UKZN Researchers Win International Science Fellowships

UKZN Researchers Win International Science Fellowships
Ms Adriana Marais (left) and Ms Aline Saraiva Okello.

Two PhD students at UKZN have won 2013 L'Oreal-UNESCO fellowships for women in sub-Saharan Africa who have excelled in science.

They are Ms Adriana Marais and Ms Aline Saraiva Okello who each received 15 000 Euros (R195 000) to put towards their PhD studies.

A total of 10 inspiring women scientists in the region were honoured for their work in the scientific field.

The scientific research areas covered by this year’s fellows were varied, and include studies in the fields of nanotechnology, materials science, computer science, hydrology, human physiology, chemistry and natural products chemistry, genetics and the relatively new and emerging scientific field of quantum biology.

Marais is currently studying towards her PhD in the Quantum Research Group at UKZN. Her research, titled: “Quantum Effects in Photosynthesis” is an investigation of the early stages of photosynthesis”.

The impact of the research extends from shedding light on the intriguing question as to whether living organisms use quantum mechanics to optimise their functioning to the development of highly efficient biologically-inspired solar cells with the potential to contribute to green energy technology. 

‘So far, my research has focused on the theoretical modelling of energy and charge transfer in photosynthesis, both processes where quantum effects have been shown to play a role. We have proposed open quantum systems models showing how certain features of an environment can assist energy transfer within parameter regimes relevant for photosynthesis,’ said Marais. 

This work has already been published in prestigious journals, and Marais and the team she works with is currently preparing to publish further work on environment-assisted electron transfer in photosynthesis.

Marais said she was honoured to have been awarded a FWIS fellowship. 

Okello, meanwhile, completed her BSc in Civil Engineering at ISUTC – an engineering institute in her hometown Maputo in Mozambique. Following this, she worked as a Lecturer until 2008 and it was during this time she felt the need to do more scientific research in an effort to help people improve their livelihoods. This resulted in her being named a Ford Foundation Scholar and being awarded a scholarship to study for her masters degree in hydrology at UNESCO-IHE in Delft in The Netherlands. She successfully graduated in 2010 with a distinction. 

Okello is currently pursuing a PhD degree in hydrology at the UNESCO-IHE. Her research study focuses on hydrology and water resources management and is being conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Water Resources Research at UKZN. 

‘I’m using tracers, remote sensing and hydrological modelling to better understand hydrological processes in the Inkomati River Basin, particularly those related with runoff generation processes, to inform and support improved operational water management in the basin,’ said Okello. ‘This will improve water management and governance, and ultimately contribute to reducing the vulnerability of several stakeholders who depend on water for their food security and the ecosystem services of the river for their livelihoods.’

Her work is being undertaken as part of the RISKOMAN (Risk-based Operational Water Management for the Inkomati River Basin) project, which aims to improve water management in the transboundary Inkomati River Basin in southern Africa. It’s anticipated the project will help reduce water disputes, strengthen collaboration between riparian countries and mitigate the impact on the environment through joint, dynamic risk management of the river basin. 

Okello believes the FWIS fellowship highlights the value of her research and is a positive platform through which to encourage other women to pursue their science and research dreams. ‘The award will also help me finish my PhD research, as my funds are almost depleted and I’m a year behind schedule due to maternity leave,’ she said. ‘Now I’ll be able to finish my fieldwork and work more intensively on my final research outputs.’

*The L’Oréal-UNESCO Regional Fellowships for Women in Science in sub-Saharan Africa is open to all women scientists up to the age of 40 across sub-Saharan Africa who are working towards their PhD in all fields of science. It was first piloted in 2010, when five female scientists were awarded fellowships to help them complete their PhD research projects. Following the overwhelming success of the initial programme, the L’Oréal Foundation doubled the number of fellows to 10 in 2011 – a number that has since been maintained in the programme. 

Mr Bertrand de Laleu, L’Oréal South Africa Managing Director, says the chief objective of the regional fellowship is to increase the participation of women in the field of science.

- UKZNDABAonline Team

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UKZN Scientists Demonstrate High Rate of HIVAN in SA Children

UKZN Scientists Demonstrate High Rate of HIVAN in SA Children
From left: Professors Rajendra Bhimma, Anita Naicker, Miriam Adhikari and Dr Duran Ramsuran.

UKZN College of Health Science’s researchers have established HIV-related Nephropathy (HIVAN) is high in children aged between one and 16.

The study, recently published in the International Innovation Journal, sought to establish how Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) would impact on these children and what pathogenic components were required to understand HIVAN.

Previous studies have confirmed that up to 30 percent of adults who are HIV+ may have kidney disease and a spectrum of kidney diseases also presents in HIV+ children. This may include electrolyte disorders, tubular functional abnormalities and a range of glomerular associated with proteinuria including full-blown nephrotic syndrome.

Children with HIV-related kidney disease may also develop acute kidney injury, thrombotic microangiopathies (including atypical forms of haemolytic uraemic syndrome) and some may progress to chronic kidney disease. Despite this, a general lack of surveillance and reporting of kidney diseases in HIV-infected children exists in most developing regions of the world where HIV is highly prevalent such as sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for more than 70 percent of global HIV infections.

UKZN scientists Professor Miriam Adhikari, Professor Rajendra Bhimma, Professor Anita Naicker and Dr Duran Ramsuran sought to address this research gap by conducting the largest study of its kind on 71 HIV+ children presenting with nephropathy as evident by persistent proteinuria and who were eligible for antiretroviral therapy, according to the standard of care utilised by the Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal.

Adhikari and Bhimma said the objectives of the study were based on their observations in the clinical settings that many older HIV+ children presented with nephropathy. The study included patients being treated at the King Edward VIII and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospitals in Durban. These hospitals are the major referral centres for children with complex renal diseases in the province.

Results of the study demonstrate that in regions where HIV is endemic, the most common presentation is that of nephrotic syndrome with histopathological findings of classical focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) on kidney biopsy. The researchers also established that HAART is highly effective in decreasing proteinuria and preserving renal function.

Bhimma said: ‘Therefore, all children presenting with nephrotic syndrome in areas that have a high prevalence of HIV infection should routinely be screened for HIV.’

This study provides the largest database on paediatric HIV-related nephropathy in Africa. The findings have contributed to an enhanced understanding of the molecular pathogenesis and genetics of HIV-Associated Nephrology, which will ultimately result in better prevention and treatment.

Adhikari said: ‘In this study it was shown that the virus persists in the kidney while the viral load in the blood may be negligible. Even if we give antiretroviral therapy, the virus is not “killed”; it simply is removed from the circulation so the viral load is undetectable. The virus may sit in the kidney and other organ sites only to be replicating under certain circumstances. This indicates that we need to find better drugs that eliminate the virus from all organs.’

*Adhikari is a Paediatrician who sub-specialises in neonatology with an interest in paediatric nephrology, while Bhimma is a Paediatrician and a member of both national and international associations committed to improving the health of children with kidney diseases.

Naicker is a Medical Scientist with a focus on cell biology. Ramsuran is a current Postdoctoral student whose research is on establishing an organotypic model of lung and gut mucosa that will allow him to study the infections of both HIV and TB with the immune system at these crucial sites of infection.

-          MaryAnn Francis

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Umbilo River Clean-up

Umbilo River Clean-up
Umbilo river cleanup, International Coastal Clean-up campaign.

The Edgewood campus Environmental Forum, an affiliate of the UKZN Conservancy and St Benedict’s School Environmental Club, cleaned up a 400m stretch of the Umbilo River in the Ashley area as part of the International Coastal Clean-up 2013 campaign.

The dull, cold weather did not dampen the spirit of the group of 18 who worked tirelessly for more than two hours removing an assortment of industrial and mixed pollutants. A total of 25 bags was collected.

The action of the team is an example of making a positive contribution to the health of our environment.

A larger clean-up operation is planned for next year but, as one Forum member commented: ‘If the community is environmentally conscious, there would not be any need for a clean-up!’

-          Angela James

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UKZN Alumnus Wins Prestigious Award for Maize Research

UKZN Alumnus Wins Prestigious Award for Maize Research
Dr Charity Mutegi, 2013 recipient of the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application.

UKZN alumnus and research scientist, Dr Charity Mutegi of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), is the 2013 recipient of the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Mutegi, who cites her time at UKZN and the University’s ‘up-to-date postgraduate research facilities’ as being crucial to her success, attained her PhD under the supervision of Professor Sheryl Hendriks and Dr Henry Ngugi.

The Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application honours a researcher under the age of 40 who exhibits scientific dedication to food security innovation as demonstrated by Nobel Laureate Dr Norman Borlaug.

Mutegi was recognised for her work as a co-ordinator of the IITA research team working on the Aflatoxin Bio-control Project. The project is aimed at developing a bio-control tool for managing aflatoxin, a toxic metabolite, through a pre-harvest method which has cumulative effects post-harvest.

‘The bio-control technology that we are using was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture- Agriculture Research Services (USDA-ARS) under the leadership of Dr Peter Cotty,’ said Mutegi.

‘USDA-ARS remain strong partners in our bio-control work as they are still involved in the identification of potential native strains – isolated from the countries which we are working in – that eventually constitute the bio-control product.’

Mutegi’s work remains close to her heart, providing perspective on the importance of scientific work with aflatoxin she notes how in one incident alone, Kenya lost more than 125 people who consumed maize contaminated with high levels of aflatoxin.

‘Over many years, tons of maize grain, often a staple food in many countries in Africa, have been condemned due to aflatoxin contamination. This leaves a food deficit in certain areas due to their food insecurity status. I hope that the research yields an affordable product accessible to farmers, which they can use to prevent such incidents.’

Speaking about her award, Mutegi highlighted the importance of collaboration and the mentorships she has received over the years.  ‘It is a humbling feeling that my work in managing the aflatoxin menace through various facets, over a period of 10 years, has been recognised. Personally, it is a huge motivating factor to strive harder. But an equally important message is that it is testimony that African women have much to offer the world in terms of solutions to numerous issues.’

Mutegi has a four-year-old-daughter, who remains her foremost priority. She also enjoys travelling and reading - her favorite book being Unbowed, the memoir of Kenyan Nobel Laureate, the late Professor Wangari Maathai.

- Barrington Marais

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IsiZulu siqhakazile

IsiZulu siqhakazile
Izikhulumi zixoxa nezihambeli zezingxoxo ngomuthetho omusha wase UKZN wokufunda ngesiZulu bonke abafundi abenza amazinga aphansi eNyuvesi kusukela ngonyaka ozayo.

Uhlelo olubizwa nge Open Mindz olwaqalwa abafundi ukuze bagqugquzele izingxoxo, babambe umcimbi wokukhuthaza izingxoxo ngesimemezelo sase UKZN sokufunda ngesiZulu bonke abafundi abenza amazinga aphansi eNyuvesi kusukela ngonyaka ozayo.

Loluhlelo lwethulwe bukhoma kuzigidi zabalaleli baseNingizimu Afrika bomsakazo UKhozi FM ohlelweni olushayelwa uBongani Mavuso ntambama phakathi kwehora lesithupha kuya kwelesikhombisa.

Izikhulumi ebezethulwa uMnu Lukhona Mnguni  bekuyiDean yehhovisi le Teaching and Learning eKolishini lakwa Humanities, uSolwazi Nobuhle Hlongwa; uMphathi wakwa Arts Development ngaphansi koMyango wezobuCiko namaSiko ekwaZulu Natali, uMnu Mpemelelo Mnguni; uMhleli osemkantshubomvu wephephandaba iFinancial Mail, uMnu Songezo Zibi kanye nowayengumphathi womkhandlu omele abafundi uMnu Thembani Khumalo.

Izingxoxo bezinomdlandla nabafundi abaningi bekhombisa ukuwesekela lomthetho.

Kukhulunywe ngokuthi emazweni angasikhulumi isiNgisi kakhulukazi lawa ase Europe bayaqhubeka nokugcina ulwimi labo okubanga ukuthi ukusetshenziswa kwesiNgisi kungabaluleki kakhulu. Izwe laseJalimani lingelinye lamazwe aphoqa abafundi abavakeshela amanyuvesi ukuba basifunde isiJalimani.

Ezinye zezihambeli  zithe kubonakala sengathi isiZulu sithola ukunakwa okukhulu uma kuqhathaniswa nezinye zezilimi zaseNingizimu Afrika.  Kodwa uSolwazi Hlongwa uthe kunohlelo lokufaka ulimi lwesiSotho eNyuvesi ngesikhathi esizayo. Uphinde wathi iNyuvesi inomgomo wokuthuthukisa isiZulu njengoba kuhleliwe emthethweni wezilimi waseNyuvesi nowesifundazwe.

Izikhulumi zikugcizelelile ukuthi lokhu kufanele kubonwe njengendlela ebalulekile uma kuza ezinhlelweni zezinguquko, ukwakha isizwe nokugcinwa nokuthuthukiswa kwamasiko aseNingizimu Afrika.

Uma abafundi bezijwayeza ngezilimi zezwe bazoba sethubeni elingcono kwenze nomsebenzi wabo wamukeleke, ukhulume ngento ekhona kanti uvumeleke nasemphakathini ezindaweni lapho isiNgisi singasetshenziswa njalo.

UKhumalo uveze ukuthi abahlengikazi ibona abajika babe otolika uma iziguli zikhuluma nodokotela abakhuluma isiNgisi ezindaweni ezisemaphandleni.  Lena uthe akusiyo indlela elungile ngoba kungagcina umyalezo ulahleke endleleni lokho kungehlisa indlela odokotela ababhekelela ngayo iziguli.

Izikhulumi zivumelene ukuthi lengxoxo ihambe kahle kahulu. Kuvunyelwene ukuthi kufanele kuqhutshekwe nokuphakamiswa nokulwela kwezilimi zomdabu eNingizimu Afrika yentando yeningi nokuthi wonke umuntu kufanele bakwenze lokhu ngaphandle kokuzinyeza nokuzibukela phansi.

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Lukhona Mnguni

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UKZN Academic Re-elected ASRSA President

UKZN Academic Re-elected ASRSA President
Professor Johannes Smit.

Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC), Professor Johannes Smit, was re-elected President of the Association for the Study of Religion in Southern Africa (ASRSA) at the Association’s recent annual congress.

Under the theme: “Emerging Trends and Trajectories in the Study of Religion”, the congress mapped out the main research focuses of ASRSA for the next few years.

To facilitate this, Smit together with Emeritus Professor Martin Prozesky, and two doctoral students, Beverley Vencatsamy and Cherry Muslim, conducted a workshop on: The Current State of Religious Studies in South Africa and Future Prospects. The outcome will be circulated as a report to members of the association as well as published.

Papers of exceptional quality were delivered with topics covered including the founding and significance of new religious movements; dialogues on the impact of religions in societies, especially in Africa’s developmental states; religion and gender advocacy; religion education and human rights education; the politicization of religion; religious migrancy, and the prevalence and significance of religion in social media.

‘On the African continent, religious organisations and institutions function at many levels, but none is more important as their work in the areas of emotional and community support, food security, housing, clothing and shelter provision,’ said Smit. ‘They often work with and support some of the poorest communities. Among others, this fact provides the strongest evidence that religion is one of the most significant social phenomena on the continent.’

Reflecting on the title of his address: “Intellectualising Religion”, Smit said the vast variety of religions active in post-militarised Africa also placed academia under an obligation to intellectualise them.

‘The religions have a vast variety of functions and we need to intellectualise them in terms of their broader cultural transformation impacts as well as their more local emotional, social and socio-economic significance. Even more important, we need to analyse the deeper dimensional levels in terms of which they function, ie their beliefs, narratives and motivational impacts, religious moralities and the value they add to the quality of life of people,’ he said.

‘Religious rituals and religious experience likewise form part of the deeper religious significance of the religions. The nature of these dimensions and the ways in which they articulate with health and wellness but also contextual developmental challenges, constitute very fruitful fields of research.’

Smit was also elected Editor of the ASRSA SAPSE publication: The Journal for the Study of Religion in Southern Africa, indicating UKZN’s leadership role in the area of the intellectualising of religion on the African continent.

Smit said during his term as Editor he hoped to lay the foundations for robust Humanities research in religion in Africa as well as further afield. This will be in addition to plans congress made for future research projects.

-           Melissa Mungroo

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Former Humanities Access Student Achieving in the USA!

Former Humanities Access Student Achieving in the USA!
Mr Kwazi Molefi in an exchange programme at Pitzer College in southern California in the United States.

A former student of UKZN’s Humanities Access Programme, Mr Kwazi Molefi, is enjoying his time as an exchange student in the United States.

Molefi is completing his Bachelor of Social Science degree, majoring in Media and Community Development at the Pitzer College in Southern California.

Molefi, a resident of Chesterville, said: ‘I come from a disadvantaged and poverty stricken community so my experience of being at university in the United States will play a pivotal role in shaping my academic life. It will not only develop me as an individual, but also UKZN, my local community of Chesterville, the city of Durban, the KwaZulu-Natal province and the country as a whole.’

College of Humanities Dean of Teaching and Learning, Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa, said: ‘It is exciting to see the access programme having such a positive outcome in the lives of students and also providing opportunities for them to shine internationally.’

A tutor in the programme, Mr Tesfagabir Tesfu said: ‘Kwazi is the kind of person who does not use being from a historically disadvantaged community as an excuse for any shortcomings. Instead he leaves no stone unturned in working hard not only to empower himself but to empower everyone around him.’

Molefi joined the UKZN Access programme in 2010 and was nominated as a class leader. He and other student leaders formed several support programmes, including the Access Students Feeding Schemes, to raise funds.

His resilience was proven yet again in 2010 when Molefi ran the Comrades Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban in aid of the UKZN Foundation with the public donating R10 for every kilometre he completed. He finished the marathon winning a bronze medal.

- Melissa Mungroo

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Zakes Bantwini Visits UKZN’s School of Arts

Zakes Bantwini Visits UKZN’s School of Arts
Zakes Bantwini accepts his framed graduation picture from Professor Nogwaja Zulu.

Award-winning South African House musician Mr Zakhele Madida, known on stage as Zakes Bantwini, recently visited the Music Discipline at UKZN’s School of Arts where he graduated this year with a Diploma in Music Performance.

Madida was warmly welcomed by the Dean and Head of the School of Arts, Professor Nogwaja Zulu, and staff and students.

‘We are extremely proud that Zakes was a student of UKZN and we wish him success in all that he does. He is definitely an inspiration to our music students,’ said Zulu.

Madida was overjoyed when he received a framed picture of himself graduating this year. ‘Education is important. It plays a vital role in the music industry where an artist can now engage with the business aspects of the music industry while also being an entertainer.’

Asked about his student days, Madida says he wasn’t given any special treatment and had to meet assignment deadlines and write tests like any other student. He fondly recalls performing at the South African Music Awards but still finding time to write his tests.

Jazz Lecturer Ms Debbie Mari said: ‘I have never had a student quite like Zakes! Mostly because of his touring schedule – he would miss classes often because of this, however, somehow he would get the work done and we’d always manage to make up missed classes when he was in Durban. He never asked for any special treatment - and he never got any - because of who he is in the music industry and he always took responsibility for getting his university work done, even when it took a little longer than usual.

‘Zakes values education and is outspoken about this. It would not be unusual to find a group of music students gathered in a corner, in between lectures, with Zakes encouraging them to work hard, take their time at university seriously and finish their studies,’ said Mari. ‘In this regard, Zakes is a great role model to our students and aspiring musicians who are considering studying music. I wish him every success as he continues his journey in the music industry and we look forward to his next visit.’

Speaking at a lunch function held for him, Madida advised music students to continue with their education. ‘Successful musicians are well-known and they are influential too. As educated artists use your influence to build the Arts into a major discipline and make the music industry a commodity to market internationally. As up and coming young artists, you can change the industry as it’s not only about talent but also about being educated.’

-           Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Scientist Triumphs at Canoe World Championships

UKZN Scientist Triumphs at Canoe World Championships
Gold medal winner, Dr Marion Young, proudly displays the South African flag at the 2013 ICF Canoe Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.

UKZN animal scientist Dr Marion Young won two gold medals at the recent 2013 ICF Canoe Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

For Young, who came ninth in the women’s category of this year’s Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon, it was the first time she had been at the World Championships.

She won K1 gold in the 35 to 39 year age group and together with her teammate Ms Angela Scruby, also claimed gold in the K2 category.

 A source of great inspiration for Young, her coach, Mr Len Jenkins, managed the same feats in the men’s 70 to 74 age group.

‘Many people have surely experienced that “final effort” at the end of a race; a final deep dig to finish that article, project or journey,’ said Young. 'When you think you are tired and can’t do more, you in fact can! And this is what I’ve gained from the whole experience. We all have a wealth of talent and need only to ignite ourselves to the possibilities of what is achievable,’ said Young.

‘There were times in both the K1 and K2 races that I had the choice to back off and accept less, or commit,’ admits Young. 

South African paddlers excelled at the competition coming away with a total of five gold medals among a number of silver and bronze wins.

*Young documents her experience at the competition on her blog at

-  Barrington Marais

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World-renowned Scholar Visits Pietermaritzburg Campus

World-renowned Scholar Visits Pietermaritzburg Campus
Feminist activist Ms Silvia Federici presenting an outdoor lecture at UKZN.

Feminist activist, writer, and academic/teacher, Ms Silvia Federici -   described as ‘one of the most important political theorists alive today’ - presented an outdoor lecture on the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus.

Hosted by the Paulo Freire project of the Centre for Adult Education in the School of Education, Federici spoke to more than 50 staff and students at the event.

In her Lecture, titled: “From Crisis to Commons: Reproduction and Women's Struggles in the Global Economy”, Federici argued that crises are manufactured by neoliberal capitalism in order to regain its losses and to allow for further primitive accumulation of the commons.

She then looked at how people (particularly women) were resisting this by creating new commons through struggle and organisation. Federici drew on examples from the Occupy movement in the United States, Latin American social movements, and the urban food gardens movement.

Federici argued powerfully for building popular political power that is autonomous from the State and the political parties. As one participant commented: ‘She reminded us that there are lots of ways of being what we used to think was possible, but that we have been worn down into discounting and thinking it’s just not an option anymore.’

Born in Parma, Italy, Federici has lectured and taught widely in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and North America. She has participated in numerous international movements and social struggles, including feminist, education, anti-death penalty, anti-nuclear and anti-globalisation movements, and most recently, in the Occupy movement.

Her decades of research and political organising accompanies a long list of publications on philosophy and feminist theory, women’s history, education, Africa, culture, international politics, and the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalisation. 

-          Melissa Mungroo

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Changing Geographies and the Geography of Change: A Multidisciplinary Journey

Changing Geographies and the Geography of Change: A Multidisciplinary Journey
Professor Urmilla Bob and her family at her Inaugural Lecture.

The Inaugural Lecture of UKZN’s newly installed Dean of Research, Professor Urmilla Bob - a geographer who is rated among the Top 30 researchers at the University - was delivered at the Westville Senate Chambers on 26 September.

Bob spoke on Changing Geographies and the Geography of Change:  A Multidisciplinary Journey.

In an engaging and wide-ranging lecture that reflected on both her personal and academic journey over the last 20 years, Bob argued that there was an increased recognition of the importance of adopting a multidisciplinary approach in academia.

‘Who am I as a geographer?’ she asked.  ‘I am an all-rounder.

‘Geography’s evolution as a discipline in recent years has reflected a responsiveness to changing institutional and environmental dynamics as well as changes in disciplinary foci both in terms of the thematic areas and methodological innovations,’ she said.

Bob argued for the research connection between apparently disparate thematic areas such as rural and land issues, business development, renewable energy, mega-events and tourism, gender and violence research amongst others. 

She said while the National Research Foundation (NRF) had encouraged her to specialise, she would always remain multi-disciplinary in her approach.  While there were challenges such as a lack of recognition and a weakened disciplinary focus and training, it allowed for blended methodologies, student orientation, teamwork, and a willingness to learn and step out of one’s comfort zone and seize new opportunities.

‘My journey as a geographer has relevance across disciplines as academics and Higher Education Institutions grapple with pressing transformational and developmental demands,’ she argued. ‘My research is underpinned by development and sustainability considerations. Interconnectedness provides new ways of thinking about established fields.’

Bob has conducted research on a range of developmental and environmental issues, including socio-economic impact assessments of developmental projects in relation to conservation and ecotourism projects, as well as sustainable livelihoods in both rural and urban contexts.

One of her main fields of research is on events tourism, including a focus on mega-events. She has published in these fields in both nationally and internationally recognised academic books and journals and has been involved in collaborative research with national and international academic organisations and NGOs.

Bob spoke of her interest in research methodologies, and the challenges and opportunities of adopting qualitative and quantitative approaches.   Bob has training expertise in quantitative (questionnaire surveys, SPSS, participatory GIS) and qualitative (participatory rural appraisal, mental mapping, problem ranking, focus groups) methodologies and techniques, monitoring and evaluation, development of indicators and environmental impact assessments, and gender analytical methodologies.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Professor Deo Jaganyi, said that Bob’s home College was very proud of her achievement, and likened the occasion of her Inaugural Lecture to ‘the last graduation of Urmilla Bob’.

Bob dedicated her Inaugural Lecture to her parents, ‘who have worked endlessly and so hard through their lives to ensure that their children achieved their dreams,’ and to her daughter Neeya, ‘who has passed on, and who has made me a better person.’

Bob thanked her husband, Saabir (Dr Edwin Perry), ‘who has never asked me to be anyone but who I am’.   She also paid tribute to her “academic father”, Bill Little of West Virginia University, where Bob studied for her MA and PhD degrees.  She also acknowledged her MA and PhD Supervisor Dr Dan Weiner.  ‘I told Dan that I would like to do research that addressed the needs of the poorest of the poor – that is when I became a rural development person.’

In closing, Bob recognised the institutions and organisations which had helped her along the way and proudly acknowledged her academic and political roots in the former University of Durban-Westville. 

Bob paid warm tribute to Professor Albert Modi, Professor Nelson Ijumba, Professor Cheryl Potgieter and Professor Anshu Padayachee for the role they had played individually in her academic career.  She thanked her research collaborators and colleagues as well as her students, from whom she has graduated a large cohort of Masters and PhD students: ‘You are an inspiration, you have made all that I do possible, you exist throughout the world.’  

Finally, Bob thanked the communities she researched, ‘because they believe that what we say will come true, that we will use our research to change the world for the better, for the generations to come.

‘I am an optimist, South African and African.  I get to interact with and share with the most brilliant young minds on this continent. I have seen Ubuntu in practice amongst our poorest communities.  I commit the rest of my career to the communities I work with.’

-          Sally Frost

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Teaching and Learning Conference on Edgewood Campus

Teaching and Learning Conference on Edgewood Campus
Professor Guy Standing delivers the keynote address at the Teaching and Learning conference on the Edgewood campus.

The 7th Annual Teaching and Learning Higher Education Conference was held on UKZN’s Edgewood campus from 25 to 27 September.

Hosted by the University Teaching and Learning Office, the Conference theme was “Re-envisioning African Higher Education: Alternative paradigms, emerging trends and new directions”.

The annual gathering of academics, researchers and policymakers showcases innovation, generates debate, and theorises opportunities and challenges in teaching and learning during the Conference which provides a platform for disseminating Higher Education and institutional research findings.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, outlined the rationale for the theme of this year’s Conference. ‘It may be argued that failure and attrition is institutionalised in the South African Higher Education system. Universities continue to come under on-going criticism, most notably for the quality and numbers of graduates.

‘While enrolments have grown substantially, a number of undergraduate cohort studies conducted in the last decade show dropouts remain high and graduation rates low,’ said Vithal.

‘At least one provocative observation that can be made is that increases in enrolments are possible because of the high attrition; and if the system did begin to do better at retention it would impact enrolments - assuming it is operating at capacity.

‘Some evidence for this has begun to emerge at UKZN most notably in science programmes in which spaces are limited, due to, for example, laboratory space. As the University’s academic monitoring and support systems have begun to yield benefits, students are staying in the system in larger numbers and staying longer for a  number of reasons or not graduating as quickly and thereby impacting new entrant enrolments. This dual increase in enrolment and retention impacts quality of teaching and learning and delivery of curricula,’ said Vithal.

‘Yes we know the schooling system is not yielding the quality of student that is desired by Higher Education. But, unless we move to a more enabling future-orientated Higher Education curriculum discourse, a self-fulfilling prophecy lodged in mediocrity will continue to be sustained and hold the system down as a whole.’

The Director of Teaching and Learning and Convenor  of the Conference, Dr Rubby Dhunpath, echoed Vithal: ‘Whilst globally, there is consensus that Higher Education is integral to the well-being of a nation, governments are investing less and less in Higher Education, leading to an increase in private sector-funded universities, and an increasing number of privately-funded students in public universities. While this development has widened university education opportunities, it has pedagogical implications.

‘In this conference academics and researchers and allied staff continue to add their voices to contemporary Higher Education debates, and share innovative approaches to education that show how these tensions can be addressed by appropriate approaches to curricula, pedagogy and technology,’ said Dhunpath.

‘While lecturers may no longer control the elevator of education in the way they once did, they are still responsible for igniting the lamp of learning – even though it may require the click of a mouse rather than the squeak of chalk.’

Keynote speakers at the three-day Conference included Professor Philip Altbach from the Centre for International Higher Education at Boston College in the United States and Professor Guy Standing from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in the United Kingdom.

Professor Ian Scott from the University of Cape Town and Professor Paulus Gerdes from the Universidade Peadogogica in Maputo delivered plenary addresses.

A host of academics from Africa and beyond presented papers on a wide variety of topics ranging from “Improving access to learning using podcast delivered on mobile technology” by M Madiope, R Ranko-Ramaili and M Ally  to “Patterns of Thought in Studying Patterns in Mathematics” by S Bansilal.

-          Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

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UKZN Lecturer Gets Teaching and Learning Award

UKZN Lecturer Gets Teaching and Learning Award
Dr Anthony Collins.

UKZN Psychology Lecturer within the School of Applied Human Sciences, Dr Anthony Collins, was recently awarded one of five Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Awards. 

This is the first time a UKZN academic has won one of the awards.

Collins, a recipient of the UKZN Distinguished Teachers Award, was nominated for the University’s award by both his undergraduate and postgraduate psychology students before being nominated for the National award.

In a course evaluation, one of his students said: ‘He did more than teach, he brought his soul into the course. I’ve never seen someone so engaged not only with the work but with the class as well. He really wants a better world and that’s what many lecturers lack today: genuine concern and the ability to make a difference.’

In his response to the nomination and his award, Collins said: ‘This award is really significant to me because I believe that good teaching is important both for students and the society, and I put a lot of energy into it. And I am glad that the students I have taught have valued my courses.’

Collins said it was important teaching bodies such as HELTASA have recognised that universities should be focusing on teaching as much as research production. ‘It is great to see a national grouping trying to nurture teaching in universities, and promoting recognition that teaching is an essential part of academia,’ he added.

The aim of the National Excellence in Teaching and Learning awards was to show support at a national level for excellence in teaching and learning in Higher Education, to generate a cadre of academics who are identifiable and able to provide inspiration and leadership in teaching in their disciplines, institutions and regions and to generate debate and public awareness about what constitutes teaching excellence.

The five award winners each get R30 000 and a certificate at the 2013 HELTASA conference at UNISA from 27–29 November.

Collins is currently involved with the development of bilingual teaching materials for his course modules for psychology students with the possibility of these bilingual teaching materials being extended to other courses over time.

Collins leaves next year after 14 years at UKZN to take up a post of Associate Professor in Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.

-          Melissa Mungroo

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Pre-doctoral Programme Certification Ceremony for Staff

Pre-doctoral Programme Certification Ceremony for Staff
Staff graduates in the 2012-13 UKZN-SANTRUST Pre-Doctoral Programme.

A certification ceremony was held for the second cohort of staff graduates in the 2012-13 UKZN-SANTRUST Pre-Doctoral Programme.

The programme provides structured support to staff engaged in doctoral studies and contributes towards efforts to achieve the University’s goal to increase the proportion of permanent staff with doctoral qualifications to 70 percent by 2016.

This modular-based intervention consists of a total of seven weeks of contact learning facilitated by local and international scholars, and covers areas such as orientation to theories; literature review and proposal; research problems and questions; research designs; qualitative and quantitative methodologies; dealing with data and supervision workshops.

The programme was pioneered through the South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development Research Capacity Initiative (SANPAD RCI) which began in 1997. It rests on a track record of 90 percent of candidates completing their degrees within three to four years, as opposed to the national average of seven to eight years.

The ceremony was opened by SANPAD CEO, Dr Anshu Padayachee, who stressed how the Santrust programme was a leading programme globally which had proven results in increasing doctoral throughputs.

Keynote speaker and Deputy CEO of the National Research Foundation (NRF), Dr Gansen Pillay, said doctoral candidates should remain focused not only on their research, but also on how their research was able to contribute to the national and global bodies of knowledge.

Pillay spoke of a PhD as not only an intellectual endeavour, but also an area of persistence, hard work and sheer determination. A PhD is written “one word at a time” and, to this end, he suggested candidates write 100 words a day. He invited candidates to use support offered through SANTRUST and - depending on their research excellence - to also look to the NRF for continued support.

UKZN’s Dean of Research, Professor Urmilla Bob, said supporting the development of staff members was an investment for the Institution as well as the country as a whole. While the Institution was committed to continued support, there were high expectations that the candidates complete their PhDs and use their expertise to further the University’s research objectives and contribute to postgraduate supervision to ensure transference of skills and ongoing capacity-building.

Staff from across the Colleges acknowledged the Research Office, in particular Dr Nthabiseng Motsemme for her efficient co-ordination and sustained support throughout the programme.

-          Sithembile Shabangu

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Law Students Impress Judges at Moot Court Final

Law Students Impress Judges at Moot Court Final
From left: Mr Ugendran Odayar, Mr Amin Matola, Ms Kenita Moodley and Mr Tafadzwa Dhlakama.

The stellar performance delivered by Moot Court finalists at the Annual Prize Moot Final held in Pietermaritzburg drew praise from the judges who were impressed by the high level of advocacy exhibited by the finalists.

The mock trial setting allows final year LLB students to translate the wealth of theoretical knowledge obtained through their learning experience into the practical aspects of the legal profession ensuring that the students are well equipped to handle every aspect of the legal profession.

The finalists in the Norton Rose competition were Mr Tafadzwa Dhlakama, Mr Amin Matola, Mr Ugendran Odayar and Ms Kenita Moodley.

The four finalists argued cases before the Honourable Mr Justice Koen and the Honourable Mr Justice Seegobin who commented that they were very impressed by the well thought out heads of arguments.

‘I have been involved in the moot court for many years and I am amazed by the way the standard keeps improving annually. We have had the benefit of listening to comprehensive heads of arguments and we congratulate you on the thought and preparation you have put into them,’ said Koen.

Seegobin added that he was very impressed with the way the finalists responded to the questions from the bench as it proved they understood the various aspects of litigation involved in courtroom procedures.

‘There are always legal questions that arise in the court room that are not easy to respond to. However, you responded to them in a very good and well set out manner that persuaded whoever was listening to the case that you are right and your opponent was wrong which is impressive,’ said Seegobin.

Although the judges were highly impressed by the standard of presentation and preparation of the finalists, it was Dhlakama and Odayar who were the overall winners.

Odayar who will be serving his articles as a Candidate Attorney commencing at Norton Rose Fulbright in 2014 said the research skills and presentation technique he learnt through participating in the competition will be very valuable in practice.

‘To be able to stand before two High Court judges and present my case was an experience which words cannot describe. I would highly recommend to future students to give it their all when it comes to moot and enjoy it to the maximum. Credit must be given to the academic staff of the Law School who assisted us to ensure that we had the necessary assistance which we required for preparation and presentation,’ he said.

While Dhlakama’s future plans include attaining a Masters in Environmental Law.

‘I aspire to be an advocate for good, beneficial and sustainable use of the environment and its resources for the benefit of all inhabitants in the world ahead,’ he said.

-          Thandiwe Jumo

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UKZN Hosts the Largest Ever Startup Weekend in SA

UKZN Hosts the Largest Ever Startup Weekend in SA
Aspiring entrepreneurs and participants of the first Startup Weekend event in Durban.

The Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) put KwaZulu-Natal on the map when it hosted the first ever Startup Weekend event in Durban from 27 to 29 September.

Mr Julian Parr of Startup Weekend Global described the event as the largest of its kind in Africa.

Startup Weekend, a creative global entrepreneurial initiative aimed at nurturing local aspiring entrepreneurs, provided a platform for aspirant entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas, form teams, build offerings and launch start-ups.

The hosting of Startup Weekend Durban was championed by Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the GSB & L, Professor Shahida Cassim, who is a firm believer in the generation of innovation as a key stimulant to growing local economies and in particular in KwaZulu-Natal.

Welcoming the participants on Friday Cassim said: ‘We want to see the University playing a critical role in developing a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem located in an equally vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem.’

The event attracted more than 100 aspiring entrepreneurs from Durban and surrounding areas who were given a platform to workshop and showcase their innovative ideas. They had the opportunity to network and to be coached by established local entrepreneurs.

Owner and CEO of International Bank Vaults (IBV), Mr Ashok Sewnarain, delivered an inspirational address to the participants and shared his personal journey to success as a property entrepreneur at the age of 29.

However, not satisfied with his success in one venture, he identified a gap and an opportunity for bank vaults in the banking sector. With sheer determination and courage, he established IBV in Durban and later in Johannesburg. This successful venture has plans to expand to Cape Town and internationally.

Sewnarain emphasised the importance of knowledge, conviction and perseverance, encouraging aspirant entrepreneurs to invest time researching their concepts in order to be better prepared to deal with the challenges associated with starting a business.

After two days of developing, reviewing and pivoting their business concepts, teams of participants presented their Startups to a panel of judges and potential investors. The concepts were aimed at addressing real consumer problems with many creative business concepts presented including data management solutions for informal traders; secured on-line document vaults; financial products; educational services and products; and eco-friendly goods and services. The presentations covered various aspects of the business model canvas the entrepreneurs had learned to develop.

After considerable deliberation by the panel of judges, Mr Anieto Anthony and Mr Pfano Mashau were declared the overall winners of the event for their concept named Reminder – a micro-chip product which alerts owners if they have forgotten their valuables. Their idea was described by the judges as innovative.

They won R20 000 and a 12-month premium membership to a procurement portal from Absa as well as a three- month free membership to Virtual Office courtesy of BizFarm. Four other teams won prizes valued at over R100 000.

A Computer Science student from UKZN, Mr Thabo Kwenati, enjoyed participating in a team with high school learners from Umlazi saying: ‘I was removed from my comfort zone and it was great to be exposed to different perspectives.’

Startup Weekend Durban demonstrated a true partnership between academia and industry. Partners in the event included the eThekwini Municipality, Absa, Sigma International, Technology Innovation Agency, and Shanduka Black Umbrellas.

Cassim noted that Startup Weekend was one of a range of innovation and entrepreneurship events that aimed to develop a generation of young leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset and the right attitudes and attributes to promote innovation in the South African economy.

Sponsor Mr Akash Singh of Sigma International commended the GSB & L and suggested the weekend become a permanent feature on the Durban Calendar of business events.

-          Hazel Langa

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UKZN Student Showcases Entrepreneurial Talent

UKZN Student Showcases Entrepreneurial Talent
Mr Christian Ishimwe.

The goal of BCom Accounting student, Mr Christian Ishimwe, to be counted as one of South Africa’s future leaders secured him a spot in the 2013 Student Apprentice Challenge at the University of Witwatersrand.

The Challenge is a practical learning process through which 64 of  South Africa’s high potential students from the country’s universities gain valuable business skills, enabling them to successfully bridge the gap between achieving a tertiary education and entering the corporate and business environment.

The entrance requirements called for the applicants to motivate why they wanted to be part of the challenge, their plans for the future and how they were leading and inspiring their peers and the community. A vision which Ishimwe is already living in his position as Ushering Co-ordinator for ENACTUS-UKZN,  InvesCat Project Manager and part of KZN Financial Literacy Association, a project developed by the provincial treasury to improve financial literacy in the provinces schools. Mr Ishimwe also made the top18 in South Africa for the 2013 IgniteSA future young leaders.

‘Getting an opportunity to come up with these concepts that addressed the problems that these companies are facing was a great learning experience for me. I got to enhance my time and project management skills and go through situations that challenged my leadership. It was also a networking opportunity which will be beneficial for internship opportunities when I have completed my studies,’ said Ishimwe.

Through students utilising their marketing, entrepreneurship, sales techniques, project management, financial planning, leadership and business concept development skills to come up with several concepts for companies such as leading consumer product company Procter and Gamble, The National Youth Development Agency and Etana Insurance they showcased their initiative towards becoming the future driving force for the South African economy.

-          Thandiwe Jumo

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Ricksha Bus Tour for International Students

Ricksha Bus Tour for International Students
Internationals and local students visit Moses Mabhida stadium.

Forty UKZN visiting students from various countries in Africa and the rest of the world were treated to a Ricksha Bus tour of Durban.

The tour included the Durban beachfront, uShaka Marine World, Durban’s Harbour, Emmanuel Cathedral, Victoria Street Market, Juma Musjid Mosque, City Hall, Francis Farewell Square, Kwa Muhle Museum, the Cube on Innes Road, Mitchell Park, Florida Road, Moses Mabhida Stadium, Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World and the Blue Lagoon.

The well-informed tour guide provided background information on all the attractions.

Students were given the opportunity to explore for themselves at City View Shopping Centre (Game City), the Cube, Moses Mabhida Stadium and Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World.

Despite the inclement weather, students all expressed how they enjoyed the tour, suggesting they be held more often.

The International Office extends a special word of thanks to Mr Mzo Hlongwane, Mr Melusi Khumalo and the Ricksha Bus team for organising the day.

-          Vanuja Krishna

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