did in an article on the
(ir-)relevance of post-Freudian, post-Lacanian, and contemporary Žižekian psychoanalysis in the study of African films, this too, gets the goat of critics who recognise imported theories only.

Then, ironically, I get donnered by an NRF rating referee who complains about my “difficult writing”! Difficult writing is what normally gets rewarded and cited. Clearly, this referee is out of his/her depth. Western post-theory offers a one-size-fits-all academic grand narrative, nowhere better articulated than by social theorists who ensure that all the usual suspects get cited. It’s very difficult for those on the theoretical margins (or with different approaches) to get cited in this august company that speaks a different language. I can speak both languages when necessary.

If our Kalahari and Khoisan sources have taught us anything, it is this: academics work in imaginary frameworks that work for them rather than axiomatically also working for their subjects/objects of study; they argue that Afrikaans is an indigenous language, and that land reform is based on a misreading of history. Our approach to IKS is to examine the researcher-researched relationship and to re-articulate it from an observer-observed gaze where the power lies with the academic to draw the line around Them. We want to find out how our hosts draw the line around Us. And, then, what is happening in the negotiation? Who is doing the jumping?

Why do academics write so posh? Big words, incomprehensible sentences, complex statistics to the nth decimal point presented as self-evident explanation, and the like abound. Once, a vice-chancellor asked me to sub-edit her opposite-editorial (that’s the right-hand page in the middle of a newspaper facing the editorial column) think-piece invited by local a newspaper. In journalism, the conclusion or findings start the articles. The most important information is provided first. The semi waffle follows, followed by the real waffle, eventually petering out at the end. This enables the sub-editor to cut off the story without compromising its information with regard to column inch considerations. This is known as the inverted triangle. Nowadays, sub-editors seem to be language graduates who think the inverted triangle is archaic geometry. The result is repetition, redundancy, the story’s object getting lost, and lack of focus. Sometimes whole stories are published without an object. I can think of some PhDs I have marked that read like this. Five hundred pages later, one is still searching for the research question.

Come to think of it, this is often how academics write also, or what real journalists think of academic writing. Journalists often write in sub-clauses, starting their sentences with ‘Which …’

Which brings me to a close. My intention in the previous sentence was to write a sub-clause as a main clause, and to limit each word to less than six letters.  I’ll pick up my $200 as I jump past go.

* Keyan Tomaselli is Director of The Centre for Communication, Media and Society.  He’s worked as a Journalist, in the film industry, and wants to jump-start indigenised critical theory.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author’s own.

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