First Things First Campaign

First Things First Campaign
The First Things First Campaign in full swing at UKZN’s Howard College campus.

First Things First HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) Campaign on the Howard College campus was well supported by staff and students.

The campaign is a national initiative aimed to assist mainly first-year students to adapt to the culture of knowing their HIV status on entering university and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. First years are targeted because they have entered a new environment that requires them to be responsible in the face of HIV risk factors, including unprotected sex and alcohol and substance abuse.

The campaign was held in partnership with DOH district, DramAide, Campus Health Clinic, various stakeholders and was supported by HEAIDS.

More than 1 000 students and academic, administrative and service staff were tested within the first week. Over 500 were first-year students.

As part of the testing programme, participants received pre and post-test counselling as well as STI and TB screening. The campaign included distribution of educational pamphlets and female and male condoms. Each person tested received a USB memory stick loaded with information about HIV/AIDS.

Campaign participants and supporters were also encouraged to sign a pledge wall committing themselves to know their status (through ongoing testing) to stop HIV stigma and contribute to the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

The Campaign continues on all other campuses over the next few weeks.

-        Nomonde Magantolo

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Social Science Academics Launch Book at Time of the Writer

Social Science Academics Launch Book at Time of the Writer
Professor Sultan Khan (right) and Dr Lubna Nadvi with their new book (De) Monopolising Paradise.

Two UKZN academics from the School of Social Sciences, Professor Sultan Khan and Dr Lubna Nadvi, launched their new co-authored book (De) Monopolising Paradise at the Time of the Writer Festival at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

(De)Monopolising Paradise is a multi-layered discourse on religious intolerance as witnessed in the 21st Century. It argues that some interpretations of Islamic texts serve to distance Islam from other communities.

Originally published as Islam and non-Muslims by M.I. Meer in 1956, this edited version offers an in-depth interpretation of Qur‘ânic verses, with the idea that unlike other religions which regard salvation as the sole monopoly of their followers, Islam recognises that God-fearing people of other religions would be duly rewarded by their Lord for pursuing the path of righteousness within the context of their faith.

The book is an intellectual inquiry into what the Qur‘ân actually says about Muslims and non-Muslim relationships; it is a treatise for all persons of faith reminding them of the real message of Islam, Tawhîd, (Oneness), and the idea of unity under one God.

According to the authors, the book can be read as a response to a double question: Is it ever possible to have a religiously inclusive society in a polarised world? And if so what would be the basis for such an inclusive society?

‘The book speaks to these questions; it also serves as a refreshingly non-sectarian reading of Islam and negotiation of Muslim identity in relationship with other world religions and faith groups which are tearing the world apart in the name of God,’ said Nadvi.

Khan added: ‘The book has taken seven years to complete with the most updated analysis on the source of religious conflict and strife in different parts of the world. It demystifies the notion that no single religion in the world can claim monopoly to paradise and all religions strive for the betterment of humanity who are equal in the eyes of God as long as they do good deeds.’

Mr Tahir Fuzile Sitoto of the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University said: ‘(De) Monopolising Paradise is undoubtedly a multi-layered text which refuses to be trapped by time and history. Although punted as a book that deals with mainly issues of inter-religious tolerance, dialogue and peace, it would be a gross error to limit the book to matters of inter-faith relations - it is also for those in search for peaceful and meaningful co-existence across the religious and cultural divide.’

- Melissa Mungroo

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Women and Urban Governance Explored at ccrri Seminar

Women and Urban Governance Explored at ccrri Seminar
At the ccrri seminar are (from left) Dr Orli Bass, Dr Kira Erwin and Dr Jennifer Houghton.

UKZN’s Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (ccrri) hosted a seminar titled: “Women and Urban Governance – the Disjuncture between Policy and Everyday Experiences in Intimate Spaces”.

Research into the issue was done by Dr Kira Erwin and Dr Orli Bass of ccrri, and Dr Jennifer Houghton of the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L).

The presentation formed part of their book chapter in the forthcoming 2014 publication: Urban governance in Postapartheid Cities: Modes of Engagement in South Africa’s Metropoles.

Their book chapter contribution and seminar presentation highlight the area of urban governance and gender. ‘We are concerned with the disjuncture between urban governance policy in South Africa advocating gender sensitivity and women’s empowerment, and women’s everyday experiences of inequality, marginalisation and gender-based violence. Linking research on women’s everyday urban encounters, within the broader context of urban governance, raises questions for rethinking governance policy and implementation,’ explained the presenters.

The concept of intimate spaces was used as a mechanism for exploring the intersection of formal and informal gender discourses, and the networking of private and public actors within a governance framework.

Using two vignettes of intimate spaces found in a police station and an apartment building, they illustrated how integrating women’s experiences on the micro-scale into people’s understanding of urban governance held possibilities for rethinking substantive gender sensitive and inclusive governance frameworks for cities.

Using the police station example, the presenters discussed how, “these vignettes offer awareness of how formal and informal governance frameworks can mould social relations that themselves subvert and reshape governance and its intended outcomes”.

The overall presentation of the vignettes sparked an interesting discussion centered on gender and community, the attitudes of society and the disjuncture between policy and implementation.

-          Melissa Mungroo

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Bassist and UKZN alumnus Lex Futshane live at Jazz Centre

Bassist and UKZN alumnus Lex Futshane live at Jazz Centre
Bassist Lex Futshane.

Double Bassist Lex Futshane was featured at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music on Wednesday 26 March.

Futshane headed up a four-piece band consisting of UKZN Music Lecturer Mr Neil Gonsalves on piano, Sidney Rash on drums and Zoe “The Seed” Masuku on vocals.

The exciting band performed a diverse and versatile programme from Futshane’s own compositions to home grown Mbhaqanga, contemporary music and arrangements of jazz standards by local and international artists.

Futshane is a Composer, Arranger, Educator, Performer and an internationally proclaimed Bassist (electric and acoustic), who has spent many years in Durban performing, arranging music and lecturing in the Music Departments at UKZN and the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

He has a Master’s degree in Music from the former University of Natal (UN), completing his BMus at UKZN. He taught music part-time at both UN and the former University of Durban-Westville but also worked as a full-time employee in the AV section at UKZN.

He played bass and co-arranged on many recordings such as Art Gecko by Counterculture, Durban Noise by Jurgen Brauninger, African Tributes by NU Jazz Connection, Old Blue Balls Is Back by Felema and Before it’s Too Late by Darius Brubeck.

Futshane has played alongside many South African musicians including Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi, Bheki Mseleku, Zim Ngqawana, Feya Faku, Tu Nokwe, Neil Gonsalves, Melvin Peters, Andrew Tracy, Kevin Gibson and Ezra Ngcukana.

UKZN Music Lecturer Mr Neil Gonsalves said: ‘I look forward to renewing my association with my old friend and mentor, Lex Futshane. He is from New Brighton in the Eastern Cape which is the home of many highly impactful South African jazz players including UKZN alumni Feya Faku, the late Zim Ngqawana and Lulu Gontsana. So, he represents an extremely important link and voice within that tradition. I’m especially excited to be playing Lex’s compositions with a new generation of exceptional jazz talent in UKZN alumni Zoe Masusku and Sidney Rash.’

- Melissa Mungroo

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Full House for Opening of 17th Time of the Writer Festival

Full House for Opening of 17th Time of the Writer Festival
Time of the Writer participants seen with the Festival’s Programme Manager Ms Tiny Mungwe (front, second left).

The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on the Howard College campus was packed to capacity for the opening night of the 17th Time of the Writer International Writers Festival.

The week-long Festival is presented by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts and made possible through funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and other valued partners.

Twenty writers from South Africa, Africa and overseas – at the festival for a thought-provoking week of literary dialogue, exchange of ideas and stimulating discussion – were featured on the night.

Head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation, Ms Sibongile Nzimande, said the Department was a proud supporter of the festival and would continue to back it.

The evening was opened by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, who spoke on the festival theme "Freeing our Imagination", stating that gay and lesbian rights should be recognised as the current attitudes and behaviour of people were not in keeping with the Constitution. She challenged the audience and festival participants to engage on this issue.

‘This festival reflects the mission and vision of UKZN and I will ensure that the Time of the Writer is brought closer to the academic programmes offered by the College of Humanities,’ she added.

A tribute was paid to the late South African thinker, academic and prolific writer, Professor Mbulelo Mzamane, a past participant of Time of the Writer and former Director of the Centre for Literary Studies (CALS).

Mzamane died on 15 February, having made his mark through his writing and scholarship with titles including The Children of Soweto, The Children of the Diaspora and other stories of Exile and Where there is no Vision the People will Perish: Reflections on the African Renaissance.

In addition to nightly showcases, there were daily activities including seminars and workshops to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression.

Book launches took place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre’s Wellington Tavern deck with the first launch of the festival being (de)Monopolising Paradise by UKZN’s Professor Sultan Khan and Dr Lubna Nadvi.

- Melissa Mungroo

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Ground-Breaking Research Highlights Violation of HIV Positive Women’s Rights

Ground-Breaking Research Highlights Violation of HIV Positive Women’s Rights
Ms Ann Strode.

Law academic Ms Ann Strode’s ground-breaking research into the forced or coerced sterilisation of women living with HIV has empowered women to take a stand against this discriminatory practice.

The research is titled: “She Made up a Choice for Me. The experiences of 22 HIV-positive women of involuntary sterilization in two South African provinces” motivated a 28-year-old Gauteng woman to approach the High Court claiming that the Department of Health had violated her rights to bodily integrity as they sterilised her without her express consent during an elective caesarean section

Strode passionately believes that her role as a researcher at UKZN is to produce research that inspires social change. ‘This study has helped me to re-connect with how ordinary people experience the law. I have also seen the valuable role of research in promoting legal and policy change.’

The research was published in the Reproductive Health Matters (2012) journal which is an international peer-reviewed journal based in London. To spread its finding further, Strode and others presented the outcomes of this study to the Department of Health in April 2012.

This resulted in the Department agreeing to add a text box on forced sterilisations explaining that women living with HIV had the same rights as others to reproductive choices and that they should not be coerced into being sterilised. These guidelines were released in 2013.

The Department of Health have agreed to pay damages to the sterilised woman for failing to adequately obtain her consent. ‘The settlement will enable the complainant to obtain further medical assistance including a possible reversal of the procedure.

‘It has worked out well as it is has been a very difficult step for her to take (going to court) as she has not told many people about her situation,’ said Strode. ‘As a woman I was particularly struck by the loss and stigma that the sterilised women felt because they were no longer able to have children.

‘Sometimes I feel working at a University is very lonely as we are so far removed from the day-to-day work in the legal profession. This study has helped me realise that research can have a real and dynamic role in social change,’ said Strode.

- Thandiwe Jumo

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Isikole sezoMthetho e-UKZN Sibonga Abameli Bamanje Nabakudala Basekliniki Yezomthetho

Isikole sezoMthetho e-UKZN Sibonga Abameli Bamanje Nabakudala Basekliniki Yezomthetho
Abameli nabafundisi baseSikoleni seZomthetho.

Isikole SezoMthetho sihloniphe iqhaza elibalulekile elibanjwe abameli abasathwasa ekuqinisekiseni ukuthi Ikliniki YezoMthetho yase-UKZN ihlinzeka imiphakathi entulayo ngosizo lwezomthetho.

Isikole SezoMthetho sibe nomcimbi obuhlelwe yiDini EyiNhloko Yesikole uSolwazi  Managay Reddi, lapho kuhlomuliswe abameli abasebenze noma abasasebenza ekliniki kusukela ngo 2008 kuze kube yimanje ngezitifiketi zokubabonga.

Ikliniki YezoMthetho inika ithuba kubameli abasathwasa lokuthuthukisa ikhono labo lezomthetho ngokubafaka ngqo emacaleni anhlobonhlobo besebenzisana nabameli abadala kulomkhakha.

La macala ahlanganisa amacala edivosi,ukukhishwa ezindaweni zokuhlala ngokungemthetho, izinkontileka nezamafa lapho belekelela izakhamuzi zaseThekwini ezingenawo amandla okuthola usizo lwezomthetho. Lokhu kwenziwa ngokunikeza izeluleko kwezomthetho, ukumelwa emacaleni kanye nokwazisa umphakathi ngamalungelo awo ngokubamba imihlangano yokucobelelana ngolwazi nezinye izindlela zokuwuqwashisa.

Ummeli oyiNhloko waseKliniki, u-Eben van der Merwe uthe: ‘Bonke abameli abasathwasa bakudala kusukela ngonyaka wezi-2008 bangabameli abagcwele noma abameli basemajajini manje.’

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-        Thandiwe Jumo

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Mind the Gap!

Mind the Gap!
Professor Albert Modi (third right) with fellow presenters and staff from Oxfam.

Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Professor Albert Modi, gave a short presentation at Oxfam’s Low Carbon Development Public Dialogue in Durban.

The Mind the Gap dialogue was based on a paper compiled by Oxfam titled: “You Can’t Eat Electricity: Why Tackling Inequality and Hunger should be at the Heart of Low-Carbon Development in South Africa”.

The event was attended by more than 80 guests from various sectors including academia, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

Modi was invited to contribute from the perspective of agricultural development in South Africa and its contributions to carbon emissions as well as food security. He shared the platform with three other speakers: Ms Liz McDaid, co-author of the paper; Ms Emily Hector, a Community activist from Lamontville, and Ms Caili Forrest, a Research Officer at eThekwini Municipality.

The speakers all contributed from the perspective of different levels of society and prioritised the low-carbon development of South Africa as well as ensuring the availability of resources for citizens. The panel included contributions from a civil society perspective and a government perspective to add dimension to the debate on how to approach low-carbon development.

In his presentation, Modi explored the impact of the agro-eco system on climate change in the food sector as well as the pressure placed on farmers to reduce carbon emissions while still providing sustenance for the population.

During his presentation, Modi honed in on the importance of innovative ways of using energy in farming without compromising food security. He proposed that part of this was recognising indigenous knowledge as a science thereby validating its positive ways of using what is available to generate energy.

He said this would enable rural farmers to produce food without adding to the effect of carbon emissions and increasing the demand for electricity on South Africa’s one centralised source of power. He also emphasised the necessity of teaching indigenous knowledge innovatively at tertiary level so that it would spill over into policy and practice in agriculture.

The topic was very well-received and moved the debate on to the discussion of indigenous knowledge as science. As a result of Modi’s presentation, Oxfam has expressed interest in initiating and funding a project with him dealing with climate change and responsible agriculture, with a focus on how indigenous knowledge can contribute.

Commenting on this, Modi said: ‘It is a great opportunity, as an academic, to engage with the community and civil society outside of my usual sphere of work with agricultural science. This fulfils one of the University’s mandates and I would encourage all of my colleagues to take community engagement like this seriously. It has huge potential to allow us to share our knowledge as well as to open up opportunities for funding from organisations which work with communities.’

-          Christine Cuénod

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Engineering Career Days

Engineering Career Days
Grade 12 learners attend Engineering Career Day.

The School of Engineering recently hosted Grade 12 learners at Engineering Career Days at the UNITE Building on the Howard College campus.

The top 10 learners in mathematics and physics at various schools were invited with 313 pupils attending to hear about the various Engineering disciplines from staff and postgraduate students.

Mrs Denise O’Reiley from Student Academic Services at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science told the youngsters about the requirements, subjects and points needed to get into Engineering at UKZN.

Female learners were specifically targeted on one of the days.  All the girls were given pink hard hats and were encouraged to take up Engineering as a career through the School’s "Engineering is a Girls Thing" initiative.

-          Sally Frost

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UKZN and Northumbria University Sign MoU

UKZN and Northumbria University Sign MoU
Front from left: Mr Deveral Capps; Dean and Head of the School of Law at UKZN Professor Managay Reddi; back: Professor David Mcquoid-Mason and Mr Eben van der Merwe.

Northumbria University in England and UKZN has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) - the first step towards what is hoped will become a fruitful relationship between the two institutions. 

Northumbria University is the largest university in the north-east of England.  Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, it delivers a wide range of courses to a multi-cultural set of students and has a reputation for excellence.  Northumbria has two campuses in the city of Newcastle and is opening a new campus in London in September 2014.

The Faculty of Business and Law is housed within City Campus East which opened five years ago while their Law School is particularly well known for its work with clinical legal education.  The Student Law Office, the largest of its type in the United Kingdom, was recently given a Queen’s Award, the highest award available in the sector, for its pro bono activities.

Northumbria was represented by Mr Deveral Capps, Director of International Development for the Faculty of Business and Law at the university. Capps first visited Durban and UKZN in April 2013 when he attended the Commonwealth Legal Education Association Conference hosted by the School of Law

He worked with the Principal Attorney at the UKZN Law Clinic, Mr Eben van der Merwe, and the Chairperson for the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Professor David McQuoid-Mason, towards the signing of the MoU. 

Capps said: ‘I am delighted at the opportunities this memorandum will bring to both Institutions.  We can look forward to opportunities for student exchange, joint degrees, building research links and associated staff exchange too.  I really look forward to visiting Durban in the very near future.’

-          Eben van der Merwe

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UKZN Student Wins Miss India SA Title

UKZN Student Wins Miss India SA Title
Ms Venetia Gopaul.

Third-year optometry student, Ms Venetia Gopaul, has won the Miss India SA International 2014 Pageant.

Gopaul’s modelling career began just three years ago so she was not expecting to win the Miss India SA contest which was the first pageant she had entered.

‘Winning gave me an amazing feeling. I have decided to use this title as a platform to campaign against the exploitation of women in the fashion and entertainment industry,’ she said.

Ms Meriskha Gareeb was the first runner up with third place going to Ms Raisha Sewpersad. Unfortunately, ill health prevented Gopaul from representing South Africa in the Indian Princess International Pageant held in Bangkok, Thailand.

She said during her reign, she planned to make appearances at all pageant-related events. ‘I will motivate and groom young talent. I will also be involved in a lot of charitable and social events throughout the country.’

Gopaul’s interests include Indian modern dance, the violin, acrylic painting and sketching.

The beauty queen has always had a passion for the medical field: ‘I plan on funding an organisation that gives underprivileged children with ocular disorders the gift of sight and the ability to see the world as most of us do. I chose to study at UKZN because it is one of the most highly recognised institutions in Africa and the only university to offer optometry in Durban,’ she said.

Gopaul copes with her busy schedule through balance:  ‘I maintain the perfect balance by practising yoga, meditation and having an immense faith in God, for without him nothing is attainable.’

She receives a lot of support from her family and is proud of her achievements: ‘My family has always instilled in me values that kept me well-grounded on an academic and social front.’

-          Nombuso Dlamini

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Efforts to Return to International Fold Dominate SA’s Foreign Policy Since 1994

Efforts to Return to International Fold Dominate SA’s Foreign Policy Since 1994
Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim.

South Africa’s primary foreign policy priority since 1994 had been to accelerate the country’s reintegration into the international community, according to Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim.

Ebrahim was speaking on “Twenty Years of South Africa and Multilateralism: Returning to the Fold” at a Public Lecture on South Africa’s foreign policy hosted by UKZN on the Westville campus.

The Minister examined the country’s achievements over the past two decades with a focus on South Africa’s multilateral engagement, saying the priority had also been to promote an international rules-based system through active and constructive participation in multilateral institutions and processes.

He highlighted the country’s achievements in priority areas over the past two decades. The first of these was the international role in the continued fight against racism as an international scourge, culminating in 2001 in the hosting of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

‘The struggle against racism and other forms of discrimination is far from over and South Africa’s commitment to fight racism and to promote human rights will remain strong – inspired by those who paid the ultimate price in the fight against racism and injustice.’

South Africa’s commitment to see a peaceful world free of weapons of mass destruction was the second area highlighted by Ebrahim. He said: ‘Today, we continue our quest for a world free from the threats posed by arms that are indiscriminate or cause excessive harm to civilians. This includes our active engagement in the area of conventional arms, such as the recently concluded Arms Trade Treaty as well as efforts to finally rid our world of the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.’

Pinpointing the third area of interest in South Africa’s foreign policy as the global fight for the eradication of poverty, Ebrahim said there were three dimensions essential to this fight for sustainable development - the promotion of: economic development, social development and environmental sustainability.

‘No state can achieve such lofty goals on their own making partnerships and global action important to the achievement of national priorities.

‘Last week with the introduction of the “20 Year Review: South Africa 1994 to 2014”, President Zuma announced that South Africa is on track to fulfill all its obligations under the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.’

The next area Ebrahim looked at was the promotion of international peace and security. He said South Africa’s peaceful transition from the brink of civil war was central to the country’s approach to the resolution of disputes and remained an example to the world of how a deeply divided country on the brink of disaster could build a nation through all-inclusive dialogue. 

‘Moreover, our approach towards peace and security is based on the belief that South Africa’s security and development is inextricably linked to the welfare of our continent – we will only be able to fully deliver our development commitments to our own people if we can fully benefit from the economic growth of a continent at peace with itself,’ he said.

Building further on South Africa’s commitment to international peace and security, specifically on the African Continent, he said South Africa served four of the past seven years on the UN Security Council (UNSC).

‘Throughout its two terms South Africa prioritised the resolution of conflict and the attainment of peace and stability on the Continent, whilst advocating a strengthened partnership between the UN and the African Union (AU).

‘Unfortunately the UN Security Council has not been able to move a negotiated settlement towards a two-state solution along, mainly because of the narrow self-interest of one or two permanent members of the Council. Another profound failure of the Council has been its inability to give concrete support for the efforts of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on Syria, to bring the parties to move towards a negotiated solution.’

He added that the Security Council remained the primary international organ mandated to promote international peace and security and it was essential that it remained true to its mandate moving beyond the paralysis brought on by the geo-political interests of a few member states. 

‘The only way this can happen is if world leaders, including those who represent the Permanent Members of the Security Council, are bold and courageous and commit to enlarging the Security Council urgently.  Failure to do so will encourage states to start acting unilaterally, with disastrous consequences for all.

‘The best safeguard of our security and prosperity is to consolidate rather than erode international rule of law which informs the exercise and limits of the use of state power, and to embed the principles of co-operation over conflict and collaboration over confrontation. The challenge before us is to transform global politics from a power-based hierarchy to a rules-based system of international society.’

In response to the Lecture, UKZN’s Director of the Centre for Civil Society Professor, Patrick Bond, posed questions to Ebrahim, including whether multilateralism had been working since 1987, and whether South Africa had changed the balance of forces? There was also a question on the Palestinian issue.

Discussions that followed centred on issues of Palestine, problems with international trade, BRICKS, restructuring the UN, the role of the United States, among others.

Ebrahim said there has to be a multilateral approach to strengthen multilateral institutions, promote peaceful resolutions to conflicts and to oppose all unilateral approaches.

-          Sithembile Shabangu

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The UKZN Griot. Of Upgrades and Downgrades

The UKZN Griot. Of Upgrades and Downgrades

Keyan G Tomaselli*

Yes, I admit it.  I’m a luddite.  Along with many of my generation, I find the headlong rush into social media bewildering.  I am in good company – though I do study and use new media.  My pal Valentin Mudimbe, a philosopher, describes the Internet as “infernal machines”, while literary and cultural scion, Terry Eagleton, accuses the Internet of slowing the world down. He’s never sent an email. He has a son who occasionally sends one out on his behalf.

But I once led the pack of early new media adopters.  My Wits MA (1982) thesis, before I got to Natal, had studied the semiotics of computer generated movies.  In those analogue days it took a week for a team of nerds (a word that did not exist then) to programme 99 frames – that’s about four seconds.

On accepting the post in 1984 of the Centre I still inhabit, I made it a condition of my appointment that I be provided with a PC.  The Director of Personnel wanted to know what a PC was.  I referred him to the other one in the Natal University Computer Division. I then returned to stores the electric IBM golfball typewriter with which I was provided and asked instead for an electronic typewriter with a daisy wheel.  Why, I was asked by the Finance Division?  Because, I retorted, the manufacture of golfball machines had just ceased. The electronic typewriter could be hooked up to the PC. The use of daisy wheels offered the proportional spacing that we needed for book and journal publication purposes. Wow, is that really necessary? was the reply. (This was in the pre-SAPSE days!)

While a visiting professor at a US university in 1990 I discovered email.  On hearing my complaints about the cost of faxing (the phone charge, a service fee charged by the university, and the need for the document to be taken to a transmission station in a distant building), my teaching assistant, previously an IBM Engineer, revealed the wonders of email to me.  Very simple, he assured me. Type your letter on one of the two departmental PCs (i.e. stand in line for your turn).  Then, via some very complicated keyboarding on a DOS programme transfer the typed message to the university’s mainframe via a modem and telephone lines.  Make sure that my Centre’s secretary in Durban (yes, we were administratively well provided for then) goes to the computer centre in the Shepstone Building to retrieve the message from the mainframe.  She repeats the process in Durban to respond. Lotsa walking and manipulation of computers on two continents.

In 1991 I was the first academic at Natal University to request a laptop.  My motivation, typed out on the daisy wheel, and sent by internal snail mail, caused great mirth in the Finance Division.  My A4 letter had been enlarged on a photostat machine to A3 and adorned a pinboard in the Admin Building, with “Ha Ha!” written on it. So, in words of one syllable I explained to the admin folks that the laptop would be paid for with two SAPSE articles, and that it could be used on planes, trains and in airports and in bus stations, when I was travelling.  Few South African academics actually travelled much in those days.  To this day I get more productive work done in these travel facilities because there are no interruptions from students, managers and administrators, walk-ins, or phone calls. I would be working while I was travelling, not just sleeping and staring at the passing parade.  Nowadays, folks stare at their cell phones.  They don’t see the passing parade anymore.

My Centre was amongst the first to set up a website.  That old design has since disappeared, and the new one attracts browsers from all over the world - over a million in just three years.  I have no idea why it is so popular – there’s nothing dodgy on it, though in the early days I did warn students about overexposure – privacy settings were then unheard of. Nowadays, we know that predators are lurking everywhere and that electronic media co-operate with surveillance systems for both the commercial sectors and America’s National Security Agency.  Careless users of these “infernal machines” cede their privacy to both the corporate and government spooks and also to the phishing scamsters. But then, everybody wants to be a celebrity, so users don’t care until they tweet something stupid and lose their jobs.

And that’s the problem.  Impulsive remarks, ill-advised photos, and button pushing have resulted less in users watching the media than in the media watching them, building individualised psychographic consumer profiles, choosing for consumers/viewers/voyeurs what they watch, what ads to target them with, and then handing these over to the spook agencies and 419ers.  It’s a multiple surveillance.

So, when I read cultural studies rabbiting on about “active consumers” I blush at the banality that sections of my field have become.  The idea of “active” comes from a paradigm shift in media studies away from deterministic political economy notions of ‘You are what you watch’ to the realisation that even couch potatoes are cognitively active when watching TV and fiddling with their phones.  But consumers are rarely critically “active” when responding Pavlov-dog style to marketing strategies; they are invisibly shaped to consume, to upgrade their software and to cede their rights as critical citizens. Consumption tames, it is the new hegemony.  One of my PhD students wrote a whole thesis on this.

Similar processes are at work in the academy also.  Once academics were the policy makers, the critical thinkers, the debaters, the dissidents.  Now they are just button pushers – but at least we don’t have to beg – and then explain to finance officers why we need regular upgraded computers and software.  Managers need these “infernal machines” to watch us also.  We’re all voyeurs in this together. We’ve lost our privacy – in the pursuit of consumption – willingly.

* Keyan G Tomaselli founded The Centre for Communication, Media and Society in 1985 on the smell of an oil rag.  He kept the daisy wheels in motion through many technological revolutions.

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

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Sport Stacking Introduced in Umkhumbane Schools Project

Sport Stacking Introduced in Umkhumbane Schools Project
Grade 8 pupils at a speed stacking workshop at Chesterville Secondary School.

Sport Stacking has been introduced in the Umkhumbane Schools Project - an educational outreach initiative sponsored by the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Sport Stacking, which is also referred to as cup or speed stacking, is an individual and team sport which involves the stacking of specialised cups in a specific sequence – doing so as fast as possible. The sport is highly successful, being used in more than 40 300 schools in 54 countries worldwide.

Co-ordinated by UKZN’s Ms Martha Bishai, the Umkhumbane Schools Project works towards improving opportunities and outcomes in mathematics and science education in five secondary schools in the Umkhumbane/Cato Manor township area on the outskirts of Durban.

The programme includes after-school tuition in mathematics, science workshops, on-site assistance and teacher-training with science practicals and a variety of other academic enrichment initiatives focusing primarily on maths and science.

UKZN’s Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences (BELS) and K-RITH work together to produce well-rounded learners from impoverished areas in the city.

Since none of the five secondary schools have structured physical education or sports programmes, BELS approached Bishai to discuss the possibility of establishing a physical activity programme as part of the community service offered by Umkhumbane.

Professor Andrew McKune, Head of UKZN’s Biokinetics programme, suggested the implementation of a sport stacking activity in each school. Sport stacking has been shown to have cognitive, academic, psycho-motor, behavioural and energy expenditure benefits for children and requires minimal space and equipment.

McKune said: ‘A sport stacking programme would be a viable option to introduce into the schools. The schools, staff and learners are excited about participating in the programme and it has the full support of the Umkhumbane Schools Project.’

Said Bishai: ‘What I really like about the sport is that any child whether they are disabled or those who don’t feel athletic, are able participate. It’s quick and easy to learn, and is also great because it improves hand-eye co-ordination. We found that it helped children to focus and do well on their tests at school, since the sport improved their concentration levels.’

Grade 8 learners who participated were very excited and found the sport to be a fun challenge which they were all keen to master in the first workshop. Five Sport Stacking workshops were held from 28 February – 8 March for students from each of the five schools.

Two honours students from Exercise Science have been allocated to each respective school to become Sport Stacking coaches for each team or squad. There will be two workshops a week with each workshop being an hour long.

After five weeks of coaching, each school will participate in an inter-school league involving teams and individual students.  A final Championship day is still to be scheduled.

-     Zakia Jeewa

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Female Empowerment the Main Aim at “Girlology” Workshop

Female Empowerment the Main Aim at “Girlology” Workshop
Health Sciences students at the “Girlology” workshop.

Student Support Services in the College of Health Sciences at UKZN recently hosted a series of fun and exciting workshops for about 1 200 of its female students titled: “Girlology - The Ultimate Guide to surviving and thriving as a Girl”.

The “Girlology” workshops, a term coined by Life Coach and workshop facilitator, Ms Karen Burt, refer to “all things girl”. The workshops have been held around the country since 2012, empowering and transforming more than 11 000 young women aged between of 18 and 26.

The workshops, designed by Burt, and sponsored by Kotex, encourage young women to analyse how they perceive themselves and how negativity and judgments within society can create an unhealthy environment for them.

Issues discussed included humiliation for some girls during monthly menstruation, rape, HIV infection, domestic violence, unplanned/teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and peer pressure.

The workshops emphasised self-belief, self-esteem, self-love, self-respect and self-affirmation in a positive, fun environment where female students were given the opportunity to focus on how they judge themselves and the impact of such judgment on their well-being.

Four male students joined the last hour of the workshop for an open dialogue on how males perceive females and vice-versa. A burning issue for the men was: ‘When a girl says "No" what does she really mean?’ This led to much discussion on mixed messages, different perceptions and communication.

The students paired up for debates and there were also group discussions in which they shared their likes, dislikes, insecurities, judgments, dreams and motivations.

The Manager of Student Support Services at the College, Dr Saloschini Pillay, said ‘Whilst empowerment programmes form a part of the core services offered by student support services, the impetus for the series of workshops came from a male student in the College. ‘He approached me to share his views on the need for a special kind of empowerment for female students, hence the main focus of the series of “Girlology” workshops, was to show how low self-worth limits a women’s belief and prevents women from being the champions that they are meant to be.’ 

-          Zakia Jeewa

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IKUSASA LETHU Human Rights Day Preview Concert

IKUSASA LETHU Human Rights Day Preview Concert
IKUSASA LETHU performs at the Human Rights Day Preview Concert.

The Music Discipline in the School of Arts recently held a Human Rights Day Preview Concert and workshop at the Howard College Theatre featuring IKUSASA LETHU, a professional ensemble comprising African Music and Dance (AMD) students and staff.

The ensemble’s Director Dr Patricia Opondo of UKZN said: ‘Musicians have typically played important roles in speaking out against Human Rights abuses worldwide.  We used the occasion to give our first-year students an opportunity to share the stage with the AMD Professional Ensemble IKUSASA LETHU.’

IKUSASA LETHU was formed by Opondo in 2000. ‘At that time the South African Department of Arts and Culture was looking for applications from groups around the country to represent South Africa at the Hannover 2000 World EXPO in Germany.

‘IKUSASA LETHU then comprised 12 African Music and Dance students including a band and together with an ensemble from the UKZN Jazz section participated in an exciting international showcase of world music and dance,’ said Opondo.

It now also provides a creative platform for students to workshop and present their original compositions and choreography.

The group previously performed in Canada, Peru, Germany, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sweden and Denmark.

IKUSASA LETHU means OUR FUTURE. The name was deemed appropriate to capture the vision of the ensemble and what they planned to achieve through providing a creative platform for young artists interested in pursuing a career as professional performers.

The Human Rights Day concert featured a repertoire and choreography by African Modern Dance, Percussion, Umzansi, Isgenyane, Xigubu and collaboration with LABELLE – an electronic musician from the Reunion Islands visiting Durban under the umbrella of Alliance Francaise.

LABELLE also did a workshop with the performers in preparation for a Human Rights Day Performance at Sutton Park, Morningside.

Opening for IKUSASA LETHU were African Music and Dance first-year students presenting a repertoire from the following modules: African Music Ensemble 1A under the direction of Mr Lebogang Sejamoholo and African Music and Dance 1A – Ngoma Dance under the direction of Ms Thabile Buthelezi.

Buthelezi, an up-and-coming young artist, choreographed most of the routines and found the challenge of striking a balance between performing and classes to be difficult but she prevailed with the ongoing support from friends and family.

‘I have been dancing from the age of eight and this is what I am passionate about. This is my craft. It was also a learning curve to work with LABELLE and his choreography to electronic music. Coming from traditional African music and dance, it was a challenge to adapt but we learnt a lot,’ she said.

Opondo added: ‘There are also plans to participate in CULTURE WEEK hosted by the Kenyatta University in Kenya in November.  There are also several pending projects to be confirmed by the end of this quarter, so be on the lookout for more exciting events.’

-          Melissa Mungroo

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