Training Aid Launched to Sensitise Teachers to LGBTI Issues in the Classroom

Training Aid Launched to Sensitise Teachers to LGBTI Issues in the Classroom
From left: Dr Finn Reygan; Mr Taylor Ruggles; Professor Cheryl Potgieter and Dr Thabo Msibi at the launch.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter (Project Principal Investigator) and Co-Principal Investigators, Dr Thabo Msibi and Dr Finn Reygan from UKZN launched their hands-on, easy-to-use curriculum resource pack on 30 May at the Elangeni and Maharani Hotel. The resource pack stemmed from a study initiated in 2012 to sensitise teachers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) identities in the classroom.

The study included 800 pre and in-service teachers in KwaZulu-Natal who were trained on how to develop competencies in teaching about sexual and gender diversity. It also skilled participants further on how to best challenge homophobia and transphobia in the classroom.

The initiative came into fruition at the end of 2012 when the research team saw a call for proposals from the US Consulate on LGBTI work in South Africa. The research team, which has done extensive work on LGBTI issues, submitted a proposal to the Consulate and having presented on related work at an LGBTI colloquium at which Consulate staff were present, was subsequently awarded an LGBTI research grant, after a rigorous and competitive process.

The launch included a project report and panel discussion on the role of schools in addressing homophobia and LGBTI issues in the curriculum. The panel was chaired by Mr Crispin Hemson (Project Associate) and included Ms Nonhlanhla Mkhize of the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre and Ms Glodean Thani, Assistant Director for Social Cohesion and Equity in Education within the Department of Basic Education.

Speaking at the launch Potgieter said, ‘We have recommended that the training module be provided not just to Life Orientation (LO) trainee teachers but to trainee teachers across all subject areas.’

‘Academic staff in Schools of Education should be adequately trained in advance on the issues contained in the training module so that they are sensitised and conscientised around these issues and therefore prepared to fully engage in an affirming manner with the training content.’

Dr Finn Reygan, who was a Post-Doctoral Scholar in Psychology at UKZN supervised by Potgieter during the time of the project, said the research team was strategic in designing the curriculum for Higher Education practitioners so that they can be comfortable in teaching future educators of the country about LGBTI issues. ‘We hope this can bring about change on a large scale.’

Dr Thabo Msibi further added, ‘We need to understand that our students are not blank slates.  They come in with a lot of information, particularly as a result of socialization.  We therefore had to take into account this early socialization into our teaching.  Our focus had to take strong recognition of the roles played by culture and religion in shaping our students’ ideas of gender and sexuality.’

US Consul General Mr Taylor Ruggles stated that the UKZN Education Module is a step along the path towards equality for all students and for the broader society and congratulated the research team and staff at the University for their diligent work on the project. ‘This training module represents an important contribution to academic studies on the topic and it demonstrates what can be accomplished when the US and South Africa work together on a common cause.’

- Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN’S Distinguished Teachers Honoured

UKZN’S Distinguished Teachers Honoured
From left: Professors Renuka Vithal, Simon Mukwembi and Sarojini Nadar.

Two UKZN academics who received the Distinguished Teachers’ Award during 2014 Graduation ceremonies were feted at a gala dinner hosted by the Teaching and Learning Office.

The academics are Associate Professor in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS), Professor Simon Mukwembi, and Professor Sarojini Nadar of the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, said the awards were designed to recognise innovative teachers of a high calibre. Among the ways the teachers had distinguished themselves were by regularly participating in a range of activities over time, including conferences, the University Education induction programmes, and guest lectures.

Guest speaker, Professor Philemon Akach, who is a Lecturer and Chair of the Department of South African Sign Language (SASL) at the University of the Free State, gave the audience a brief history on the origins and development of sign language.

A recipient of the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) National Teaching Excellence Awards (2013), Akach said many people around the world did not understand that sign language was not universal. He explained the five parameters sign language was based on: hand form, location, movements, orientation and facial expression.

‘Sign language is a language and should be treated properly,’ said Akach encouraging the audience to take the initiative and learn the South African sign language.

Mukwembi expressed his delight at receiving the award. ‘I am indeed humbled. It feels good to be recognised for what you do.’ He added that his legacy is what his students say about him.

With more than 14 years of teaching experience in the field of mathematics, his roles include working as a Teaching Assistant, Tutor, Demonstrator, Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at different universities, including the University of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Open University and the Masvingo State University. He has been at UKZN since 2006. 

Nadar is one of UKZN’s Top-Published Researchers and has a C2 rating from the National Research Foundation. She received UKZN’s Research Award for the Top Published Woman Researcher in 2009 and is regularly featured among the Top 30 UKZN researchers.

Nadar said there was no time like the present to study Gender. ‘South Africa has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world but still has the highest levels of gender inequality and gender violence.’

 She acknowledged the support of her husband and two sons, her friends, colleagues and her students for making the award possible.

-          Sithembile Shabangu

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Screening of Short Films by Applied Ethnomusicology Honours Students

Screening of Short Films by Applied Ethnomusicology Honours Students
Budding ethnographic filmmakers (from left) Ms Thabile Buthelezi; Mr Nhlakanipho Ngcobo and Ms Nontobeko Sibiya.

Three Applied Ethnomusicology honours African Music and Dance (AMD) students from the Music Discipline recently screened debut short films as part of their module: Ethnographic and Video Documentation of Ritual and Performance.

The filmmaking was supervised by Dr Patricia Opondo and Video Tutor Mr Lebogang Sejamoholo.

The short documentary films were recorded, edited and produced as part of the students’ fieldwork for the first semester, marking their debut in research.

‘These are previous students from the African Music and Dance programme who recently graduated with a BA Music and Drama Performance degree and have opted to pursue an academic track for their honours in Applied Ethnomusicology. The course draws heavily on their previous experience as performance students as they now frame their research questions in their current studies,’ said Opondo.

The first showing was of the film Phila Ekuphileni NeZion by Ms Nontobeko Sibiya which is on the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), one of the largest African initiated congregations in Southern Africa. She focused on the church’s spiritual healing. ‘Doing this documentary I learned that culture is important and should be celebrated and preserved.’

Mr Nhlakanipho Ngcobo’s film was a short story titled Y-tjukutja ANC which looked at struggle songs in post-apartheid South Africa. ‘This year South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy. Revolutionary songs played a big role for South Africans to achieve democracy. There are debates about the role of revolutionary songs in the post-apartheid era and whether they should be preserved or banned or do they serve as a communication medium or promote hatred among race groups.’

Ngcobo hopes that his documentary will shed some light on these issues.

The final screening was of Ms Thabile Buthelezi’s film My Africa, My Dance- Biography of Lucky Cele which featured Programme Facilitator/ Senior Choreographer Mr Lucky Cele of the Mzansi Arts Development Ensemble (MADE) - a non-profit and community-driven organisation. 

‘It was both a learning experience and a challenge for me. I got to work with Lucky and attend his dance workshops often incorporating and learning their dance techniques and styles,’ said Buthelezi.

There was a guest appearance by Mr Siphamandla Ngcobo, a former AMD student, who presented his work Zwelihle, which won him eight awards and led to the film being selected to represent Durban at Filmapalooza in New Orleans.

He advised the honours students to find their passion and work hard. ‘Success doesn’t come to you. You have to go and get it. Open your own doors to success.’

Opondo said: ‘I am most impressed by what the students and alumni have been able to achieve after a three-year AMD degree. The module African Music Outreach: Documentation is an elective in the third year for undergraduate students and a core course at the honours level under the rubric Ethnographic and Video Documentation of Ritual and Performance. It is one of our vital courses which has resulted in our second filmmaker making an impact in KwaZulu-Natal and internationally.

‘Our 2010 honours student Mr Khulekani Zondi has also won a number of international awards and is currently studying filmmaking in the UK with a full scholarship. I am hoping to get our current exceptional honours student Mr Nhlakanipho Ngcobo to present his ethnographic film at the upcoming International Council for Traditional Music Applied Ethnomusicology symposium at the University of Fort Hare at the end of this month.’

-          Melissa Mungroo

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35th Durban International Film Festival Opens on 17 July

35th Durban International Film Festival Opens on 17 July
DIFF 2014 will feature the Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth film 20 000 Days on Earth.

South Africa’s largest and longest-running film festival, the 35th edition of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) presented by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts, opens on 17 July running for 10 days at a variety of venues.

DIFF, a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of HumanitiesProfessor Cheryl Potgieter, is supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.

For the first time, the Festival hub will be at the Tsogo Sun Hotel on Durban beachfront’s Gold Mile.

The celebration of world class cinema will feature 200 screenings of new films from South Africa, Africa and the world, with a number of world premiere showings.

Industry initiatives include 7th Talents Durban, a programme of seminars and workshops with notable industry figures from across the globe in co-operation with the Berlin Talents, and the 5th Durban FilmMart coproduction market in partnership with the Durban Film Office.

7th Talents Durban seeks to incubate African talent through master classes and networking opportunities.

DIFF will reflect on South Africa’s 20 years of democracy with a focus on film which explores the many diverse facets of the nation’s history over the past two decades.

Other focus areas include African cinema, British cinema, the Wildtalk Wildlife Film Festival, Wavescape Surf Film Festival and a programme of cinema centred on architecture, in acknowledgement of Durban’s hosting of the International Union of Architects Congress at the ICC in August.

Patrons will get the chance to see Khalo Matabane’s Nelson Mandela:  The Myth and Me; Richard Linklater’s Boyhood; Mickey Dube’s One Humanity; Annalet Steenkamp's I, Afrikaner; Carey Mackenzie’s Cold Harbour; Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice and the Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth movie 20 000 Days on Earth, among many others. 

For the first time, the festival hub, which houses both screenings and industry events, is in the newly-renovated Tsogo Sun Hotel on the Durban beachfront.

Mr Mike Jackson, Director of Operations for Tsogo Sun KwaZulu-Natal said: ‘Tsogo Sun is proud to be associated with the forthcoming Festival and the Durban Film Mart. We see this as a fantastic opportunity to showcase Durban to national and international film producers, buyers, sales agents, broadcasters and film financiers, with great networking opportunities for local talent. We look forward to welcoming both national and international visitors to our province to enjoy the warm hospitality at our hotels.’

Festival Manager, Mr Peter Machen, is looking forward to the move, which is, according to him, ‘both strategic and practical. Both the festival and market have grown tremendously over the years and we needed to consider a venue that could accommodate the size of our current set of programmes, as well as allow for growth in line with future plans.’

For more information go to or follow on Twitter @DIFFest or Facebook on DurbanInternationalFilmFestival.

-          Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Emeritus Professor Yackoob Seedat Receives International Award

UKZN Emeritus Professor Yackoob Seedat Receives International Award
Professor Yackoob Seedat.

University of KwaZulu-Natal Emeritus Professor Yackoob Seedat is to be honoured with his umpteenth international award for his contribution to medicine, this time in recognition of his research in the field of hypertension in Africa.

The International Society of Hypertension (ISH) is awarding Seedat the ISH Developing World Award in Athens this month (June).

Hypertension affected eight million South Africans, Seedat said, and in sub-Saharan Africa with its population of one billion, the same was true for around 300 million people.

Seedat is also an expert in the field of nephrology, and last year was the first African recipient of the Pioneer Award from the International Society of Nephrology.

In 1990, he was bestowed with a national Order for Meritorious Service. Seedat said that the recognition from the hypertension society was particularly “prestigious”, as it was only awarded every two years on whoever the society deemed “worthy”.

Seedat, who attended Sastri College in Durban as a high school pupil, studied in Dublin as an undergraduate and returned to South Africa as a qualified doctor.

At one time, he was Head of Medicine at the former University of Natal Medical School.

Asked why he had pursued research in hypertension, Seedat said that the most important aspect of his work had been to find the causes.

Hypertension was more common in Black people living in sub-Saharan Africa than any other racial group, and only around five percent to 10 percent of the population had adequate control of their blood pressure.

There were multiple factors which caused hypertension, including excessive salt intake, obesity in middle aged Black Africans, and stress. Hypertension was a key cause of strokes, heart failure and kidney failure in people from sub-Saharan Africa.

Seedat, who is “semi-retired”, continues to lecture doctors and other healthcare workers including Nurses and Pharmacists throughout Africa.

His research on hypertension and renal medicine spans 362 medical journal papers and 38 book chapters.

-          Leanne Jansen : The Mercury

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Umhlangano ngoKwehlukana, ubuHlanga kanye noBulili kumnyango weHuman Resources Management

Umhlangano ngoKwehlukana, ubuHlanga kanye noBulili kumnyango weHuman Resources Management
Abafundi bebambe iqhaza kwezinye zezinto ebezenziwa emhlanganweni.

UMkhakha wezokuPhathwa Kwabantu eSikoleni sezokuPhatha, uBuchwepheshe  nokuBusa usanda kwethulela abafundi  abenza iziqu ze-honours  umhlangano wokucobelelana ngolwazi lokudlala izigubhu nokwahlukana.

Umhlangano obuxhaswe ngemali eyiSibonelelo saseNyuvesi sokuFunda nokuFundisa wawuhlelwe umfundisi, uDkt Shaun Ruggunan kanye noMholi woMkhakha kwezeMfundo uSolwazi Sanjana Brijball Parumasur.

Indlela yokufundisa entsha elethwa abaqeqeshi ngokwehluka, i-Vision in Motion . Inhloso ukuqwashisa abafundi ngezinto eziphathelene   nokwahlukana, ubuhlanga, ubulili nokuphathelene nobulili abazobhekana nakho ezindaweni zokusebenza. Ngokwenza njalo, umhlangano ugudluza ukufunda ekilasini kanye nasencwadini ukuthi kuxhumane nokufunda okwenzekayo ngokwahlukana okusezindaweni sokusebenza.

Ngokusebenzisa ukufunda ngezigubhu nokulingisa okwenza indawo ibe nokuxhumana okuvulekile nokunokwethembeka; abafundi bahlola izimo ezahlukene ngaphansi kwendikimba yokwahlukana. Abafundi balingisa beveza izingqinamba zobuhlanga, imvelaphi kanye namandla obulili ababhekana nakho ngesikhathi benza izifundo zabo e-UKZN futhi babuye baqhamuke nezisombululo ezibonakalayo zokuxazulula lezi zingqinamba.

Obephethe umhlangano futhi oneziqu ze-honours uMnu. Panache Govender uthe; Imisebenzi ibinezindikimba nezihloko ezivumela abafundi ukuthi baxhumane nabanye ngendlela abangenzi ngayo ekilasini kanye nokucobelelana ngokwenzakalayo ukuthi bazizwa kanjani uma behlangabezana nalezi zinkinga. Imihlangano enjengalena ibalulekile ngoba abafundi sebesemaphethelweni ezifundo zabo futhi bazobhekana nazo lezi zinkinga ezindaweni zokusebenzela ngakho- ke kubalulekile bazazi izindlela ezifanele zokubhekana nazo’.

UNkz Felicia Kuppan ongumfundi uthe umhlangano ubuyithuba elihle lokufunda ngokwahlukana, ukwakha amakhono okusebenzisana nokuqonda  nokwamukela imithelela yokwahlukana ezimpilweni zethu.

Uthe’bekuyindawo lapho kade sikhululeke khona kunokujabula nomdlandla.Sifunde ukushaya izigubhu zaseCongo nokuxhumanisa  indlela esizishaya ngayo njengendlela yokuxhumana,senze umsebenzi wamaqoqo saphinde sakhombisa izinkinga esihlangabezane nazo kanye nezixazululo zokwahlukana ngokulingisa futhi sanikezwa izinto zokulingisa saphinde sagqoka. Bekuyithuba lokufunda nokuzijabulisa singekho emagunjini okufunda.  ngingathanda ukuthamela amanye amaseshini esikhathini esizayo.’

Omunye  wabafundi uNkz Nashira Durgadin, uchaze umhlangano njengethuba lekilasi labo ukuba lixhumane  nokuthi bahlanganise amasiko abo ahlukene futhi basebenze njengeqembu. Umhlangano awuvezanga ubuhle bokwahlukana kuphela kodwa ukwazile ukuthi sikwazi ukuthola abangani abasha.

Umhlangano ubukwa njengengxenye yohlelo olubanzi ukuze kwengezwe izingabunjalo namacebo amasha ohlelweni lokufunda lwezokuPhathwa Kwabantu e-UKZN.

-          Thandiwe Jumo

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UKZN Students Chosen for Zimbabwe Rugby Squad

UKZN Students Chosen for Zimbabwe Rugby Squad
Zimbabwe internationals, Mr Shayne Makombe (left) and Mr Matthew Mandioma wave their flag.

UKZN students, Matthew Mandioma and Shayne Makombe, have been selected for the Zimbabwe national squad for the Rugby World Cup qualifying tournament in Madagascar.

The Stade Mahamasina in Antanararivo, well known for its unique atmosphere, will host the tournament. The stadium has only 23 000 seats, yet more than 40 000 Malagasy regularly cram the standing terraces when their beloved Les Makis play international matches.

It has been described by SARU CEO and Varsity Cup (Pty) Ltd Chairman, Mr Jurie Roux, as one of the most vibrant atmospheres in which he has watched international rugby.

Both Mandioma and Makombe are on TRUDA SNACKS tuition bursaries on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus. TRUDA’s company Director is ex-Varsity and Natal lock, Mr Colin van Heerden.

Makombe enjoyed some recognition during the Varsity Shield competition where he won the Varsity Shield backline player of the tournament.

The Zimbabwe team go into camp next week and will also play a friendly against a Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup selection.

The Four Nations qualifying tournament participants are Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya. The tournament winner automatically qualifies for the World Cup, while the runner-up has a second chance in the repechage, where they will face the winner of the Germany v Russia play-off.

-          Mark Schulze

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Canadian Academics Visit UKZN’s Public Health Department

Canadian Academics Visit UKZN’s Public Health Department
From left: Dr Dina Fisher, Professor Joyce Tsoka-Gwegweni and Dr Maria Mayan.

Canadian academics Dr Dina Fisher of the University of Calgary and Dr Maria Mayan of the University of Alberta delivered presentations at the Department of Public Health Medicine on UKZN’s Howard College campus.

Fisher’s presentation was titled: “Developing Clinical Algorithms for Diagnosing Extra-Pulmonary TB in Resource-Poor Settings”.

Active Tuberculosis (TB) involves the lungs being infected, with symptoms including cough-induced sputum and chest pain. Extra pulmonary TB is when the infection spreads outside the lungs and may erode into the pulmonary artery.

In a study which took place in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh with an estimated 15 million people, Fisher found that 21% of TB cases were Extra Pulmonary Tuberculosis (EPTB).

There are subdivided community clinics in Dhaka called Upazilas which provide primary healthcare to community members. Fisher said that on these lower levels of healthcare, ‘there is not much diagnosis of EPTB in Upazila’s compared to higher levels of healthcare. We wanted to find as many places as possible to research the diagnosis of EPTB. It was found that the diagnosis of EPTB was often done when patients were referred to tertiary hospitals or a private physician. We discovered there was virtually no delay between primary care provider assessments and the referral to specialists.’

Due to the sheer number of patients doctors see on a daily basis in Dhaka, Fisher explained that the algorithms that would be created needed to be easy and quick to use since there was a large amount of patients data which hospitals collected. ‘The quicker the algorithm can work, the faster people can be diagnosed.

‘Age-wise, there are people of various ages who are diagnosed. We decided to ask if a clinical point system could identify people who don’t have EPTB and those who do. Each model consisted of a certain piece of information from the systematic review such as the patients age, sex, the type of TB they had and their location. In countries where you have better facilities, with low rates of TB, the algorithm works better.

‘However, it needs to be tested in different situations. Age seems to be discriminatory. Our algorithm has age as a factor to determine diagnosis.’

Mayan’s talk was titled: “How Qualitative Methods add to Public Health”. ‘Qualitative research is the science of getting through the day. It is research with humans to make sense of their world. Qualitative researchers say that we cannot find solutions by being isolated from people - we need to look at humans in their social world,’ said Mayan.

She asked the fundamental question: ‘Why is it so difficult to think qualitatively in the healthcare field?’, and then compared qualitative research to the activity of building a puzzle. ‘Once the border pieces are fitted, you try to make sense of the other pieces and fit them together. While some pieces will fit, you will struggle and try to force pieces that don’t fit, to try and see if it correlates. This is just like research. You will want certain things to happen, but in the end, you learn about how it all comes together.’

Another example which Mayan compared research to, was that of a teenager’s messy room. ‘Messiness is invited in qualitative research. Little numbers but lots of detailed, intensive data and exploration are usually the result, which creates valuable insight into a particular problem. It is done to capture meaning and to describe a process.’

As a Professor at the University of Alberta, Mayan explains that researchers and students within Public Health need to be aware that they are dealing with people who are living an experience. ‘In Public Health, you don’t assess a community. You are a guest, and the community assesses themselves. It’s all about the interpretation of an experience. Investigating the human realities based on perceptions. This approach needs to be adopted in Public Health.’

* Mayan is the Associate Professor for the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta. She is the Assistant Director of Women and Children’s Health Community in University partnership for the study of children, youth and families.

* Fisher is experienced in Clinical TB care and completed her respiratory training in Canada. She worked at the University of Cape Town and is involved in International Consultancy in the area of MDR-TB and Extra Pulmonary TB. She recently participated in writing the national TB guidelines for Canada.

- Zakia Jeewa

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Restoring Africa’s First Children’s Hospital

Restoring Africa’s First Children’s Hospital
Members at an MRC/info4africa forum where the KwaZulu-Natal Children’s Hospital came under the spotlight.

Progress on the restoration of the KwaZulu-Natal’s Children’s Hospital on Durban’s beachfront was outlined during an MRC/info4africa forum titled: “Re-Establishing Africa’s First Children’s Hospital”.

info4africa is a self-funded Centre at the School of Applied Human Sciences within UKZN’s College of Humanities which hosts regular forums in co-operation with the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The speaker was Dr Arthi Ramkissoon, the Founder and CEO of the newly named KwaZulu-Natal’s Children’s Hospital, who said with 3.5 million adolescents in KwaZulu-Natal, the specialised children’s hospital would be a critical element of health care service provision in the province.

Built in 1928, the hospital, formerly known as the Addington Children’s Hospital, was the first children’s hospital on the African continent. However, with the many internal and external struggles during the apartheid era, the hospital was closed by the government of the day because it provided services to children of all races.

During the 28 years the hospital was closed, the buildings fell into disrepair and some were occupied by vagrants.

Then in 2009 the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government gave the green light for renovations to proceed.

‘We are trying to achieve a hospital that is green, children and parent-friendly and open for everybody without cost. As the custodians, the Department of Health will assist once the hospital is up and running as we aim to be a dedicated children’s hospital of the province,’ said Ramkissoon.

Services that will be available at the Children’s Hospital focus on specialised lower level primary health care out-services, providing rudimentary assistance and assessment services for children. ‘The focus will be on the lower levels of health care. Not very acute or high tech, but with more services like rehabilitation and child psychiatry,’ he said

The hospital will have a Growth and Nutritional Centre; Regional Paediatric and Adolescent Training Centre, sections for Paediatric TB and Counselling, Rehabilitation, Occupational Therapy, as well as accommodation for parents to stay overnight, and for volunteers and staff.

‘Our aim is for the hospital to be a place where kids can undergo rehabilitation and therapy in an environment where they feel normal. We want to have a place where a wheelchair bound child and a mobile child can play together, where all children can interact and feel comfortable,’ said Ramkissoon

Many of the existing buildings need to be refurbished and restored as close as possible to their original state, since they are heritage structures. ‘We couldn’t comply with certain aspects like corridor lengths due to the old buildings being built a certain way. We have, however demolished a certain area. A lot of the progress depends on funding. Restoration of sculptures, mosaics, tiling, ceramics, stain glass and art has been salvaged.’

The renovation of the hospital will occur in four phases, with two phases already completed. The final two phases are heavily dependent on funding.

‘R50 million has been provided by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health with a further R400 million being needed for repairs to the roofs, restoration of the interiors and renovations to various main hospital buildings as well as a basement for parking.’

Naming rights are available for corporations or individuals who can increase their name recognition by contributing to the building efforts.

-           Zakia Jeewa

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The Fat of the Matter

The Fat of the Matter
Professor Ishwarlal Jialal.

“Cholesterol and Heart Disease: The Fat of the Matter” was the title of a presentation at UKZN by visiting United States Academic, Professor Ishwarlal Jialal.

The focus of the talk was on low density liproprotein (LDL) as the fat that matters.

Jialal specialises in cardiovascular diseases and endocrinology, especially diabetes, and is currently the Director of the Laboratory for Atherosclerosis and Metabolic Research at the University of California. He is also a Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes and the Stowell Endowed Chair of Experimental Pathology.

‘LDL cholesterol and diabetes are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. As your total cholesterol goes over 200mg/dl (5.2 milliMolar), there is exponential increase in cardio vascular (CV) mortality,’ said Jialal.

South Africa has a very high rate of cardiovascular disease (CVD) which is the leading cause of death in middle-aged and older adults. A high level of bad or low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) is a major risk factor.

‘The primary prevention of high cholesterol is a diet that is low in saturated and trans-fats, calorie reduction and 150 minutes of exercise a week. Generally, these lifestyle changes need to be combined with statin therapy to prevent heart disease,’ said Jialal. ‘Statins are powerful drugs that can lower cholesterol levels and are backed by excellent clinical trial data showing benefit.

‘Cholesterol is important as a precursor for bile acids which are essential for fat absorption, steroidogenesis (cortisol, sex hormones etc) and integrity of cell membranes.

‘Lipoprotein molecules comprising protein and phospholipids allow for the transportation of lipids (fats) like cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream.

‘Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) molecules are regularly referred to as bad cholesterol because they can transport their content of cholesterol molecules into the artery walls and attract macrophages, and thus drive atherosclerosis,’ he said.

Jialal carefully reviewed and emphasised the important role of inflammation from the early lesion of fat build up in the arteries until a heart attack, citing various biomediators including C-reactive protein (CRP).

‘CRP can be measured in the blood to assess CVD risk. Since LDL particles also transport cholesterol into the artery wall, they are retained there by arterial proteoglycans and attract macrophages that engulf the LDL particles and start the formation of plaques, increased levels are associated with atherosclerosis.

‘Blood tests typically report LDL-C, the amount of cholesterol contained in LDL. LDL-C is usually used to assess how much low density lipoproteins are driving the progression of atherosclerosis.’

He reviewed the various familial syndromes including Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) and Familial Combined Hyperlipidaemia (FCHL) resulting in premature heart disease including children with FH. He also cautioned that FCHL was the most common familial syndrome as is the “plague” of the Indian and possibly the White population and needed to be the target of future research in South Africa. He also discussed the role of a new protein, PCSK9 in cholesterol metabolism and premature heart disease.

* Professor Jialal specialises in cardiovascular diseases and endocrinology especially diabetes and is currently the Director of the Laboratory for Atherosclerosis and Metabolic Research. He is also Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes and the Stowell Endowed Chair of Experimental Pathology at the University of California, Davis Medical School, Sacramento, CA, USA.

- Zakia Jeewa

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CHS Students Showcase their Skills at Comrades

CHS Students Showcase their Skills at Comrades
Physiotherapy students help Comrades runners at Botha’s Hill.

College of Health Sciences students provided a much needed service to Comrades Marathon runners at a UKZN refreshment station on Botha’s Hill.

Students together with UKZN staff sacrificed their “beauty sleep” to be at station 29 on Old Main Road before the road closure at 5.20am. Clad in red tops, the students set up their massage equipment and laid out their massage oils while UKZN staff and Extended Learning colleagues helped prepare refreshments for the runners.

The set up was complete by 7am and the visibly happy crowd got a chance to show each other their dance moves on the street, while the DJ played great music, which later encouraged some of the runners to stop and dance before running off towards the finish line.

The UKZN team cheered and welcomed the first runner to pass the station at 8.32am with a big Mexican wave. They cheered and encouraged the racers on by handing out water, energy drinks, fruit and sweets as they made their way downhill.

As the runners passed, Physiotherapy students continued tirelessly to aid runners with quick massages along the side of the road.  Most of the runners who stopped for assistance complained of cramps and tight muscles.

‘It was cold and dark in the morning when we arrived, but it’s been a great day and we’ve enjoyed supporting the runners and assisting them with massages,’ said a student.

The last runner passed through at 1.11pm.

Here is what some of the students at the UKZN station said after the event: 

Ms Uvani Pillay: ‘I really enjoyed working at the Comrades Marathon - it is such a charismatic event. We got to experience the true South African spirit and it reminded me once again how beautiful our country really is.’

Ms Zakkiyya Latib: ‘It is absolutely incredible to be a part of such a phenomenal event as the Comrades Marathon. Interacting with the participants and assisting them has been a truly rewarding experience! The atmosphere was amazing and continued throughout the long day.’

-          Nombuso Dlamini and Zakia Jeewa

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Healers Documentary Screened at UKZN

Healers Documentary Screened at UKZN
Dr Andrew Ross.

The Umthombo Youth Development Foundation which targets local youth and helps them become educated healthcare professionals so that they may assist in their communities, began with four students and has grown to the current 205 active participants.

Founders of the programme, Dr Andrew Ross and Matron Edla Nismbini, were featured in a 69-minute documentary, Healers, shown at the 34th Durban International Film Festival last year and rescreened recently at UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.

‘This started with an idea. People say that scholarships don’t work and that people don’t honour a commitment and come back to communities,’ said Ross.  ‘But we started with four students and now we currently have 205.’

Healers, directed by Thomas Barry, is the inspirational story of a doctor and matron of a rural KwaZulu-Natal hospital who find a “simple” answer to a critical problem affecting most of South Africa today.

The film shows Ross and Nismbini confronted with a precarious shortage of staff, thus creating a scholarship programme, the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation. The programme targets the youth and aids them in becoming educated healthcare professionals to help their communities.

Before the programme’s inception, the rural hospital in KwaZulu-Natal struggled to find staff. ‘We needed staff. It was too much work and we got too busy. With such large populations, healthcare centres can’t cater for the numbers since job opportunities are far and few, which is why the youth were targeted,’ said Ross.

Working in partnership with the Department of Health, school-leavers and university students from communities are encouraged to work hard and to apply for a scholarship so that they can get funding to study. The Foundation provides mentors who assist and support the students in their academic endeavours so they can then return to their communities to work.

‘Doctors, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Radiologists, Occupational Therapists, Dental Therapists and Nurses are always in need in community clinics and hospitals,’ said Ross.

‘Since the programme first began, the scheme has grown with successful graduates working in local hospitals. We wanted hospitals to solve their issues of being understaffed through the Foundation. And with many social issues which the youth of South Africa face, like unemployment, HIV, by supporting them we are able to better and enrich the lives of the youth and their communities.’

-          Zakia Jeewa

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Dean of Health Sciences on Panels Addressing Health Workforce Education

Dean of Health Sciences on Panels Addressing Health Workforce Education
Professor Sabiha Essack.

Dean of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack, is working on a project to increase the quality and quantity of health care workers and improve the retention of health professional graduates in areas where they are most needed.

Essack is doing this as part of her role as a member of the Study Panel for the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Technical Working Group, both focusing on addressing health workforce education (HWE).

The ASSAf project is titled: “Reconceptualising Education and Training of the Health Workforce for the Improved Health of the Nation”.

WHO estimates that an additional 4.3 million health workers are needed worldwide to address the healthcare needs of the global population. However, not enough health workers are being produced to address the gap, which has dire implications for the health and well-being of millions of people.

A World Bank Report titled “The State of the Health Workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence of Crisis and Analysis of Contributing Factors”, identified that a stable health sector human resource base was critical to the achievement of the four (out of eight) health-related Millennium Development Goals.

In sub-Saharan Africa, health personnel to population ratios are reported as the lowest and maldistribution between rural and urban areas is rife.  Investment into training capacities is identified as a key issue to address the health workforce crisis.

Part of the brief is to develop an appropriate health science education model for education from further education and training through undergraduate and postgraduate education through to the maintenance of professional competence encompassing the development of educators, students and appropriate curricula.

Essack, together with UKZN’s Professor Fatima Suleman and Dr Lyn Middleton, also serves on the international WHO Technical Working Group (TWG) looking at implementing the World Health Assembly Resolution WHA 66.23: Developing Health Workforce Education Evaluation Tools and a Standard Protocol for Implementation, to ensure that education and training institutions align their efforts on health workforce production and competencies with the needs of the health system. 

The aim of this TWG is to produce a global evaluation tool (GET) aimed at different stakeholders involved in HWE and which will be implemented via appropriate government ministries in WHO member states.

‘Addressing the degree to which the quantity, quality, skills mix and distribution of the health workforce (HWF) is appropriate and aligned to our health context, the  burden of disease and the health system is critical to the National Health Insurance,’ said Essack. ‘It is essential that the HWF is equipped with disciplinary knowledge, technical skills, profession-specific and generic competencies and attributes to ensure the centrality of patients and the population in the pursuit of equitable access to quality universal health coverage.’

-         MaryAnn Francis

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School of Education targets FET Lecturers

School of Education targets FET Lecturers
With Lecturers of the Majuba FET College are UKZN academics Professor Gregory Kamwendo (front second left) and Dr Sithabile Ntombela (front third left).

The School of Education in the College of Humanities has targeted Lecturers of FET Colleges for its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

This is being done to increase the Lecturers’ access to university education and to make a contribution to the human resource development of the colleges.

To make the Lecturers aware of academic programmes on offer, the School is visiting FET colleges to make presentations. The first in the presentation series took place at Majuba College in Newcastle recently.

Presentations were done by the Dean and Head of the School, Professor Gregory Kamwendo, the Academic Leader for higher degrees and research, Professor Pholoho Morojele and the Academic Leader for Teaching and Learning, Dr Sithabile Ntombela.

Following the presentation, Majuba College staff expressed interest in the honours and masters programmes.

Majuba College staff member, Mr Joseph Mesuwini, said: ‘I was lifted by your presentation. There are many people (Majuba staff) who can engage in the various programmes.’

The School expects to start receiving applications for admission soon. Plans are underway to form a masters degree (masters by research) cohort at Majuba College. Other cohorts could be established depending on student numbers.

-          UKZNDabaOnline

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UKZN Alumnus Achieves Great Strides in the Legal Sector

UKZN Alumnus Achieves Great Strides in the Legal Sector
Mr Randhir Naicker.

For UKZN Alumnus Mr Randhir Naicker pursuing his Masters of Law degree gave him an opportunity to explore his interest in company law which in turn provided him with a foundation for a successful law career.

Naicker, whose Business Law experience sees him advising on the Companies Act, negotiating and drafting commercial agreements and setting up franchises, was recently appointed as a Partner at Cox Yeats after joining the firm in 2013.

Apart from specialising in Business Law, Naicker is a Conveyancer and has extensive experience in the medical schemes industry having practised as In House Legal Counsel for Momentum’s Health division for six years where he became more familiar with the Medical Schemes Act and the medical schemes industry.

He holds a BA and LLB but it was through studying an LLM at UKZN’s School of Law that he sharpened his legal skills.

‘An LLM allowed me to consider issues in more detail and develop my research skills which is always useful in practice. It also allowed me to present my opinion and challenge existing views. Traditionally an LLB was very theoretical (I’m not sure how much this has changed) with students not having much understanding of law and its practical application. A postgraduate degree is certainly useful in allowing you to acquire more knowledge and be recognised as having done so, law is one of those professions were having an LLM helps distinguish a student from other candidates for any position, he said.

Speaking on his new position, Naicker says he is looking forward to taking the company to greater heights.

‘Being a Partner at Cox Yeats means being in a position of responsibility. Together with my other Partners I am now responsible for management and operational issues facing the firm. It also allows me to participate more meaningfully in strategy and influence the future of Cox Yeats,’ explained Naicker.

Thandiwe Jumo

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HIV and AIDS Stigma Explored Through Digital Story Telling

HIV and AIDS Stigma Explored Through Digital Story Telling
Ms Thoko Mnisi (left) with UKZN’s Honorary Professor Naydene De Lange.

Doctor of Philosophy in Education graduate Dr Thoko Mnisi says even though HIV and AIDS-related stigma has changed since the emergence of the epidemic, it is still an issue people living with the disease have to contend with.

Mnisi’s study titled: “Digital Storytelling to Explore HIV and AIDS-related Stigma with Secondary School Learners in a Rural Community in KwaZulu-Natal”, prompted her to contribute to addressing the challenges presented by HIV in a form of research.

Elaborating on digital storytelling to explore the stigma, Mnisi said: ‘This stigma is, however, contextual and how the individual is stigmatised fits in with the language, meaning and thought that a community constructs around stigma. 

‘While digital storytelling enables the uncovering of particular stories of stigma that learners experience in the context of a school in a rural community, the digital storytelling in and of itself enables a change in the language, meaning and thought around stigma in its drawing on the specifics of the stigma as experienced in the community.’

A qualified Teacher and Researcher currently working as a Principal Administrative Officer at the University Research Office, Mnisi said digital storytelling involved sharing stories about, and experiences of HIV and AIDS-related stigma and how these stories could be used as part of the solution. 

‘If such stories can be told, people can spread them just as gossip is spread, but in this case such spreading would work towards positive social change. In order to confront the challenges raised by the perpetuation of stigma, efforts must involve the communities and must tap into their own experiences of perpetuating or enduring stigmatisation.’ 

Mnisi said her interests in the topic started in high school but her career took a different turn. She then reunited with the topic when she was studying towards her honours degree.

‘I was approached by Professor de Lange when I was about to start my research project for the honours degree and she offered me an opportunity to analyse some existing data sets for a project she and other researchers were doing.  I would say, it was after this, that I never looked back because then in 2008 I was offered an NRF grant-linked bursary by de Lange.’

Mnisi says studying comes with its own challenges. Hoping to study full time and still provide for her five boys who needed her support socially and financially proved difficult. She says there were points in her life where she felt she was not going to complete her PhD studies.

‘Yes, it was very tough to survive on a grant-linked bursary hence I had to work day and night to ensure my children were not affected financially, yet on the other side that meant not being there for them physically.’

She says another challenge was doing different jobs concurrently with her studies which called for her constantly wearing different caps.

‘My opinion is that there is nothing more fulfilling than studying.  I am not saying this from a point of selfishness, but I learnt from my late parents that education is the only achievement you can claim! Over and above, I also realised that through studying I grow every day and view issues in a more philosophical manner,’ said Mnisi.

Her family was her main source of support and she also thanked her colleagues, the academics and most importantly her supervisor for their mentoring and support throughout her studies.

-          Sithembile Shabangu

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Riddel E-Assessment System Showcased

Riddel E-Assessment System Showcased
Dr Pieter Ackermann and Ms Upasana Singh.

The e-assessment system known as Riddel was showcased at a recent workshop held at UKZN.

The workshop, hosted by the College Dean of Teaching and Learning, Professor Kriben Pillay, was conducted by a Lecturer in the Discipline of Information Systems and Technology on UKZN’s Westville campus, Ms Upasana Singh, and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy on MEDUNSA’s Limpopo campus, Dr Pieter Ackermann.

Singh successfully implemented the first formative electronic assessment (e-assessment) in the School of MIG, using the Riddel software, which was provided to the School free of charge for a period of six months in 2013.

Ackermann developed Riddel, which has been used at MEDUNSA for a few years. The system supports a wide variety of multiple choice questions and does the marking of the questions automatically. It also offers extensive statistical reporting facilities as well as features that allow questions to be re-marked or excluded while automatically updating student marks.

Furthermore, the system provides a facility for short answer questions to be assessed, which can be marked online by one or more assessors.

The workshop started with a discussion on the need for e-assessment and then highlighted the initial problems faced with its implementation; how these were overcome to ensure a successful e-assessment session, and student feedback on their interaction with the system.  

Thereafter, workshop participants were introduced to the tool, showcasing the various question types supported by Riddel. Participants were guided through the process of test creation, extracting of students’ responses, and the marking procedure. Finally, participants were given an opportunity to interact with the Riddel tool. 

The highlight of this workshop proved to be the opportunity for participants to interact directly with the tool during the session. Interested participants obtained a pilot copy of the system for interaction at their own convenience after the workshop session.


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