The UKZN Griot. Of Small Journals and Incentives

The UKZN Griot. Of Small Journals and Incentives
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It’s official. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) publication incentive is intended for universities, not individuals, according to a senior DHET official who participated in the Future of Scholarly Publishing Seminar, held at Stellenbosch University (SU) in late September. Individuals will benefit from research resources but it is the view of DHET that they may not bank even a portion of the publication incentive as taxable income. This meeting in which I participated occurred co-terminously with UKZN’s own strategic planning exercises involving the Colleges. While UKZN has never permitted its authors to personally bank DHET incentive payment, there are other issues that do pertain.

Editors, university presses, state bureaucrats, librarians, archivists, science communication scholars, at SU all agreed:  the rent-seeking behaviour that underpins much South African university institutional policy needs to be critically addressed at both national policy level and in terms of internal institutional rewards.  Why does it occur, how is it done, and with what impact? 

A study done by the Centre for Evaluation on Science and Technology (CREST) for the Academy of Science for SA (ASSAf) is very revealing, as some journals have an over 60% home authorship, and some have secured few, if any, citations. Of the 318 registered South African journals, over 200 are not listed on either the Web of Science (WoS) or Scopus.  They remain largely unknown to the wider world, and still qualify for incentives.   

In 2015 DHET introduced a new criterion to discourage rent-seeking by small journals that were in the habit of publishing the majority of authors from the journal’s home base. The previous 50:50 split was recast 25:75 between home and external authors publishing in any single issue. When the amendment was publicised, I asked DoHET via ASSAf to clarify this 25:75 provision as not a single editor at the 2015 National Scholarly Editors’ Forum (NSEF) meeting indicated advance knowledge of it.  DHET informed the 100+ delegates at the SU meeting that this provision had been discussed with university research offices prior to its being gazetted. Yet, not a single editor in the 300+ NSEF audience indicated prior knowledge of the new provision. If university research offices were indeed party to the new rule, then they should have consulted editors and faculties from their own institutions on the matter.

Now, I want to examine some of the other concerns of the DHET incentive policy at UKZN specifically.

•   In the early Natal University (NU) days of the incentive coming on stream in the late 1980s, authors publishing in established international journals not on the SAPSE (now DHET) lists were cross-subsidised by those that were.  Then, one day someone, with the stroke of pen, disqualified the “unaccredited” titles.

•   Thereafter, UKZN annual reports excluded publications that appear in journals that are not on any of the qualifying lists.   They are made invisible even as they may have global impact.

•   Small journals (in the rest of Africa and elsewhere) are excluded from DHET qualifying lists because they are not indexed on WoS, IBSS or Scopus.  Yet, these are the venues where much innovative work often occurs, and which significantly address local and regional issues. They are also the conduits to wider publishing repertoires. I am thinking here of the now defunct African Council for Communication Education’s Africa Media Review published from Nairobi, which had enormous cache within and beyond Africa. African Communication Research, edited by a scholar of global import, is a product of St Augustine’s University, Tanzania, and is pan-African in scope.  The new East African Journal of Communication is offering its editors and authors’ exposure and creating a sense of regional identity, around and through which research collectives and societies can form.

Critical Arts started as a small, cottage-industry, composed on a golf ball typewriter in my Wits office in 1980. Ntongela Masilela, then a cultural activist in exile, identified the journal as leading the awakening of African historical cultural consciousness.  As editor, I was chief cook and bottle washer: I typed, typpexed and proofed, addressed and stamped the envelopes, and pounded the streets to local bookshops which sold thousands of copies. 

The very first volume was graced by later Nobel Laureates such as Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee.  Andre Brink contributed an article, and a young writer and editorial board member, Ndjabulo Ndebele, later become a vice chancellor – at two different universities.  Critical Arts neither sought accreditation, nor was offered this status until the early 1990s, as we did not prior to 1990 want to be associated with this system of regulation/reward.   The journal is now global in scope, and since 2009 indexed on WoS, and has published Stuart Hall, Anthony Bogues, Ndebele, John Saul, Sabelo Gatsheni-Ndlovu and an interview with Pierre Bourdieu.  Amongst other Critical Arts authors have been A-rated scholars, a trade unionist and later a cabinet minister.  We all once started out young, emergent and hungry – and small.

So the question is, how does a new journal not only get started, but adopted and indexed?  How does a community of writers grow with a journal?  How does a journal grow a field? 

Until the conundrum of the small journal is resolved by DHET in consultation with universities (and their faculty), my challenge to UKZN is that it at least) list publications that are not accredited in its annual report; ii) that such work be recognised in performance management KPAs.

A broader national discussion is required on whether and how DHET might recognise small journals.  Since most are in the humanities, an immediate solution that I suggested at the SU seminar was to include the Modern Languages Association (MLA) list. MLA was one of the first lists to recognise Critical Arts when it was a small journal.  And, MLA is obviously not blind to the Humanities.

•   Keyan G Tomaselli is Distinguished Professor, University of Johannesburg and a UKZN Professor Emeritus and Fellow.   For more on the SU seminar see:  http://www0.sun.ac.za/scicom/?news=dynamics-scholarly-publishing-global-trends-local-responses

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author’s own.


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UKZN Welcomes New DVC

UKZN Welcomes New DVC
Professor Nana Poku.

Professor Nana Poku has been appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Law and Management Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. 

Professor Poku, who previously served as the Executive Director of the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) at UKZN, is a political economist with a research focus on health provision on the African continent. His substantive position was Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Bradford University in the UK.

Born in London, Poku has a doctorate on the International Political Economy from Nottingham Trent University, UK and master’s degrees in Third World Studies (Development Economics) and the International Political Economy (International Aid and Development).

His appointment commences on 1 December 2017 for a fixed term of five years.

UKZN’s Vice Chancellor and Principal, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, welcomed Poku to the University’s Executive Management and wished him success during his term of office. ‘Professor Poku has both the experience and the qualifications to continue the good work of the College,’ said van Jaarsveld.

Poku has published 16 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book contributions, with a focus on the AIDS pandemic in Africa and its implications for economic, political and social change.

One of the highlights from his illustrious career was leading the United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (UNCHGA) and concurrently serving as the Director of Operational Research for the World Bank HIV Treatment Acceleration Program in Africa.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer


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Abafundi Bakhangise Emcimbini Ngemisebenzi Emisha Emkhakheni Kagesi, Ezobunjiniyela Bezamakhompyutha Nobukagesi

Abafundi Bakhangise Emcimbini Ngemisebenzi Emisha Emkhakheni Kagesi, Ezobunjiniyela Bezamakhompyutha Nobukagesi
Abadle umhlanganiso emcimbini we-EECE uMnu Joshua Piggott, uNkk Saiuree Nayager kanye no-Rivinia Maharaj (kwesokudla) imisebenzi emisha ebikhangisiwe.

Click here for the English version

Umcimbi wokukhangisa i-Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (EECE) ububanjwe kamuva nje ekhempasini i-Howard College. Ibalelwa ekhulwini imisebenzi yabafundi bonyaka wokugcina ebikhangisiwe, futhi nabafundi bebekhona benika izincazelo futhi bakhombise kubazali, abafundi namalungu omphakathi ukuthi umsebenzi wabo wenzani.  

Le misebenzi iyingxenye yemisebenzi eyimidwebo eyingxenye yeziqu ze-EECE eziyiminyaka emine futhi isebenza njengesivivinyo sekhono lokusebenza komfundi ngamunye njengonjiniyela wemidwebo.

UMholi Wezokufunda kweze-EECE, uDkt Leigh Jarvis, uthe, ‘Ikhono lokwazi ukwakha okusha kusetshenziswa ezokudweba ikhono elibalulekile kunjiniyela. Lolu suku oluvulelekile lukhangisa ngamakhono abafundi bethu okudweba ukuze kusombululwe izinkinga ezibucayi zobunjiniyela futhi kuyindlela yokubakhulisa’.

Imisebenzi ibihlolwa yiqoqo longoti bangaphandle futhi nabaphumelele bamenyezelwa ekupheleni kosuku.

U-Joshua Piggott udle umhlanganiso esigabeni soNjiniyela Odweba ngeKhompyutha,  u-Saiuree Nayager wanqoba esikaNjiniyela Kagesi, kwathi u-Rivania Maharaj wanqoba esikaNjiniyela Womdwebomfanekiso KaGesi.

Eminye imisebenzi ebihlaba umxhwele ebikhangisiwe ihlanganise okuyinsiza yokufunda umbhalo uphimiswe ngamazwi osiza abanenkinga yokubona, irobhothi elihlola ugesi, okuyinsizakuxhumana okungenantambo kokuhlangula abantu olwandle nerobhothi i-hexapod.

Amagama: ngu-Sejal Desai


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Woolworths Lends Support to Cape Parrot Research

Woolworths Lends Support to Cape Parrot Research
The design of the Cape Parrot bags stocked by Woolworths.

Cape Parrot research in South Africa and BirdLife South Africa (Birdlife SA) have received an important boost from retailer Woolworths. This is through the sale of a Cape Parrot bag as some of the proceeds from the sale will be channeled to research.

Professor Colleen Downs, Chair of the Cape Parrot Working Group (CPWG) and contributor to the annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day for the past 20 years, thanked BirdLife SA and Woolworths for this support and publicity for the endangered species. Next year will be the 21st annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day which involves the public in documenting the birds they see.

She encouraged the public to support research to protect Cape Parrots through the purchase of the bags which are ideal for Christmas gift-wrapping or for use just as carry bags. Downs also credited designers Mr Athol Moult and Ms Di Botha for the beautiful designs they produced.

This initiative is part of Woolworths’ Good Business Journey, and supports BirdLife SA’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Programme (IBA). From the sale of each bag Woolworths donates R10 to Birdlife SA.

Funds raised will go towards helping to protect and secure some of the last remaining habitats of the Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). The Parrots depend on mature Afromontane Yellowwood forest for most of their diet and nesting sites; now less than 2% of all South African landscapes comprise of natural forest and only a small proportion of those are Afromontane Yellowwood forests.

Habitat fragmentation and loss continue through human over-utilisation and degradation, further fragmenting the Cape Parrot’s already disjointed habitat. Researchers are working on identifying and protecting IBAs for the Parrots, especially three key IBAs in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Fewer than 1 600 Cape Parrots have been recorded in the wild; they also face the threat of illegal hunting and capture, and increasing disease concerns as their habitat disappears.

Funds raised through the sale of these bags will help safeguard remaining patches of Cape Parrot habitat and support next year’s Cape Parrot Big Birding Day, an annual census event.

In 2015, researchers in Pietermaritzburg’s School of Life Sciences published a paper about the Cape Parrot. That paper gained international attention due to its conclusion that the Poicephalus robustus parrot should be conferred the status of a full species. The subsequent reclassification is an important contribution to improving the species’ conservation priority and enabling the planning of conservation management strategies.

Words: Christine Cuénod


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Esteemed Artists Collaborate with Architecture Students

Esteemed Artists Collaborate with Architecture Students
First-year Architecture students actualise the opportunity to learn from the best.

Architecture students at UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies were recently given a platform to showcase their talents.

Over a four-week period, the group of first-year students collaborated with well-known Durban artists. The purpose of this partnership was to design an art studio as well as a residence for the Green Camp site on Umbilo Road.

An eclectic mix of artists influenced the creative process. Students were exposed to artists from an array of genres, ranging from choreographers, graffiti artists, fine artists and sculpture. This fusion represented the nature of art and exposed its relevance to architecture as an art form.

Artists who participated in this project are: Mr Greg Streak (a contemporary visual artists), Ms Karla Nixion (a fine artist), Mr Dane Stops (a graffiti and figurative artist), Mr Musa Hlatshwayo (a contemporary dance champion and award recipient at JOMBA). Mr Andries Botha (a political activist and sculptor) and Ms Jessica Bothma (a conceptual sculptor).

Learning outcomes from art and spatial design projects were consolidated in this final year end project.

To execute the project, students met and held introductory meetings with the artists in order to understand their design philosophies and to also get a sense of their creative processes.

Through this kind of engagement students gained an understanding of the site and developed concept designs for the artist. After many interactions and consultations, the artists and their studio facilitators presented their final piece of work with other artists present in order to receive constructive feedback.  

Lecturer Ms Bridget Horner said, ‘The one on one interaction with the artists has proved an invaluable learning experience for our students – to help them mature in their understanding of how to not only interact with a client but also how to listen and how to respond through design with another person’s needs, dreams and desires in mind.  Watching the student’s presentations to the artist’s today has been incredibly fulfilling. The students have all grown over the last year in their ability to articulate their ideas through many means - drawings, models and the spoken word.’   

Architecture student Mr Daniel Daruty said, ‘The experience of working with a “client” was a very enlightening exercise and has informed me that it is not an easy task getting to understand your client. As such, in future I’ll keep revising my approach to understanding a client.’

Collaborating with Nixon, student Miss Nicole Kistan expressed how she felt about receiving an opportunity to showcase her work saying ‘I feel that now more than ever I am certain that this is the career that I want to go into. More especially the satisfaction you get from the way the artist responds to your design. The feedback makes you feel that you are one step closer to having that reality one day.’ 

Horner thanked the artists who participated in the project saying, ‘Their time and insight is not taken for granted.’

Words: Ziphezinhle Silindile Biyela

Photographs: Bridget Horner


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Astronomy Postdoctoral Researcher Wins Prestigious L’OREAL-UNESCO Postdoc Fellowship

Astronomy Postdoctoral Researcher Wins Prestigious L’OREAL-UNESCO Postdoc Fellowship
Dr Kenda Knowles.

Dr Kenda Knowles, a postdoctoral researcher from UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU,) was recently awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship by the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science sub-Saharan Africa programme.

Knowles received this fellowship based on her current project: Statistical study of diffuse radio emission in ACT galaxy clusters with MeerKAT. The primary aim of this survey is to detect diffuse radio emissions in a statistically significant, uniformly selected sample of clusters which lie, in mass and redshift, beyond the currently and previously studied selection criteria. The study of the cosmological evolution of these systems, greatly improves on the currently limited understanding of these diffuse emissions. The research also has the potential to address unanswered questions about the largest gravitationally bound objects in the universe.

Knowles has scooped numerous accolades including receiving bursaries from the Square Kilometre Array South Africa project, winning the Doctoral Fellowship category at the 2015 Women in Science Awards and being selected to attend the 2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany where she engaged with other leading young scientists from various countries.

The 2017 edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science sub-Saharan Africa ceremony celebrated 14 young female scientists. As part of the programme launched in 2010, female scientists from across sub-Saharan Africa were honoured for their work and impact in the scientific field.  Their fields of research vary across different disciplines and address key global issues. Sandeep Rai, the Managing Director of L’Oréal South Africa highlighted the power of these women scientists. ‘The world continues to face unprecedented challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, illnesses and food security among other issues.  Only a shared, controlled science, at the service of the world’s population, is able to meet the major challenges of the twenty-first century, and our researchers are the proof.’

Dr Knowles was ecstatic at receiving the L’Oréal fellowship, saying: ‘I’m humbled to be a recipient of this fellowship, and I am extremely grateful to my mentors whose support and training have been a large part of getting me here. I am so proud to see the amazing research happening all over Africa by some dynamic and driven young women.’

 Words: Merissa Naidoo


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GSB&L’s Champions Programme’s Entrepreneurs are bringing Local Economic Development to their Communities

GSB&L’s Champions Programme’s Entrepreneurs are bringing Local Economic Development to their Communities
The 2017 Champions.

The Graduate School of Business and Leadership’s Regional Local Economic Development Initiative celebrated the success of its Champions Programme as 12 social entrepreneurs recently showcased how their entrepreneurial ventures are benefiting their communities.

The Champions Programme is a community development initiative that is part of a partnership between the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department (EDTEA) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The year-long programme saw selected social entrepreneurs spend two days per month at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) being exposed to a range of topics custom designed to nurture the development and scale the impact of their enterprises.

The 12 participants presenting at the Demo Day were: Ms Cebisile Buthelezi (in fashion and design); Mr Lindani Mkhanyawo (a youth development initiative), Mr Gordon Ngcoya (an innovative chicken rearing model for food security), Mr Pelican Ntombela (bridging finance for micro entrepreneurs); Ms Zinhle Vezi (rabbit farming for food security); Ms Molebogeng Miyene (recycled leather craft); Ms Mildred Dlamini (informal and micro entrepreneur development programme); Ms Nokulunga Mhlongo (a bakery within an OVC Centre), Mr Siboniso Mazibuko (a fashion cluster); Mr Zwakele Khumalo (development communication), Mr Bright Hlongwane (an entrepreneurship development programme);  Ms Yabo Makhanya (artist development programme) and Ms Nosipho Phiri (organic farming).

GSB&L academic and facilitator of the Champions programme, Professor Shahida Cassim said the initiative has achieved its aim as the entrepreneurs are stimulating local economic development in the Province through their projects.

‘We have taken a group of changemakers who are already running social projects in their communities and helped them scale their initiatives so that they have more impact.  Through this programme these changemakers have learnt from each other and from experts helping facilitate the development of their enterprises. The model has evolved over the four years of offering it and we think that the model is ready to scale.  We can scale this impact only through partnerships.’ She issued a call for partnerships with private and public sector partners.

EDTEA representative Mr Patrick Mbokazi said that the skills the social entrepreneurs have gained from this programme are crucial for the transformation of South Africa’s economy.

‘This is one of our strategic projects to ensure that the country has leaders who are abreast with LED and the needs of the people in their communities that is what sparked this partnership with UKZN. The programme has evolved over the years and we have seen a lot of positive results since its conception in 2010. We are proud of all of the LED practitioners that have graduated and have gone back to plough back in their communities,’ said Mbokazi.

The social entrepreneurs also heard from former champions Ms Zama Kunene, the founder of askZama.com, an online platform that helps small businesses market themselves online and Mr Lindo Duma, the co-founder of Iziko Stoves which employs rehabilitated substance abusers to create stoves out of recycled gas cylinders, geysers and oil drums about how the programme contributed to their success.

After a day of presenting their business plans to a panel of expert judges, the top three business cases were identified. Claiming the third spot was Ngcoya’s poultry model for household food security. Second place went to Mhlongo who has created a bakery within the Ubumbano Drop In Centre, which services the community of Melmoth. The first prize was awarded to Miyene’s Bikoland Creations based in Dannhauser which manufactures handbags and other leather products out of waste and recycled leather. The prizes were awarded through the kind and generous sponsorship from Al Baraka Bank (1st prize); Awqaf South Africa (2nd prize) and the Iqra Trust (3rd prize).

For more information on the Champions Programme visit: http://rledi.ukzn.ac.za/projects/champions-2017

Words: Thandiwe Jumo


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UKZN Marks the Launch of MoUs with the South African Weather Service and Umgeni Water

UKZN Marks the Launch of MoUs with the South African Weather Service and Umgeni Water
Seated from left: Mr Kevin Meier, Professor Albert Modi, Mr Jerry Lengoasa and Mr Sibonelo Mbanjwa with colleagues at the signing of the MoUs between the institutions.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) recently hosted a launch workshop on the Westville campus to commemorate the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between UKZN and the South African Weather Service (SAWS), and SAWS and Umgeni Water (UW).

The launch workshop took place on 17 November in partnership with key partners SAWS and UW, and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which provides oversight for the agreements. The signing of the MoU was facilitated by the uMngeni Resilience Project (URP) as part of its early warning systems component.

Honorary Research Associate Dr Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi noted that interactions between the organisations represented had been happening at a technical level and that these official agreements give context and meaning to those interactions.

The purpose of the workshop was to delineate a way forward, with the ultimate purpose of the agreements to produce tangible outputs for implementation that will benefit ordinary citizens.

The DEA’s Mr Sibonelo Mbanjwa, Director of Climate Change Adaptation and Natural Resources, said the importance of these agreements was in the context of national efforts to develop resilient societies.

‘This project provides great opportunity and potential for us to demonstrate what we can do as a country in terms of climate services,’ said Mbanjwa.

Professor Albert Modi, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES), spoke about the focus of UKZN’s relevant research on rural economic development, water use efficiency and productivity, especially the URP project with the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (UMDM).

Modi expressed excitement at the signing of these agreements, and said that in the context of UKZN’s increasing focus on the quality of its research outputs and on making research relevant to society, this kind of collaborative work would be important.

SAWS Chief Executive Officer Mr Jerry Lengoasa expressed delight at the signing of these agreements, noting their importance but emphasising that their value is in implementation, for which practitioners and partnerships are essential.

‘Working with you as the three institutions is a translation of a vision into practice,’ said Lengoasa.

Lengoasa also noted the importance of creating earth systems scientists through training students and preparing institutions to solve tomorrow’s problems. Part of the agreement will involve making data from SAWS available to research institutions.

Mr Kevin Meier of UW noted that while their work was more operational than research-based, this agreement will be a huge step forward toward being able to plan better for flood and drought events. He noted a gap in climate change data for research and said the agreement is useful for research to get where it is needed.

Ms Lungi Ndlovu of UMDM said the meeting represented a meeting of minds, and an opportunity to implement and deliver information and services that benefit all citizens.

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod


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Critical Discussions Shape New Mind-Sets

Critical Discussions Shape New Mind-Sets
Students engage leaders on topical issues.

The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal recently hosted a charged event designed to encourage youth participation in civil society spaces. The event focused on contemporary issues young people in civil society are confronted with on a day to day basis.

This initiative aimed to create a platform in which young people are given an opportunity to voice out their opinions pertaining to political, environmental and social matters. It also aimed to provide space for young people to engage and promote social justice in their respective social contexts, thus propelling students to partake in social activism in a constructive and peaceful manner. 

Ms Eliza Solis-Maart, CCS web researcher and postgraduate Development Studies candidate, facilitated proceedings. The first session was addressed by Mr Daniel Byamungu of the Africa Solidarity Network. He shed light on xenophobia and the threats it brings to a peaceful nation like ours.

The second session was chaired by Mr Lukhona Mnguni of the Maurice Webb Race Relations Unit. In the spotlight was the South African Government and its leaders with a special focus on the notion of state capture.

Mr Mnguni said, ‘In a country like ours, we defined the path we wanted to walk in 1994 when we had the elections, we defined it around a constitutional democracy.  So we created parameters of who should have power over the state and how should they capture that power over the state and that’s through a multiparty electoral process. State capture is a normal pursuit of politics so there is good capture so long as it happens with the parameters set up in a constitutional democracy where elections are free and fair and everybody has a chance to participate.’

Mr Mnguni continued saying, ‘We have given up our country to others to do as they please and the questions that you need to ask if we talk about how to undo the state capture issue is that you need to fight back and recapture the state to its rightful owners within the parameters we have defined. If you are an active citizen that is politically charged that is what you do.’

Other speakers included gender specialist Professor Rozena Maart, accompanied by Ms Ayanda Tshazi, who spoke about feminism in South Africa with a focus on gender norms and the roles that men and women are expected to play. Student speakers, Mr Sandile Zondi and Mr Pinda Mofokeng, demonstrated how the issues surrounding education within South Africa have a longstanding history in our country, far beyond the 2015 protests. In addition, they demonstrated how the current context of education and schooling may affect future citizens of South Africa. 

Words and photograph: Ziphezinhle Silindile Biyela


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Visiting Academic Contributes Wisdom on Sustainable Agroecosystems

Visiting Academic Contributes Wisdom on Sustainable Agroecosystems
Seminar attendees with Dr Alfred Odindo (front row, fifth left) and Professor Johan Six (front row, sixth left).

Professor Johan Six from ETH Zürich recently visited the University of KwaZulu-Natal as part of a collaboration with Crop Science’s Dr Alfred Odindo. During the visit, he presented a lecture on understanding sustainable agroecosystems for practice to some 40 academics and students.

Six is the Chair of the Sustainable Agroecosystems Group at ETH Zürich, with research focus on Landscape Analyses and Global Food Security.

UKZN and ETH Zürich are collaborating on trans-disciplinary, solutions-oriented research to simultaneously address problems of inadequate basic sanitation and food insecurity in growing informal settlements around urban centres like Durban. This can be done through developing technologies that close the agricultural nutrient cycle by developing safe nitrogen and potassium fertilisers from human excreta.

As part of this collaboration, ETH Zürich PhD candidate Mr Benjamin Wilde visited UKZN for one month as part of his work on the biophysical, social and policy aspects of using urine-based fertilisers as part of sustainable approaches to the management of waste.

Six spoke about his work on the complex interactions between soil, plants, soil biota (like fungi, bacteria, and earthworms), and the carbon and nitrogen cycles in terrestrial ecosystems, especially agroecosystems.

His general approach involves conducting inter- and transdisciplinary experimental work from the micro- to landscape scale and subsequently integrating it with modelling to interpolate and extrapolate it to the regional and global scale.

The modelling identifies knowledge gaps, generates testable hypotheses, and tests the mechanistic bases of biogeochemical models. Bio-economic modelling involves collaboration with economic and social scientists to holistically assess the sustainability and resilience of agriculture and food value chains.

Six gave fascinating examples from a diverse array of countries where he had conducted research, including the United States of America, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Ghana, Indonesia, Thailand, Namibia and Honduras, to name a few.

He described management effects on soil greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide, and addressed the employment of conservation agriculture techniques. Six emphasised that the effectiveness of conservation agriculture requires that the basic three techniques are all applied: no-tillage practice, residue retention and crop rotation, which together help avoid yield losses.

He also spoke about agroecosystem-induced changes, factors affecting yield gaps in sub-Saharan Africa, agroforestry, erosion, climate smart agriculture and more.

Six spoke about the importance of including all the actors in a food system and building resilience through diversification. He added that consumers need to take responsibility and use their powers to determine what is produced and that it is done sustainably.

‘I really believe that what we’re going to have to do if we really want to make agriculture sustainable, is work with all the actors,’ said Six.

He concluded that sustainable agriculture is more about an integrated system where interactions between various role-players ensure food security. Its success, he said, is location-dependent and there are always trade-offs to achieve it.

Words: Christine Cuénod


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School of Education hosts Decolonising Teacher Education Seminar Series

School of Education hosts Decolonising Teacher Education Seminar Series
From left: Professor Thabo Msibi, Dr Muki Moeng, Professor Nokhanyo Makhanya, Professor Loretta Feris and Professor Suriamurthee Maistry.

The School of Education recently hosted a Decolonising Teacher Education seminar at the Edgewood campus. The event is part of the Dean’s seminar series that aims to initiate dialogue on a range of issues affecting the education sector. 

Dean of the School, Professor Thabo Msibi said, ‘We plan to engage robustly on pressing education issues and respond to the questions of the moment and in turn transform teaching methods and research.’

Presenting the first keynote address of the day was Professor Loretta Feris, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation at the University of Cape Town. She spoke on decolonisation and why Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) need to decolonise. ‘It is a call for access to education out of the legacy of colonisation and apartheid, deep-seated poverty, structural inequalities and systemic crime and violence in our country,’ she said.

Feris further spoke on universities as places of learning, contestation, marginalisation; the opportunities for universities to decolonise and the challenges that HEIs continue to face. Feris also addressed graduate identity in terms of decolonised education, advising that queer, feminist and African voices should appear in the curriculum.

Dr Muki Moeng, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education at the Nelson Mandela University (NMMU) then reflected on the journey of decolonising a Faculty of Education through the BEd Foundation phase programme (curriculum decolonisation).

She talked about the new R56m building that was deliberately chosen as the Missionvale Campus for the location of the re-curriculated Foundation Phase programme. It is situated in the township, close to a large number of primary schools in Zwide, Missionvale and New Brighton.

Moeng said its location complements the Foundation Phase programme’s practice of partnering with schools that face the challenges that need to be be addressed in South Africa and in which education and teacher education can make positive change.

The hope is that graduates will take up posts in the surrounding areas, in the schools where they are needed most, and where they can make the most difference. The overall structure provides the means to bridge the gap between the privileged and underprivileged while dispelling stereotypes and addressing decolonisation. 

Professor Nokhanyo Makhanya, also from the Nelson Mandela University, discussed preparing English and Afrikaans first language students for communicative competence in an African language (decolonising the mind). She argued that African languages have a pedagogical relevance in the South African classroom hence teachers need to be capacitated to “border- cross” between languages.

‘I believe that in rethinking a decolonised language curriculum the focus should be on how curriculum developers could capacitate English and/or Afrikaans student teachers to use an African language as required by the goals of language in a particular classroom context,’ said Makhanya. 

UKZN Academics that also presented at the seminar were:

Msibi stated that the next series of seminars will kick off in 2018 with more discussions on decolonisation and other related topics.  In order to act more responsively to the needs of the province, the School would also be launching colloquia addressing pressing issues in education, and drawing from multiple stakeholders.  The first colloquium will focus on corporal punishment.

Words and photograph: Melissa Mungroo


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Centre for Civil Society hosts Activist Training Day

Centre for Civil Society hosts Activist Training Day
Highlights from the Centre for Civil Society Training Day.

The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS) recently held a training day for activists. It focused on Social Media and Activism, Democracy and the Right to Protest.

Among the participants were activists from the Right2Know Campaign, the Farmer Support Group, the Active Citizens Movement, the Community Justice Movement, the Africa Solidarity Network, the South Durban Environmental Alliance, the Door to Door Foundation and the Centre for Critical Race.

The session on Social Media and Activism examined various social media platforms to support advocacy and social justice campaigns. Areas explored included being seen as well as being heard, social listening and ways to avoid getting caught in the fake news cycle.

Various apps were also considered such as Hootsuite. Participants noted that they typically used social media to engage and network, share struggles, raise awareness and influence transformation.

The session on Democracy and Protest examined the Bill of Rights, distinguishing civil, political and socio-economic rights. Participants engaged in a debate on negative rights (where rights award citizens protection from the state) and positive rights (which impose duties on the state).

The session also covered freedom of expression and association as well as the right to campaign, protest and advocate. Participants discussed their rights to protest, their rights on arrest and their rights to take photographs / be photographed and to use their cellular phones in environments of securitisation.

The trainers for the sessions were Happiness Maphumulo, Community Leader at Open Data Durban and Professor David McQuoid-Mason, Professor of Law at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

According to Centre for Civil Society Director Dr Shauna Mottiar, the training day is designed to equip community activists in their daily campaigns to promote social justice and deepen democracy.

‘It is also an opportunity for activists to come together to network and discuss their campaigns. The training day is further designed to include input from local activists in terms of what their training requirements are and the training methods they favour. It is also planned that training will be expanded to include training for activists by activists with a focus on praxis,’ she said.

Words: Melissa Mungroo


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Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Arts Donated to School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Arts Donated to School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics
Buddha’s Light International Association South Africa donates a 20 Volume Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Arts to the School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics.

Buddha’s Light International Association South Africa has donated an impressive 20 Volume Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Arts to the School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics within the College of Humanities.

The School is one of the first institutions in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) to receive the donation. The Volume was handed over to UKZN by Founder of the Fo Guang Shan, Master Hui Fang.

The 20-volume Encyclopedia of Buddhist Arts, published by Fo Guang Shan in March 2013, is considered the first great modern-day compendium of the world’s Buddhist arts.

Comprising four volumes on Buddhist architecture, five on grottoes, four on Buddhist sculpture, three on painting, one on crafts, one on calligraphy and seals, one on biographies, plus an index, the Encyclopedia contains almost 3.8 million Chinese characters of texts and more than 15 000 pictures.  The complete volume is essentially a compendium that fills a gap in Taiwanese publications on Buddhist arts.

According to the description provided by Fo Guang Shan, ‘The content of the Encyclopaedia covers Buddhism’s origins in India, its spread throughout Asia, and its different manifestations developed through intermixing with local cultures, such as Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. Its breadth and depth make it a full introduction to Buddhist art. The information in the Encyclopaedia also includes some of the latest developments in the Buddhist arts world.’

Dean for the School Professor David Spurrett expressed gratitude for the volume saying, ‘We appreciate this generous gift. This volume will benefit students, not only in the Arts, but potentially in other fields such as Architecture. We would welcome future collaborations and exchange programmes with UKZN and Buddha’s Light International Association.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Celebrates International Cultural Day!

UKZN Celebrates International Cultural Day!
Staff and students revel in the festivities.

My Heritage My Pride was the theme of UKZN’s Cultural Day this year. Comprising dazzling and stimulating performance items and information sharing sessions, the event celebrated students’ talents in the performing arts while it also served to highlight cuisine from around the world.

Students from more than 14 countries participated in the array of activities, which included Congolese, Brazilian, Indian, Namibian, Zimbabwean, Mozambican, Nigerian and South African dances; a Zimbabwean totem recital; an Ethiopian Coffee presentation and poetry recitals.

Addressing the audience, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UKZN, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld expressed delight at the proceedings and pledged his support for the initiative.

‘As an international student, you add immensely to the richness and variety to the melting pot of cultures at UKZN. We are delighted to have you here at our Institution; we would be all the poorer without your presence. At UKZN, you will experience the true richness of South Africa and all its cultures, and be exposed to a range of South African research projects and community issues. You will have the chance to become critically engaged in South African society.’

Guests were also treated to a variety of interactive activities, including traditional Xhosa face painting. Students from India also performed rangoli, an art form in which patterns are created using different materials such as coloured rice, flour, sand as well as flower petals. The students also treated guests to body art from India called mehndi, in which decorative designs are created using a paste made from powdered dry henna leaves.

Another exciting component was a unique art piece by Ayonotic Artistry, a team of students from UKZN who are fast capturing the imagination of our University space. Congolese-born guitarist, singer-songwriter Gloire Espoir Mapenzi also captivated the audience with his unique renditions, which got audiences jiving!

Speaking on behalf of students, Mr Sombe Joel Yondo, President of the International Students Association at UKZN said, ‘Cultural diversity makes South Africa stronger and better able to compete in the new global economy. People from diverse cultures bring language skills, new ways of thinking, creative solutions to difficult problems and negotiating skills. The event serves to create new opportunities for social and cultural interactions, promoting international and intercultural exchange as well as co-operation in the cultural sphere by promoting a dynamic cultural heritage that is preserved, used and developed. Moreover, we are so glad to have this cultural event this year at UKZN.’

Long serving member of staff, International Student Officer, Ms Vanuja Krishna was also honoured and presented with a token of appreciation for her contribution at UKZN. Krishna will start enjoying her well-deserved retirement at end of 2017.

Extending thanks to UKZN for bringing both local and international students together through the event, Yondo said, ‘We found the experience very valuable by sharing our homes in South Africa. Cultural diversity makes South Africa richer by making it a more interesting place in which to live. Just think how boring a meal would be without, for instance, Zimbabwean, Brazilian, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Congolese or Indian food! It is always a good choice to have a cultural diversity celebration and to bring people from different parts of world together as we believe more in what can unite people to be greater than what can divide them.’

Words: Rakshika Sibran


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Architecture Students Paint Mural at UKZN

Architecture Students Paint Mural at UKZN
First-year Architecture students painted a mural in Denis Shepstone building, Howard College campus.

First-year Architecture students from the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (SOBEDS) recently painted a new mural on the entrance wall of their studios on Level 7 in Denis Shepstone building, Howard College.

Lecturers Mrs Bridget Horner and Ms Lindsay Bush oversaw the process with Ms Corina Gibson from Prominent Paints supplying paint, equipment and application advice. The mural took the 13 student volunteers 24 hours, spread over a weekend, to complete.

Said Horner, ‘The mural was last painted two years ago by postgraduate students as part of the Masihambisane project. This year we decided to use it as a practical Visual Communication exercise for the students. Prominent Paint has provided ongoing support both in terms of paint and in terms of lectures for our students – our first project with them was the base colour wall in the studio on which local graffiti artist Giffy painted an “Archi monkey”.’ 

The mural design process was an emergent, collaborative one. It began as a winter holiday project where students were asked to reimagine the mural based on the theme Metamorphose. While no single image was chosen outright, the team decided to move forward based on a design by Mr Tino Mukumbareza showing a large, stylized character against a dark background.

Other themes that arose frequently in students’ work were the Durban skyline and the head/ headdress of an African woman “unravelling” into the city.  Bush worked to bring these ideas together in a manner inspired by Berlin street artists BTOY.

The final design now seen on the wall consists of three layers of images reflecting the context of an architectural student in Durban: the background image shows significant landmarks of the Howard College campus, namely MTB and Howard College Buildings, the mid-ground is a composition of Durban’s diverse architecture forming a city skyline in and in the foreground is an Architecture student with drawing roll and ear phones– a sassy, multi-cultural image of a young woman.

Student Mr Daniel Daruty de Grandpré saw this as an opportunity for him to get involved creatively while also bonding with his classmates. ‘As an Architect, at some point your work will be seen by the public so I feel this was an opportunity for us to understand that. It is also important to express yourself artistically outside of architecture and this also allowed for that opportunity.’

Ms Bonnie Bopela, another student, added, ‘When our lecturers first mentioned that there would be a possibility that we could paint a new mural on the architecture board I was really excited about the idea. I have never done anything like this before and have always wanted to. I thought it would be an accomplishment that we as the First Years could claim as our own that represented our course and all the students studying it.  And more than anything I knew it would a whole lot of fun.’

Recognising the efforts of the team, Acting Dean for the School Professor Ernest Khalema said, ‘Well done to the Architecture team. The mural looks great. Congratulations to the students and their lecturers for putting so much effort and dedication into making this happen. It looks fantastic.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs:  Michele Jacobs


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UKZN’s Quarraisha Abdool Karim is named as a UNAIDS Special Ambassador

UKZN’s Quarraisha Abdool Karim is named as a UNAIDS Special Ambassador
Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim receives the certificate of appointment from Dr Michel Sidibè, (left) and Dr Aaron Motsoaledi at the event in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, respected as one of the world’s leading AIDS researchers, has been appointed as a UNAIDS Special Ambassador for Adolescents and HIV. In her new role as a UNAIDS Special Ambassador, Abdool Karim will focus on adolescents and HIV, while also championing the involvement of young women in Science.

‘I am delighted that Quarraisha Abdool Karim has accepted this position,’ said Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director UNAIDS. Sidibè made the announcement at the launch of the UNAIDS report, Right to Health, on Monday 20 November, at the Michael Mapongwana Community Health Centre, Harare, Khayelitsha, in Cape Town. There was a strong community presence at the event attended by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, representatives of TAC and several civil society organisations.

Sidibè said that Abdool Karim was ‘a strong and consistent champion of young people living with and affected by HIV.’ He said that she will use her new role ‘to continue to translate scientific research and knowledge into people-centred solutions and prevention programmes to reduce the factors making young people so vulnerable to HIV infection. UNAIDS looks forward to supporting her work.’

Abdool Karim has made pioneering contributions to understanding the HIV epidemic in young people, especially in young women, and is a strong advocate for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV.  ‘This is a befitting appointment for Professor Abdool Karim who has spent more than two decades researching how HIV/AIDS is spread in South Africa, and its impact on the most vulnerable groups including adolescent girls and young women,’ said Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, Vice-Chancellor, University of KwaZulu-Natal.’ He said that ‘her commitment to human rights and access to healthcare is also well-documented and serves as a cornerstone of her research undertakings.’

Since 1998 she has played a central role in building the science base in southern Africa through the Columbia University – Southern African Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Programme that has trained over 600 scientists in southern Africa.

She was the Principal Investigator of the landmark CAPRISA 004 tenofovir gel trial which provided proof of concept for Microbicides, highlighted by Science as one of the Top 10 scientific breakthroughs in 2010. Professor Abdool Karim has more than 170 peer-reviewed publications and has authored several books and book chapters.

Responding to her appointment Abdool Karim said that ‘as we increase our understanding of the HIV epidemic and the transmission dynamics that place young people at higher risk of infection, all sectors of society must work together to make sure that adolescents have access to the information and services that can keep them safe and well through a crucial period of their lives and into adulthood.’

Her appointment as a UNAIDS Special Ambassador is an honorary position and Abdool Karim will fulfil this role while in her position as Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA and Professor in Clinical Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. She is an Honorary Professor in Public Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Professor Abdool Karim is currently a member of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel and Scientific Advisor to the Executive Director of UNAIDS. She is a Scientific Advisory Board member of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Chair of the PEPFAR Expert Working Group on pre-exposure prophylaxis, Advisory Group member of the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), Deputy Chair of the South African Medical Research Council Board. She is a Foreign Associate member of the US National Academy of Medicine, a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the African Academy of Sciences

Words: Smita Maharaj


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