Academic Proud of her Students who Overcame Great Odds to Obtain Distinctions

Academic Proud of her Students who Overcame Great Odds to Obtain Distinctions
Ms Nokwanda Mazibuko (left) with Dr Maheshvari Naidu (centre) and Mr Gabriel Darong.

Two Masters Students of Dr Maheshvari Naidu, an academic in the College of Humanities, School of Social Sciences, have excelled and distinguished themselves.  

Ms Nokwanda Mazibuko graduated having obtained her Masters in Anthropology cum laude and Mr Gabriel Darong graduated having obtained his Master’s degree in Anthropology Summa cum laude.

Both students were ecstatic with their results and agree that it came after ‘months of hard work, and long nights of sweat and tears’.

Their supervisor, Naidu said that both students committed to a regime of hard work and were determined to obtain the best pass possible in the shortest time possible. While Mazibuko completed her Masters in less than eighteen months, Darong took less than twelve months, even submitting his thesis a full month before the November deadline.

Naidu said that both students overcame immense personal and financial obstacles, determined to make their mark on a Discipline they were passionate about. Both have different unique skills as researchers and young Anthropologists in the making, she said.

‘Gabriel is from Nigeria and had to fund his own studies while here. Although he won a University merit scholarship and a bursary from the School, it was an ongoing financial see-saw that he found himself on. Even making the monthly rent was an incredible challenge. That coupled with the fact that he had not been home in several years, made it an emotionally demanding time.

‘Nokwanda lost her mum at the age of eight and was raised by her aunt. Nokwanda married early last year. Although she had the full support of her husband, she battled a series of health issues and intense personal problems with her family, making her Masters process an emotionally draining one.

‘Yet both students forged on with grit and tenacity,’ Naidu said.

Mazibuko shared that her research interest is around cultural constructions of identity and sexuality.

‘My Masters work focused on African masculinities, probing the izikhothani as an alternate form of African masculinity. My current work for my PhD, is on township women’s construction of sexuality’.

‘Dr Naidu has been an amazing supervisor throughout my Masters journey. There were times when we wouldn’t get along because I thought she wanted me to do the impossible. I thought, just because she is “intelligent” doesn’t mean that we all are. However as time went by I realised the power of her creativity and her ability to push me out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t have achieved so much if she wasn’t hard on me and expected great things from me.’

Darong said that conceptualising the Masters study (in social construction of illness and health) was one of the hardest stages as it required a lot of mental gymnastics, “to and fro” search and re-search and determination.

‘In all of that movement, the constant help of my supervisor, who has become a stronghold in my academic and personal growth, was a great catalyst to the study. Her ability to keep communicating with me, physically, by mail or text messages, regarding my study and wellbeing, almost on a daily basis, kept me motivated and focused. This kind of support enabled me to complete and present my proposal and even my thesis in record time.’

‘Carrying out my fieldwork, although I was well received and my study supported in the hospital, the financial constraints of going to the field as often as needed would have been greatly hampered if not for the motivation and financial support of Dr Naidu who employed me as her research assistant.’

Naidu said that both students have already begun their doctoral work with her. Mazibuko’s doctoral focus is in gender, sexualities and feminist anthropology while Darong’s focus is in health and medical anthropology. ‘I expect great things from them,’ she said.

Melissa Mungroo

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School Connectedness Focus of PhD Research by UKZN Staff

School Connectedness Focus of PhD Research by UKZN Staff
Dr Kamila Rawatlal and her supervisor Prof Inge Petersen.

UKZN Counsellor, Ms Kamila Rawatlal, has been awarded a PhD in Counselling Psychology by the College of Humanities.  

Her study was inspired by the many people from diverse backgrounds and contexts she has met in her training and practice of Psychology.  These people strived tirelessly to make the world a better place as well as contributing to ‘Social Sciences that make a difference’.

Rawatlal’s study, titled:  “The Development, Implementation and Evaluation of Interventions to Build School Connectedness - A Pilot Study”, was motivated by escalating incidents of high risk behaviour and deviance in many South African schools and the need for intervention to enhance the mental health well-being of adolescent learners.

The study further illustrated the importance of engaging multiple system interventions in promoting mental health and provided insight into school functioning and strategies needed to improve the mental health and well-being of adolescents at the intrapersonal, interpersonal and community levels. The study has been referred to as having implications for informing policy for school development in the South African education landscape.

‘The journey of completing a PhD and working full-time was challenging but accompanied by personal rewards in terms of gaining knowledge and self-understanding that contributed to both my personal and professional development,’ said Rawatial.

She acknowledges her supervisor, Professor Inge Petersen for her support, patience, and influencing her interest in mental health promotion from as early as her undergraduate years.

The encouragement received from friends and colleagues in the Student Support Services section as well as from Ms Rawatlal’s family and friends, also provided her with invaluable support. Her advice to other PhD researchers: ‘If you start something…finish it…with all integrity, self-determination and belief in ability to make a difference.’

Melissa Mungroo

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61.38% Women to Graduate at UKZN

61.38% Women to Graduate at UKZN
Graduates Celebrating at the Westville Campus Graduation Ceremony.


The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) will confer an impressive 9637 degrees at its 18 graduation ceremonies to be held on its Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses, which commenced on Monday, 13 April and ending on Tuesday, 21 April

A notable 5 915 (61.38 percent) of the graduands are women while 260 will graduate cum laude and 85, summa cum laude. About 4186 degrees will be conferred in the College of Humanities, 1952 degrees in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, 931 in the College of Health Sciences and 2568 in the College of Law and Management Studies.

Furthermore, a total of 264 doctoral degrees will be conferred and approximately 82 graduands with disabilities will also be capped at the ceremonies.

Two academics will receive the University’s Distinguished Teachers’ Award for teaching excellence. They are Professor Anesh Maharaj in the School of Mathematical Sciences and Professor Michael Savage in the School of Environmental Sciences.

Prominent academic Professor Philippe Denis, in the School of Religion and Theology will be made a Fellow of UKZN. University Fellowships are conferred annually on outstanding academics for research excellence and distinguished academic achievement.

The Senate and Council of the University of KwaZulu-Natal have approved the nominations to confer honorary degrees in 2015 on five distinguished individuals, for their unique and outstanding contribution to society both locally and at a global level. The awards which will be conferred at the graduation ceremonies:

Honorary degrees (see notes below for details) will be awarded to:

•   Professor Alan Aderem (Doctor of Science) in category 1

•   Dr Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (Doctor of Science) in category 1

•   Mrs Fée Halsted-Berning (Doctor of Literature) in category 2

•   Mr Michel Sidibé (Doctor of Administration) in category 2

•   Mr Philip Nchipe Tabane (Doctor of Music) in category 2


The Honorary doctorate awards will be made in two categories:

Category 1 – Distinguished services in the advancement of one or more of the branches of learning recognised by the University, and Category 2 – A personal record of distinguished service and/or achievement in some other field of endeavour (e.g. the advancement of democracy and social justice, social service, community leadership, economic enterprise, public affairs, philanthropy, the performing and creative arts).


Alan Aderem (Doctor of Science)

Category 1 – Distinguished services in the advancement of one or more of the branches of learning recognised by the University.

Internationally recognised immunologist and cell biologist, Professor Alan Aderem has studied the interface between the innate and adaptive immune system for more than 25 years. He is currently the President of the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute where he has made an immense contribution to medical research. His laboratory’s research focuses on diseases afflicting citizens of resource poor countries, including AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and influenza and he has had a strong influence on shaping the biomedical research environment in South Africa. More specifically in fore fronting the importance of basic science as a foundation for improving health care, and currently Chairs the Board of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH).

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (Doctor of Science)

Category 1 – Distinguished services in the advancement of one or more of the branches of learning recognised by the University.

French Virologist, Dr Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, was a co-recipient in 2008 of the Nobel Prize in Physiology for her discovery in 1983 of the retrovirus that would later come to be known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV. Her discovery advanced the world’s understanding of the viral replication cycle and led to the first diagnostic tests for HIV, which have been the basis for AIDS treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and indeed the development of vaccines against HIV – all of which played a part in limiting the spread of the global pandemic.

Fée Halsted-Berning (Doctor of Literature)

Category 2 – A personal record of distinguished service and/or achievement in a field of endeavor (e.g. the advancement of democracy and social justice, social service, community leadership, economic enterprise, public affairs, philanthropy, the performing and creative arts) which is deemed appropriate for the University to recognize.

Ceramicist, Fée Halsted-Berning’s contribution in nurturing talent in rural KwaZulu-Natal through Ardmore Ceramic Art has been hailed throughout the international arts world as a triumph of creativity and empowerment over poverty, disease and lack of formal education. This recognition has enriched the communities from which they come, economically as well as through education, opportunity, pride and dignity in their work as artists.  As part of a commitment to uplifting local artists, the Ardmore Excellence Fund was established in 1998 to help cover medical expenses for Ardmore artists suffering from HIV/AIDS and also to serve as an educational programme on the prevention of HIV.

Michel Sidibé (Doctor of Administration)

Category 2 – A personal record of distinguished service and/or achievement in a field of endeavor (e.g. the advancement of democracy and social justice, social service, community leadership, economic enterprise, public affairs, philanthropy, the performing and creative arts) which is deemed appropriate for the University to recognize.

Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), has been recognised nationally and internationally for his contribution in the fight against AIDS.  He helped shape the global movement for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support. His marked influence in shaping South Africa’s policies on HIV and AIDS, as well as his extraordinary record of international public health service and leadership in catalyzing the global movement for universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and support has contributed significantly to the unprecedented global political commitment and funding for HIV/AIDS.

Philip Tabane (Doctor of Music)

Category 2 – A personal record of distinguished service and/or achievement in a field of endeavor (e.g. the advancement of democracy and social justice, social service, community leadership, economic enterprise, public affairs, philanthropy, the performing and creative arts) which is deemed appropriate for the University to recognize.

Philip Tabane has been described as a pure musical genius and is recognised nationally and internationally for his unique musical style. He is the creative genius that spawned a whole genre of music known as Malombo - the rhythm and sound of the ancestral spirits that emanates from the elevated realm of spiritual creative harmony. This architect of the Malombo tradition is credited for having fused ancient African rhythms with western instruments creating a new and unique sound. Despite his massive musical talent, he has remained the quintessential African performer that has long been true to his African roots. Philip Tabane can best be described as the African Renaissance music man who expresses his creative spirit in a fusion of Pedi, Shangaan/Tsonga and Venda, the languages of his ancestral home who captures the essence of African Scholarship in his music.

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Dystopian Narratives part of Architecture Graduates Research

Dystopian Narratives part of Architecture Graduates Research
Dr Zane Atkinson with his research supervisor Mr Mthembeni Mkhize.

Dr Zane Atkinson recently graduated with his Masters in Architecture from the College of Humanities in which his research focused on Dystopian Narratives as a Tool for the rejuvenation of Brown Field sites where he proposed a mixed use park for Colenso in Ladysmith.

Atkinson’s research (supervised by Mr Mthembeni Mkhize) was born from his fascination and interest in science fiction and from a random blog that he stumbled upon. His research focused on rejuvenating three massive cooling towers of the abandoned power station at Colenso.

He is hopeful that his research will allow such abandoned areas to be converted to areas that can be used for tourism purposes and to contribute to educational and economic purposes to empower people.

‘Dystopian Narratives is a way to tell architectural stories in a bid to attract people and to give value to existing tourist attractions,’ said Atkinson.

His findings point to a positive shift of people’s perceptions to brown sites if such rejuvenation mechanisms are incorporated.

Atkinson currently works as a Freelancing Architect and a Board-game designer and is considering lecturing in the future.

Melissa Mungroo

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DRC Child Soldiers Studied in Graduate’s Research

DRC Child Soldiers Studied in Graduate’s Research
Masters graduate, Mr Mnikeni Phakathi.

Understanding Child Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Impact of Violence and Trauma on their Psychosocial Development was the focus of research conducted by Mr Mnikeni Phakathi, who graduated with a Masters in Social Sciences degree from the College of Humanities.  

Said Phakathi: ‘The reason for such a study was to understand the child soldier phenomenon, which includes the recruitment process and involvement of children under 18 in both state armies and para-military activities, whether forced or voluntary.’

He says the study assumes that child soldiers, as a result of their involvement in the killing of their own families and civilians indiscriminately during wars in the DRC and other conflict-prone states, inadvertently or at times deliberately choose to forget about the atrocities and prolonged abusive relationships they have with military commanders.

‘Misremembering the past helps them survive during their military life and also when reintegrated into safer communities. It borrows from Freud’s Betrayal Trauma Theory. There are reasonable questions about external researchers dominating the analyses and proposing solutions in many instances where countries have experienced wars in Africa and abroad.

‘While it remains baseless to question the authenticity of such studies, it really would encourage desk top researchers if the analysis, conclusions and recommendations come dominantly from the natives of the affected communities.’

Phakathi believes that even though the study focused on the DRC, the conclusions can be applied in finding solutions for any society - including South Africa - that is grappling with child abuse and other forms of developmental issues such as peace-building, social integration and cohesion.

‘Significantly the study examines how international aid goes hand in glove with restrictions that serve the interests of the state or institution offering aid. That approach minimises flexibility and discretional fund and human resource allocation by local civic organisations. It’s neo-colonialism that should be questioned. It undermines local indigenous approaches to Peace-Building, resulting in failed integration programmes, among others.’

One of the main challenges he encountered while doing the research was funding.

 ‘Due to a lack of finances I have seen compelling passionate and brilliant students quit studying because they come from impoverished communities.’

However, Phakathi is grateful to the Dean and Head of the School of Social Sciences, Professor Stephen Mutula, who paid part of his outstanding fees. He is also thankful to the College and the School of Social Sciences for helping him register for his PhD and to his family and friends for their support.

He advised post-graduate students to organise themselves and share ideas on academic writing and to set up forums where they are able to discuss opportunities (research and employment), supervision problems, funding for tuition and research material, and political consciousness, in order to fight all forms of injustices in the education system and their respective communities.

‘Studying at UKZN brings about immense pride. It certainly is not easy to even imagine an academic life outside this Institution. This is evidenced by the former students who are increasingly coming back to further their studies, both part-time and full-time.’

Phakathi was a welder in Johannesburg before starting his studies at UKZN, where he was SRC President of the Howard College campus between 2010 and 2011.

He is now a full time PhD student and participates in the College of Humanities’ Mentorship programme. He is also a Peer Educator for the University’s HIV Support Unit on the Howard College campus and continues to participate in student and national politics.

Melissa Mungroo

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Research on Female Condom use Among University Students in Durban

Research on Female Condom use Among University Students in Durban
College of Humanities Graduate, Ms Nomsa Mahlalela.

UKZN Masters graduate Ms Nomsa Mahlalela of the College of Humanities explored the use of female condoms among university students in Durban for her degree.  

The research, which earned her a Masters in Population Studies qualification, was published in the European Journal for Contraception and Reproductive Health Care.

‘It has always been in my long-term plans to have a Masters degree,’ said Mahlalela. ‘I believe that by holding such a degree you are building a strong foundation, especially in a competitive working environment. I also have a long-held interest in women’s health issues and reproductive health.

‘Exploring female condom use for me is very important and highly relevant, especially in the South African context where so many women are living with HIV.

 The female condom is the only available tool to protect women against the dual risks of STIs and pregnancy. It is available in South Africa, yet underutilised.’

She believes that better understanding is needed on this issue. ‘The female condom is one of government’s strategies to fight the HIV pandemic. Understanding promoters and barriers regarding its use is important for the government to create interventions that will facilitate the consistent use of the condom in order to address the high levels of HIV and AIDS, especially among women in the country.’

The results of the study highlighted several factors that facilitate and inhibit female condom use.

 Protection from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS, and pregnancy prevention were among the main reasons for the use of the device by female students.

‘Students expressed positive attitudes towards the female condom and prefer it over hormonal contraceptives because it offers them dual protection. Absence of side effects and greater power and autonomy to initiate safer sex are other factors that facilitate its use. Inadequate availability, partner objection, stigma, insertion difficulties, and lack of awareness were significant barriers to consistent female condom use,’ said Mahlalela. 

However, there was an urgent need for the government to make the condoms widely accessible to the entire population. ‘Providing adequate information and increasing male involvement are essential for women’s empowerment.’

During the course of her studies, she became a PEPFAR Research Fellow with the Foundation for Professional Development in Pretoria and now works as a junior researcher for the Gender-Based Violence project, Making All Voices Count.

‘We want to develop and test an app on a mobile phone accessible platform that will enhance the case management process of rape survivors at Thuthuzela Care Centres.  It is envisaged this will improve their journey through the justice system and establish a platform to hear the voices of these same rape survivors in terms of client-experience of services received,’ said Mahlalela.

‘This will hold the gender-based violence support service providers to account, including the South African Police Services the National Prosecuting Authority the Department of Health, NGOs and CBOs.’

Mahlalela, who advised other MA and PhD researchers to persevere in their work, thanked her family, friends and lecturers for their support.

‘UKZN is the best place to be!’

Melissa Mungroo

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Humanities Graduate Salutes Family and God

Humanities Graduate Salutes Family and God
Bachelor of Social Work graduate, Ms Thobeka Nala.

Bachelor of Social Work graduate, Ms Thobeka Nala, has dedicated her achievement to her family and to God.  

‘I never imagined myself doing anything else,’ said Nala. ‘Growing up I have always wanted to pursue a career in social work - it has been more of a calling rather than a career option.’

Nala is part of the mentorship programme, having started out as a volunteer before being given the opportunity to mentor first year students on the Howard College campus. She provided guidance to students and shared her experiences, believing it easier and more meaningful to provide information on things she had experienced.

She sees her mentorship role as one that fulfils her social work duties. 

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. ‘My challenge was adapting to the environment - there is no supervision which makes it optional to attend lectures. As a result I ended up repeating my first year. But I made it through with perseverance.

‘Most importantly I had the privilege of having a very supportive and active mentor in Ms Lindiwe Phetha, who has had a great impact on my life and made my college experience more pleasant.’

Nala, who was also awarded a social work scholarship last year from the Department of Social Development, hopes to pursue a postgraduate degree.

Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Staff Graduates with Masters in Development Studies Degree

UKZN Staff Graduates with Masters in Development Studies Degree
Ms Buyisiwe Khumalo.

Co-ordinator for the Academic Monitoring and Support/ Mentorship Programme in the College of Humanities, Ms Buyisiwe Khumalo, graduated with a Masters in Development Studies degree.  

Khumalo suffered a severe setback with the death of her father in 2012 but she prevailed with highly valued support from her family and friends.

‘Things were not easy and I considered deregistering. However, my family especially my mom and daughter were a source of inspiration and a reminder of where I wanted to get to in life.’

 For Khumalo, the hard-earned Masters degree is one of her biggest achievements. ‘Considering where I come from, it is amazing to be finally where I am today. This is not just for me, but for my family and community who are major contributors to my success.’

Her study investigated the role played by horizontal philanthropy in alleviating the impacts of HIV and AIDS in rural areas. It assesses how community philanthropy through CBOs contributes to ameliorating the impacts of HIV/AIDS in the rural communities.

‘The study provides society with an understanding that giving and philanthropy form a large part of the South African tradition and culture. They also positively impact on society where their importance, especially in marginalised communities, has been overlooked,’ said Khumalo.

She believes the study will raise societal awareness that philanthropic practices are already entrenched within South African communities and could be acknowledged and built upon to ensure better social solidarity, development and sustainability, even in the case of HIV and AIDS.

The findings of her research show that in low-wealth communities, assistance or horizontal philanthropy among people is widespread, intensely rooted and works as an imperative component for survival, development and sustainability.

‘In these settings, horizontal philanthropy is part and parcel of the social fabric rather than random or disorganised.’  The research also suggested that horizontal philanthropy in all of its diversity has noteworthy effects on people’s lives. 

Khumalo received a Mott’s foundation Scholarship for her research and was awarded the College of Humanities Postgraduate bursary for tuition in 2013. 

She is currently a Board member of the Isibani Educational Empowerment NPO and is involved in development projects and tutoring at rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

She is now a PHD student in the School of Social Sciences (Gender Studies).

Melissa Mungroo

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Religious Terrorism in Africa Explored in Research

Religious Terrorism in Africa Explored in Research
Mr Richard Chelin, who was awarded his Bachelor of Social Science (Honours) degree summa cum laude.

The current surge in religious terrorism, as evidenced by the recent Al Shabaab attacks in Kenya, makes it imperative for scholars and others to work towards a solution to the crisis.  

This is according to Mr Richard Chelin who graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science (Honours) degree summa cum laude from the Conflict Transformation and Peace Studies programme at UKZN.

Said Chelin; ‘The aim of my research is to contribute towards finding a solution to the problems.’

Speaking about his research findings, Chelin said: ‘In terms of religious terrorism, religion is often used as a justification to commit acts of violence. Hence, when analysing a conflict, it becomes important to investigate the underlying causes for the conflict such as the social, political and economic factors involved.’

His research found there were often deep structural issues beneath the radicalisation of individuals. These included conflict and poverty, marginalisation, human rights violations, ethnic discrimination and lack of employment opportunities.

‘Religious terrorism exemplifies instances where religion becomes the victim of violence as it is manipulated by individuals to justify their acts.  Therefore, a concerted and collective effort on the part of the local populace, scholars, religious leaders, and government and international actors is crucial when addressing these underlying structures of conflict and is essential when attempting to formulate a solution to the phenomenon of religious terrorism,’ said Chelin.

Some of the challenges he encountered were difficulties in conducting field work due to the nature of the topic itself (terrorism) and problems with obtaining access to those involved in the conflict.  In spite of the difficulties encountered, the literature available was more than enough to distill crucial and credible information that contributed towards the effectiveness and reliability of the research findings.

He continued with ongoing support from family and friends. ‘Despite not understanding the value and esteem attached to this qualification, my parents were ecstatic believing that their son was soaring high. My friend, Gabriel Darong, who incidentally also obtained a summa cum laude degree for his masters, was deeply overjoyed as we had both worked extremely hard.’

Chelin decided to do his honours degree in an effort to pursue his passion in academia and to make a change in the world.

‘It is a truly humbling experience to graduate summa cum laude and I would not have been able to achieve it without the passion I have for learning coupled with determination to achieve greatness despite financial hurdles.’

‘I hope this serves as encouragement for those who find themselves in similar situations.

‘Secondly, I would not have been able to achieve the honours without the support of my family and friends.’

Chelin is looking forward to doing his doctorate and becoming an academic.

Melissa Mungroo

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Student Overcomes Obstacles to Graduate Cum Laude

Student Overcomes Obstacles to Graduate <em>Cum Laude</em>
Masters in Population Studies cum laude graduate, Mr Kamban Hirasen.

Despite encountering a series of major setbacks which threatened his chances of graduating, Mr Kamban Hirasen remained focussed and earned his Masters in Population Studies cum laude.  

Hirasen is now a Research Associate at the Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE²RO), a division of the WITS Health Consortium.

 ‘From an early age, I wanted to pursue academic avenues.  Firstly, a solid education provides a solid foundation in life and secondly, the personal growth and development that higher education facilitates is unmatched,’ he said.

 ‘During my Masters I suffered many personal setbacks. The ill health of my father and the tragic passing of my uncle were major blows to my family and I.  Additionally, we had a house break-in and my laptop with all my dissertation files was stolen.

‘I had backed up my files on my flash, which was on the laptop.  The gods must have been looking out for me, because the burglars dropped the flash when they took the laptop.  I guess it all worked out in the end and I can laugh about it now.’

His research, titled: “Diversity & Disease: The Demographic and Socio-Economic Determinants of Chronic Diseases in South Africa”, focused on risk factors associated with diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease among South African adults. 

Some of his research findings revealed that low levels of education were shown to increase disease prevalence and risk.  Additionally, economically inactive adults presented the highest prevalence and risk for all chronic diseases.  Both skilled and unskilled occupations as well as low and high income earners were found to be at increased risk. 

 ‘Health care programmes which specifically target high risk groups should be put in place to potentially decrease levels of chronic disease.  More importantly however, broader initiatives promoting socio-economic equality may be a long term solution not only to high levels of chronic diseases, but a host of health problems commonly identified in the country.’

To aid his research, Hirasen was awarded the NRF Scarce Skills Scholarship in Demography in 2012, a national award in the field of Demography which is considered a scarce skill in South Africa.  He also received two allocations of funding from his Masters supervisor, Professor Pranitha Maharaj, and the School of Development Studies.

Hirasen thanked his family and friends for providing vital support to him during his studies.

He hopes to gain more valuable work experience over the next two years and to start work on a PhD in Demography or a business/managerial degree such as an MBA.  


* The financial assistance of the National Research Foundation (NRF) towards this research is hereby acknowledged.  Opinions expressed and conclusions arrived at are those of the author and are not necessarily attributable to the NRF.

Melissa Mungroo

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Graduate Beats Cancer, Focuses on Child Sexual Abuse in Study

Graduate Beats Cancer, Focuses on Child Sexual Abuse in Study
Dr Linda Naidoo beats cancer and graduated with her PhD in Social Work.

Ms Linda Naidoo, former director of Childline KZN managed to beat cancer and subsequently graduate with her PhD in Social Work from UKZN recently. She dedicated her PhD, which looks at child sexual abuse, to the team who helped make it possible and to all the silent victims of child sexual abuse.

Being in the child protection field for many years, Naidoo felt that she needed to contribute more to the protection of children. However, she was diagnosed with cancer at the end of July 2014, whilst studying for her PhD.

‘I felt that time had come to a standstill - and I was indecisive on how to move forward. My consultancy required that I travel extensively and my oncologist advised me not to travel - for fear of infections that would compromise my immunity- so I stopped working for a period of time.’

‘The treatment and symptoms is every bit as horrific as it is made out to be by survivors.  When I was on my chemotherapy – I was unable to focus on any studying as I was too weak for the first nine days after the session of chemo. But felt stronger for the 12/13 days thereafter before the next chemo session. I was functional during the sessions of radiation which only commenced in December – but my dissertation had to be submitted during my period of chemotherapy until the end of November.’

Speaking about how she coped through it all, Naidoo said: ‘Despite the disillusionment and the burden of the treatment, my friends and family rallied around to be a shining light of support, and my faith became a rock that gave me strength and focus to move past the pain.’

‘I held an image that gave me strength – in the midst of the storm be still and keep your focus on what lies ahead and not behind or in the present - keep your focus- rely on others if you need to and walk in faith. In the midst of the most turbulent storms – it’s amazing how we turn to God and strengthen our selves spiritually.’

Naidoo’s study addressed two polarities: the one involving understanding the mind-set and modus operandi of the sex offenders who sexually abuse children and the second involving understanding the entrapment and vulnerability of the victim. ‘Understanding of these polarities had been synthesized to discern their implications for the prevention of child sexual abuse.’

The first phase of the research entailed analysing the characteristics and the life experiences of twelve child sex offenders. In phase two, the testimonies of the child sex offenders were assimilated in the production of a DVD, on the mind-set and strategies adopted in sexually abusing children.

In phase three the DVD was screened and various service providers and parents of sexually abused children, reflected on and assessed the lessons associated with understanding the offenders methods in selecting, grooming children, ensuring compliance, non-disclosure, desensitisation, maintaining them as victims and avoiding detection.

Naidoo hopes that the research would be used positively to enhance strategies to protect children. ‘Legal and policy frameworks need to be supplemented with a broader proactive prevention that addresses both victim vulnerability and offender opportunity. All sectors working as a team give maximum promise of effective recovery for the victim, rehabilitation of the offender and survival of the family.’

‘Much more attention needs to be given to the public and parents, as an informed public will advocate for the prevention of child sexual abuse. Providing psycho-education to parents not only provides support and education to protect and prevent abuse, but also capacitates them to support their children during disclosure and to help children overcome psychological trauma and secondary victimisation.’

Naidoo is grateful to her family, friends and supervisor Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul. ‘I am grateful not only for your support during my cancer and PhD but I  know that I have authentic people in my life that care and will never abandon me in the face of adversity and my pity parties.’

Her hopes for the future include making society a better one for children. ‘It is too painful to allow yet another powerless child suffer with the ordeal of abuse.’

Melissa Mungroo

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Man walked 4000km across Africa to get education at UKZN

Man walked 4000km across Africa to get education at UKZN
Mr Yibrah Ghebreyohannes.

An Eritrean man who walked 4 000km from his home country so he could study at UKZN has graduated with a Masters Degree in Geography

Not even the danger of being kidnapped or robbed at the various borders he crossed deterred Mr Yibrah Ghebreyohannes. 

‘I crossed more than five countries, and travelled for more than 4000 km on foot just to secure an education in South Africa because I believe education is the only weapon that helps us to fight against all odds,' said Mr Ghebreyohannes. 

‘When I applied for asylum, the government of South Africa granted me refugee status that allowed me to work and study. 

‘Despite the challenges that existed, I decided to pursue my studying. The first institution I accessed was UKZN and in 2011, I pursued an honours degree. Despite numerous challenges, I managed to finish my degree in 2012.’ 

Ghebreyohannes fled the country of his birth in 2010 because of the country’s border war with Ethiopia.  He had been a geography teacher at a high school  in Eritrea and later, a geography instructor at a College.

‘Since my childhood, my favourite subject was geography. I used to dream about being a geographer. To me geography is the mother of all subjects and indeed it is the foundation of modern science. 

‘The environment and nature are vast and so is the laboratory of geography. The more we travel, the more we know and discover new things. So, inspecting natural phenomena motivated me to study geography.' 

Ghebreyohannes’s thesis was entitled: Displacement and Adjustment: Ethiopian Environmental Migrants in Durban, South Africa. 

‘People migrate or are forced to move due to many factors. The political, social and economical factors have been analysed as the main reasons for migration. However, global climate change is becoming one of the main threatening issues on human livelihood,' he said.

 'Above all, the UNHCR and almost all countries do not recognise migrants displaced by environmental change. So my aim was to raise this issue so that the international community reconsiders the old refugee definition.’ 

Ghebreyohannes thanked his supervisor, Professor Brij Maharaj. ‘The person who encouraged and guided me to be able to graduate today is my supervisor. His guidance was not only to supervise but to guide me like his son. On this occasion I would like to thank him for believing in me.' 

He advised other students that while there was no smooth path in life, ‘a victory built without challenges is like a  seed growing under a shadow.

‘Life is made up of challenges. However, we need to believe that every single step in our daily life should have a purpose and meaning in our life journey.  I believe education is the only weapon that helps us to fight against all odds,’ he concluded.


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Former UKZN Security Guard Graduates with Social Work Degree

Former UKZN Security Guard Graduates with Social Work Degree
Mr Thulani Jama.

‘I am so excited to be graduating. I still can’t believe it,’ said former UKZN security guard, 38-year-old Mr Thulani Jama, after being awarded a Bachelor of Social Work degree.

Jama took just five years – including a year in UKZN’s access programme – to complete his qualification.

It all began for Jama when he became friends with former Student Representative Council (SRC) member Mr Eketsang Diaho, who motivated him to start studying. Assisting with the application and financial aid process, Diaho smoothed the way for Jama.

‘Thulani had a family to take care of and we advised him to study. We could see that he was willing and able and had the potential to transform his life for the better,’ said Diaho.

Jama of Umzimkulu registered at UKZN, securing funding and a bursary for both his fees and residence.

‘I have five kids and a wife to support,’ he said. ‘I even sold airtime and some odd items to students to supplement my income. At first my wife wasn’t too happy about me studying as she felt I should have been contributing more of my time and finances to the family, but when she realised how much getting the degree meant to me, she supported me fully.’

Jama is a role model to his children, constantly motivating them to do well in their studies and to pursue their dreams. ‘I want them to do well in life. With this degree, I hope to find employment as a social worker within government and then be able to send my children to university.’

He is grateful to the SRC and UKZN for now giving him a future that he can be proud of. He is confident that as a social worker he’ll be able to change his community for the better and to help them realise their individual dreams.

His message to other students and researchers is to demonstrate a desire to study, to be dedicated and to be disciplined.

Jama hopes to one day complete a Law degree and to attend the graduation ceremonies of his five children.

 Melissa Mungroo

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