Remote Sensing: A Bird’s Eye View

Remote Sensing:  A Bird’s Eye View
Professor Onisimo Mutanga and family at the Inaugural Lecture.

The Inaugural Lecture of Professor Onisimo Mutanga was held in UKZN’s Colin Webb Hall, Pietermaritzburg campus on 9 October 2013.  

Mutanga, the Academic Leader for Research in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, spoke on:  “A Bird’s Eye View: Trends in Remote Sensing for Mapping Resource Distribution and Dynamics”. 

Mutanga’s expertise lies in Ecological Remote Sensing, with particular emphasis on vegetation pattern analysis and monitoring, as well as agricultural land use mapping.  In particular, his research includes the development of remote sensing techniques for mapping vegetation species; disease infestation on plantation forests and agricultural crops; quantification of forest degradation and its impact on biodiversity and ecosystem condition; as well as land-cover change analysis.  

In his Inaugural Lecture, Mutanga explained that the distribution, abundance and quality of resources such as vegetation are in constant alteration, largely owing to land use activities and climate change. ‘The synoptic view and repeated coverage offered by remote sensing is a key factor in mapping such resources in both space and time, which is critical for their sustainable management,’ he said. 

Mutanga described how over the last decade, remote sensing has developed from mapping discrete land cover into detailed sub-pixel surface elements, thereby representing the continuous nature of phenomena. 

‘This has largely been made possible by improving spectral and spatial resolution of sensors as well as the continuous development of advanced algorithms to process the acquired remotely sensed data,’ he said. 

‘Our research has focused on developing remote sensing-based techniques to map the spatio-temporal variability, quality and quantity of vegetation species, disease infestation on plantation forests and agricultural crops as well as quantification of forest degradation.’ 

Mutanga stressed that his research had focused on developing methods and products of direct relevance to the African socio-economic situation. 

Mutanga is rated amongst the Top 30 Published Researchers at UKZN.  Apart from supervising a sizeable number of postgraduate students, he has published more than 60 articles in ISI-rated journals and has several conference proceedings and book chapters. He holds a C1 NRF rating and serves on several national and international research committees.  

Mutanga used the opportunity of his Inaugural Lecture to acknowledge important people in his career. These included his PhD supervisors at Wageningen University-ITC in The Netherlands, Professors Herbert Skidmore and Andrew Prins.  

‘One is a remote sensing specialist and the other an ecologist,’ he said. ‘The product – me – is a combination of both, in that I have used and developed remote sensing technology for ecological applications.’ Mutanga joked that his supervisors had trained him in the art of publishing.  ‘Herbert used the phrase, “Publish or perish!” And Andrew always said, “Make it simple and stupid.” And so I made it simple and stupid and it got published!’ 

Mutanga also thanked his various line managers at UKZN, including Professors Brij Maharaj, Albert Modi and Deo Jaganyi, as well as his fellow geography staff, his postgraduate students, his parents, brothers and sisters, and his immediate family, wife Paula and sons Shingi and Mufaro. ‘I could not be at this stage without your unconditional love and support,’ he said. 

-          Sally Frost


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Forms of African Feminism

Forms of African Feminism
Professor Obioma Nnaemeka delivers her Public Lecture on African feminism.

‘African women are not problems to be solved. Like women everywhere, African women have problems. More important, they have provided solutions to these problems.’

This was the view of Professor Obioma Nnaemeka of Indiana University in Indianapolis who delivered a Public Lecture entitled, “African Feminism, Womanism and Nego-feminism: Interconnections and Contrasts” at the Howard College Theatre recently. 

Hosted by the College of Humanities and the School of Applied Human Sciences, the Lecture aimed to engage the concept of African feminism and the two main forms it takes on the African continent.

Nnaemeka is Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of French, Women’s/Gender Studies and African/African Diaspora Studies and Director of the Women’s Studies Program at Indiana University, Indianapolis, USA.  

She is also President of the Association of African Women Scholars and the President/CEO of the Jessie Obidiegwu Education Fund. Prior to coming to Indiana University, Nnaemeka taught at the University of Nigeria (Nsukka) and the College of Wooster (Wooster, Ohio).  

Addressing the audience Nnaemeka said: ‘The issue of African feminism is of great importance to African women, not only with regards to their identities, but also as it relates to the issues that affect them and their role in the feminist movement. The assumption, however, that there is one, simple African feminism, is problematic and necessitates a precise definition, but African feminism is not a clear-cut concept that can be precisely defined and delineated.’ 

‘This problem of definition does not deny the existence of African feminism, but acknowledges the complexities denoted by being an African and a feminist at once.’

She pointed out that feminism is essentially two things. Firstly, it is a theoretical paradigm in social theory that seeks to advocate and enhance women’s emancipation in a predominantly patriarchal world. It is also a movement that mobilises for women’s emancipation and equality with regards to gender. Hence, feminism encompasses many varied activities and contexts. 

Nnaemeka suggested that feminism in some forms also does not acknowledge the agency and potential of African women. ‘The arrogance that declares African women “problems” objectifies us and undercuts the agency necessary for forging true global sisterhood. African women are not problems to be solved. Like women everywhere, African women have problems. More important, they have provided solutions to these problems. We are the only ones who can set our priorities and agenda. Anyone who wishes to participate in our struggles must do so in the context of our agenda.’ 

She argued that African intellectual feminism is viewed as being somewhat elitist and pro-Western with African intellectual feminists being accused of a paternalistic attitude, reminiscent of Western feminism, towards African women. Popular feminism, on the other hand, is rooted in the lived experiences and cultural beliefs of African women, however, there are instances where it fails to mobilise against cultural practices that can be oppressive. 

Nnaemeka is a commentator/cultural critic for the French Service of the International Service of Radio Netherlands in Helversum (Netherlands), a Nominator for the Civitella Ranieri Foundation (Italy) and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a Board member of Global Women’s Leadership Center at the Leavey School of Business, and a member of the National Advisory Board of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for the Liberal Education and Global Citizenship Project. 

‘Both strands of feminism are important and relevant. It would be difficult to reduce both strands of feminism to a single theoretical context because of their inherent differences. Despite differences, however, movements can unite, as long as there is due respect for these differences and a genuine effort to understand the other,’ she said.

‘African intellectual feminists must listen to the women they try to advise and talk about, because they do not experience the women’s realities first-hand. Ultimately, solutions or any agenda must come from those within the specific context. These two feminisms should align under the united banner of African feminism, for they have much to learn from each other.’ 

-           Melissa Mungroo


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Edgewood Residence Life Office Honours its Hardworking Team

Edgewood Residence Life Office Honours its Hardworking Team
Edgewood Residence Assistants.

Edgewood Residence Assistants (RAs) and House Committee members (House Coms) for 2013 were recognised with pride at the Annual Prize Giving Ceremony of the Edgewood Residence Life Office held on Friday, 11 October. 

The glamorous event took place at the Blue Waters Hotel and was attended by members of the Edgewood SRC, June-Rose Cele of Student Residences Affairs, Mr Ramsamy Naidoo of RMS, Guest Speaker and Teaching Practice Officer, Thula Sithole and Students’ family members as dignitaries.  

According to Residence Life Officer, Julian King, the event was aimed at celebrating and acknowledging the selflessness, hard-work, dedication and commitment put in throughout the year to ensure students’ experience in residences is both memorable and comfortable. 

‘Monitoring student wellness in residences is challenging and comes with a lot of sacrifices. The RAs and House Coms have done a tremendous job in ensuring that the Residence Life Office is functional and continually provides quality and excellent service to students,’ said King.  

In her keynote address, Sithole commended the awardees for their excellent service provision and noted the good leadership skills they have displayed through their service. She applauded the Residence Life Office for selecting accountable and dedicated students.  

‘The University strives to provide a client-orientated service that is based upon mutual respect and common understanding. The Residence Life Office has been doing exactly that, particularly in the academic year 2013. The service that awardees have displayed shows all these qualities and hence the University community prides itself on having groomed and moulded such capable students,’ she said. 

Fourteen RAs and 52 House Com members were recognised at the event.  

-          S’busiso Kubeka


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Filmed Tutorials to Help Pupils in Poorer Schools

Filmed Tutorials to Help Pupils in Poorer Schools
Students at the Winter School programme held earlier this year.

In a bid to help prepare high school pupils for their final examinations and meet the University’s academic entrance requirements, the Teaching and Learning Unit of the College of Law and Management Studies is to supply tutorial DVDs to Grade 11 and Grade 12 pupils from disadvantaged schools in KwaZulu-Natal. 

The DVDs, based on filmed tutorials conducted at the College’s Winter School programme held earlier this year, contain additional tuition in Mathematics, English and Accounting which can be used as revision tools.  

The initiative is part of a proactive approach adopted by the Unit to curb high university dropout rates by ensuring that new university students are adequately prepared to handle the curriculum and that they graduate within the specified time.  

College Dean of Teaching and Learning, Professor Kriben Pillay said the idea behind the DVDs came from UKZN’s Council Chair Phumla Mnganga who, together with her husband, supports a number of learners from Umbumbulu.  

Dr Angela James, then Acting Unit Head, saw the educational potential of the idea and organised for the lessons to be videotaped to accompany the lecture notes. Mnganga's company Vulindlela Holdings contributed substantially to the making of the DVDs. 

The DVDs will be posted to schools in a number of districts, among which are Amajuba, Zululand, Obonjeni and Vryheid.  

-           Thandiwe Jumo


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Postgraduate Seminar Lays a Foundation for Research Excellence

Postgraduate Seminar Lays a Foundation for Research Excellence
College Dean of Research Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama with the Colleges’ postgraduate and post-doctoral fellows.

A two-day seminar recently organised by the College of Law and Management Studies laid a foundation for research excellence by providing a platform for postgraduate students to present their research and receive constructive feedback.  

College Dean of Research, Professor Nomthandazo Ntlama, said the seminar is part of an on-going College-wide strategic commitment to “build an institutional culture of research by providing an opportunity for postgraduate and doctoral fellows to present their research papers to their peers in a welcoming and supportive environment”.  

She emphasised that the seminar reinforces the momentum which also saw the College hosting a Research Day at Pietermaritzburg campus in September. ‘This seminar is in line with the objective of the University that requires the College to nurture its postgraduate students in the production of knowledge that is both local and global in its context,’ said Ntlama.  

In this instance, the College is “committed to empowering its postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows to produce quality research that contributes to the betterment of society”. 

The seminar featured 10 research presentations from postgraduate students from various Disciplines and Schools within the College. Presenters then received feedback from academics on how they could potentially improve their research by exploring alternative methodologies, and on procedural aspects of the research process. 

Students were also given insight into the administrative aspects of the research process. A presentation from Professor Roger Mason from the Durban University of Technology provided a perspective from external examiners, while Academic Leader for Research and Higher Degrees at the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance (MIG), Professor Brian McArthur, spoke about the administrative process for examination. Dr Given Mutinta, also from MIG, addressed the issue of students’ responsibility.  

Dr Bev Soane from The Writing Place gave feedback on the quality of writing and critical thinking skills, while Dr Brett van Niekerk, a Postdoctoral Fellow from the School of MIG, gave an overview of the publishing process for accepted papers.  

The papers presented at the seminar will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. 

-          Thandiwe Jumo


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German Exchange Students Arrive at UKZN

German Exchange Students Arrive at UKZN
Back from left: Exchange students Moritz Valet and Ingrid Loewenstein from Germany and Mnqobi Njoko from UKZN. Front from left: Annika Nuemer (Germany) and Ayanda Tshabalala (UKZN).

Three postgraduate German students from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg were officially welcomed by the School of Built Environment and Development (BEDS) recently. 

The three students – Moritz Valet, Annika Nuemer and Ingrid Loewenstein – are participants in the German Academic Exchange Service, the national agency which supports international academic co-operation.  

‘We are always looking for collaborations with respectable global institutions like the exchange programme,’ said Mvuselelo Ngcoya, Academic Co-ordinator for Development Studies at BEDS.  

The students will be part of the UKZN student community for the next six months. ‘It’s very exciting to be in South Africa and at UKZN and one now gets a new impression of Africa. The campus is beautiful although we’re still finding our way around but everyone has been helpful,’ said Loewenstein.  

The exchange programme will also see three UKZN postgraduate students attending the Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany from 31 August to 28 February. The students – Mnqobi Njoko, Ayanda Tshabalala and Rejoice Mabena – are part of an exchange programme between UKZN and Erlangen University in relation to Masters in Development Studies. 

‘In addition to the academic opportunities, it will be culturally informative. They might find the European winter challenging, but that’s part of the deal!’ said Ngcoya. 

-           Melissa Mungroo


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Amalunga le Golden Key avakashele eSPCA

Amalunga le Golden Key avakashele eSPCA
Kwesokunxele kuya kwesokudla, uMnu Bilaal Ismail oyi-Chapter President kanye namalunga eGolden Key uMnu Darlington Chidarara, uNksz Thabisile Mtshali, uMnu Mehluli Moyo noNksz Tashiana Beharielal.

Amalunga e Golden Key eMgungundlovu avakashele iSociety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) khona eMgungundlovu ukuyonikelela ngezimali, ukudla, izinto ezidingwa izilwane kanye namathoyizi.

Abafundi bathole ithuba lokudlala nezinja, amakati, onogwaja nezinye izilwane ezifuywayo.

Leminikelo nokuqoqa izimali, okuyingxenye yohlelo lonyaka lwe Golden Key lokusiza imiphakathi, yamukelwe uMphathi weSPCA u Alistair Sinclair.

USinclair unxuse abafundi base-UKZN ukuba banikele ngesikhathi sabo eSPCA. Uthe iSPCA ishayeke kakhulu ngokwehla kwesimo somnotho okwenze abaxhasi abaningi bahoxise iminikelo yabo.

Kodwa uthe iSPCA yenza okusemandleni ayo ngokuncane enakho, ibuye yenze okungaphezulu ngokujova ngomjovo wamarabi kulabo abawudingayo.

Nanoma ngabe iluphi usizo ukuze sigcine indawo enempilo, enokujabula nehlanzekile yezilwane.

Okunye okujabulisayo ukuthi iGolden Key icabanga ukusiza kuvuselelwe enye yezindawo yokuhlala izilwane. Lendawo izobe isiqanjwa nge UKZN Golden Key ezosiza izilwane ezingondingasithebeni.

Click here for English version

-          Tshinakaho Malesa


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Student Wins Best Presentation Prize at Groundwater Conference

Student Wins Best Presentation Prize at Groundwater Conference
MSc student Jannie Weitz who received the Best Oral Student Presentation at a recent conference in Durban on groundwater.

UKZN MSc student Jannie Weitz received the Best Oral Student Presentation Award at the recent 13th Biennial Groundwater Division Conference and Exhibition (GWD) in Durban.  

The biennial GWD Conference brings together students, academics, specialists and decision-makers to discuss and showcase groundwater related issues. This year’s extended theme was “Groundwater: A New Paradigm”.  ‘I was excited to attend the conference as it was attended by the top professionals in the field of geohydrology,’ said Weitz. 

His win for best presentation took him by surprise. ‘I was absolutely stunned when I found out I had won, but felt extremely honoured knowing that my research is of such a high calibre. I hope that the win will put me on the radar of certain institutions as this will prove invaluable once I’ve completed my studies,’ he said.  

The research that Weitz presented forms part of his MSc studies focused on the conceptual and numerical modelling of the Lake Sibaya catchment in northern KwaZulu-Natal. 

‘Lake Sibaya, a topographically closed freshwater lake, and the coastal aquifers surrounding the lake, are important water resources which are used extensively for domestic water supplies in the area. A recent increase in the rate of water abstraction from the lake, combined with decreasing precipitation and rapidly increasing pine plantations, appear to be responsible for the dramatic lake level reduction experienced over the last decade,’ said Weitz. 

This reduction poses a threat to the neighbouring ecosystem with the potential for seawater invasion of the coastal aquifer.  Under the supervision of Dr Molla Demlie, Weitz’s study aims to construct a conceptual model of the lake which would later be used for a three-dimensional model of the catchment area. 

The primary goal of the research is the protection of the invaluable natural resource that is Lake Sibaya – upon which the environment and local community depend heavily. It is hoped that the research will highlight the threats to Lake Sibaya so that mitigating measures can be put in place to prevent permanent destruction of the water source.  

Both Weitz and Demlie made the point that while there appears to be a delicate balance between the lake and groundwater flow in the Lake Sibaya area at present, any further development surrounding the lake is likely to cause damage to the surrounding ecosystem. 

Weitz, a survivor of childhood cancer, explains his recipe for balancing his passion for research with his other interests: ‘Through my experience with cancer I realised that each day should be savoured. My positive outlook on life was recognised when I was awarded the National Best Smile Award during my first year of study. When I’m not behind the computer, I’m riding my bike, swimming or entering the next triathlon. I am also involved in a Reach for a Dream initiative where I raise funds for children with life-threatening illnesses through various outdoor activities.’  

-           Barrington Marais


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John Mitchell Fully Behind UKZN Rugby

John Mitchell Fully Behind UKZN Rugby
Mitchell with members of the women’s rugby team.

UKZN Rugby has scored a winning try by securing the services of former All Blacks coach Mr John Mitchell as Head Coach. A meet and greet, attended by the media, rugby clubs, players, SRC and rugby alumni, was held recently to officially welcome Mitchell to the University.  

Addressing the gathering, UKZN’s Executive Director for Student Services, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, said: ‘Growing sport is one of the key strategic areas of our Institution. We believe in investing in our students and the appointment of John Mitchell is part of that process. With John’s enormous wealth of knowledge and experience, we hope to reach previously unattainable heights and so move towards realising our vision of being the Premier University of African Scholarship in all spheres of Higher Learning, including sport.’ 

Chairperson of the UKZN Rugby Club Mr Mark Schulze indicated that Mitchell will be hosting a series of events in Durban and Pietermaritzburg and will be addressing potential rugby players and their parents. ‘John Mitchell will outline his vision and views on pursuing an education and participating in competitive rugby,’ he added. 

Whilst many South Africans seek the greener pastures of New Zealand, Mitchell has made Durban his home. He said that he is excited at being given the opportunity to work with young, vibrant students and is looking forward to going back to grassroots and giving back to the profession. He said it is important to produce excellent rugby players that are equipped to handle their careers during and after rugby.   

‘I am looking forward to finding the potential rugby stars and enjoy making a significant contribution to their development. My aim has always been to teach, inspire, and lead men and women to become winners in life and sport,’ said Mitchell. 

Members of staff and students alike should get out their cheerleading paraphernalia – it’s going to come in handy. 

-          Indu Moodley


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Festival Poets Visit Centre for African Literature Studies

Festival Poets Visit Centre for African Literature Studies
Poetry Africa 2013.

The 17th edition of the popular Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival kicked off its week-long programme with a visit to the Centre for African Literature Studies (CALS) Library at the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus.  

Hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA), the Festival brings to KwaZulu-Natal some of the world’s finest poets and musicians. This year they came from countries such as India, Benin, Nigeria, Ireland, Italy, Canada and the United States of America. With cultural exchange a key characteristic of the week-long celebration, this year’s participating poets visited the Centre, read some of their work, and made donations of their poetry to the CALS library.  

CALS was launched in September 2004 as the home of the Bernth Lindfors Collection after the renowned US Scholar of African literature donated his books to the library. The collection boasts some 13 000 books, journals and rare tape and video material and is especially notable for its holdings of material published in Africa, such as a full collection of Onitsha market literature from Nigeria. Also in the collection is a large body of newspaper clippings relating to African authors and wide-ranging bibliographical resources for criticism about African literature. 

CALS is committed to growing its holdings and extending its focus beyond African literature written in English and is a leading resource for the study of Lusophone, Francophone and other African language literatures. The vision of the Centre is to develop African Studies as an inter-disciplinary programme and thus set UKZN on the path to becoming the “Premier University of African Scholarship” and the “University of First Choice” in African Studies.  

-           Melissa Mungroo


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Poetry Africa Opening Night Wows Audience

Poetry Africa Opening Night Wows Audience
Singer, songwriter and actor Kabomo Vilakazi performed at the 17th annual Poetry Africa Festival in Durban recently.

An enthralling line-up of poets from around the world wowed the audience at the opening night of this year’s Poetry Africa Festival.  

Cheering, shouting, applause and outbursts of poetic clicking erupted amongst the audience as the Festival’s opening night saw 23 poets take the stage and regale the audience with their introductory poems. 

The Festival, now in its 17th year, was hosted by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) in partnership with the City of Durban and the KZN Department of Arts and Culture.

South African-born Irish Poet Paul Casey took to the stage first and shared his poem Learning Afrikaans in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) which was based on his experiences. Next was Raphael d'Abdon, an Italian Scholar, Writer, Editor and Translator, who recited a poem from his collection Sunnyside Nightwalk.

Durban-born pop rap recording artist, UKZN Graduate, Performer and Poet, Lex LaFoy, also known as Lexikon, gave the audience much reason to applaud as she delivered a rap poem sequence.

Also setting the opening night stage on fire was Beninese Poet and Novelist Barnabe Laye who described his journey as a poet. ‘After reading the novel, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, I closed the book, overwhelmed, as if I had just had an epiphany. I told myself that’s what needs to be done – writing in a simple and uncluttered language, letting the music of the words carry the ardour of the feelings, translating the fragility of the existences and the distress at the heart of the human being.’

Speaking at the event, Themba Ngcobo, Head of the eThekwini Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit, described Poetry Africa as one of the most important events of the Arts for the city of Durban. ‘This event brings people together and puts Durban in its rightful place among cities of the world,’ he said.

-           Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN duo Presents Port Doctrine Research at Economics Conference

UKZN duo Presents Port Doctrine Research at Economics Conference
Academic leader at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership, Dr Mihalis Chasomeris (left), and Maritime Studies student Sanele Gumede at the recent Economic Society of South Africa conference.

Maritime research student Mr Sanele Gumede and Graduate School of Business and Leadership's Dr Mihalis Chasomeris presented their study on maritime port pricing in South Africa at the recent Biennial Conference of the Economic Society of South Africa held at the University of the Free State.

The paper titled, “Assessing Stakeholders’ Perspectives on Maritime Port Pricing in South Africa”, analysed the annual Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) tariff application, the stakeholders' submissions, as well as the Ports Regulator's record of decision for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 tariff years.

‘The paper recommends that South Africa develops a port doctrine that would be consistent with the country’s vision and policies. The presentation was well attended and well received. It also generated several questions from the audience,’ said Chasomeris.

The content analysis of the paper documented several issues which included stakeholders’ criticism of the TNPA for abusing its monopoly power, hindering global competitiveness, charging price increases higher than inflation, failing to apply cost based pricing principles, the absence of a justifiable pricing methodology, low productivity and inefficiency, and inconsistent and unreasonable pricing of products.

Gumede said attending the conference was enriching as it afforded him an opportunity to network with economists from South Africa and abroad.

‘Presenting this paper gave me great ideas to improve my future research. I also learnt a lot from the papers that were presented by other authors and in other sessions. I [would] strongly encourage my fellow young researchers and research students to join the Economics Society of South Africa,’ said Gumede.

-           Thandiwe Jumo


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Rural Teacher Education Project students leave their mark

Rural Teacher Education Project students leave their mark
The 2013 cohort of BEd students with project leaders Professor Relebohile Moletsane (front, right), Dr Tabitha Mukeredzi (front, left,) and Ms Doreen Zinhumwe (PhD Intern).

A cohort of 14 student teachers bid an emotional farewell to the staff and learners of two public schools in rural Vulindela where they spent four weeks of their residential practicum as part of the School of Education’s Rural Teacher Education Project (RTEP).

This 2013 cohort of BEd student teachers left an indelible mark at the schools – a former Catholic combined school now running as two public schools: Langsyde Primary and Pope John Paul II Secondary. Six of the student teachers were in the primary school and eight were in the secondary school. Through their own initiative, student teachers sourced a variety of teaching and learning resources to donate to the schools.

The resources included books, maps and equipment and toys for the foundation phase (Grades R-3) classes. In addition, students bought materials and had big signposts made for both the primary and secondary schools. They also prepared and awarded their mentor teachers with certificates. The donations were handed over during colourful farewell talent shows that took place during the last two days of their teaching practice.

Not only were teachers and learners grateful for the donations, they also expressed appreciation for having student teachers in their classrooms for the four weeks and described the relationships as mutually beneficial. Many learners and teachers were seen shedding tears on the last day as they had also become attached to the student teachers.

The RTEP is a School of Education rural school-university partnership project launched in 2007 in the Vulindlela District, about 150 km south of Durban. It is led by Professor Relebohile Moletsane, the John Langalibalele Dube Chair in Rural Education, and Honorary Professors Claudia Mitchell and Naydene de Lange.

Among other goals, RTEP focuses on developing teachers for rural education by strengthening rural schools-university partnerships through a cohort approach to student teaching practice and to re-orientate teacher education within the UKZN School of Education to rural schools as major learning sites for pre-service teachers.

Since 2007, the project has taken cohorts of between 14 and 16 BEd student teachers to experience rurality in the context of their residential four-week teaching practical experience under the tutelage of in-service teachers and university lecturers. Student participation is voluntary.

The project is publicised in the School of Education and students formally apply to be considered for it. Students and field co-ordinators (appointed by project leaders and, at least one with a PhD in Teacher Education and Professional Development) are accommodated at a local guest house within close proximity to the school.

The co-ordinators help ferry student teachers to and from the school daily, typically remaining on site, providing students with support, facilitating interaction with teachers and school management and ensuring that students remain focused on their teaching. Every evening, the university staff lead students through de-briefing and collaborative reflection sessions to enhance their professional growth.

-           Tabitha Mukeredzi


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UKZN Scientist Highlights Potato Waste Energy Potential at China Convention

UKZN Scientist Highlights Potato Waste Energy Potential at China Convention
Microbiology student Ms Funmilayo Faloye (left) with Professor Moa Zongqiang, President of Hydrogen Energy China.

Microbiology PhD student Ms Funmilayo Faloye recently presented a paper on optimising biohydrogen production from potato waste at the fifth World Hydrogen Technologies Convention in Shanghai, China. 

Her paper entitled, “Modelling of Biohydrogen Production on Potato Peels Supplemented with Wastewater”, was the only one from Africa and attracted a great deal of positive feedback from leading experts in the field. 

The Conference was organised with the foremost objective of creating avenues to develop hydrogen energy-related technology. Attracting more than 1 000 scientists and delegates from across the globe including government officials, scientists and industry experts, it provided an ideal platform on which to share knowledge and ideas related to hydrogen energy, fuel cells and the development of a hydrogen economy. 

The overall scope of Faloye’s PhD, which is supervised jointly by Dr Evariste Gueguim Kana and Professor Stefan Schmidt of the School of Life Sciences, relates to the optimisation of key process parameters and development of inocula which could enhance hydrogen conversion efficiency from agro food waste. 

‘Presently, dwindling fossil fuel reserves necessitate intense research on alternative environmentally friendly energy sources. One approach is the production of biohydrogen which is an attractive future energy carrier due to its high energy density, and higher efficiency of conversion to potentially lower to zero the generation of pollutants,’ said Faloye. 

Biomass, including agricultural, lignocellulosic and food processing waste, is an excellent feedstock for renewable hydrogen production because it is cheap and readily available, therefore countries with large agricultural economies like South Africa have the potential for significant economic development through industrial bioenergy generation.

‘Fermentative hydrogen production is still new in Africa and I hope that my research will lead to the development of low cost and high energy yield renewable hydrogen energy techniques by employing agro waste to energy’, she explained.

Faloye described the Conference as a memorable and exciting experience which presented her with opportunities to collaborate with other researchers from around the world. ‘I was able to learn more skills and the latest techniques, and I interacted with scholars from different areas of hydrogen research’, she said. ‘The highlight of the conference for me was the study tour to the Shanghai Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cells Research Institute.’ 

‘Generally, I think that Africa is still lagging behind in renewable energy research, and we should be more innovative and not wait for developed countries like the United States, Germany, Canada and China to sell the technology to us. Also, it is of utmost importance for researchers to collaborate with government and industries to implement such innovative technologies,’ she said.

-           Barrington Marais


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Enhancing services to International Students and Staff

Enhancing services to International Students and Staff
Immigration workshop attendees.

University staff members are better able to understand and deal with issues relating to immigration laws and regulations following the recent immigration workshop hosted by UKZN’s International Office on the Westville campus. 

The workshop focused on securing more information from the responsible departments on visa requirements and regulations, refugee status, passports and asylum seekers.   

The workshop is likely to ensure improved provision of services and advice to UKZN’s approximately 2 800 international students, 200 international post-doctoral research fellows and 500 international academics.  

Workshop attendees included representatives from other universities that work with international students, the Department of Home Affairs, UKZN staff and students, refugee and asylum seekers, as well as representatives from Human Resources and the Research Office.

Home Affairs Local Office Manager for eThekwini, Mr Wesley Dlamini, gave a brief overview of student requirements when applying for study, work, visitors’ and exceptional skills visas.  He stressed that only legitimate applications would be accepted and processed. 

Ms Naleen Balgobind, Manager of Asylum Seekers and Refugees at Home Affairs, said asylum seekers can register with universities and study pending the outcome of the asylum application, which usually takes about three months. She said the onus rests on the student to provide the University with the outcome of the application.

The stated outcomes of the workshop were to: 

•  enhance a joint understanding of the policies and processes of  Home Affairs; 

•  reach an agreement with Home Affairs on uniform and standard practice in implementing these policies locally and abroad; 

•  interpret the policies and regulations of Home Affairs; 

•  ;promote on-going dialogue and communication between UKZN and Home Affairs; 

•  identify contact persons at all regional centres with all contact details for purposes of communication; 

•  invite Home Affairs officials onto campuses during mutually agreed times;  

•  convene regular meeting between the offices of Home Affairs and the offices of International Relations UKZN on changes and amendments to policy; and 

•  the creation of an Memorandum of Co-operation between UKZN and the Department of Home Affairs.  

-          Sithembile Shabangu


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Infants of teenage mums at higher HIV risk

Infants of teenage mums at higher HIV risk
A doctor looks at patient files at Paediatrics Ward at a Durban hospital.

A study by researchers at UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health has found that babies born to HIV-positive teenage mothers are more likely to be infected with HIV than babies born to women older than 20.  

This is because despite attending antenatal care facilities, teenagers do not seem to enjoy the same access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV as older women.  

The study entitled, ‘HIV-Infected Adolescent Mothers and Their Infants: Low Coverage of HIV Services and High Risk of HIV Transmission in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa’, looked at the rates of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT) amongst adolescents, and compared characteristics of adolescent mothers and adult mothers, including HIV prevalence and MTCT rates.  

Just over 19 000 mothers between the ages of 12 and 39 were interviewed. Researchers also examined patterns of health service utilisation during the antenatal and early postnatal period, HIV prevalence and MTCT amongst adolescent and adult mothers with infants aged 16 weeks attending immunisation clinics in six districts of KwaZulu-Natal between May 2008 and April 2009. 

Researchers found that pregnant girls aged 12 to 19 were tested for HIV much later in their pregnancy than adult women. This meant they were only able to access treatment later in their pregnancy and were thus less likely to have received a full regimen of antiretroviral therapy (ART) prophylaxis. The study found that ‘significantly fewer adolescent’ mothers received the recommended ARV treatment for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 

The survey found that most mothers had attended antenatal care four or more times during their pregnancy (80.3%), and 98.2% reported having had an HIV test. 

A greater proportion of adult mothers, compared to adolescent mothers, reported being HIV-positive. Of this number, 16% more adult mothers also reported having a CD4 count taken during their pregnancy compared to teenage mothers. HIV antibody was detected in 40.4% of 7 800 infants aged four to eight weeks tested for HIV, indicating HIV exposure. This was higher among infants of adult mothers (47.4%) compared to adolescent mothers (17.9%).  

However, the MTCT rate at four to eight weeks of age was significantly higher amongst infants of adolescent mothers compared to adult mothers.  Despite high levels of antenatal clinic attendance among pregnant adolescents in KwaZulu-Natal, the study indicates that the MTCT risk is higher among infants of HIV-infected adolescent mothers compared to adult mothers. Thus researchers suggest that access to adolescent-friendly family planning and PMTCT services be prioritised for this vulnerable group.  

-Nombuso Dlamini


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UKZN Theology Experts Contribute to Conference in Sweden

UKZN Theology Experts Contribute to Conference in Sweden
Dr Anders Göranzon (left) and Dr Kenneth Mtata (right) are seen together with Rev Dr Anders Wejryd of the Church of Sweden.

Rev Dr Anders Göranzon of UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics and Rev Dr Kenneth Mtata of UKZN’s School of Religion and Theology presented papers at a conference in Sweden from 8-10 October. The conference, organised under the theme, “Remembering the past – living the future. Lutheran tradition in transition”, was organised by the Church of Sweden Research Unit and the Department of Theology at Uppsala University.

- Anders Göranzon


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