New Manager for the School of Built Environment and Development Studies

New Manager for the School of Built Environment and Development Studies
Ms Slindo Shamase.

Ms Slindo Shamase recently joined the UKZN College of Humanities as the new Manager for the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS).

‘It feels great being a part of this university. I am so grateful for the trust that has been placed in my ability to take on such an important position in the School.’

She feels her experience and belief will enable her to tackle the major tasks of the job. ‘I enjoy anything related to student and academic administration. It’s nice to be back in the busy and interactive environment of a university.’

Prior to joining UKZN, Shamase was Head of Department: Fellowships, Internships and Learnerships at the Foundation for Professional Development.

Previous to that she had been Administration Manager at the School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) where she was tasked with enrolling students and ensuring academic support was in place.

‘I have learned and grown so much from my last two appointments and believe seeing things from an academic administration point of view can help guide how we at the School can achieve our immediate and long term academic administration goals.

‘I also learned a lot about strategic planning and seeing real life social and economic problems being resolved through skills development, training and work exposure for young people. I can now identify career paths students can follow that will make a significant difference to their lives and that of their communities.

Shamase, who was born in Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal. holds various degrees including a Bachelor of Arts from UKZN; the Management Advancement Programme (MAP), a Postgraduate Certificate from the Wits Business School; SAIM Programme in Business Management from UNISA and is planning on pursuing a Masters of Business Administration degree.

She is passionate about youth development and has channelled her skills into ensuring that future leaders are equipped with the right skills to prosper.

As the new School Manager, Shamase will operationally implement the University’s and the School’s rules, policies and procedures under the guidance and supervision of the School’s Dean. These include student administration and all internal processes such as finance and human resources.

Melissa Mungroo

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Mathematics PhD Student Awarded Scholarship

Mathematics PhD Student Awarded Scholarship
Ms Milaine Seuneu Tchamga.

A PhD student in UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Miss Milaine Sergine Seuneu Tchamga, has won first prize for Best Final Presentation at the Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme (SA-YSSP) and was placed second at the event for her final report.

This secured her a three-month systems analysis scholarship to conduct research at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria.

Seuneu, who is completing her PhD under the supervision of Professor Jacek Banasiak, is undertaking research in the field of Applied Mathematics, focusing particularly on stability switch in ecological and epidemiological models. Seuneu’s research is aimed at developing a new method to solve a type of differential equation known as a stiff equation, for which methods currently used are numerically unstable.

The SA-YSSP Steering Committee said they appreciated Seuneu’s mathematically advanced derivation of novel analytical solutions for predicting epidemiological outbreaks in disease dynamics.

The SA-YSSP in which Seuneu took part is organised by the IIASA, a non-governmental research institute focusing on international teams of experts in various fields working on policy-oriented research on global problems too large or complex to be solved by a single country, discipline or institution.

Banasiak said problems investigated by the IIASA included energy, climate change, equity and poverty which required international co-operation.

The IIASA, which has organised the Young Scientists Summer Programmes (YSSP) for several years, made a decision three years ago to move the programmes beyond just Austria, with South Africa being selected as the first host country. During the programme, select young scientists are paired with experienced researchers from the IIASA and other institutions to carry out research on projects relevant to the IIASA. The South African edition of the YSSP, supported by the NRF and organised by the University of the Free State (UFS), offers young scientists in South Africa the opportunity to learn and collaborate with internationally recognised researchers.

The SA-YSSP, a three-month academic training programme, saw 27 PhD students from 17 countries on five continents descend on UFS, with six nominated for the award of the scholarships after 18 external reviews selected the top three candidates, making it a highly competitive process. To have been rewarded during the SA-YSSP demonstrates the quality of Seuneu’s work, as only three young scientists are awarded IIASA-NRF Systems Analysis Scholarships, with the other two recipients being citizens of the United States of America and China.

During the SA-YSSP, Seuneu worked with her supervisor, Banasiak, and Professor A Davydov of the Frumkin Institute of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Russia.

‘Miss Seuneu’s research pertained asymptotic analysis of multiple scale problems,’ said Banasiak. ‘In brief, it involves the study of complex systems with multiple time scales which often are too complex to allow and reliable and robust analysis. The main aim of the study is to find conditions under which such systems can be simplified without compromising the most salient features of their dynamics,’ said Banasiak. ‘Miss Seuneu studied some “pathological” cases when the expected changes of the dynamics of simplified systems were occurring with “unexpected” delays. This research is important in analysing, for example, multiple scale ecological systems as it allows for recognising situations in which the size of some species can drop below, or grow above, levels predicted by standard approximations.’

Seuneu’s interest in the field of Mathematics can be traced back to her early childhood, when she says she enjoyed working with figures and solving puzzles. From those early interests, Seuneu developed a passion for Mathematics above all of her other subjects, and by the time she entered college in her home country of Cameroon, problem solving for her involved challenging formulas.

She describes her passion for the subject as an ever-growing one and took on the challenge of the notoriously demanding subject to challenge the myth that an aptitude for maths is associated with males - an association she proves is no more than a myth.

Seuneu completed her undergraduate degree in Cameroon at the University of Douala, followed by a postgraduate diploma at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), after which she undertook a masters degree at the University of Cape Town. After finishing her masters, Seuneu, pursued a PhD at UKZN because of its reputation as one of the top universities on the continent. Additionally, the calibre of staff at UKZN working in Seuneu’s field of interest, combined with their passion for their work and attention to their students, made the University the ideal fit for her.

Seuneu has enjoyed the experience of having qualified researchers in Mathematics providing her with motivation, insight and encouragement for her studies, saying she found UKZN to be an excellent and motivating institution to be a part of.

Seuneu hasn’t stopped with her research into the new method she is developing and applying with ecological models to prove its validity and efficiency. She is also the Communication Officer of the African Women in Mathematics Association (AWMA) whose aim is, among others things, to encourage young African girls to develop an interest in Mathematics.

‘The future looks so bright,’ says Seuneu when speaking of her goals. ‘It is my desire to first contribute to research and development in Mathematics, especially in solving problems that robbed my continent of its manful power. Secondly, my desire is to inspire many up and coming young Africans, especially girls, to engage in a career in Mathematics. For a long time now, Mathematics has been dominated by men, but I believe that this can be balanced by encouraging girls to also develop a positive attitude towards the subject.’

Seuneu will travel to the IIASA in May this year. ‘It’s an honour for me and I’m highly indebted and grateful to God for His grace and to my supervisor Professor Banasiak for his significant support, guidance and help without which this work could have not been possible. This opportunity will grant me the chance to interact with international experts in the field of Mathematics and I hope to greatly benefit from their vast and rich experience.’

Banasiak said Seuneu’s time at the IIASA would greatly contribute to her career. ‘She will be able to liaise with researchers who work on real world complex systems (some of them actually constructed models on which we worked during SA YSSP).  For me, her awards are really rewarding as they show that it is better to spend more time with good and deserving students rather than to simply go for large numbers of them.’

Christine Cuénod

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Successful Dean’s Forum at School of Health Sciences

Successful Dean’s Forum at School of Health Sciences
Professor Mahmoud Soliman engages School of Health Sciences staff in an open forum.

The Office of the Dean of Health Sciences held the first of a series of open forums scheduled for 2015 as part of the recently implemented multifaceted communication strategy in the College of Health Sciences (CHS).

The forums are an opportunity for College academic and professional services staff to engage on an interpersonal level with the respective Deans on matters pertaining to each of its four Schools.

As newly appointed Dean and of Head of the School of Health Sciences, Professor Mahmoud Soliman took advantage of the opportunity to meet his multidisciplinary staff complement through an open forum which was successfully held on the Westville campus.

The School of Health Sciences trains Audiologists, Biokineticists, Dental Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Optometrists, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists and Speech Therapists.

Soliman said good communication was essential for the functioning of every successful organisation, including institutions of higher learning.

He said the School had a wealth of expertise and he looked forward to driving it from strength to strength.

As the new Dean he said his vision was very much aligned to that of the College and the wider University; aiming for excellence in research, teaching and learning, responsible community engagement, and an administrative philosophy of streamlining for success.

‘The College of Health Sciences provides a very supportive mechanism to assist its academic staff to flourish in their research outputs,’ said Soliman. ‘This mechanism includes postgraduate and postdoctoral scholarships, teaching reliefs, staff development and mentorship programmes, among others. I urge all academic staff to make use of these supportive platforms in order to develop their research profile and I must add that the College of Health Sciences is one of the very few institutes which provides such generous academic support on a national and international level.’

Soliman engaged the staff on various academic and administrative challenges they faced at the forum. He said he had also learnt a lot from meeting each of the disciplines individually.

According to Soliman, the School will reach even greater heights when academic and professional services staff unite to function optimally.

‘In our School we have an excellent record of teaching and learning,’ said School Academic Leader, Dr Frasia Oosthuizen.

Oosthuizen said the School accepted the cream of the crop for enrolment into its programmes. The new mandate would be to increase the number of cum laude and summa cum laude passes on graduation.

It was unanimous that the School should always pride itself in producing quality in all its endeavours.

Lunga Memela

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Sensitising First-Year Medical Students to Community-Oriented Primary Care

Sensitising First-Year Medical Students to Community-Oriented Primary Care
First-year Medical students familiarised with local clinics and hospitals on their way to visit Pholela Community Health Centre as part of the orientation programme.

UKZN is serious about training doctors to serve both urban and rural communities in line with the national Department of Health’s (DoH) primary health care re-engineering programme.

As part of the University’s extensive academic orientation and integration programme for 2015, first-year Medical students went on an inaugural academic visit to the Pholela Community Health Centre in the rural Sisonke Health District of KwaZulu-Natal.

The trip was organised by Dr Stephen Knight of the Discipline of Public Health Medicine together with the Rural Health Department headed by Dr Mosa Moshabela at UKZN, and was aimed at sensitising students to the healthcare needs of all South Africans, especially those who live in under resourced communities of the province.

Previously many Medical students wanted to practice in urban areas after graduating thus neglecting rural communities where care and health promotion are sorely needed.

The Pholela Community Health Centre was the country’s first to be established by the Union Health Department in 1940. With a catchment population of about 17 819, it provides optimal community orientated primary health care to the people of KwaHlangani and surrounding areas, who usually travelled long distances for healthcare and were often unable to afford private medical care.

Led by three academics and members of the Medical Student Repetitive Council, the trip was a significant learning experience for the students because the National Health Insurance, which has a mandate from DoH, is premised on the ideology that all South Africans are entitled to access quality healthcare services.

The students visited various UKZN-affiliated clinics and hospital sites in KwaZulu-Natal on their way to Pholela, including the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban and the Happy Valley Clinic in the Valley of a Thousand Hills which is run by UKZN students.

The students were warmly received at the Pholela Community Health Centre where they heard about the district’s approach to health promotion and disease prevention through community oriented primary care. The idea is not just to treat the individual but to go out and treat the whole community.

The students and the academics on-board agreed that it was a fun and educational trip.

The day ended with a picnic at Howick Falls.

 Lunga Memela

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Study Explores Plant Extract’s Potential Effect on HIV-Treatment Drug Nevirapine

Study Explores Plant Extract’s Potential Effect on HIV-Treatment Drug Nevirapine
Mr Ugochukwu Offor.

Honours research conducted by UKZN student Mr Ugochukwu Offor on rats has shown that adjuvant treatment with the antioxidant plant extract, ‘kolaviron’, reduces the poisonous effect of nevirapine on the animal model.

Supervised by Senior Lecturer in Clinical Anatomy, Dr Onyemaechi Azu, Offor’s study not only sheds light on the possible reparative intervention of kolaviron against the effect of nevirapine on the animal model, it also promotes indigenous knowledge of herbal remedies as adjuvants in ARV therapy.

The most common side effects of nevirapine on patients include: rashes, nausea, fatigue, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal and muscle pains.

Conducted at one of the largest laboratory animal facilities in Southern Africa, UKZN’s Biomedical Resources Unit, and presented at the College of Health Sciences Research Symposium 2014, Offor’s study was titled: “Kolaviron Ameliorates Nevirapine-Induced Renal Histoarchitectural Damage”.

The study found that nevirapine caused histoarchitectural damage in the glomerular apparatus with resultant increase in kidney/body weight ratio.

Results also indicated that serum antioxidant enzymes – SOD and CAT – were also significantly elevated.

‘My passion for this research is around seeing that the indigenous utilisation of African plant-based adjuvants are scientifically validated, especially in view of the increasing usage by individuals, and the public in this case, of kolaviron, an extract from the Garcinia kola seed,’ said Offor.

‘Again, in the light of the paucity of data concerning the potential attenuating influence of kolaviron in any antiretroviral treatment in view of the side effects of nevirapine, the study was carried out to examine the histomorphology of the kidney that is treated with nevirapine and kolaviron since the kidney plays a crucial role in the excretion of drugs.’

Offor joined UKZN after completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Anatomy at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

He said: ‘UKZN is seen as a citadel for high academic and research excellence promoting renaissance in Africa scholarship and research.’

Offor said it was important to overcome the spirit of fear when chasing one’s dreams. He was grateful for the support he received from his colleagues in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences’ Morphology and Andrology Group (MAG).

Lunga Memela

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UKZN Lecturer Earns Top Honours at Malaysian Conference

UKZN Lecturer Earns Top Honours at Malaysian Conference
Ms Anushka Ajith and her supervisor, Professor Anita Naicker.

UKZN Lecturer, Ms Anushka Ajith, won first prize of R5 000 for a poster presentation of her doctoral research on hypertension in pregnant women at the Malaysian Society of Hypertension’s Annual Scientific Meeting.

Her study – supervised by UKZN Professor Anita Naicker, Professor Jagidesa Moodley and Professor Prem Gathiram – was titled: “The Role of Peripheral Natural Killer Cells in Immunocompromised Pre-Eclamptic and Normotensive Pregnant South African Women”.

‘Pre-eclampsia complicates almost five to eight percent of pregnancies globally and is one of the leading causes of maternal and foetal deaths, especially in developing countries,’ said Ajith. ‘From 2008 to 2011, 14 percent of maternal deaths in South Africa were attributed to hypertensive disorders; 83 percent of which were due to pre-eclampsia.’

Ajith described pre-eclampsia as characterised by high blood pressure and significant amounts of protein in the urine of women, and said despite active research, the pathophysiology of pre-eclampsia was not fully understood.

‘Many studies have established that uterine natural killer (NK) cells play an important role in pre-eclampsia. However, the role of peripheral NK cells in pre-eclampsia is limited.’

The aim of her study was to correlate the phenotypic properties of peripheral natural killer cells, CD3, CD16 and CD56 in normotensive pregnant women and pre-eclamptic counterparts in South Africa. 

The study confirmed that an increased accumulation of NK cells were observed in pre-eclamptic compared to the normative pregnancies. It also demonstrated that a significant decrease in peripheral NK cells took place in the pre-eclamptic women and was continuing to look at the effect of HIV in pre-eclampsia.

Ajith said it was important that as soon as a woman knew they were pregnant, they went for antenatal care as an early diagnosis could prevent the onset of pre-eclampsia.

She said women who had been pre-eclamptic in previous pregnancies could be at a higher risk of developing the disease in subsequent pregnancies. Some studies had shown an association of pre-eclampsia in multigravid women with a new partner while other studies showed women could have a genetic predisposition to the disease.

Ajith was inspired to conduct her PhD pre-eclampsia by field expert and Head of UKZN’s Optics and Imaging Centre, Professor Naicker.

Naicker – who referred to Ajith as a ‘diligent medical researcher’ – said scooping the first prize for her poster presented in Malaysia was nothing new for Ajith as last year she was the recipient of the Y.W Loke New Investigator Award in recognition of the excellence of her presentation at the 20th International Federation of Placental Associations Meeting, in Paris, France.

Ajith holds an undergraduate and Honours degree in Microbiology, coupled with a Masters in Plant Breeding degree which she completed before joining UKZN’s Optics and Imaging Centre as an academic.

Ajith said she loved teaching her MBChB and Physiology students and always tried to motivate them to continue into postgraduate studies where they could conduct research and contribute new knowledge to their respective professions.

Ajith said her ‘hobbies’ revolved around her 21-month-old daughter!

Lunga Memela

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Accounting Postgraduate Orientation Day

Accounting Postgraduate Orientation Day
From left: Mr Jeremy Beukes, Ms Farnaaz Shaikjee and Ms Cheryl Crowie.

Accounting postgraduate students were given a holistic view of what to expect and what will be expected of them at an academic level this year. They also got to hear from a prospective employer about how acquiring this qualification will open doors for them and enable them to get closer to becoming a Chartered Accountant.

The Orientation Day which was sponsored by EY and held at both the Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses, aims to ensure that postgraduate diploma in Accounting and Bachelor of Commerce honours (Accountancy) students are adequately prepared for the hard work their studies will demand of them this year.

The Orientation Day achieves this through various presentations which were made to the students. Presentations covered the course outline, time management, how to approach postgraduate tutorials and the services offered by student support services. The students also got to hear from EY’s Human Resource Manager, Mr Jeremy Beukes about career opportunities. Past postgraduate students Mr Thivesan Govender, Ms Farnaaz Shaikjee and Ms Cheryl Crowie spoke to students about their experiences, how to approach the year ahead and how they are now reaping the benefits of their hard work and perseverance.

Postgraduate Co-ordinators Mrs Patsy Shewell and Professor Philip Stegen had this to say: ‘We have an Orientation Day to introduce the management of the School and lecturers involved in final year, to the students - many of whom are new to UKZN. The Orientation Day comprises of a detailed discussion of the course outline which incorporates the rules for the year including DP requirements and information about what students need to achieve in order to get a Certificate in the Theory of Accounting so they can write the SAICA board exams.’ Students were also given a schedule of lectures, tutorials, workshops tests and exams for the year. 

In his inspirational address to the students, Beukes spoke about the importance of planning ahead and excelling in their studies, as employers are looking out for the best students. He went on to add that ‘As a recruiter of postgraduate students, we come to UKZN because we believe in the talent and potential of the students and we have seen huge improvements in the pass rates’. He advised students to work hard and put in the effort which would yield the desired results. ‘The Certificate in the Theory of Accounting is not difficult, but coping with the vast volume of work involved is. Keep your eyes on the prize as there are great opportunities for students,’ he said. Beukes also pointed out that more than half of the KwaZulu-Natal EY intake of trainees for 2015 were from UKZN.

Thandiwe Jumo

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UKZN Academic Part of Exchange Programme in Germany

UKZN Academic Part of Exchange Programme in Germany
Mr Mohammed Vawda.

Mr Mohammed Vawda, a Lecturer within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS), recently spent three weeks in the School of Development Economics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany where he taught a course titled: “Introduction to Population Studies: a Southern African Perspective”.

Vawda’s stay at the university was part of an ongoing programme set up to allow an exchange experience for staff and students of the two universities.

Speaking about the programme, Vawda said: ‘At a broader level I chose to get involved in this teaching venture because it provides a platform to create a long-lasting collaboration between UKZN and an international academic institution of merit. At an individual level it provided an opportunity for me to experience teaching in a different context and to adapt those teaching methods to my South African classes.’

The German students took a keen interest in the course being taught by Vawda with students reacting positively to his engaging teaching style thus creating a conducive environment for higher levels of discussion and proactive learning.

‘This experience provided me with valuable insight into teaching methods and interacting with students from different countries and backgrounds. It was interesting developing different teaching techniques to help overcome language and cultural barriers and create a conducive and engaging teaching environment.

‘I hope what I gained from this experience and opportunity allows me to create a more productive and engaging teaching environment with my South African students.’

Vawda believes that exchange programmes are insightful and provide feedback in terms of adapting, changing and improving teaching methods in different contexts. ‘Exchange programmes also provide a basis for strengthening research and academic collaboration between local and international academic institutions.’

Melissa Mungroo

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Academic Presents Paper at Inaugural Asian Conference

Academic Presents Paper at Inaugural Asian Conference
Senior Politics Lecturer at UKZN, Dr Bheki Mngomezulu.

Senior Lecturer and Academic Leader within the Politics Discipline at the School of Social SciencesDr Bheki Mngomezulu, presented his paper titled: “The Impact of Government Policies on the Sustainability of Social Sciences: Lessons from Africa”, at the inaugural Asian Conference in Japan on Social Sciences and Sustainability.

Mngomezulu’s paper examined the state of social sciences from a global perspective and then cited examples from the African continent to show how African universities had been (and continue to be) affected by the global trend.

The key argument was that African governments played a pivotal role in promoting social sciences in the 1960s and 1970s but were now responsible for the demise of this academic field. The paper concluded by looking at the role industry could play in improving the state of social science in African universities.

‘The choice for this topic was informed by the general trend by national governments to invest time and resources in promoting science and technology at the expense of social sciences,’ explained Mngomezulu.  ‘I was particularly concerned about the negative impact of this practice and possible ramifications.’

His presentation was well-received, with Mngomezulu being praised by the Conference organisers. He was asked to present another paper for the conference scheduled for later this year.

‘Conferences like these are important because they bring together scholars from across the globe to share similar experiences and propose different solutions to the existing problems/challenges. Importantly, the outcomes have a potential to influence government policies,’ he added.

Melissa Mungroo

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School of Management, Information Technology and Governance Postgraduate Students Empowered

School of Management, Information Technology and Governance Postgraduate Students Empowered
Dr Ziska Fields engaging with students during Orientation.

Management and Entrepreneurship honours students were given a glimpse of the academic journey ahead of them during a recent orientation gathering held at the Westville campus.

The aim of the information sharing session was for academics in the Discipline of Management and Entrepreneurship to equip students with knowledge which is vital for them to succeed in their studies.

To set the scene, Academic Leader and Senior Lecturer:  Management and Entrepreneurship, Dr Ziska Fields started the event by welcoming the students. She informed them that she is looking to see their entrepreneurial and managerial thinking and competencies develop as the Honours in Management programme is based on participatory pedagogy practices which will equip them with the knowledge and skills to succeed in the working world.

To give students a holistic view of the Honours in Management programme, each honours lecture gave an overview of their specific module, explained how the module fits into the honours programme and the value the module will have when students join the working world or decide to do a Masters degree. .

Mr Alex Bozas and Mr Dough Engelbrecht who are taking lead in assisting the students with their research project, stated that the focus this year will be on applying theoretical knowledge to current practical leadership and entrepreneurial challenges. Students will be required to research cutting edge topics on sustainability, responsible management as well as entrepreneurship.

Students also utilised the opportunity to engage with academics and discuss any matters that they had.

The day concluded with the team from UKZN’s Westville Campus’s Library, Dr Richard Beharilal and Ms Anita Somers, giving an overview of the library resources, as well as an introduction to Endnote.

Thandiwe Jumo and Thea van der Westhuizen

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Sutherland Telescope Arrives at UKZN

Sutherland Telescope Arrives at UKZN
UKZN’s new telescope being unloaded on the Westville campus.

Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science proudly took delivery of its first telescope this week, which coincided with the 2015 introduction of the School’s first Astronomy module.

It is hoped to have the telescope up and running by 2016 so that students can do observational projects on it.

Donated by the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAA0), the 0,75 metre telescope was off-loaded on the Westville campus, having arrived safely from Sutherland in the Northern Cape where it had been handed over.

UKZN and the University of the Free State were the two universities chosen from various applicants to receive a telescope each.

SAAO’s clearly laid out requirements of ensuring that the telescopes would be used for student training, advancing scientific research and public engagement, were met by the two tertiary institutions.

Dr Matt Hilton of UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU), who travelled to Sutherland to help pack up the telescope for transportation along with Physics Lecturer Mr Mbuso Cele, said the School planned to build a housing installation for the telescope.

The measurement, ‘0,75’, refers to the diameter of the telescope’s primary mirror, which is 75cm. ‘The bigger the telescope mirror, the more light you can collect, allowing you to see more distant, fainter objects like galaxies,’ explained Hilton. ‘UKZN has never before had a telescope of this size. We will use it to give students hands-on experience of conducting simple observational astronomy research projects. There is a need for this in the country, and we hope future UKZN graduates will be leading scientific investigations using facilities like the Southern African Large Telescope and the Square Kilometre Array.’

Hilton said that once operational, members of the public would also be able to look through the telescope on public observing evenings.

‘This is a major undertaking that is the first for the province,’ he said.

UKZN’s telescope was previously used for various infrared and visible light studies of stars, including the supernova that exploded in 1987 in our nearest neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

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UKZN Remembers Pioneer of Community Obstetrics

UKZN Remembers Pioneer of Community Obstetrics
Professor Sam Ross.

University staff and students recently gathered at a memorial service at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine to bid a final farewell to beloved academic and pioneer of community Obstetrics, Professor Sam Ross (83), who passed away peacefully following a prolonged illness.

Ross, who lived a life filled with service to humanity, was born and raised in England. He moved to Nigeria where he worked at a mission hospital for 12 years before transferring to Ethiopia serving for seven years as Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at a Medical School in Addis Ababa.

Ross joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the former University of Natal in 1975 and became well-known for his work in Community Obstetrics in South Africa.

Ross developed protocols for the management of pregnant women at community health centres, and provided support for midwives in Umlazi, KwaMashu and in KwaDabeka Poly Clinics. In addition, he was responsible for starting a programme for Advanced Midwifery Training in Durban, which later spread to other parts of South Africa.

He co-authored Obstetrics, Family Planning and Paediatrics (University of Natal Press,1986) and published a number of papers on nutrition during pregnancy, point of care in the management of sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy and other papers related to community obstetrics.

The value he added to the world around him extended well beyond his academic achievements into the community where his legacy lives on in the establishment of projects that have brought improvement to the lives of many. These include helping to establish the KwaMashu Christian Care Society, which operates as an early childhood centre and old age home for the frail and chronically sick in the community.

Ross’s family home was open to a number of Black students while they studied at university during the 1980s. His actions defied the Group Areas Act of the day which restricted Black people from living in areas set aside for whites. In addition, he actively supported the Student Christian Movement in the Alan Taylor Residence, where he regularly enjoyed fellowship with Medical students, providing them with spiritual support, guardianship and mentorship. Some of the then Medical students he offered support to included UKZN Chancellor, Dr Zweli Mkhize, and former Chair of the SA Medical Association, Dr Zolile Mlisane.

Dr Amon Nkambule, one of Ross’s students who lodged with him in the late 1980s, describes Ross as being a very humble person who by his own example taught his students how to give, be humble and forgive others. Nkambule held a close relationship with Ross up until his last days. ‘Professor Ross was like a father to us (students), - he always remembered our birthdays, he would take us to church and he attended my wedding. I am deeply saddened by his death.’

Ross will be missed by his former students who have fond memories of his teachings. Some went on to become core staff members at UKZN including the immediate past Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, and Acting Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr Motshedisi Sebitloane.

Makgoba says Ross introduced community obstetrics into their (Medical School) studies in 1975/76, ‘He was a very religious, gentle and soft spoken person.’

Sebitloane said many people benefited from Ross’s work, ‘He took specialist skill to primary healthcare and equipped midwives.’

Ross retired from the University of Natal in the early 1990s and joined CHESS (Centre for Health and Social Studies), an organisation which among other things focused on strengthening the health systems in midwifery and women’s health all over SA.

He was well known for his deep Christian beliefs and his passion for gardening. His love and concern for humanity saw him lead a life that has touched and impacted on those around him, including his children, who have all taken after their father’s interest in healthcare.

Ross is survived by his wife, Morag, his four children and eight grandchildren.

His son, Dr Andrew Ross, a Lecturer in Family Medicine at UKZN, said of his father: ‘We loved him deeply and always appreciated his support and encouragement.’

Sejal Desai

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