UKZN hosts Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers South Africa Section Open Day

UKZN hosts Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers South Africa Section Open Day
Students and staff members who attended IEEE South Africa and UKZN open day.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) South Africa Section together with the University of KwaZulu-Natal recently hosted a talk titled IEEE - Opportunities and Benefits.

The talk was held at the Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering Building on the Howard College campus, with speaker of the day Dr Albert Lysko, IEEE Chair, South Africa Section. Albert is also a Principal Researcher, CSIR Pretoria and South African Representative in European Union COST Action on “Inclusive Radio Communication Networks for 5G and beyond”.

Mr Dauda Ayanda Vice-Chair, IEEE South Africa Section (on behalf of IEEE-HKN UKZN Chapter) said the talk promotes the IEEE Student branch chapter at UKZN and how to sustain it through various benefits to the students and the community. ‘This is the first IEEE student talk at UKZN that focused on promoting Student Chapters. Several other programme/activities will be coming up towards promoting students’ research and professional skills that will be beneficial to the community and industry,’ said Ayanda.

The talk also focused on how to organise professional activities among Engineering students and how to promote technical and leadership skills via pre/post-education and community development service. It also included networking through collaboration, IEEE skills competition and sharing of ideas, research support via top impact journals, conferences and distinguished lectures.

The IEEE Open Day comprised of approximately 40 participants (students) from both Disciplines of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. ‘The lecture was the maiden edition of IEEE Student Chapter talk at UKZN. Part of the talk was about IEEE and what it offers, and about opportunities to sustain an IEEE Unit (Student Branch Chapter) at UKZN,’ said Ayanda.

Words: Manqoba Hadebe

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The UKZN Griot. Of Quackery and Pseudoscience

The UKZN Griot.  Of Quackery and Pseudoscience

It is very fitting that South Africa hosted the 1st International Summit on Quackery and Pseudoscience, in 2017. It was organised by George Claassen, Director of the Centre for Science and Technology at Stellenbosch University. The delegates examined the role of science communication in the medical arena in countering quackery. Quackery means a hawker of salve, not the two legged amphibian, whom I will now use in a metaphorical sense.  My apologies to ducks everywhere in making my point.

The squawking, hawking ducks are everywhere. From AIDS denialism and beetroot quackery in the early days of liberation, and now the snake oil peddlers whose torn and unsightly posters plaster street poles, fences and relay boxes on arterial roads. Yet, despite these charlatans promising big hips, abortions and all kinds of unmentionables, there is the never-ending harassment of the indefatigable Tim Noakes whose Banting research is threatening vested interests in the nutrition industry.

All this pales when it comes to “voodoo economics”, a term popularised by a temporarily disorientated Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, when he  fell for the garlic and olive oil theory of HIV cures during the era of denialism.  Did him well, that aberration; now he’s a head honcho in the financial sector, perhaps heading up the Halloween Division.  I tip my pointy black hat.

But last year that greasy quack discourse reached right inside the Treasury. The Gigaba Zumerite who ousted the twice fired unquackable Pravin played word games and raised VAT and estate duty to pay for state capture and salary increases for Cabinet members who created the conditions for our junk status in the first place.  But even this minister of financial farce had begun to understand that capitalism is not all quackery, and that the super-quackery of radical economic transformation in the post-BELPer (Bell Pottinger) age is the self-induced, long-wave financial (down) cycle that is wrecking the duckpond. 

If this high economic theory needs explanation, just read Ernst Mandel’s Late Capitalism (London, Verso, 1978).  Our capitalism here in South Africa is actually very, very late thanks to the PR-generated pseudo theory of “white monopoly capital” that created a disorientating moral panic and discredited the global PR industry.  It also set back our economy for about a century, but I suppose better late than never.  We all know that the PR sector is where quackery most likely develops its finely tuned theories. But, of course, the PR industry is for the most part honest.  I do however hope to examine a whole slew of self-flagellating PR PhDs on the topic being submitted soon.

While the Stellenbosch squawkfest was one squawk away from engaging madness, the squawkers continue to squawk.  Hence, the need for the conference, which unfortunately I could not attend.  I was leading a field trip on the African Ivory Route in deep 4x4 land, sliding in the mud, but unlike in 2016, we did not slither four-wheels sideways down the side of a mountain and I did not break a few ribs falling through an obviously defective pedestrian bridge over a waterfall.  On the latter, the resort management was quite unperturbed at my close brush with death, and after much argument, instead of sealing off the bridge, they reluctantly offered me my money back.  Quack quack!   But they did eventually fix the bridge.

On the route we met, talked to, and hoped to hear the ancestors speaking through the mystical (real) white lions, who have a particular place in Venda mythology. Extraordinary things are said to happen on the Ivory Route, none of them currently, apparently, scientifically explainable.   We just don’t have the methodological or theoretical tools for this at the moment. Communicating with lions (or elephants or horses) requires an affective science whereas talking to quacks requires the suspension of science or replacement with pseudo-science and sham reasoning.

Claassen who hosted the Quackery conference is a veteran science journalist, professor of journalism, and a man whose ditty duck-tape discourse is after my own heart. Well, Claassen has now turned the tables on the quackers who proposed this toxic brew as a cure for AIDS and the ANC’s ballooning party debt.  And, what a party that was.  Just ask anyone who was working in the health sector in those days.  I was there, as were many UKZNers like the Abdool-Karims, Alan Whiteside, Eleanor Preston-Whyte, Jerry Coovadia, and Jack Moodley who, when co-operating with the hard working and sensible officials in the Department of Health,  tried to restore sanity to the upper duckhouse (ie the Cabinet). 

A four-year national media and health campaign, called Beyond Awareness, designed by me and Arnold Shepperson, was implemented by UKZN graduates Warren Parker and Professor Lynn Dalrymple via a consortium of NGOs, and later via the UKZN/UNIZULU affiliated Drama in AIDS Education. For the rest of the time the Minister’s advisory committee was putting out fires emanating from her office:  virodene, Sarafina II, illegal Rath Foundation experimentation, denialism, and endless and distracting politicking even down to provincial level. 

The politicos could care less about treatments and cures; they just wanted to be “seen” to be doing something, while doing nothing.  The Life Esidimeni debacle and the refusal of the MEC to take responsibility, or even understand her responsibility, arises out of this culture of narcissism and impunity, lack of accountability and blatant idiocy.  My congrats to Professor WM Makgoba for exposing this sham project that led to 141+ unnecessary deaths, often in the most appalling circumstances.   The MEC is 2017’s chief quacker in addition to being the Sunday Times’s Mampara.

Eventually, the light of day reappeared; denialism, sham reasoning and quackery retreated and the health sector was able to deliver drugs for HIV again. These were also the early days of deceptive journals where the claims made by many of the denialists were first published.  But now, it’s the muti peddlers who are on the street (and I mean the peddlers, not the healers).  

Twenty years later, the NRF finally awoke to the predatory threat, in issuing its own warning to grant and rating applicants. Man, the wheels of academia slide slowly, even as the shameful sham ducks slide effortlessly across the sleazy and now predatory priced open access deep, creating ripples in the murk, and the impression of elegance and fast turnaround with little or no peer-review. 

Finally, academics are now taking on the quacks, and explaining why they have such wider purchase across all societies.   Well done Stellenbosch University.

Note:  For further information on the conference see: and the YouTube videos,


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

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UKZN to Host 2018 SA Solar Energy Conference

UKZN to Host 2018 SA Solar Energy Conference
A SERAFF solar furnace undergoing initial testing.

The focus of the Southern African Solar Energy Conference (SASEC) being hosted in Durban by UKZN from 25-27 June 2018 will be on solar photovoltaic and solar thermal energy technology systems and applications. 

SASEC is the premier gathering for engineers, scientists and researchers from the Southern African Development Community region to exchange cutting-edge information on developments in the fields of solar thermal energy, photovoltaics, resource assessment and policy.

Senior UKZN lecturer Dr Michael Brooks, who is the co-founder and leader of the Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG) based at the Discipline of Mechanical Engineering, is the conference Chair.

‘Solar energy holds enormous potential for fossil-fuel dependent countries to move towards sustainable power generation practices,’ said Brooks. ‘This is particularly true in our own country, South Africa, where the solar resource is extremely good and the power distribution network is well-developed. Against this backdrop, the SASEC conference has for many years provided researchers and industrial participants with a forum to exchange ideas on energy policy, to propose new technologies suited to the local context and to help develop a new generation of solar energy engineers. UKZN is proud to host the 2018 SASEC conference and to welcome delegates to sunny Durban,’ he said.  

The conference aims to stimulate renewed interest in solar energy technologies, whether thermal or photovoltaic, and to support the growing solar energy industry in Southern Africa by providing a platform where participants can interact and build productive research networks. 

Sharing their expertise on this subject matter will be keynote speakers Dr Michael Geyer and Dr Claudia Buerhop-Lutz.  Geyer is the Managing Director of Abengoa Solar GmbH and the Director Business Development Europe and Africa at Abengoa, and Buerhop-Lutz holds a doctorate in material science from the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany. 

Buerhop-Lutz works at the Bavarian Center for Applied Energy Research (ZAE Bayern) in Erlangen, Germany, where she is responsible for the thermographic inspections of PV-modules, especially PV-plants. ZAE Bayern was a pioneer in IR-thermography for outdoor analysis of PV-modules and now works with aerial drone-mounted IR-imaging systems.

SASEC will be hosted at an international level and has already received more than 90 abstracts from academics and researchers in countries around the world, including South Africa, Brazil, the United States, Europe and several African states. More than 20 universities will be represented.

Topics to be discussed at this year’s conference include: General Solar Energy, Solar Thermal Energy, Solar Photovoltaics, Solar Resource, Concentrating Solar Power, and Industrial and Domestic Solar Heating.

Anyone interested in attending SASEC 2018 should visit

Words: Prashina Budree

Photograph: Jean Pitot

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UKZN Alumnus Runner-Up in Global Techno Entrepreneurship Contest

UKZN Alumnus Runner-Up in Global Techno Entrepreneurship Contest
Global Startup Weekend Women Finals in Paris.

Global Start-up Weekend Women (GSWW) South Africa winner, UKZN alumnus Ms Farnaaz Shaikjee was the runner-up at the global finals of the competition held in Paris.

Shaikjee holds an Honours degree in Accounting and was an academic trainee at UKZN’s School of Accounting, Economics and Finance. She presented her Beauty Butler app at the finals.

Celebrating entrepreneurship in women, the global event involved women from more than 20 countries showcasing their diverse, inclusive and daring technology ideas.

Addressing the finalists, French Secretary of State in Charge of Digital Affairs Mr Mounir Mahjoubi emphasised the importance of start-ups to any economy, especially in times of recession as entrepreneurs help build up an economy by providing jobs and decreasing poverty.

Mahjoubi also pointed out that initiatives like the GSWW contributed to making the world a better place as it gave aspiring entrepreneurs the courage to pursue their ideas.

After winning the South African edition held at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership, Shaikjee said the experience of an ‘ordinary girl from Durban’ becoming a runner up in Paris was like a dream, especially as she had to compete with individuals from first world countries such as the United States, Australia and France.

Shaikjee said travelling to Paris and being part of the GSWW was an experience she would never forget. ‘I’ve been abroad before, but nothing compares to Paris. It is truly a magical city one can easily fall in love with. Parisian life seems to be all about good food and high fashion. The French are really friendly and even though my French was limited, they tried their best to communicate.

‘The finals in Paris were challenging as we had to pitch our business idea in four minutes compared with five minutes in the South African competition. It was really nerve wracking as I had no home ground advantage. Most of the judges did not speak English as their first language, I had a global audience and I was competing against representatives from over 20 countries,’ she said.

Looking to the future Shaikjee wants to get her Beauty Butler app up and running in order to create a platform that will maximise the convenience of consumers seeking beauty services.

Regional and Local Economic Development (RLED) academic Professor Shahida Cassim, who organised the GSWW Durban contest, believes the initiative was a success as it achieved its goal of nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit and contributing to a start-up culture, particularly for women in the region.

Algeria won the contest with their business idea Safe Sahara - a digital app designed to detect and locate camels by placing a GPS tracker on the animal, which would link to a web mapping service such as Google Maps.

Words: Sibonelo Shinga

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Flatfoot Dance Company Celebrates 15th Anniversary

Flatfoot Dance Company Celebrates 15th Anniversary
Highlights from Flatfoot Dance Company’s 15th anniversary celebratory performance.

Durban’s inimitable Flatfoot Dance Company this year celebrates its 15th anniversary as one of South Africa’s leading contemporary dance companies.

With a variety of national awards to its name, Flatfoot’s impressive landmark is a testament to a dedicated team of dancers and administrators.

Founder, Artistic Director and UKZN Dance lecturer, Ms Lliane Loots said: ‘It is amazing to sit back and let the reality sink in that we have been doing this for 15 years. It has been the best 15 years of my life - I have interacted with thousands of dancers in our community dance development programmes in KwaZulu-Natal, and had the privilege of working with the professional dancers in the company who have journeyed alongside me to give Flatfoot the reputation for excellence that is has.’

To celebrate the special occasion, Flatfoot presented a full-length season of new dance theatre work from 21 – 25 March at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

With a reputation for edgy, controversial, beautiful and intelligent dance, Flatfoot titled its 15th anniversary season: Things Left Unsaid, which offered two new dance works by Sifiso Khumalo and Loots.

Khumalo, who has worked with Flatfoot for 12 of its 15 years, took on a choreographic role in his work Ndlelanhle (Go well on your journey).

Khumalo, whose reputation as an innovative choreographer has been growing over the past six years, was awarded a prestigious JOMBA! On the Edge choreographic grant for 2017. His insightful and heartfelt attention to traditional Zulu cultural identity and how contemporary modern life has changed the way we think about ourselves, is given air in the new work.

On the creation of Ndlelanhle, Khumalo said: ‘In Zulu culture when you leave home for a journey the elders give you a special prayer or blessing. I worry that these small things have been forgotten.

‘These words and blessing mean a lot - they are a reminder that we, as Black urban Zulu men and women, still have ancestors guiding us. In Ndlelanhle I wanted to go back to these small blessings and to look at the role the words have on what we become.’

Ndlelanhle also launched the professional careers of Flatfoot’s newest crop of male dancers - Siseko Duba, Ndumiso Dube, Qhawe Ndimande, Sbonga Ndlovu and Mthoko Mkhwanazi.

They all completed a five-year professional development training programme run by Flatfoot and funded by the National Arts Council of South Africa.

Flatfoot Dance Company felt its 15th anniversary year was the right moment to reveal and celebrate the incredible journey of these Newlands- and KwaMashu- based dancers.

In a collaborative process, Loots worked with Jabu Siphika, Zinhle Nzama, Sifiso Khumalo and the five new dancers to interrogate the things we leave unsaid.

Loots said: ‘Like many of my recent works, Things Left Unsaid returns to what fascinates me right now and this is quite basically an earnest plea for intimacy in spite of the violence in our world. I journey with the dancers into some pretty horrifying personal and political territory and am reminded that we are all still standing – and still dancing. In the end this is a triumph of the heart; the bigness of the South African heart.’

On Things Left Unsaid, Loots worked with long-time collaborators Wesley Maherry (lighting), Karen Logan (video installations), and poet Iain “ewok” Robinson.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Val Adamson

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UKZN Hosts Benchmarking visit by Mbarara University of Science and Technology

UKZN Hosts Benchmarking visit by Mbarara University of Science and Technology
Delegates from UKZN and Mbarara University of Science and Technology at the Westville campus.

Representatives from the Pharm-Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine Centre (PHARMBIOTRAC) at Uganda’s Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) were at UKZN recently on a benchmarking venture.

The partnership between PHARMBIOTRAC at MUST; and UKZN’s Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS) and the Pharmaceutical Sciences Discipline was initiated in 2015 when CIKS supported MUST in the development of its successful competitive grant proposal to the World Bank Africa, Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE II).

The objective of the ACE II project is to strengthen the capacity of select eastern and southern African Higher Education Institutions in building collaborative research capacity and postgraduate education in the priority area of integrating traditional medicine and pharmaceutical sciences.  

Director of the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems Professor Hassan Kaya welcomed the delegates to UKZN. Kaya emphasised the Centre’s role in creating a hub for IKS development in Africa through strategic partnerships, particularly the importance of developing national, continental and global networks and “entering the global knowledge economy on our terms”.

The current impetus to integrate IKS, particularly traditional medicine knowledge and practices with pharmaceutical sciences, depends on developing partnerships with universities on the continent, such as MUST, which is well versed in the field.

Mbarara University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Celestino Obua, who headed the Ugandan delegation, highlighted their long tradition of working closely with traditional medical health practitioners and their plans to share knowledge, experience and ideas with UKZN.

Referring to medicine, Obua said: ‘We try to make it useful and profitable for the healer,’ and emphasised the importance of addressing intellectual property rights.

UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Albert van Jaarsveld welcomed the delegates to the University and to Durban - the ‘world capital of fun’ - and stressed the importance of collaborations across Africa, saying he was deeply committed to strengthening partnerships on the continent.

The PHARMBIOTRAC delegates from Mbarara University spent five days meeting with academics and researchers at UKZN identifying niche research areas, synergies, critical research facilities and visiting sites of interest, including the eThekwini Silverglen Medicinal Plant Nursery.  

The delegation was accompanied by Traditional Health Practitioners (THPs) from KwaZulu-Natal as part of the participatory approach in the envisaged collaboration with MUST. THP and IKS ambassador Ms Zabalazile Makhoba said: ‘IKS is the solution to most of our social ills. If we learn from our indigenous science, we can address so many challenges in our lives,’ with reference to current challenges in formal public healthcare systems.

Makhoba said she was interested in seeing traditional medicine working together with western medicine to observe how they complemented each other.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer 

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Promoting the Use of Technology to Cut Communication Costs

Promoting the Use of Technology to Cut Communication Costs
Operations Manager at the School of Clinical Medicine Ms Antoinette Botha congratulates techo-support competition winner Ms Nomvano Fiko and runner-up Mr Smanga Khuzwayo.

The School of Clinical Medicine (SCM) recently rewarded winners of the SCM Microsoft Lync Competition which targeted professional services staff at the School, encouraging them to make more use of video calls for office communication.

‘From 2014, there has been a steady decline in our communication expenditure as a result of doing away with a number of telephone lines that were not in use,’ said competition initiator and School Operations Manager, Ms Antoinette Botha.

‘We have also conducted numerous training sessions regarding the use of Microsoft Lync and have provided our professional services staff with webcams and earphones,’ said Botha. ‘We continuously encourage all our staff to make use of their newly installed webcams and to communicate via Lync video call, and other Lync communication functions.’ 

‘Microsoft Lync provides instant messaging (IM), audio and video calls, Lync meetings which provide swifter and more efficient messaging, and most importantly add a face-to-face communication.

‘Unlike sending emails where there can be misinterpreted messages going back and forth, Sync video calls are short, clear, cost effective and add a face-to-face human element,’ she said.

The School hopes that with the majority of staff having used the programme and discovered how easy it is to communicate with it, they will make more use of it thus helping the School reduce its telephone bill.

Words: Lihlithemba Sosibo

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UKZN Bone Expert at International Gathering in Switzerland

UKZN Bone Expert at International Gathering in Switzerland
Orthopaedic specialist, Dr Len Marais.

Fracture-Related Infections (FRI) and Post-Traumatic Limb Reconstruction specialist, Dr Len Marais, participated in the International Consensus Meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Fracture-Related Infection.

Marais, who is UKZN’s acting Head of Orthopaedic Surgery, has been Head of the Tumour, Sepsis and Reconstruction Unit at Grey’s hospital in Pietermaritzburg since 2010.

One of the Unit’s specialities is the treatment of fracture-related infections and post-traumatic limb reconstruction. The Unit has become recognised internationally for its work and it is this recognition that led to Marais being invited to the international consensus meeting.

Speaking about his experiences at Grey’s hospital, Marais said: ‘These cases are extremely difficult to manage and require the use of advanced orthopaedic techniques, including skeletal regeneration through distraction osteogenesis. At any given time we treat about 25 to 30 patients with about five to 10 new patients every month.’

His Unit has published extensively and has become a referral unit for difficult and complex cases, including from the private sector.

The meeting in Zurich was facilitated by the AO Foundation and attended by 35 experts and key opinion leaders in the field of FRI, including trauma surgeons, infection disease specialists, a plastic surgeon, clinical researchers and research scientists.

The group successfully established a definition of FRI at this meeting. The creation of a definition has always been a challenge but now it is forecast that the consensus definition will enable improvements in clinical studies on infection incidence, costs of treatment, effectiveness of treatment strategies and outcomes for patients.

Marais’ research interests are mainly in the areas of chronic osteomyelitis, primary bone tumours, metastatic bone disease and limb salvage and reconstruction.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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UKZN-YALE Symposium Themed Neuro-otology

UKZN-YALE Symposium Themed Neuro-otology
Presenters at the Symposium from left: Dr Alex Luryi, Dr Andile Sibiya, Dr Lungi Setoaba, Dr N Rankhethoa and Professor Elias Michaelides, with some of the participants.

The Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery hosted the 6th UKZN-YALE Symposium at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine under the theme of Neuro-otology.

The aim of the Symposium was to exchange research findings and experience between the two universities and was held immediately after the World Health Organization World Hearing Day, which emphasised the importance of normal hearing and the impact of hearing loss on daily lives and economic productivity.

According to WHO, unaddressed hearing loss poses a high financial cost to the global economy and has a significant negative impact on those affected.

Neurotologist and skull base surgeon at the University of Yale, Professor E Michaelides, focused his presentation on his personal experiences and research on neuro-otology and kick-started the seminar by a temporal bone dissection demonstration on a porcelain ear bone. The demonstration was sponsored by Medtronic and Tacmed Medical Equipment.

Speakers focused their talks on hearing health, the development of middle ear effusion in trauma ICU, the future of inner ear drug delivery, audiology, hearing health in the Public Sector, updates on cochlear implantations, surgical management of Meniere’s disease and endoscopic ear surgery.

The UKZN-YALE ENT research collaboration began in 2015 aimed at providing training and upskilling for medical staff and registrars at both institutions. The initiative resulted in a research collaborative partnership which included provisions for the required training and upskilling.

The Symposium was sponsored by DISA Life Sciences.

Words: Lihlithemba Sosibo

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UKZN Alumni Gathering in Cape Town

UKZN Alumni Gathering in Cape Town
UKZN representatives and guests at the alumni dinner.

The Alumni Relations Office organised a get together in Cape Town for alumni featuring a three-course dinner at which the guest speaker was UKZN alumnus and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town, Professor Penny Andrews.

Held at the Radisson Blu Hotel close to the Waterfront, the event was an opportunity for alumni, donors and friends of UKZN to renew acquaintances, meet fellow alumni and get updated on developments at their alma mater.

Acting Executive Director of Corporate Relations at UKZN Ms Normah Zondo warmly welcomed guests and introduced Andrews who spoke on: What Would Dean Penelope Andrews (2018) tell BA Student Penelope Andrews (1977) today? Musings about Studying, Protest and Pleasure. Andrews entertained the gathering with anecdotes from her university and life experiences.

President of the Convocation Mr Fanle Sibisi highlighted recent developments at the University and encouraged everyone at the dinner to support the University in whatever way they could.

Executive Director of the UKZN Foundation, Professor Anesh Singh also asked alumni to assist the University and to make donations which some of those at the gathering did on the evening.

Guests went home with information packs containing a selection of UKZN publications and a corporate gift. Similar events will take place in many centres in South Africa and in neighbouring countries during the year.

Words: Finn Christensen

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Centre for Visual Art hosts Works in Progress Exhibit

Centre for Visual Art hosts Works in Progress Exhibit
Some of the artworks on show at the Works in Progress exhibit at the Jack Heath Gallery.

The Centre for Visual Art (CVA) at UKZN is hosting its Works in Progress exhibit at the Jack Heath Gallery in Pietermaritzburg until 30 March.

The Centre has a growing postgraduate programme, with diploma, honours, masters and PhD students producing exciting and original works.

Lecturer at the CVA Dr Kathy Arbuckle said: ‘Our students specialise in ceramics, printmaking, painting and drawing, digital media, and many are working across media in interdisciplinary ways, which is a hallmark of contemporary art practice.’

Building on the well-received exhibition of postgraduate work that was held at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban in November last year, students were encouraged to put up their more recent work in the CVA gallery space, the Jack Heath Gallery, as it is felt there is great value for them to consider their work displayed beyond usual studio spaces.

‘How the work appears in a new space and in relation to the works of other artists can spark ideas and be quite important for how artists proceed further in their practice,’ said Arbuckle. ‘We are also keeping the gallery space alive with artwork, so that students at all levels are inspired and feel a sense of energy in our building.’

Undergraduate students will have the chance of their own group exhibition later in the year. According to Arbuckle, this is an important part of their artistic education and these events and exhibitions build a sense of the CVA at UKZN being a creative community.

Masters in Fine Arts student Ms Nina Calder will showcase her work during the exhibit. Her research and art practice investigates remembering and the processes of memory as well as display issues and the arrangement of objects. 

‘I work with mixed media in the assembly of my artworks: including glass, porcelain, thread, cloth, paper and found objects. These mediums allow me to imitate particular memory processes such as encoding as a change of information,’ explained Calder. 

This memory process is reflected in the “burnout” technique which involves dipping organic matter in a liquid clay to cast the “shell” of the object, leaving it more permanent than its original form.

‘In my practical process, I see the concept of storage being a change of the objects’ mutability to a state of permanence. Hence, clay “remembers” the shape of the ephemeral birds nest and my intervention enables a retrieval in a fired ceramic form,’ said Calder.

Words and photograph: Melissa Mungroo 

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UKZN Neuroscience Team Out and About for Brain Awareness Week

UKZN Neuroscience Team Out and About for Brain Awareness Week
UKZN Neuroscience Team out and about for Brain Awareness Week.

A UKZN Neuroscience team organised a variety of activities for Brain Awareness Week (BAW) from 12- 18 March.

Held world-wide, the annual event is the brain child of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Society for Neuroscience to promote the public and personal benefits of brain research.

Under the leadership of Neuroscientist, UKZN DRILL Fellow and lecturer Dr Lihle Qulu, the team started off the week on the Howard College campus where they addressed students on mental health on issues such as the importance of healthy lifestyles, correct dietary intake, effective and sensible study skills and stress management strategies.

Qulu illustrated the practical application of neurophysiology to enhance study efforts. ‘We explained how memory is formed when learning and how repeating information and healthy sleeping habits assist memory consolidation and recall during an examination.

‘Drug addiction is rife in modern day society, with our youth being vulnerable targets, yet few realise the deleterious effect of drugs of abuse on the very structure and functioning of the brain.

‘We also spoke to students about the research conducted at UKZN on the impact on the brain of a diverse array of social and clinical diseases including Parkinson’s, autism spectrum disorders, febrile seizures, and the impact of schistosomiasis on the brain during early childhood development,’ said Qulu.

The Neuroscience team visited Overport Secondary School in Durban where they addressed learners on the impact of stress on the brain and how stress affects learning and memory. They spoke about the difference between stress and depression and how to identify these conditions and where to get help and treatment.

‘We emphasised the brain-damaging effects of drugs and the link between short-lived highs and the long-term damage suffered by the brain,’ said Qulu.

Team members also outlined opportunities for careers in neuroscience and demonstrated the link between laboratory-based experiments and everyday life.

The highlight of the week was a 5km walk along Durban’s beach promenade during which UKZN Psychiatrist, Dr Suvira Ramlall and members of the KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), spoke to the public about brain and mental health.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini


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Workshop on Incorporating Health Advocacy into Health Sciences Curriculum

Workshop on Incorporating Health Advocacy into Health Sciences Curriculum
Academics and professional personnel in the College of Health Sciences participated in a workshop held to discuss how to incorporate health advocacy into the Health Sciences curriculum.

The College of Health Sciences in partnership with the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), hosted a workshop titled: Incorporating Health Advocacy into the Health Sciences Curriculum.

The workshop attracted both academics and professional personnel in the College to debate the importance of incorporating health advocacy in the Health Sciences curriculum and how incorporation could be achieved, as well as the challenges of teaching health advocacy.

‘As a Health Sciences Teaching and Learning institution, health advocacy is one of the seven core competencies to be acquired by health sciences graduates,’ said Dean of Teaching and Learning, Professor Sinegugu Duma. ‘It should therefore be a priority because our current situation demands students know how to call for what they want, what they should have and what they need as well as to advocate for the health needs of the communities they serve. Our students are speaking out against social injustice and our current context demands reform strategies and critical thinking.’

The Manager of Knowledge Management at RHAP, Ms Samantha Khan-Gillmore, defined advocacy as an active promotion of a cause or principle involving action to change policies and practices, make a broader impact, reform institutions, alter power relations and change attitudes/behaviours.

‘Our experience at RHAP provides evidence that frontline health professionals are requesting advocacy training on a daily basis to deal with current challenges. Students need to learn how to advocate for their patients – in and outside of the clinical environment. Development of knowledge, skills and attitude around advocacy is also very important for future health advocates,’ said Khan-Gillmore.

Academic leader at UKZN’s Discipline of Occupational Therapy Ms Chantal Christopher shared a case study on how the Discipline had incorporated advocacy into the curriculum over the years and how the discipline had familiarised itself with the communities it serves by obtaining insight into local cultures and belief systems as these related to the community’s understanding of health and diseases.

‘Through our fourth year community-based module and our ongoing community projects in KwaDabeka, Clermont and Marianridge, we have been able to identify the health needs of individual patients. We have successfully identified opportunities for advocacy, particularly for poor and marginalised societies. We are concerned and act as advocates for patient/ client groups with particular health needs whilst incorporating ethical and human right principles,’ said Christopher.

Participants unanimously agreed there was a need for investment in capacity development for teachers to be able to incorporate health advocacy into the curriculum.

Khan-Gillmore shared a number of tips on how to promote health advocacy in teaching and learning. They include the following:

  1. Identifying good role models and lecturers who speak from experience
  2. Invite guest speakers from health advocacy groups and also practising clinicians
  3. Build networks with key organisations in the field of advocacy
  4. Work with community agencies that can help highlight issues in the community which inform advocacy needs
  5. Be explicit in what you want students to learn and have a rationale for why you are teaching advocacy
  6. Create clear links between what students already study and the knowledge, skills and attitudes essential to be a health advocate
  7. Create opportunities for dialogue and discussions.

Words: Lihlithemba Sosibo

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UKZN hosts well attended Career Days

UKZN hosts well attended Career Days
UKZN’s Dr Leigh Jarvis of the Discipline of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering interacts with learners at a careers day.

The School of Engineering held two Career Days for KwaZulu-Natal learners keen to pursue an Engineering degree at UKZN.

The days were well supported by youngsters, all top achievers in both Mathematics and Physics, who listened to presentations by academics and postgraduate students representing all nine Disciplines within the School.

Learners heard how they could move forward with their applications for admission as well as all about the necessary requirements to be accepted into the School.

Mr Wandile Mthethwa of Grade 12 at Hillgrove Secondary School said: ‘I want to study Civil Engineering next year and I have learned a lot from this career day. I did not know what Civil Engineering was about - I had an idea but clearly my idea was wrong. It was a great experience and it gave me a broad view of the different Engineering disciplines available at UKZN. It was also interesting to hear about the different jobs available in specific engineering fields.’

Said Ms Kerisa Daniel of Grade 12 at PR Pather Secondary: ‘I am keen to pursue a Mechanical Engineering degree and because of this career day I am motivated to do it through UKZN. The career day has broadened the view I had on Mechanical Engineering and shown me what it entails as well as what is expected of me academically at high school.’ 

Words: Prashina Budree 

Photographs: Manqoba Hadebe

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Inkohlakalo Inkinga Yomhlaba

Inkohlakalo Inkinga Yomhlaba
OwayenguKhomishana Omkhulu WeNhlangano Yezizwe Kwezamalungelo Abantu, uDkt Navi Pillay, ese-UKZN.Click here for the English version

Imali entshontshwa minyaka yonke ngenkohlakalo iningi ngokwanele ukuthi ingondla abaswele emhlabeni wonke ngokuphindwe ngama-80, kusho owayenguKhomishana Omkhulu WeNhlangano Yezizwe Kwezamalungelo Abantu, uDkt Navi Pillay.

Ekhuluma esifundweni esinesihloko esithi Inqubonhle Nokuthobela Imithetho Ukuze Okugwema Inkohlakalo, ebesisekhempasini i-Howard College e-UKZN, u-Pillay uthe isihloko sesifundo besifanelekile kakhulu ngoba udaba olubaluliwe lusematheni eNingizimu Afrika manje. 

‘Inkohlakalo inomthelela emalungelweni abantu. Cishe bayizigidi ezingama-870 abantu abalala ngendlala njalo ebusuku futhi iningi labo yizingane. Inkohlakalo ibancisha ilungelo labo lokuthola ukudla, kanti kwezinye izikhathi nelungelo labo lokuphila,’ kusho uPillay. 

‘Indlela yokulwisana nenkohlakalo enesisekelo esingamalungelo abantu iyimpendulo yesikhalo esikhulu mayelana nohlelo lwezenhlalo, ezepolitiki nezomnotho olufezekisa isithembiso senkululeko ekwesabeni nasekusweleni. 

‘Yize sinokukhathazeka ngenkohlakalo nokunganakwa kwenqubonhle ezweni lethu njengamanje ngenxa yomthelela okunawo ezimpilweni zethu nsukuzonke, kumele lolu daba silubheke ngokwenkohlakalo emhlabeni jikelele enomthelela omkhulu kithina. Kumele sibheke izisombululo zomhlaba, zezifunda nezamazwe. Imizamo yokulwisana nenkohlakalo ingaphumelela uma inkohlakalo siyithatha njengenkinga ehlelekile kunenkinga nje yomuntu ngamunye.’

Enaba ngemibuzo ayiphonse ezethamelini ebithi ‘Ayini amalungelo abantu?’ nokuthi ‘Iyini inqubonhle?’, u-Pillay uthe amalungelo abantu athinta umbono ofanayo wabantu mayelana nesisekelo sokuhle nokubi, okuneqiniso nokulingene kanti inqubonhle imayelana nokucabanga ngendlela ekhomba ukuthi yini efanele nengafanele. 

Ube esebalula amazinga ahlukene enqubonhle kubantu, emabhizinisini nasezisebenzini zikahulumeni. U-Pillay uthe inqubonhle imayelana nozwelo futhi iqala ezindaweni ezincane. 

Ekhuluma ngodaba obelusematheni lokushona komfundi oneminyaka emihlanu yobudala u-Lumka Mketwa, obengumfundi esikoleni samabanga aphansi iLuna Primary School Ebizana, oshone emva kokuwela emgodini wendlu yangasese, u-Pillay uthe lokhu okwenzekile kuyihlazo emphakathini futhi unezelele ngokuthi othisha kumele basebenze njengabazali. 

Ebalula izisombululo, u-Pillay uthe ukuhlanganisa izinhlelomasu zokulwisana nenkohlakalo nokugqugquzela amalungelo abantu kungasebenza kuzona zombili izimo. Ukuba nohlelosu olusebenza kahle kumele kusekelwe yimithetho yamalungelo abantu emayelana nokuphatha ngendlela efanele, ezobulungiswa ezizimele, ukukhululeka kwabezindaba, ukufinyeleleka kolwazi, ukusebenza ngendla ebonakalayo, izibophokubika ezinhlelweni zombusazwe kanye nezokuphatha.

Uthe ukuvikeleka kwalabo abayizisulu zamalungelo abantu kanye nalabo abawalwelayo nakho kubaluleke kakhulu ngokulinganayo. ‘Amazwe anomsebenzi wokubavikela kanye nezintatheli, abacwaningi nabahlaba umkhosi ngaphakathi kwezikhungo nasemphakathini ekuhlukunyezweni, odlameni, ekusatshisweni, nasekuhlaselweni noma izenzo ezibajezisela ukuthi baveze inkohlakalo nokwenza okungafanele. 

‘Sisemuva ngokobuchwepheshe okulandela nokuveza inkohlakalo nokuphenya ngokubikwa abahlaba umkhosi. Kulokhu sidinga ucwaningo lwenu neziphakamiso zalo. I-UKZN iyaziqhenya ngokuba yiNyuvesi ehamba phambili kwezocwaningo. Udaba lwenqubonhle, inkohlakalo, uhwebo olungekho emthethweni kanye nemigudu yemali engekho emthethweni engikhulume ngalo kulesi sifundo yizinselelo eziphuthumayo zomphakathi ezidinga ukuthi nizithathele izinyathelo,’ kusho u-Pillay. 

U-Pillay weluleke abafundi base-UKZN nabo bonke abantu abasha ukuthi bangakhathazeki ngamalungelo abo bodwa kodwa nawabanye abantu, ikakhulukazi abahlala ezindaweni zasemaphandleni. Uthe abafundi baseNyuvesi banamandla okugqugquzelana bebodwa. 

Ephendula umbuzo wesinye sezethameli emayelana nokumeleka kobuhlanga nokusebenzela iNhlangano Yezizwe nezinye izinhlangano zomhlaba, uthe, ‘Umhlaba usasemhlophe futhi udinga ukufakwa eminye imibala. Abantu abasha kumele baphume bafake izicelo zomsebenzi.’ 

Isifundo bekungesokuqala ochunguchungeni lwezihlelwe yiNyuvesi. 

Amagama: nguSithembile Shabangu

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Academic Discusses Sexuality, Orientation and Identity on TV Talk Show

Academic Discusses Sexuality, Orientation and Identity on TV Talk Show
Professor Deevia Bhana on SABC 3’s Real Talk with Anele.

SARChI Chair in Gender and Childhood Sexuality and lecturer in the School of Education Professor Deevia Bhana presented elements of her work on SABC 3’s Real Talk with Anele.

Bhana was invited onto the show as an expert on children and young peoples’ expression of sexuality.

Given the broader social problems in South Africa where children’s sexual cultures are often hidden because of ‘adult regulation and policing’, Bhana’s appearance on the show helped expose some of the myths around children’s ignorance and innocence.

Work around children and young people’s investment in sexualities which are non-normative were highlighted. Also discussed were transgendered relationships, cisgender and queering of sexuality.

Bhana’s appearance on the show does much to enhance science engagement and science literacy around childhood sexuality which requires much more openness in the areas of sex and gender.

‘Interventions in families, in schools and other educational institutions require a far more comprehensive view of sexuality so that children and young people can live in ways that are less secretive and less risky,’ said Bhana. ‘Speaking about the facts of life may help address key areas of concern around gender and sexual violence, disease, unwanted teenage pregnancy and the stigma around the performance of non-normative sexualities.’

The show’s host Anele Mdoda described Bhana’s engagement with the subject matter of sexuality, orientation and identity as ‘insightful’ and dovetailing into a ‘revolution of thinking.’

Words: Melissa MungrooZiphezinhle Silindile Biyela

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UKZN Researchers Discover New Test to Detect Malaria

UKZN Researchers Discover New Test to Detect Malaria
Dr Rob Krause (left) and Professor Dean Goldring setting up a malaria detection test in the laboratory.

UKZN researchers have published details of a new malaria diagnostic test which detects a new form of malaria - Plasmodium knowlesi (P. knowlesi).

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s Professor Dean Goldring, conducted the research with Dr Robert Krause, who did the investigations as part of his PhD thesis.   ‘This is the first test that can detect a unique protein from the parasite using an antibody,’ said Goldring. ‘We have identified a unique malaria protein called PMT, short for phosphoethanolamine-N methyl transferase.

‘The protein is not made by human cells - we have made antibodies against the protein. Our antibodies can detect this protein and by detecting the protein, distinguish between different species of malaria,’ he said.

According to the World Health Organization, 1.4 billion people are at risk of contracting the disease and there are 1.5 million cases recorded in South-East Asia, the region affected by this strain of malaria.

Goldring outlined the significance of the breakthrough: ‘There are other antibody protein combinations in tests that are used to detect Plasmodium falciparum (P.falciparum) malaria and other malaria infections. The existing tests do not identify P. knowlesi malaria or distinguish this malaria from other malaria species. Our test is the first of its kind to detect P. knowlesi malaria using an antibody/protein combination,’ he said.

‘P. knowlesi malaria, known as monkey malaria, was not thought to infect humans.  P. knowlesi malaria parasites when stained in a patient’s blood and viewed under the microscope look very much like P. falciparum malaria parasites. Microscopy is the traditional method to diagnose malaria and has worked very well over the last hundred years,’ he said.

Goldring’s interest in malaria was sparked from him having contracted the disease as a child. ‘I was brought up in Malawi and had malaria several times. I was fortunate as the drug chloroquine was very effective at the time. I wanted to do something to help kids who got malaria.’

He has studied malaria vaccines in the United States and cerebral malaria in children in the United Kingdom.

P. knowlesi malaria is not found in South Africa so arrangements are being made with associates in Malaysia to obtain samples for extensive testing. ‘Once we have sufficient evidence from experiments in our laboratory, we would like to see if our antibody/protein combination can be used in a point of care diagnostic dipstick based test,’ said Goldring.  ‘These tests use a small sample (drop) of blood which is mixed with detecting reagents and added to a test strip. The samples are carried along the test strip by capillary action. Lines appear on the strip, one to show that the test works and a second line indicates the presence of malaria.’

Goldring explained further benefits of the research:  ‘The most popular antibody/protein combination to detect malaria detects a unique P. falciparum protein called PfHRP2.  Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of P. falciparum malaria parasites that no longer make the protein PfHRP2 and therefore the test based on detecting PfHRP2 is no longer reliable in some locations such as Peru. There have also been reports of the test not working in some places in Africa. The protein we have identified can also be used to detect a P. falciparum infection.

‘We have also found antibody/protein combinations that can detect Plasmodium vivax malaria (another strain of the disease). The current malaria antibody/protein tests do not work well when stored at the high ambient temperatures found in many malaria endemic regions. We are working on ways to improve the thermal stability of the reagents in tests and ways to improve the tests to be able to show whether a patient has many or a few parasites in their blood.’

In 2004 Professor Balbir Singh, a colleague Goldring worked with several years ago, showed that P. knowlesi malaria infects humans and is widespread in Malaysia. Singh also showed that a P. knowlesi infection can be misdiagnosed as a P. falciparum infection. ‘This is important as the drug regime to treat P. falciparum and P. knowlesi malaria are different. Correct diagnosis of a P. knowlesi infection in some areas is thought to have contributed to a significant reduction in the case fatality rates. P. knowlesi parasites divide very quickly (every 24 hours) in red blood cells and so the disease can rapidly develop from an uncomplicated to a severe infection in a patient,’ said Goldring.

Goldring, who has worked at UKZN for 19 years, holds degrees from the University of Dundee in Scotland and the University of Zimbabwe. He enjoys teaching and believes ‘a university environment is an excellent place to do research and teaching and where I can integrate my research into my teaching.’

The research was funded by UKZN, the National Research Foundation and the Medical Research Council of South Africa.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

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Isayensi Yezifo Zesikhumba Iyabhekisiswa e-UKZN

Isayensi Yezifo Zesikhumba Iyabhekisiswa e-UKZN
Ababhali bencwadi entsha, i-Dermatology Comprehensive Handbook for Africa, uSolwazi Ncoza Dlova noSolwazi Anisa Mosam.Click here for the English version

Umnyango WezeSayensi Yezifo Zesikhumba ibambe umhlangano i-UKZN General Practitioner Dermatology Summer Update oyimpumelelo ubambisene nabakwa-Adcock Ingram ekhempasini Yezifundo Kwezokwelapha eThekwini.

Abahlele lo mcimbi, oSolwazi Ncoza Dlova kanye noSolwazi Anisa Mosam uthe lo mhlangano ungeminye yeminingi esazolandela.

Bangaphezulu kwama-200 abantu baKwaZulu-Natali abebehambele lo mcimbi obuhlanganise nokwethula kwezinkulumo eziyi-18 zabelaphi besikhumba abafundisayo nabazisebenzayo lapho bebekhuluma ngezihloko ezithinta izinkinga zesikhumba ezijwayelekile njengezinduna, i-ekzima, nepsoriyasisi, i-HIV nesikhumba, ukuqothuka kwezinwele, umdlavuza wesikhumba, ukuhlinzwa okuncane, nezinkinga zebala lesikhumba kanye nokuhlinzwa okulungisa ubuso.

Incwadi kaDlova no-Mosam entsha ethi: Dermatology Comprehensive Handbook for Africa yethulwe emhlanganweni.

Umfundi weziqu ze-MBChB uMnu Sibonga Lobengula uthe: ‘Incwadi yinhle kakhulu. Sithemba ukuthi sizoyithola ingenye yezincwadi ezihlonziwe esifunda ngayo esingayisebenzisa ukuze senze umsebenzi wesikole.’

Ngokwesaveyi eyenziwe, abebehambele lo mhlangano abaningi bawuthole unosizo olukhulu futhi baphakamisa nokuthi ube yinto yaminyaka yonke ukuze ubalekelele ekuhlaleni benolwazi lokuthi kwenzekani emkhakheni Wesayensi Yezesikhumba.

Amagama: ngu-Nks Lihle Sosibo

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