Masters Student in Nutrition Selected for Heifer International Internship in US

Masters Student in Nutrition Selected for Heifer International Internship in US
Ms Faith Akob.

A Masters student in Human Nutrition in UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Ms Faith Akob, has been selected to spend seven months on the Heifer Ranch at Little Rock in Arkansas in the United States as part of an internship programme focusing on hunger and poverty.

Akob was inspired to pursue her studies in the field of Dietetics and Human Nutrition by her parents, who are both agriculturists and work in the non-governmental sector with Heifer International and World Vision International.

She applied for the internship with Heifer in order to gain experience in her field of interest and was accepted after an interview with the organisation’s ranch office in the USA.

Akob’s research for her degree concerns food security, home gardens and the challenges faced by communities involved with or intending to introduce home gardens.

Her studies are being partly funded by the Valley Trust, which works in the Embo Community in Botha’s Hill where Akob collected data for research work.

The Embo community were excited about the attention given to their livelihoods, and those without gardens soon wanted to start their own which was exactly what Akob hoped for as she was keen to see the impact gardens would have on the people’s food security status.

Akob will examine the Heifer Ranch’s sustainable agriculture model, including educational exposure to visitors on issues of hunger and poverty and the ways in which livestock and people can change that reality.  The Ranch focuses on teaching and practicing environmental care, livestock management, the use of appropriate technology and land stewardship to achieve the goal of combatting food insecurity and poverty.

Akob (21), who says she enjoys helping people, has worked hard to achieve her goals of completing a Masters degree and working with the communities she hopes to make a difference in.

She said her faith in God, and the support of her parents and family as well as that of her supervisors, Mrs Suna Kassier and Professor Frederick Veldman, had motivated her

 Akob will begin her internship in Arkansas early next year.

Christine Cuénod


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Alumni Lunch at Richards Bay

Alumni Lunch at Richards Bay
UKZN staff, Convocation Executive member, alumni and friends.

UKZN alumni on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast had the opportunity to re-connect with their alma mater and fellow alumni at a lunch at the Protea Hotel Waterfront in Richards Bay recently.

The function was organised by the Alumni Relations Office at the Corporate Relations Division as a reunion, networking and information sharing event for alumni and friends of the University.

Promoting the University’s ongoing interventions, developments and achievements, Executive Director of Corporate Relations, Mr Lesiba Seshoka, updated guests on the latest developments taking place at UKZN, including the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor.

Seshoka also spoke about the many activities and projects undertaken to promote relationships and highlighted numerous achievements, such as the current international rankings the University enjoys.

Mr Monde Mjebeza of the UKZN Foundation spoke on the various options available for alumni to give back to the University and encouraged all graduates to consider contributing financially.

Convocation Executive member, Mr Andre Young, gave an address in which he highlighted the achievements of the University and the role all alumni can play in promoting and supporting the Institution as well as contributing to history. Convocation Executive member – Mr Sifiso Mncube – was the very engaging and capable Programme Director.

In addition, staff from the College of Law and Management Studies presented a comprehensive overview of the new programmes available at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership. A lot of interest was shown in the information literature available on the courses as well as that on offer from Extended Learning.

The 56 alumni at the function enjoyed the three-course buffet lunch.  The event will continue to be held annually.

Finn Christensen


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Research Looks for Affordable Method of Treating Diabetes

Research Looks for Affordable Method of Treating Diabetes
Mr Mluleki Luvuno.

Discipline of Human Physiology Honours student Mr Mluleki Luvuno hopes his research will uncover affordable and easily available treatment to manage diabetes.

Luvuno investigated the effects of plant-derived compounds on ghrelin (a hunger-regulating hormone) secretion in diabetic induced rats.

Luvuno says diabetes concerns health systems worldwide with many people in developing countries not being able to afford appropriate medicines to manage the chronic disease.

‘My study is trying to find affordable and easily accessible diabetes management treatments by looking at plant extracts that are readily available to all,’ he said.

The study titled: “The Effects of Plant Derived Triterpenes on Plasma Ghrelin Concentrations in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats”, aims to show how this hormone regulates hunger in diabetes patients.

Said Luvuno: ‘The study is about investigating the effects of plant-derived compounds - oleanolic and maslinic acids - on ghrelin secretion in diabetic induced rats.’

The study is part of a larger one which seeks to find alternative treatment/s for management of diabetes mellitus.

‘Disadvantages of conventional drugs such as insulin, metformin and acarbose include high cost; side-effects and low availability in developing countries. These reasons have therefore motivated the research focus to shift to phytomedicine which promises to be a cheaper, easily accessible and side effect-free alternative treatment for diabetes,’ said Luvuno.

According to Luvuno, previous studies have shown that reducing postprandial hyperglycaemia can prevent sustained hyperglycaemia thus improving diabetes and related complications.

‘Research from our laboratory has demonstrated that OA and MA inhibit carbohydrates hydrolysis and glucose transport. The resulting reduction in glucose absorption shows reduced postprandial hyperglycaemia.’

He said his study was directed at food intake reduction which perpetuates increased postprandial hyperglycaemia in diabetes mellitus.

‘Accordingly we investigated the effects of OA and MA on ghrelin secretion - as ghrelin is a hormone particularly responsible for appetite regulation in the brain - in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.’

He said this was an established approach to managing diabetes but using novel compounds.

Luvuno said during the experimental period, they noticed OA and MA decrease postprandial glucose, food intake and improved body weight gain.

Analysis of biochemical parameters showed that these plant-derived extracts decreased plasma ghrelin concentrations as well as gastrointestinal ghrelin expressions.

‘We concluded that the anti-hyperglycaemic properties of OA and MA arise, in part, through reductions in food intake mediated by decrease in plasma ghrelin concentrations as well as gastrointestinal ghrelin expression. Therefore these plant-derived triterpenes can be used as alternative therapy in the management of diabetes mellitus. In addition to the scientific findings, I learned a lot on how scientific research is carried out i.e. from taking care of the animals to running some of the tests in the laboratory. I have to say that it has fuelled my scientific curiosity.’

The study recommendations included that the effects of OA and MA treatment in STZ-induced diabetic rats on plasma leptin concentrations should be investigated as part of finding the involvement of leptin on the reduction of food intake.

According to Luvuno, his study was a first of its kind and would not have happened without the help of supervisor: Professor CT Musabayane, co-supervisor: Dr HP Mbongwa and mentor: Mr A Khathi 

‘I’m grateful for their support and contributions,’ he said.

Luvuno is currently completing his Honours study and plans to do his Masters degree next year.

Nombuso Dlamini


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UKZN Students Help to Put Smiles on Children’s Faces

UKZN Students Help to Put Smiles on Children’s Faces
The UKZN team outside King Edward VIII Hospital’s BHP Billiton Paediatric Centre of Excellence.

Yunibo Trust - founded by UKZN Medical students - recently partnered with the Dentistry Discipline and South Africa’s youngest doctor, Dr Sandile Kubheka, to put smiles on faces at King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban when they visited its Paediatric Department in celebration of National Children’s Day.

Five paediatric wards and the hospital’s new BHP Billiton Paediatric Centre of Excellence were visited by the UKZN team carrying an assortment of goodie bags, face paint, colouring in books, and oral healthcare products.

The visit was sponsored by Colgate which is affiliated to the Dentistry Discipline; Ms Rumaisa Hassim, a fourth-year Medical student who donated 150 colouring-in books and crayons; Ms Najeeba Kareem, also a fourth-year student who donated snacks on the day; and the children of Dentistry Lecturer, Mrs Rajeshree Moodley, who donated R1 500 worth of stationery. 

It was the first Children’s Day event organised by the Yunibo Trust which was founded by Ms Rachel Wilson, Mr Yusuf Khatib and Mr Bonginkosi Mafuze, who are planning something bigger for International Children’s Day next year.

The students said they were overwhelmed by the love and support they received from sponsors, student volunteers and Kubheka and the first lady and ambassador of Yunibo Trust, Ms Gabriella Grobbelaar, who were both special guests.

Kubeka is the country’s youngest doctor, graduating from the MBChB programme at the age of 20.

Grobbelaar (22) of Pinetown, who was born with congenital ventricular septal defect with mitral regurgitation, underwent successful open heart surgery earlier this year championed by the Yunibo Trust and performed by a medical team at EThekwini Hospital and Heart Centre.

The Trust has since assisted another young girl, Ms Nomcebo Thwala (12), to get re-admitted into hospital for treatment to an eye tumour.  Thwala had been removed from hospital because her parents were struggling to pay the medical bills.

Discussing the visit to King Edward VIII Hospital, Senior Lecturer and Academic Leader of UKZN’s Dentistry Discipline, Dr Shenuka Singh, said it was important to engage with children and add to their existing knowledge.

Singh and her team promoted oral care and gave out free toothbrushes and toothpaste, while engaging in one-on-one talks with mothers and children about oral hygiene.

Oral Hygienist, Ms Zama Makhanya of Colgate’s Bright Smiles Bright Futures said the hospital visit had been a great initiative which they had been thrilled to support.

* For more information about the Trust and pledging towards the work it does, search Yunibo Health and like the page on Facebook.

Lunga Memela


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Students Participate in Ballroom Championship in China

Students Participate in Ballroom Championship in China
UKZN students Ms Tina Dolwana and Mr Thabo Khoza who participated in the 2014 Professional World Standard Ballroom Championship in China.

Education student Ms Tina Dolwana and her Civil Engineering colleague Mr Thabo Khoza participated in the 2014 Professional World Standard Ballroom Championship in China winning the “The Most Popular Couple” title.

They were the only entrants from Africa and competed against some of the best dancers in the world.

Managed by Academic Leader in the Discipline of Curriculum Studies and Education Technology, Dr Simon Bhekimuzi Khoza, the couple finished 26th out of 39 entries.

Khoza said: ‘The UKZN duo, who have danced together as partners for just over a year, did extremely well to be ranked number 26 on a world championship scale.  It is testament to the hard work, long hours, dedication, sacrifice and passion they put into each and every performance.  They won the title of most popular couple at the championship.’

Dolwana has been dancing and competing for 10 years and Khoza for 12 years. The couple won the KwaZulu-Natal World Trial, the Ilembe Championship, Gauteng World Trials, the eThekwini Championship, Samba by the Sea and the South African Championship Title, all as a new dance couple.

Dolwana and Khoza said funding for dance was limited and sometimes non-existent but they were hopeful that would change in time and they wanted to be agents for that change. 

At the championship, the students had to perform five dances: waltz, tango, slow foxtrot, quickstep and Viennese Waltz. ‘It was such a great experience to see and compete against the best in the world and to share the same floor as them.

‘It also proved to be both informative and a great networking opportunity for us, being the only couple representing Africa. We made connections with other dancers and hopefully we can build on that connection and give South African ballroom dancing international recognition,’ said Dolwana.

Both students have managed to strike that perfect balance between studying and dance. ‘We have been dancing for years so we understand how to juggle the many aspects of our lives. And because we love what we do, it drives us to perfect all routines. Dancing teaches you to have discipline and to work hard and this filters through to your studies,’ said Khoza.

Despite not bringing home a world championship title, the students are still training and putting in the long hours as they plan to defend their South African Championship title in Cape Town next month.

They also revealed that they’d like to cultivate future professional ballroom dancers from UKZN and to give students the opportunity to take up the sport and to compete professionally.

For further information about joining the UKZN Ballroom Dancing Team, contact: Dolwana at tinadolwana@gmail.com; or Khoza at thabolulamak@gmail.com, or Dr Simon Khoza at khozas@ukzn.ac.za

Melissa Mungroo


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Do Homing Pigeons Navigate Using a Gyroscope in the Brain?

Do Homing Pigeons Navigate Using a Gyroscope in the Brain?
A homing pigeon.

Human communication has long been associated with an unlikely companion, the homing pigeon; but how these pigeons find their way home is still largely a mystery.

There is widespread agreement that pigeons are able to determine and maintain flight (compass) directions based on solar and magnetic cues, says UKZN Fractional Professor Hans-Peter Lipp, who is also an Emeritus Professor at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

However, another piece of the puzzle – how the bird determines its position, known as the map sense – was unclear. Dissatisfied with the current theories that pigeons navigate via an odour or geomagnetic map and after decades of experience working with pigeons in the Swiss Army, Lipp was intrigued when he encountered Mr Valeryi Kanevskyi of the High-Technologies Institute in the Ukraine.

‘Valeryi had formulated a simplistic yet astonishing theory,’ recalls Lipp. The Ukrainian had suggested that the birds could use their memory of the gravity field at their home loft for guidance.

‘I realised that he had solved the map problem by one simple assumption: birds must have a gyroscope in their brain,’ said Lipp. However, before Lipp and Kanevskyi could begin searching for the elusive gyroscope, the duo had to prove that the birds are sensitive to distortions in gravitational fields.

‘We needed to show that gravity anomalies without geomagnetic contamination would be effective in misleading pigeons,’ said Lipp, and fortunately Kanevskyi and Mr Vladimir Entin, knew of just such a location in the Ukraine: a massive circular meteorite crater filled with sediment where gravity was weaker than usual.

The team wondered whether crossing the edge of the crater could disrupt a pigeon’s gyroscope navigation system and send the birds off in the wrong direction.

Lipp and Nicole Blaser were also fortunate to find a family of pigeon fanciers – the Widergolds – in the nearby town of Novoukrainka who could train the birds.

Over several days the duo released 26 of the trained birds, each equipped with a light-weight GPS tracker, from the middle of the crater and waited anxiously for their return.

Of the 18 pigeons that made it home, seven birds flew in the correct direction and managed to cross the edge of the crater without deviating much from the bee-line home. However, other birds that set off in more random directions seemed to become disorientated at the edge of the crater. And when the birds crossed a second gravity disturbance, they also lost their bearing, setting new ones that split off in three different directions.

Mr Sergei Guskov and Mr David Wolfer then compared the flight paths of the birds that encountered the gravity distortions with birds that had an unhindered return home.  They found that the disturbed birds’ routes were much more widely dispersed than the unhindered groups and showed that the birds veered off most severely when they crossed the edge of the meteorite impact.

The team suggests that the birds initially set a bearing home by comparing their home gyroscope setting with their local gyroscope reading. However, some birds initially set the wrong bearing, often taking several days to correct the error and return home, suggesting that they rarely use the alternative navigation strategy of regularly checking the difference between their actual and anticipated return routes.

So it seems that perception of gravity plays a major role in guiding pigeons home and Lipp is keen to find out more about the cellular mechanisms that allow the birds to detect the weak gravitational forces that keep them on the straight and narrow.

 Kathryn Knight


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Impacted Wisdom Teeth Subject of Masters Research


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The incidence of people in Durban who have impacted third molar teeth was the focus of research by UKZN Department of Clinical Anatomy masters student, Ms Sundika Ishwarkumar.

The study is titled:  “Prevalence of impacted third molar teeth in the Great Durban Metropolitan population”.

Ishwarkumar said tooth impaction was a pathological condition in which a tooth was completely or partially unerupted and positioned against another tooth, bone or soft tissue, thus preventing it erupting.

‘We classified third molars according to Winter’s and Pell and Gregory’s classification scheme. We also looked at the morphometric analysis of the mandible.’

She said impacted teeth were often associated with pericoronitis, incisor crowding, resorption of the adjacent tooth roots and temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction.

The study aims to assist orthodontists in surgical procedures in areas of early prediction, evaluation and possible treatment of impacted third molar teeth and in future prevention with the use of gene therapy.

According to Ishwarkumar, the development of the third molar is used as a tool by many forensic dentists to assign age to young adults who have been victims of violent crimes, fires and accidents.

The study found: ‘A 77.9% prevalence of impacted third molars was recorded, with a male to female ratio of 1: 1.1. Impacted third molars were more prevalent in the mandible than maxilla. Mesio-angulation was most prevalent in the mandible while vertical angulation was most frequent in the maxilla. Class IIB and class A were most prevalent in the mandible and maxilla, respectively. The 20-25 year age group showed the highest prevalence of impacted third molars.’

Ishwarkumar said all the morphometric parameters of the male mandible were greater than female. ‘The length of the mandibular ramus can be considered as an indispensible tool in sex determination,’ she added.

The findings of this study may assist maxillofacial and dental surgeons, dentist, anthropologist, anatomist and forensic investigators.

According to Ishwarkumar, her study is the first of its kind conducted in the Durban area.

Ishwarkumar is currently doing her Masters in Medical Science Anatomy.  She is at the editing stages of her thesis and is preparing her articles for publication.She plans to pursue a PhD in anatomy next year.

‘I’m also engaged in additional research projects with the Department of Clinical Anatomy. My passion lies in forensic anthropology.’

 Nombuso Dlamini


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Microplastics Found in Fish off KZN Coastline

Microplastics Found in Fish off KZN Coastline
Mackerel - one of the fish species affected by the ingestion of microplastics in the waters off the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.

A research study by Deborah Robertson Andersson and Gan Moodley of the University of  KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Life Sciences has shown that microplastics are increasingly being ingested  by fish off the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

So think twice next time you use a facial or body scrub. You could end up eating it. Many facial and body scrubs contain microplastic beads.

‘Those are the scrubbers,’ said Jone Porter, Director of Sea World Education at uShaka Marine World. ‘And more and more guys are using them too.’

The sewage system cannot handle microplastics so they are eventually washed out to sea and eaten by fish.

‘One fish eats another fish and so on, and the microplastics accumulate up the food chain,’ said Porter. ‘The sardines and anchovies we eat have small stomachs and we eat these, so we are eating microplastics.’

According to the UKZN study, fish species taken from Durban Harbour, Vetch’s Pier, Isipingo, uMngeni and Mdloti river mouths contained microplastics. These included horse mackerel and mullet.

‘Plastics take three to four times longer to pass through a fish’s gut,’ said Robertson Andersson.

‘The fish feels fuller and eats less. It may also use more energy pushing plastic through the gut and might also get blockages.’

The microplastics also attract persistent organic pollutants (Pops) that are known to have an adverse effect on human health. ‘The longer time in the gut allows the Pops to jump off and accumulate in fish.’

And when humans eat the fish? ‘It’s bad,’ said Robertson Andersson. ‘But we are not sure how bad. It’s early days yet and we are not certain what the effect is.’

Not all microplastics come ready made, they are also created by the fragmentation of larger plastic items that are gradually broken up by ultraviolet rays and wave action.

According to Porter, every large plastic item will become a microplastic.

‘They get brittle, break up and get smaller and become “plastic soup”—it’s a global problem.’

‘Fish, turtles and dolphins will eat a lot of plastics. Fish think microplastics are fish eggs, while species like turtles that eat jelly fish see plastic bags floating in the water as jelly fish.’

Porter said turtles have ‘hooks’ in their throats pointing downwards that help them swallow. ‘They are not able to regurgitate and plastic doesn’t go through their digestive system. It builds up in their stomach - they feel full and no longer eat. They literally starve to death but don’t realise it.’

Porter said that on two occasions turtles have died at the uShaka Sea World Rehabilitation Centre and when autopsied ‘were found to be packed with plastic’.

‘Anyone who takes a walk along our beaches can see we have a problem,’ said Porter. ‘We need to get away from the total throwaway concept.’

Courtesy of Stephen Coan, Natal Witness


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Abafundi Beziqu Ze-Masters KwiKhemistri NeFiziksi Bawine Imiklomelo Engqungqutheleni Ye-Analitika

Abafundi Beziqu Ze-Masters KwiKhemistri NeFiziksi Bawine Imiklomelo Engqungqutheleni Ye-Analitika
uMnu Kershen Naicker noNks Chrisanne Naicker.

Click here for English version

Abafundi beziqu ze-Masters beSikole seKhemistri neFiziksi bawine imiklomelo engqungqutheleni yesi-7 ye-Analitika ebibanjwe Isigaba Sezokucubungula se-South African Chemical Institute e-Parys e-Free State.

Isihloko sengqungquthela besithi: Milestones in Measurements with various aspects of analytical chemistry discussed. Izikhulumi eziqavile ezivela emazweni aphesheya nezasekhaya bezibambe iqhaza.  

Abafundi abaklonyelisiwe :

•   uMnu Kershen Naicker osikhangiso sakhe besithi: Analytical Chemistry in Heterogeneous Catalysis iwine isigaba sePhosta Enhle Kakhulu ocwaningweni lwe-Spectroscopy 

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•   noNks Chrisanne Naicker onqobe isigaba sePhosta Enhle Kakhulu ohlangothini locwaningo lwe-Chromatography ngesikhangiso ebesithi:  Identification & quantification of the complex responsible for Ni uptake in the hyperaccumulator Berkheya coddii

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UNks Naicker uthe uzizwe ehloniphekile ngokumela iSikole seKhemistri neFiziksi engqungqutheleni esezingeni eliphezulu kangaka nokuphinde awine. Lokhu kukhombisa ukuthi ucwaningo olwenziwa enyuvesi yethu lungaqhudelana nezinye izikhungo ezisezingeni eliphezulu. Ngiyabonga Ekolishi YezoLimo, Yezobunjiniyela NezeSayensi nabakwa-ANATECH ngoxhaso abangiphe lona olungivulele leli thuba.

UMnu Naicker uthe ukunqoba bekuyisimangaliso kodwa kugcwalisekise ukuthi ucwaningo olunhlobonhlobo olwenziwa eSikoleni seKhemistri neFiziksi eNyuvesi YakwaZulu-Natali lusezingeni eliphezulu kakhulu elilingana nezinye izikhungo eziphambili eNingizimu Afrika.

 ‘Lokhu kuwukuvuma ukuthi mkhulu umsebenzi owenziwa ngokuzikhandla nokuzinikela kwezocwaningo abafundi abahlukene esikoleni sethu.” uMnu. Naicker ube nenhlanhla yokuxhaswa yiqembu lakhe locwaningo.

 UDkt Letitia Pillay uthe: ‘I-Analitika ibiyindawo efanele lapho abafundi bethu bebengathola ukuboniswa izinhlobonhlobo zocwaningo olwenziwa lapha ekhaya naphesheya kwezilwandle. Ngiyaziqhenya ngokuthi ukusebenza kwabo kanzima kube nokuhlonishwa futhi kuklonyeliswe.

Ingqungquthela ibiyenzelwe ukuthi ososayensi basekhaya nabaphesheya kwezilwandle bakhangise ngemisebenzi yabo, ubuchwepheshe obusha nentuthuko emkhakheni wokucubungula. Bekuyindawo efanele yokuqala ukusebenzisana phakathi kwabacwaningi. Ababebambe iqhaza bebembandakanya nabebemele amanyuvesi ahlukene, nezinye izikhungo zemfundo ephakeme kanye nosozimboni.

Lo mhlangano bewuhlelwe yiSigaba SezokuCubungula se-South African Chemical Institute, ChromSA, South African Association for Spectroscopic Society and ThermSA.  


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Masters Student Wins Top Honour at SA Mathematical Society Congress

Masters Student Wins Top Honour at SA Mathematical Society Congress
Maths boffin Ms Titilayo Agbaje.

UKZN Masters student in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS), Ms Titilayo Agbaje, won first prize in the Masters presentations category at the 57th Annual Congress of the South African Mathematical Society (SAMS) on the Unisa Science Campus in Roodepoort, Gauteng.

Agbaje, who is completing her Masters degree in Mathematics under the supervision of Professor Sandile Motsa, presented on a chapter of her Master’s dissertation, namely, the Chebyshev spectral perturbation approach for unsteady heat and mass transfer by MHD mixed convection flow over an impulsively stretched vertical surface with chemical reaction effect.

She said she was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response she received for her presentation at SAMS. Delegates were intrigued by her topic and impressed at the sincerity and confidence which she displayed in the pursuit of her work.

‘Being a woman in a male-dominated discipline and taking the first position at a Congress like this proves that women can not only make it in a male-dominated discipline, but excel,’ said Agbaje.

Attending the Congress, said Agbaje, allowed her the opportunity to meet mathematicians working in numerous aspects of the discipline and enabled her to learn from others, something which she believes will greatly impact her future research.

Despite her current success, Agbaje admits that mathematics was actually her second choice, and a subject she found challenging during her undergraduate years at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) in Nigeria. During the course of her studies, however, Agbaje’s interest in mathematics began to grow as she realised its vital importance in relation to all other subjects and saw its applications in real life.

‘I see mathematics as the mother of all subjects,’ said Agbaje. ‘In addition, mathematics is an important contributor to society because there are lot of elements of Mathematics, most especially in my area, applied mathematics, which can be used everywhere in daily life. For example, the chemical effect I considered in this particular SAMS presentation is applicable in crude-oil production, cooling and crystallisation of chemical materials, grain separation in farming, uranium production, drying technology and much more.’

Agbaje, who arrived at UKZN in 2013 to begin her Master’s degree, said the research facilities and infrastructure the University provided to assist students with the completion of their research had made all the difference.

She hopes to continue her research to the level of a PhD in applied mathematics and said she could see herself becoming a professor in the subject.

Agbaje said major factors in her success were her strong faith in God and the financial support and encouragement of her parents. She also thanked her fiancé, sisters and cousin for their support, understanding and encouragement during the challenging task of completing her dissertation.

She said the support of her supervisor, Professor Motsa, proved invaluable in her success. ‘I will always be indebted to him for introducing me to new numerical methods of solving complex nonlinear boundary value problems and thereby inspiring my interest in the area of Applied Mathematics and shaping my future,’ said Agbaje.

Dean and Head of School, Professor Kesh Govinder, said Agbaje and Motsa had ensured the continuation of UKZN’s long standing tradition of winning awards at SAMS!

Christine Cuénod


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UKZN Professor Chairs EU-AU Workshop on Joint Degree Programmes

UKZN Professor Chairs EU-AU Workshop on Joint Degree Programmes
Professor Damtew Teferra (third left) chairing a session at the Workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

UKZN’s Professor Damtew Teferra was a Chairperson at the recent African Higher Education Harmonisation and Tuning Workshop on Joint Degrees in Dar es Salaam which successfully concluded with the plan for the next phase: Tuning Africa II.

Teferra, who is the Head of Higher Education Training and Development (HEDT) at UKZN, was Chairperson in the presentation of the five joint degree programmes and was also responsible for developing the report which is now posted on the Africa-EU partnership website.

Teferra also serves as an advisor to the joint African Union and European Union Initiative in Harmonisation and Tuning African Higher Education.

The meeting was presided over by officials from a number of institutions and organisations including the African Union Commission (AUC), Association of African Universities (AAU), European Commission (EC), Tanzanian Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, University of Dar es Salaam, and Open University of Tanzania (OUT).

The Minister of Education and Vocational Training of Tanzania, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa, officially opened the event.

The rationale for the workshop was to expedite regional integration and enhance intra-African collaboration, foster quality and excellence, expand institutional networking, advance common interests and challenges, increase employment opportunities, attract funding and consolidate resources, enhance innovation, and raise the confidence and profile of both involved students and academics.

The five groups developed joint degree programmes in five thematic areas along the existing fields of Agriculture, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Medicine and Teacher Education. Accordingly, they identified, designed, developed and presented Joint Masters Programs in Agribusiness, Transportation Engineering, Renewable Energy Engineering,  Crisis and Disaster Health Management and Trans-disciplinary Approach to Teaching and Learning.

All the groups agreed and developed second cycle degree (masters) programmes with considerable variety and approaches in the architecture, mode of possible (distance and/or regular) delivery, pattern of (student and/or staff) mobility, and level and extent of partnership.  The anticipated partnership was also extended beyond the region - one of the groups entertained the idea of partnering with European-based institutions.

The Workshop tabled a proposal for the next Tuning Africa II phase to involve 120 universities, expanding it from the current 60, with all African countries, including an additional three fields in economics, geology and Higher Education management.

UKZNdabaOnline


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UKZN Academic Publishes Book About the Concept of Person in African Philosophy

UKZN Academic Publishes Book About the Concept of Person in African Philosophy
Dr Bernard Matolino with his recently published book titled Personhood in African Philosophy.

Dr Bernard Matolino of the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) recently published a book titled Personhood in African Philosophy.

Said Matolino: ‘I chose to write this book primarily because this is an area I have been researching in for the last nine years. My PhD was on how the notion of personhood shaped the first statements of African political philosophy in the form of what was seen as a particularised version of African communitarianism. My interest then was to assess to what extent the philosophical discourses of personal identity, or notions of the self, or personhood, had buttressed the adoption of a certain polity that was presented as authentically African.

‘I then discovered that the philosophical view of personhood was hotly contested and was in need of independent investigation so I sought to primarily understand what the differences, similarities, and philosophical insights and implications of the various interlocutors were,’ said Matolino.

‘Having studied how Western philosophers had almost solved the issue of personhood (with differences known and accepted), I wondered if through, purely philosophical investigation, it could be possible to articulate a philosophically defensible position without relying on exaggerations about African identity. In a word, like many a philosopher before, I was driven by philosophical curiosity.’

Asked about his own personal highlights associated with the book, Matolino said: ‘The highlight of the book is that it is possibly the only monograph ever written that is wholly dedicated to the concept of person in African philosophy. In literature one does find lots of piecemeal writings on the subject but there is none that is as comprehensive as this publication. I have taken great care in gathering distinct, contradictory and at times irreconcilable treatments of this notion and have brought them together in one publication.’

This notion is highly contested, between what he believes are two major strands; communitarianism and metaphysics. The communitarian view, in its varied appearances, bases metaphysics and epistemology in the enduring reality and priority of the community over the individual. This view has been criticised for its failure to accommodate individual rights and realities in social and political structures.

Matolino argues that the alternative and corrective view that seeks to protect the reality of individual rights, does as badly as the original communitarian view. In the light of the failure of old communitarians, and the neglect of the metaphysics of identity, the author proposes a new form of communitarianism where the starting point is the affirmation of the legitimacy and seriousness of a metaphysics of identity.

By metaphysics of identity Matolino refers to the idea that the constitutive elements of a person are essentially non-social and should be taken seriously in what he calls the governance of the self. Though he does not seek to argue for an entirely individualistic conception of the self; he finds it illuminating that this self should be construed as a communal entity in ways that take the possession of individual attributes seriously.

Matolino says although this position might appear insignificant, its justification and necessity lie in the need to counter the hyperbolic valorisation of communal reality at the expense of other important things that constitute “the person”.

The book is fairly technical hence it is targeted at people who are professionally trained in philosophy, have a highly developed interest in the subject matter, or are receiving training in philosophy. According to Matolino, the issues treated in the book are of a great philosophical significance and have been fiercely contested by philosophers on the continent.

The book is available from Cluster Publications either through their interactive website: http://www.clusterpublications.co.za, or at email: cluster@clusterpublications.co.za                             

It will also be available on Amazon Kindle next year. 

Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Academic Meets Pope Francis in Vatican City

UKZN Academic Meets Pope Francis in Vatican City
UKZN’s Professor Robert Peacock with Pope Francis at a meeting in Vatican City.

Academic Leader of the Criminology and Forensic Studies Cluster in the College of Humanities, Professor Robert Peacock, was among a select group who met Pope Francis in the Vatican City to discuss crime and the pursuit of social justice.

Peacock, who is Vice-President of the World Society of Victimology, was invited to the private audience as a representative from the global big five international criminal justice associations.

While speaking before the International Association of Penal Law and Criminal Justice, Pope Francis denounced political corruption.

Peacock said the Pope also spoke out against political complicity, where power was concentrated in one source and referred disdainfully to the mentality of typical corrupt people, whom he described as ‘conceited, unable to accept criticism, and prone to insult and even to persecute those who disagree with them’. 

‘Pope Francis called for abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced “penal populism” that promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime through a primitive tendency to offer up “sacrificial victims”, instead of pursuing social justice. The Vatican recently removed life imprisonment from its own penal code.’

In light of this, Peacock and the World Society of Victimology made a submission to the Pope referring to the problems regarding sexual abuse within Catholic Church institutions and saluted the Pope for publicly condemning wrongs committed in the past decades.

A case was also presented for working together to improve outcomes for victims in the context of the World Society of Victimology’s activities, offering specialist expertise to the Church in order to frame adequate redress schemes which could play a meaningful role in finally closing this ‘sad chapter in our history’.

Victimology in Africa shares with His Holiness Pope Francis the Ubuntu values of intense humanness, universal interconnectedness, compassion, respect and reconciliation,’ added Peacock

Melissa Mungroo


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KZN Philharmonic Orchestra Performs for UKZN Students

KZN Philharmonic Orchestra Performs for UKZN Students
The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra performing for Arts and Culture Education Discipline students.

Arts and Culture Education Discipline students on the Edgewood campus were recently treated to a two-hour performance by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The concert formed part of the Arts and Culture modules with students viewing and learning how the orchestra performs and the different instruments used for a musical routine.

Head of the Arts and Culture Discipline, Dr Yolisa Nompula, said the orchestra conducted a workshop for Arts and Culture 120 (EDAR 120) students highlighting the instruments of the orchestra, their distinctive sounds and structure as well as how the stage gets set up before an orchestral performance.

‘The Arts Discipline always provides a huge opportunity for student teachers to actually see the instruments of the orchestra instead of learning about them in the lectures. This is an annual event that equips students with knowledge and skills on how to teach Music, arts and culture in the schools,’ said Nompula.

After the presentation, the Arts and Culture 120 students wrote a report on instruments and a short report of the whole performance as feedback which is evaluated by the music lecturers.

‘Arts Education believes in Visual learning as it is fun and effective,’ said Nompula.

Melissa Mungroo


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African Music and Dance Students on Stage

African Music and Dance Students on Stage
African Music and Dance students who performed at the Howard College Theatre.

The Music Discipline within the School of Arts recently held its final year public exit recitals in which African Music and Dance (AMD) students went on stage at the Howard College Theatre for their final 45-minute solo performances.

The performances incorporated all the students had learned from the programme with their solo act being judged and assessed by a panel of judges who examined their style, creativity, skill and technique.

The students described the experience as ‘nerve-wrecking yet fun’ and expressed their gratitude for their Lecturer, Dr Patricia Opondo, saying they had learned so much from her about performing and staying ‘true to yourself and being proud of your culture’.

Speaking about the public exit recitals, student Ms Nontobeko Sibiya said all the performances went well and according to plan. ‘Although we knew we were being marked on our recital, it didn’t stop us from getting up on that stage and giving it everything we had. It was scary at first but then once you get into your performance, nothing else matters other than putting on a great show. And the audience seemed to love it.’

Colleague Ms Nozuko Nguqu emphasised that a lot of hard work, long hours and sacrifices went into the solo recital. ‘Being natural-born performers and also having worked on previous productions helped us to become better performers and all that we had learnt culminated in this final act. We practised long and hard and are all proud of what we achieved.’

The students are confident that they performed well and were eager to take the next step of getting into the performing arts industry and pursuing postgraduate study.

Student Ms Neliswa Dlamini said most of them loved African Music and Dance and were keen to turn their passion for the arts into a career.

‘We hope to inspire others to follow their dreams and to go back to our communities and help nurture and develop the talent of the youth and to help contribute to keeping the arts industry alive and thriving,’ said Dlamini.

They advised future final year students to rehearse, plan in advance, never give up and to be committed to executing stellar performances.

They hoped their vision of a world being healed, educated, developed and entertained through live music became a reality.

Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Academics Benefit From Peer Review Workshop

UKZN Academics Benefit From Peer Review Workshop
UKZN Academics who attended the Peer Review Workshop.

A group of UKZN researchers attended the recent inaugural Peer Review for Publications and Proposals Workshop hosted by the University Teaching and Learning Office and aimed at introducing participants to the concept of peer review for academic publishing and grant proposals.

Facilitated by Professor Sarojini Nadar of UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, the workshop provided engaging and practical sessions to academics from various disciplines within UKZN interested in the peer review and publishing process. Topics such as what is a peer review, why the peer review process is necessary, how to engage with peer reviews and how to write up a peer review report were discussed. 

Nadar said it was important for academics to familiarise themselves with the peer review process for their academic growth.  She said the objective of the review process was to ensure a high quality of published science, adding that peer reviewers do not make the decision to accept or reject papers but simply recommend, and gave participants suggestions on what to do when receiving feedback.

The workshop also provided a practical session for participants to review abstracts, where they reviewed and critiqued abstracts, Nadar said the aim of this session was to show participants what goes through the minds of reviewers when they are reviewing academic work.  

A workshop participant Miss Pryah Mahabeer of the School of Education said: ‘The workshop gave me an idea on what to do when submitting for review, and also gave me a deeper understanding of the review process.’

Dr Christina Kgari-Masondo said ‘Professor Nadar has elevated my confidence to start publishing, and this workshop has given me the necessary practical skills to approach the peer review process.’ 

Nadar, who received the Distinguished Teachers’ Award (DTA) for 2013, was appointed Dean of Research for the College of Humanities in 2012. A prolific researcher, she has researched and published widely in the field of feminist biblical hermeneutics with a special focus on HIV and AIDS, gender-based violence, masculinity and sexuality.

In 2012, she received the Distinguished Young Women in Science Award (human and social sciences) from the Department of Science and Technology.

She is considered one of UKZN’s top-published researchers and has a C2 rating from the National Research Foundation.

In 2010 she received the Top Published Woman Researcher at UKZN award, and also achieved the position of top published researcher in the Faculty of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences and secured the second position among all UKZN researchers. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2011 and Full Professor in 2014.

Mongezi Mhlongo


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New Book by UKZN Academics Offers Guide to Health and Happiness

New Book by UKZN Academics Offers Guide to Health and Happiness
Book co-authors, Professor Breminand Maharaj and his wife, Dr Nervashnee Maharaj, accompanied by their children, at the launch of their book.

The Soul, Health and Happiness: A Simple Guide is the title of a new book co-authored by UKZN husband and wife team, Professor Breminand Maharaj and Dr Nervashnee Maharaj.

The book, launched at a function at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, examines the relationship between the soul, health and happiness, and offers practical guidance on how health and happiness can be achieved.

In their many years spent working as health professionals in Internal Medicine, Clinical Pharmacology and Homeopathy, the couple recognised that people generally seek meaning and happiness in their lives but not everyone knows how to get there

‘We were interested in how we could improve the human condition,’ said Dr Maharaj. ‘As we explored and used the knowledge we had gained, we realised the soul has a very important role to play in our lives.

‘Many people have viewed matters of the soul from a distance or with fear because it has been considered a subject that is only studied and understood by enlightened beings or spiritual seekers and, therefore, out of reach. Other people have had difficulty in gaining easy access to knowledge about the soul. As a result, many people do not understand the relation of the soul to their daily life.’

‘The book will be of benefit to everyone, irrespective of their background or age,’ said Professor Maharaj, emphasising that everybody deserved to enjoy good health and happiness

Over the years, the authors shared their knowledge and experiences with their Medical students at UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, their patients and people in society.

Dr Maharaj said: ‘The book is dedicated to humankind, especially the young people of our world, including our daughter, Suparna, and son, Sahasrad Suhari.

‘We also dedicated our book to two special souls who represent the best in humanity, in other words, people who sacrificed their happiness so that everyone else would be happy. The first is Ms Keishu Okada, who has guided us with unconditional love, and the second is Mr Nelson Mandela, who is our hero.’

The book was symbolically handed over to the authors’ children at the launch.

Dr Nervashnee Maharaj qualified as a Homoeopathic Physician at the Durban University of Technology and offered voluntary service at the Health Awareness Clinic in Durban before starting work as medical facilitator to Medical students at UKZN.

Professor Maharaj is an Emeritus Professor at UKZN and a Specialist in Internal Medicine. He has worked as a Physician, Lecturer and Researcher at UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine and King Edward VIII Hospital.

Professor Maharaj, who was appointed by the National Minister of Health to serve on national committees, prepared and presented the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine’s submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa and played an active role in curriculum reform in the Medical school. He also presented a paper at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Professor Maharaj was one of three doctors internationally who was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London in their highest honour (distinguished doctor) category in July 2003.

The couple practices the art of True Light and the principles of the universe (Sukyo Mahikari) as a means of improving the quality of life and well-being of people. 

The book is available at Adams Booksellers & Stationers.

Lunga Memela


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College of Humanities Welcomes New Lecturers

College of Humanities Welcomes New Lecturers
Professor Cheryl Potgieter (fourth left) with Deans, College management staff and new lecturers.

The College of Humanities welcomed 50 new lecturers who have recently been appointed in the College. Nationally the number of Black African academics within the university system is low and the number of African Black Professors is even lower.

The latest available data from the Department of Higher Education and Training from 2012 show that nationwide, 76% of Professors are White, 5% are Indian and 4.5% are Coloured. The National Development Plan states only 194 Black or African South Africans are Professors out of the country’s total of 4?000. This number translates to 4% of the total.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, said the College is committed to increasing the number of Black academics in the system and thus build the next generation of academics. She made it clear that this transformation will contribute to the knowledge production of the University and the country and indeed the continent. The College believes that the overall contribution is contributing to the development goals of the nation and the continent. 

‘We at UKZN and the College of Humanities do transformation through excellence.’

She presented a power point titled “Managing Your Career” and academics new and old felt that it was an extremely useful and important presentation and she has been requested to present it at other forums. All Deans who spoke had a similar message.

Also addressing the new academics, Director of Professional Services, Mr Kishore Gobardan said: ‘As a College, we are really excited about having 50 new academics join us. This sets a new direction for the College and the University. Take each day at a time. Being at UKZN is both challenging and rewarding and as a College, we are confident you will succeed.’

College Human Resources Manager, Mrs Nonhlanhla Kunene stated that it took almost a year to get the new academics on-board and her Human Resources team will continue to be involved in developing them. She believes that the academics will aid in transforming the University.

Kunene thanked the DVC Professor Potgieter for being the driving force behind the event. Thereafter, she thanked the new academics, the Human Resources team, Public Relations team and the College team for their support.

Newly appointed Lecturer within the School of Applied Human Sciences Dr Maud Mthembu stated that she felt welcomed and part of the bigger community of the University and she even managed to connect with other colleagues, built relationships and even shared research interests for future collaborations.  

‘I think the DVC articulated clearly how we can prioritise our work, improve our productivity and output. I particularly like the fact that she was not apologetic about our core business as lecturers while taking into account that we are still new in the academic space.’

‘For me, the take home message was that I can now map my progress and priorities better. All Deans spoke from the heart; personal stories and sharing with us how best to adjust in such a dynamic environment. I felt they really wanted us to succeed and perform better. They were open, approachable and eager to point us to the right direction.’

Lecturer within the School of Social Sciences Mr Siyanda Kheswa said: ‘I was grateful and honored to be part of a good initiative that allowed me to network and get to know more about the College and its organogram. The event made me feel special and I also began to realise that it is no longer a dream but a reality that I am a University staff member.’

‘It is not every day that one meets with the DVC because of her busy schedule but her words of wisdom will allow me to draw inspiration from it. She made us comfortable by letting us know of the challenges that one may encounter yet also giving positives that one will experience.’

‘It was nice to hear from the Deans and HR personnel. The Deans conveyed messages of support and words of encouragement and assured us that we will never be alone since there are structures to consult for support.  I felt that the Deans did a great job in outlining exactly what one should expect during his time as an academic, whose ambition is to grow to full professorship.’

 Melissa Mungroo


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Emeritus Paediatrics Professor Receives Award for Excellence

Emeritus Paediatrics Professor Receives Award for Excellence
Emeritus Professor Miriam Adhikari.

UKZN’s Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics, Miriam Adhikari, received an Annual Service Excellence Award from KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, in recognition of her overall contribution to health care in the field of Paediatrics.

Adhikari said she was honoured and humbled by the accolade: ‘You cannot do this work without the support of others and my strongest support comes from my husband and two children. They are more excited about the award than I am!’

Adhikari also acknowledged staff in her department and three Professors she works with in the Paediatrics section: Professor Patrick Smythe, Professor Allie Moosa and Professor Jerry Coovadia. She also acknowledged her Obstetrics colleagues: Professor Hugh Philpott, Professor Ronald Green-Thompson, and Professor Jack Moodley.

She thanked the advanced midwives who are key figures involved in the care of mothers and their babies and expressed concern for current maternal and child health services, saying a lot more needed to be done to improve them.

Adhikari is a Scientific Advisor for the Postgraduate Office of the School of Clinical Medicine, working with undergraduate and postgraduate students

She is also a Paediatrician and a registered Neonatologist. She had a special interest in paediatric nephrology.

Adhikari, who has trained nurses for many years, said her main focus was to address the management of mothers and babies by nurses.

Nombuso Dlamini


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Students Shine at Italian Opera Evening

Students Shine at Italian Opera Evening
Students of UKZN’s Opera Studio and Choral Academy (OSCA) perform Ogni Suo Aver Tal Femmina from Verdi’s La Traviata.

The outstanding depth of talent among UKZN Music students was revealed during the Eleventh Festival of Italian Opera held at the Howard College Theatre in celebration of the annual International Week of the Italian Language.

UKZN’s Italian Studies and Music Disciplines collaborated in the organisation of the Festival.

The necessity for the close relationship between the two disciplines was explained by Italian Lecturer and host for the evening, Ms Federica Bellusci, who said students of music needed to study Italian to assist them with their pronunciation. 

Participants in the competition were judged on both their singing ability and their grasp of Italian by a three-man panel consisting of Professor David Smith, Mr Richard Salmon and Mr Tony Amatulli.

Ten first year opera students - including tenors, baritones, sopranos and mezzo-sopranos - all ably accompanied by pianist Andrew Warburton, battled it out for the coveted first year competition prize which included a trophy and study bursary presented by guest of honour and Italian Consular representative, Professor Enrico Trabattoni.

The judges were unanimous in awarding first place to tenor, Mr Njabulo Shozi, for his rendition of Mattinata by Leoncavallo; while baritones Senzo Funeka and Sivuyile Matyana received a special mention.

Senior OSCA students - including Scelo Gabela, Eunice Mokoena and Lindokuhle Ngcobo  - were featured in the second half of the evening,  followed by a rousing massed rendition of Ogni Suo Aver Tal Femmina from Verdi’s La Traviata, in which all OSCA students participated.

The finale featured Amanda Kosi, Celiwe Ndwalene and Slindokuhle Zondo, singing Nella Fantasia by Ennio Morricone.

During her opening remarks, Dean and Head of the School of Engineering, Professor Cristina Trois, who hails from the Italian island of Sardinia, stressed the importance of keeping both Italian and music alive and well at UKZN.

She thanked the voice teachers, accompanists and conductors for their hard work behind the scenes to ensure that the evening was a success; and complimented the students for having the courage to step on stage and share their musical talent.

Sally Frost


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Career of Former UKZN Science Foundation Programme Student Flourishes

Career of Former UKZN Science Foundation Programme Student Flourishes
Mr Sphumelele Ndlovu with retired NASA Physicist and pioneer of the development of satellite laser ranging, Dr Henry Plotkin.

The career of UKZN doctoral candidate, Mr Sphumelele Ndlovu, who is attached to the Space Geodesy Programme at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO), has flourished in the past few years.

Ndlovu recently returned from the International Laser Ranging Workshop in Washington in the United States, where he presented his work on the development of a mathematical tool which, using C++ programming language, enables optimal efficiency and signal path parameter estimation of a Lunar Laser Ranger (LLR) system currently under development at HartRAO.

Ndlovu’s presentation on the software, which also estimates the expected photon returns under various scenarios including variable power levels, lunar distance, atmospheric conditions and system efficiency, impressed delegates at the workshop.

The LLR results agreed with data from northern hemisphere stations, leading to invitations for Ndlovu to visit the other stations and verify his findings as well as look at implementing the software in their systems.

Ndlovu’s presentation emphasised HartRAO’s ideal positioning and sound data which can play a key role in improving the ranging accuracy to a sub-centimetre level, adding to the current effort to determine highly accurate earth-moon distances for various scientific purposes.

Ndlovu faced challenges on his path to success in the scientific arena as his high school education was all in isiZulu.

Subjects with extensive notes, therefore, proved less appealing and more difficult for Ndlovu, which is what initially drew him to the subjects of Mathematics and Physical Science, where the provision of formulae allowed him to develop his problem-solving skills.

His good performance in mathematics and science led Ndlovu to UKZN, however, attending a university with English as the main language of instruction was an obstacle, which is where the University’s Science Foundation Programme (SFP) came in. The SFP provided Ndlovu with a one-year access programme where he was taught foundational, pre-university level modules in scientific subjects, providing him with a solid grounding in science literacy, life skills and study skills which prepared him to take on a Bachelor of Science degree.

‘The skills I learned during the programme were invaluable,’ said Ndlovu. ‘The SFP taught me to always look at challenges as an opportunity.  I also learned to never put off what can be done today until tomorrow.  We used to get weekly assignments and we would complain about not having enough time, to which our lecturers would laugh and say ‘make time’ to teach us the importance of time management.

‘The SFP is a good stepping stone between high school and university, especially for those of us coming from disadvantaged schools,’ said Ndlovu.

UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus was the ideal place for Ndlovu to pursue his dreams, and he says that the availability of the lecturers to assist students and the study environment made his work easier. He enjoyed the student social life and participated in campus societies as well as acting as an Augmented Physics Tutor enabling him to give back to young people in a similar situation to his.

Ndlovu said Dr Naven Chetty of the School of Chemistry and Physics played the greatest role in his academic career, being constantly available to assist in honours and masters research.

‘I didn’t only learn Physics from Dr Chetty but also learnt to read and write for scientific journals, and have since published a paper under his supervision, with a second one being accepted for publication recently. He fuelled my interest in science and saw potential in me, encouraging me to study further.’

Ndlovu, who now works in the research area of geodesy, a specialised branch of earth sciences that deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth in a three-dimensional time-varying space, is continuing to pursue his academic goals by studying for a PhD through UKZN.

Ndlovu’s position at HartRAO allows him to continue with his doctoral studies under the supervision of Professor Ludwig Combrinck. He is now involved with a project in the field of geodesy dealing with the measurement of the Earth-Moon distance - it is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

 Christine Cuénod


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School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Celebrates Cultural Diversity

School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Celebrates Cultural Diversity
From left: Ms Selvie Moodley, Ms Laila Gurudas, Ms Shereen Marimuthu, and Ms Alershnee Pillay in their cultural attire.

The School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) recently celebrated cultural heritage and diversity by arranging gatherings on the Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses.  

Staff showed off their culinary skills by preparing traditional foods for the event while participants embraced the day wearing traditional outfits.

The aim of the event was to celebrate the diverse backgrounds of staff members in a fun and informal setting as well as to provide a platform for MSCS staff to share and learn more about each other’s cultures.

Said Dean and Head of School, Professor Kesh Govinder: ‘I wanted my staff to relax together in a fun manner.  Everyone embraced this event and had a wonderful time. A special word of thanks to those who cooked those delicious meals.’

‘The variety of delicious meals prepared were enjoyed in a relaxed and collegial setting, and highlighted our cultural diversity,’ said Astrophysicist, Professor Kavi Moodley.

Professor Janek Banasiak was equally complimentary.   ‘It was a very pleasant event which I enjoyed thoroughly. While it is easy to savour Indian cuisine in Durban, finding a good restaurant serving Zulu meals is a mission. Thus, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to enjoy such food at our cultural lunch.’

‘The room was filled with colour and vibrancy and above all, lots of laughter!’ said Professor Delia North. ‘It was fun and we are already looking forward to improving on this event next year!’

Leena Rajpal


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PhD Cohort Bears Fruit


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A decision taken by academics from the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance to take ownership of their education by forming a PhD cohort is paying dividends.

The cohort was created by Finance Lecturer, Ms Kerry-Ann McCullough, with the aim of creating a supportive environment for staff members Ms Michelle Hatch, Ms Ralitza Dobreva, Ms Patricia Shewell, Mr Raj Rajaram, Mr Barry Strydom and McCullough to work on their PhD proposals.

Under the guidance of seasoned academics such as Professor Jim Fairbun, Dr Phocenah Nyantanga, Dr Claire Vermaak, Dr Harold Ngalawa and Dr Colette Muller, the PhD candidates met regularly to discuss and share ideas on how to refine their PhD proposals to bring them in line with the requirements of the Higher Degrees committee.

McCullough, whose research under the supervision of Professor Mike Murray and Mr Barry Strydom is on the price of discovery and information transmission on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, said the idea of a cohort appealed to her because she needed a platform to engage with people wanting to share challenges and solutions.

‘I was drawn to the idea of a cohort model for many reasons, the main one being that doing a PhD is very solitary work and so being in a cohort with like-minded people which helps make the process seem less overwhelming,’ said McCullough.

‘It is a lovely way to keep up to date with each other’s research and progress. We have also been very lucky to have a number of senior staff dedicate their time to helping the cohort out, and we have found that having a team of people on your side is incredibly valuable for the sharing of ideas and for extra motivation,’ she added.

Fellow colleague, Ms Patricia Shewell said: ‘I was made aware of the cohort through School structures when I started work on a proposal early in 2013 around the time the cohort formed. I knew the support of the more experienced colleagues offering their assistance would be invaluable.’

Shewell’s research topic is titled: “Towards Value-Adding Performance: A Finance Function Performance Metric for the South African Freight Forwarding Industry”.

Speaking as a mentor, Fairburn said although scheduling meetings between the Westville and Pietermaritzburg campus was a challenge, the outcomes were definitely worth it.

‘When somebody has gone to that much effort there were several of us who were very happy to just put a few hours aside to attend and offer advice about how best to proceed. Although not all of us were there at all meetings we would attend when we could, and simply offer comments or advice on the PhD students’ work,’ said Fairburn.

‘Typically there would be a presentation of a draft proposal or chapter from one or two participants and an updating report from everyone else.’

Thandiwe Jumo


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UKZN Hosts Conference on Litigation to Decriminalise Homosexuality in Africa

UKZN Hosts Conference on Litigation to Decriminalise Homosexuality in Africa
From left: Mr Ian Southey-Swartz, Professor Managay Reddi, Mr Jonathan Cooper, Ms Anneke Meerkotter and Mr Max Anmeghichean.

The School of Law in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and the Human Dignity Trust, recently hosted the Conference on Litigating to Decriminalize Homosexuality in Commonwealth Africa.

The three day Conference saw legal experts who are actively involved in challenging anti-gay legislation in Commonwealth countries gather at UKZN’s Howard College to share ideas and best practices for litigation and advocacy for the  lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LTGB) community.

Delivering her address, the Dean and Head of the School of Law Professor Managay Reddi said it is appropriate that the Conference be hosted on African soil given the fact that 42 of 54 Commonwealth countries in Africa still criminalize homosexuality.

The keynote address titled: “Litigation to Decriminalize Homosexuality: A Global Overview” was delivered by the Chief Executive Officer of the Human Dignity Trust, Mr Jonathan Cooper.

The talk mapped the global situation, looked at the value of strategic analysis, the direct versus the indirect challenges and attempted to answer the questions if are there examples of global best practice and if it is worth taking the risk.

‘We need to look at how we got to the point where we are having this conversation. We should be looking at this issue not from a context of privacy but as a one of a violation of human rights. Litigation plays a critical role in cases affecting the LTGB community but the best way to decriminalize homosexuality is through legislation and not litigation,’ he said.

The other issues that were tackled and presented on during the Conference were the litigation and advocacy strategies, advocacy and the politics of the African human rights framework and regional systems, Procedural challenges to criminalisation, anticipating the case against: public morality and faith-based arguments, health and HIV related arguments and many more. The School of Law’s very own Shaun Kruger delivered a presentation on the final day on the Substantive challenges to criminalisation and the arguments raised by the Constitutional Court in the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and another v Minister of Justice and others 1998.

During the question and answer segment, Conference participants took the opportunity to talk about the challenges that are specific to their countries and personal safety fears as they can find themselves on the wrong side of the law due to homosexuality being illegal.

OSISA’s LGBTI Program Co-ordinator, Mr Ian Southey-Swartz said that through these frank conversions they are expecting to figure out how litigation forms part of the global strategy.

‘We need to hear about what is happening on the ground and figure out what litigation means and when to pursue litigation or to leave it as a registered case. We also need to look at the advocacy strategies we can engage in to make our approach stronger as well as how to separate the advocacy and the legalities. We have the best minds in the world in this room to make all of this possible,’ he said.

Thandiwe Jumo


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New Law and Management Postdoctoral Fellows

New Law and Management Postdoctoral Fellows
Postdoctoral Fellows (from left): Dr’s Naveen Bandari, Adeyeye Olufemi, Sulaiman Luqman and Oluyomibo Pitan.

The College of Law and Management Studies has appointed Dr Sulaiman Luqman, Dr Adeyeye Olufemi, Dr Naveen Bandari and Dr Oluyomibo Pitan as postdoctoral scholars as part of its drive to produce quality research that contributes to the betterment of society and to the University’s goal of Pre-eminence in Research.

Luqman, Bandari and Olufemi are attached to the Graduate School of Business and Leadership. Luqman previously worked as a Lecturer in the Department of Banking and Finance, Faculty of Management Sciences, at Ekiti State University in Nigeria. Olufemi previously held the position Chief Lecturer and Director of the Entrepreneurship Education Centre at Rufus Giwa Polytechnic in Nigeria. Pitan, who is with the School of Economics and Finance, was an Economics Tutor at the International School, University of Ibadan in Nigeria

Luqman’s research profile boasts about 25 publications, 19 of which have been published in both local and international peer-reviewed journals. His postdoctoral research topic is: “The Effect of Corporate Restructuring on Performance: A Comparative analysis of Nigerian and South African Quoted Companies”.

‘I was motivated to apply for the fellowship position because academic research and publication are paramount to career development and since postdoctoral fellowship provides an opportunity for a period of uninterrupted research activity and interaction with colleagues from different backgrounds, I expect to publish articles and establish research collaborations with the School even after the fellowship has ended,’ he said.

Olufemi a researcher and writer who has presented many scholarly papers at conferences and seminars, 20 of which have been published in reputable peer-reviewed journals and he has also jointly co-authored many textbooks in the field of Banking and Finance.  His research topic titled: “Bank Reform and the Health Status of Nigerian Banks: A Preliminary Investigation using an Integrated Early Warning Signal” aims at evolving a veritable early warning signal, which can be used as analytical decision support tool in bank monitoring system to detect banks experiencing severe financial difficulties early enough to prevent bank failure.

‘I have always had a strong desire for an enabling academic environment that encourages quality research; enhance academic excellence and rewards productivity. UKZN is notable to be a leading light in this regard, as testimonies abound to justify that assertion.  The postdoctoral research scholarship will equally provide the enabling environment to conduct research in collaboration with other research scholars from different backgrounds, cultures and countries as well as with staff of the University to ensure better output,’ said Olufemi.

For Pitan, whose research profile includes five publications in reputable local and international journals the fellowship is an opportunity to become an international scholar, fuel her passion for research and to acquire new knowledge to give her an edge over her peers.

‘I hope to gain more experience in terms of teaching and research and learn new skills on how to relate with people of diverse race and culture. ‘In the long run, I hope this will increase my productivity and enhance my competitiveness in the labour market,’ she said.

Pitan’s research topic is: “Graduate Employability: a Comparative Analysis of Skills Mismatch in the Nigerian and South African labour market”.

College Dean of Research Professor Marita Carnelley said the College looked forward to an improvement in the production of research because the new Fellows were highly motivated individuals who would engage in fulltime postdoctoral research under the supervision of a member of the academic staff in the College.

 Thandiwe Jumo


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UKZN Academic Speaks at Symposium on Wheelchair Use

UKZN Academic Speaks at Symposium on Wheelchair Use
Occupational Therapy Lecturer, Mrs June McIntyre.

UKZN Occupational Therapy Lecturer, Mrs June McIntyre, was a speaker at a Wheelchair Services Roundtable Conference in Cape Town.

The event, the first of its kind in South Africa, was hosted by the Uhambo Foundation. It provided a unique platform for wheelchair users, carers and suppliers to network with state, private and non-governmental organisations providing services for people with disabilities.

McIntyre, whose husband uses a wheelchair, raised human rights and ethics as underlying issues which guided services, reminding her audience of the importance of upholding these, yet at the same time acknowledging the difficulty in enforcing them.

Discussing barriers to access for wheelchair users, she emphasised that there were many factors impacting users and that ‘bestowing rights’ was not enough. She reminded participants of the variety of role players involved including taxi operators, social workers, police, medical aid societies, wheelchair users and teachers.

McIntyre highlighted some of the difficult situations faced by wheelchair users including pathways which don’t accommodate wide wheelchairs, being carried up and down a hill from a home to where a chair is kept, a child being taken out of her wheelchair by a grandmother who is afraid the child will fall, and the experiences of patients who had to travel more than four hours to get to hospital and sleep in outpatients in order to get service.

McIntyre questioned whether education was going to sort out challenges in service provision and examined who in reality were society’s wheelchair users today.

McIntyre urged all service providers to continue to develop ethical competence in practice and service provision including sensitivity, judgement, motivation and action.

During discussions, McIntyre spoke about difficulties incorporating training into already over-stretched undergraduate academic programmes for therapists. She said teaching at UKZN had already been adapted in line with current training.

The findings of the roundtable meeting were presented at the African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability Symposium in Malawi earlier this month

Participants suggested the meeting should be an annual event held in various parts of the country and incorporating suggestions put forward at the inaugural roundtable

McIntyre was a volunteer in the Red Cross Flying Medical Outreach Programme for many years, running clinics in underserved areas of KwaZulu-Natal and mentoring young Occupational Therapists.

She has developed a special interest in the wheelchair seating of people with mobility impairments, and has published and presented papers on human rights issues associated with the provision of wheelchairs. She is currently involved in undergraduate teaching as well as the training of professional and lay people. She believes in empowering professional and lay people to appropriately select wheelchairs and seat clients with disabilities correctly.

Lunga Memela


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Are Matric Results Indicators of Academic Success at University?

Are Matric Results Indicators of Academic Success at University?
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Two studies conducted by Health Sciences academics examined the relevance of matriculation scores to academic success at UKZN.

The studies - based on student cohorts enrolled in undergraduate programmes within the Disciplines of Occupational Therapy (OT) and Optometry - were recently published in the South African Journal of Occupational Therapy and South African Journal of Higher Education.

The first study, co-authored by Mrs Pragashnie Naidoo, Mrs Nasreen Motala and Professor Robin Joubert, was titled: “Matriculation Scores as an Indicator of Academic Success in an Occupational Therapy Education Programme”.

The study was a retrospective review of 103 Bachelor of Occupational Therapy student records between 2005 and 2010, analysing: the year of entry, year of graduation, matriculation point average, number of years taken to complete the degree and degree averages.

The study found that graduates with lower matriculation scores took longer to complete their OT degrees than those with higher matriculation scores. Graduates with higher matriculation scores had a higher degree average.

The results confirmed that matriculation scores could be used as a predictor of degree averages in OT; however the authors said they viewed this finding with caution due to various confounding factors.

Mr Khathutshelo Percy Mashige, Ms Nishanee Rampersad, Ms Irene Venkatas of the Discipline of Optometry investigated whether National Senior Certificate (NSC) results predicted the academic performance of first-year optometry students at UKZN.

Mashige said while matriculation results were generally used as predictors of success at universities, the quality of the pass rates – ‘particularly in mathematics and physical science’ – remained a major concern, and reports suggested that NSC students showed decreased levels of competencies and preparedness at university.

In this study, the files of 84 first-year optometry students who wrote the NSC examination between 2009 and 2011 were reviewed and their matriculation scores recorded. These scores were compared to their results in modules within the first-year programme.

The researchers said the quality of the pass rates for matric Mathematics and Physical Science remained a major concern in South Africa. ‘Success in Mathematics and Physical Science is often used as an indicator of a good early schooling system and a predictor of the country global competitive advantage.’

However, their study found a weak correlation between matric scores and the professional academic achievement scores in first-year Optometry modules at UKZN.

As NSC scores could not be used as sole predictors of students’ academic success in the first year of the Bachelor of Optometry programme, results from the study ‘strengthened the long-held philosophy and views that the NSC results belie conceptual and skill limitations of school-leavers and the fact that university lecturers always said that in their experience, students over the years had become weaker particularly in the pure and applied sciences even though the matriculation results appeared stronger,’ said the researchers.

Lunga Memela


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