Humanities Academic Gets Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award

Humanities Academic Gets Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award
Winner of the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award, Professor Sarojini Nadar.

Professor Sarojini Nadar of the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) was recently awarded the prestigious 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award which recognises UKZN researchers for exceptional quality and proven achievement with sustained records of scholarship.

The award is given to a scholar who is under the age of 40.

Nadar says she is deeply honoured and humbled by the award. Despite receiving the Department of Science and Technology award for Distinguished Young Woman in Science in 2012, she believes the Research award is more special since her own institution is recognising her work.

She felt there was much to celebrate in 2015, since her son, Nathan, scooped six distinctions in his 2015 Matric examinations.

Said Nathan: ‘My mom fully deserves this award. It is another addition to her wide array of achievements and accomplishments. She works really hard and I am extremely proud of her.’

Professor Gerald West, who nominated Nadar for the award, said: ‘Professor Sarojini Nadar is one of the few PhD students I have supervised who has gone on not only to make significant contributions to the research fields in which she works but who has reconfigured the research terrain.

‘Her interdisciplinary work in the intersections between gender studies, biblical studies, and religious studies has generated innovative theoretical and methodological resources, shaping the terrain in new ways.  Professor Nadar’s work inhabits the interface between the academy and local communities, and here too she has made substantive theoretical and methodological contributions,’ he said.

Nadar considers herself to be an activist-academic, hence it was her passion for gender social transformation that led her into the world of academia. ‘I bring my commitment to social justice to bear on the research and teaching I undertake, and I also use the tools and resources of the academy in my community engagement,’ she said.

Her advice to emerging researchers, is to do research on what they are most passionate about rather than simply because it is a requirement of the University. ‘I often say to my nieces and nephews, that you know you are in the right career when you can answer in the affirmative to the question: Would you still do this if you were not getting paid to do so?’

Asked about her future plans, she replied: ‘During the next five years I intend to focus my research on the feminist episteme in the context of the study of religion. I am interested in the various ways in which feminist knowledge is produced in a fragmented and fragile South African Higher Education context. How such knowledge is produced, taught and disseminated within Higher Education contexts nationally and internationally is what interests me.’

‘I am most pleased therefore that I have also just been awarded a Newton Grant by the British Academy for a bilateral project with the University of Leeds titled: Queering the Curriculum: LGBTI, Sexuality, and Masculinity Issues in Theology & Religious Studies in South Africa and the UK.

*Sarojini Nadar is a full professor in and leader of the Gender and Religion Programme at UKZN. She served as Dean of Research in the College of Humanities in 2012 and 2013, and has researched and published widely in the field of feminist biblical hermeneutics, with a special focus on HIV and AIDS; gender-based violence; masculinity and sexuality.

She also has a special interest in studying and developing theories of feminism in Africa, and more recently has developed an interest in gender and Higher Education research.

She is an NRF-rated researcher and was a Research Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) in 2014 when she received a National Commendation Award for Teaching Excellence from the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa and was also the winner of the 2013 UKZN Distinguished Teachers’ Award.

She was the winner of the National DST Distinguished Young Woman in Science Award: Human and Social Sciences in 2012.

In 2009 she received the UKZN Top Woman Researcher Award, and in 2006 won the UKZN Book Prize for best edited book titled: African Women, Religion and Health: Essays in Honour of Mercy Amba Oduyoye, co-edited by herself and Isabel Phiri.

She was selected and featured by the Mail & Guardian in their 2008 Book of South African Women, and in 2016 will feature in a book by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) on female scientists in Africa.  

Melissa Mungroo

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Prestigious Award Nomination for School of Education Academic

Prestigious Award Nomination for School of Education Academic
Professor Anastasia Samaras (left) and Dr Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan with their new book: Polyvocal Professional Learning Through Self-Study Research.

A book co-edited by Dr Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan of UKZN’s School of Education and Professor Anastasia P.Samaras of the George Mason University in the United States has been nominated for the 2016 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Qualitative Research Special Interest Group (SIG) Outstanding Book Award.

Polyvocal Professional Learning Through Self-Study Research (Sense Publishers, 2015) significantly advances scholarship on professional learning by presenting an original conceptualisation that illustrates the power of “we” for innovative and authentic professional learning.

Speaking about the book, Pithouse-Morgan said: ‘The 33 contributors include experienced and emerging self-study researchers, writing in collaboration across multiple professions, academic disciplines, contexts, and continents.

‘Building on, and extending, the existing body of work on self-study research, the book offers an extensive and in-depth scholarly exploration of the how and the why, and the impact of professional learning through context-specific, practitioner-led inquiry,’ she said. 

The chapters illustrate polyvocal professional learning as both phenomenon and method, with the original research that is presented in every chapter adding to the forms of methodological inventiveness that have been developed and documented within the self-study research community.

A free preview containing the first two chapters of the book is available at:

Emeritus Professor Fred AJ Korthagen of Utrecht University says the authors from various continents provide show how the ‘I’ can be strengthened through the ‘we’ perspective, convincingly illustrating how polyvocality, transdisciplinarity, and an intercultural approach deepen professional learning while  Associate Dean at the University of Arizona, Professor Renée Clift, believes the book comprises a fascinating set of chapters that illustrate the importance of many lenses and many voices when studying one’s practice.

The Qualitative Research SIG will announce the winner of the Outstanding Book Award during the April 2016 annual meeting of AERA in Washington, D.C. Criteria for judging the merits of the books include the significance and timeliness of methodological issues addressed and the contribution of the book to the advancement of knowledge about an area in educational research that can benefit qualitative inquiry.

Previous winners of this prestigious award include Professor Yvonna S. Lincoln of Texas A & M University, and Professor Johnny Saldaña of the Arizona State University.

Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Academic Part of ANC Dialogue on Non-Racialism

UKZN Academic Part of ANC Dialogue on Non-Racialism
From left: Professor Sarah Bracking, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, Ms Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha and Dr Rama Naidu.

Holder of the SARChI Chair in Applied Poverty Reduction Assessment within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS), Professor Sarah Bracking, was part of the recent provincial ANC Dialogue on non-racialism held at the Howard College Theatre.

The dialogue examined how South Africa could root our racism to achieve a truly democratic society.

To discuss this topic, Bracking was joined by Arts and Culture Minister, Mr Nathi Mthethwa; KZN MEC for Arts and Culture, Mrs Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha; ANC Provincial Chairperson, Mr Sihle Zikalala, and Dr Rama Naidu of the Democracy Development Programme.

Bracking spoke on the issue of racialised poverty, saying the country was experiencing a structural problem of poverty and inequality where divisions among citizens, along race, gender, religious or other lines were being used to define the boundaries of likely support for any one particular political party and the lack of quality in democratic debate around elections.

‘To improve the quality of democracy requires that elections are not a tight-rope for the poor who are excluded as they struggle to conform in expectation that they may one day receive a resource.

‘The principle challenge going forward is to reduce the social distance between people; increase the elective affinity between citizens; foreclose on the planning and zoning norms which assign and subject people to spatial poverty; and to promote economic justice in a climate of quality public debate.’

Mthethwa charted a way forward for the development of sectoral and national plans to build social cohesion, combat racism and eradicate discrimination in South Africa. ‘As we enter a new year, it is important that as a country, we take stock of the progress we are making in building a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. In recent weeks, we have seen that much remains to be done to build non-racialism in particular,’ he said.

Sibhidla-Saphetha, Zikalala and Naidu agreed it was necessary to drive a broader nation-building and anti-racism agenda and plan for a bigger engagement with a wide range of stakeholders.

Mthethwa concluded: ‘We need to focus on what unites us. We need to dwell on the importance of raising consciousness, and a fundamental re-inventing and re-imagining of some among us so that equality and inclusivity become engrained in all our people, who together should work towards a better life for all.’

Melissa Mungroo

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USolwazi David McQuoid-Mason Ulethe Ukufundiswa Komthetho Wasemgwaqweni eFiji

USolwazi David McQuoid-Mason Ulethe Ukufundiswa Komthetho Wasemgwaqweni eFiji
USolwazi David McQuoid-Mason (owesibili kusuka ngakwesokudla) eme nabebehambele umhlangano.

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Umqondisi Oyibamba eSizindeni  Sezifundo  Zomthetho Obhekele Ezomphakathi e-UKZN, uSolwazi David McQuoid-Mason  ubambe imihlangano yokucobelela ngolwazi lwezomthetho wasemgwaqweni nezifundiswa zomthetho nabasebenza nomphakathi eNyuvesi YaseNingizimu nePhasifikhi eSuva, iNyuvesi YaseFiji neKhomishana Yosizo LwezoMthetho YaseFiji.

Ukuqeqeshwa bekubandakanya uMcQuoid-Mason efundisa abebebambe iqhaza ngokusebenza kwezindlela zokufundisa ezisamthetho wasemgwaqweni.njenge:

*  Izindlela ezinhlobonhlobo zokufundisa ,ezihlanganise amaphepha anemibuzo nezimpendulo, ukuze afundise ababambe iqhaza ezindleleni zomthetho othinta ngazo izimpilo zabantu zansukuzonke.

*  Ukuxoxisana nababambe iqhaza ukuze bakhiphe uhlu lwezindlela zokufundisa ezinokuxhumana.

*  Umdlalo okhombisa ukuthi kungani kunesidingo semithetho emiphakathini nokuthi yizinhlobo ezinjani zemithetho ezitholakala emithethwenisisekelo eyakhiwe ngokwentando yeningi nokuthi ixhumene kanjani nomthethosisekelo waseFiji.

*  Ukwenza ababambe iqhaza bakhe izinkulumo eziqondile mayelana nodaba oluyindida noma banxenxe abanye

*  Ukulingisa isimo esikhombisa udlame lwasemakhaya nokuthi lubikwa kanjani.

Abebebambe iqhaza baphinde bafundiswa ngezingxenye zesifundo esifanele sokuqonda ngomthetho womphakathi esibandakanye umthetho, inqubomgomo, ukungqubuzana kokungamagugu, amasu anokuxhumana nezeluleko eziqondile

UMcQuoid-Mason uthe le mihlangano yokucobelelana ngolwazi ibalulekile kubantu abasebenza ngomthetho ngoba bafanele ukuhlala benolwazi olufanele ngokwenzakala emthethweni wasemgwaqweni nokungazuzwa uma kusetshenziswa izindlela ezinokuxhumana.

'Umhlangano wokucobelelana ngolwazi ubuhlelwe ngendlela ebihlose ukuqinisa ukutholakala kosizo lwezomthetho eFiji ngokuqeqesha abafundisa ezomthetho nabasebenzi abahlinzeka ngosizo lwezomthetho ngezindlela ezifanele zokufundisa umphakathi ngomthetho namalungelo abantu Lokhu kufundisa kuqinisa ezomthetho nokuthembeka kohlelo lwezomthetho eFiji ngokukhombisa ukuthi abantu abampofu nababandlulekile bangaluthola kanjani usizo lwezomthetho uma beludinga,’ usho kanje.

Abebebambe iqhaza baphinde bafundiswa ngezingxenye zesifundo esifanele sokuqonda ngomthetho womphakathi esibandakanye umthetho, inqubomgomo, ukungqubuzana kokungamagugu, amasu anokuxhumana nezeluleko eziqondile. Emva kwalokho bakhonjiswe ukuthi lungakhiwa kanjani uhlelosifundo sokuqwashisa esinesihloko, izinhloso, okuqukethwe, amasu okuxhumana, okuyizinsiza ezidingekayo, nokuhlola.

Abebebambe iqhaza bahlukaniswe amaqembu ayisithupha base behlela isifundo esingamashumi amathathu ubude abasithulele abanye ozakwabo, lesi sifundo sibe sesidingidwa umuntu wonke kanye no-McQuoid-Mason.

 nguThandiwe Jumo noSolwazi David McQuoid-Mason

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UKZN invited to ETDP SETA Stakeholder Engagement Forum

UKZN invited to ETDP SETA Stakeholder Engagement Forum
From left: Mr Simon Tankard, Ms Zandile Ntshangase and Professor Thabo Msibi.

As part of their national roadshow, the Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP SETA) invited UKZN’s School of Education and Extended Learning – who are constituents of the ETDP SETA - to their stakeholder engagement forum.

The forum enabled discussion regarding the extension of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) and the proposed options for the SETA beyond 2016 within the context of an Integrated and Differentiated Post-School Education and Training system.

Explaining the relationship between the School of Education and ETDP SETA, UKZN’s Professor Thabo Msibi said, ‘We have formed a partnership with ETDP SETA as the SETA has financial resources which can assist our Undergraduate and Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) students with the completion of their studies. A number of our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have been beneficiaries of the ETDP SETA bursaries. It is a natural fit that we have formed this bond with ETDP SETA because we are both striving for teacher development.’

From last year, ETDP SETA provided the School of Education with 20 bursaries for financially deserving undergraduate students and at least 70 PGCE students were also beneficiaries. This year, 10 bursaries have been granted and a substantial number of PGCE students will also benefit. Msibi hopes that there will be an increase in bursaries and funding next year to better cover tuition, accommodation, travel, meals and stationery.

He pointed out that although money had been provided to students for their tuition, many still struggled to pay for transport to and from the University and those in residences battled to buy food as the R50 000 grants awarded to students were often inadequate to meet their needs. Msibi believes that this is something that needs to be taken into consideration and handled accordingly.

CEO of UKZN Extended Learning (UEL), Mr Simon Tankard, who also attended the event, explained UEL’s long-standing partnership with ETDP SETA and the School of Education. ‘We engage with each other  in designing and offering courses and customised programmes that have a real, measurable impact, all in an effort to support the education sector in terms of teaching and learning, research and curriculum development. Our courses include addressing management and leadership development needs for school principals and senior management teams (SMTs). ’

ETDP SETA provincial co-ordinator Ms Zandile Ntshangase added: ‘We have received tremendous support from UKZN. We will continue to grow this partnership to continue to increase and develop the teaching profession.’

Melissa Mungroo

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Spanish Scientists to be Based Permanently at UKZN

Spanish Scientists to be Based Permanently at UKZN
CPRU and Chemistry staff at the welcome party.

UKZN’s Catalysis and Peptide Research Unit has welcomed two of its Principal Investigators who have moved from Barcelona in Spain to be permanently based on the Westville campus.

The two scientists, Professor Fernando Albericio and Professor Beatriz de La Torre, have been involved with the CPRU on a part time basis since its creation in 2007. 

Albericio, who has accepted a Research Professor position in the School of Chemistry and Physics, is an NRF A-rated scientist and an author of more than 810 publications and 55 patents, with more than 13 000 citations and an index H of 56.

Through his research, the first patent on a broad-spectrum peptide based antibiotic, including TB, was recently filed through the innovation office at UKZN.  His research interests cover practically all aspects of peptide synthesis and combinatorial chemistry methodology as well as the synthesis of peptides and small molecules with therapeutic activity. Currently Editor of the International Journal of Peptide Research and Therapeutics and Current Chemical Biology, he received a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina and the Vincent du Vigneaud award from the American Peptide Society.   He is an active member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

De la Torre’s research interests are in the chemistry of peptides, nucleotides, peptide nucleic acids and method development. She is a Senior Research Associate at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra’s Proteomics and Protein Chemistry Unit in Barcelona.  She has a long-standing commitment to peptide chemistry and applications of bioactive peptides, and has expanded her activities into the field of proteomics.

Albericio is keeping ties with the University of Barcelona, through which a patent from the Unit is currently filed and the potential commercialisation of the new antibacterial drug is exploited in collaboration with the European Gram-negative Antibacterial Engine ENABLE, see

These international professors will form part of CPRU’s nine academic researchers of whom Professor Per Arvidsson of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, is employed in a fractional research position.  The rest are: Professor Bahareh Honarparvar (Computational Chemistry), Professor Thavi Govender (Synthesis, Pharmaceutical and mass spectrometric applications), Professor Gert Kruger (Synthesis, NMR and molecular modelling), Professor Glenn Maguire (Inorganic chemistry and synthetic ion channels), Professor Tricia Naicker (Chiral synthesis and organocatalysis) and Professor Raveen Parboosing (HIV research).

The bulk of the Unit’s research activities involve drug design and testing against resistant pathogens (HIV and bacteria).

Lunga Memela 

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UKZN Alumnus Brings Pharmacy Services Closer to the Community

UKZN Alumnus Brings Pharmacy Services Closer to the Community
Mr Mthokozisi Nyawose behind his dispensary counter.

Residents of the Ugu District’s Izingolweni and Margate communities are receiving improved health care thanks to UKZN Pharmacy and MBA alumnus, Mr Mthokozisi Nyawose (31).

Now a budding entrepreneur, Nyawose took over Margate’s existing Medical Centre Pharmacy and opened Izingolweni’s first multidisciplinary medical centre: Thokoza Medical Centre.

‘The community now enjoys services from multiple health professionals,’ Nyawose said. ‘It now has a comprehensive and fully functional pharmacy with a vet section to help local subsistence farmers,’ he added.

Inspired by his close-knit family and professional nurse mother, the young go-getter took a keen interest in health care from a young age. ‘During our work experience in Grade 10 at Port Shepstone High School I worked at Grosvenor Pharmacy. I decided to try something that was not so popular and that’s when I approached Pharmacist Mr Steinberg for a work experience opportunity.’

Nyawose has not looked back since. ‘The sense of accomplishment is exhilarating, especially checking your results and realising you have passed all your final-year subjects within the prescribed period.’

He previously worked as an intern at Netcare’s Margate Private Hospital, did his community service in Northern KwaZulu-Natal and later became Deputy Responsible Pharmacist at National Bioproducts Institute where he was employed for six-years before starting his own business

‘I’m excited, scared, hopeful and also enthusiastic about how my community will benefit from the Izingolweni Medical Centre,’ Nyawose said. ‘Opening a new pharmacy is not easy.

‘I’m a firm believer that we all owe community service to the communities we grew up in. If we all had that mentality a lot of service delivery issues would not exist in South Africa.’

Nyawose thanked his friends and family, saying that he was now based full-time on the South Coast.

‘During my previous experience working as a locum pharmacist in places such as St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban, I have seen the need for after-hours healthcare especially from a pharmacy and thus I’m in the process of ensuring that the Margate branch will close at 20h00 everyday. We do endeavour to offer the best service till late as we possibly can. The pharmacy in Margate opens from 08h00 to 18h00 on weekdays, from 08h00 to 17h00 on Saturday and from 09h00 to 17h00 on Sunday.’

‘The one in Izingolweni operates from 08h00 to 17h00 on weekdays, 08h00 to 15h00 on Saturday, and from 08h00 to 13h00 on Sundays,’ he said. 

‘The Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences is exceptionally proud of Mr Nyawose and all that he is doing to improve pharmaceutical care services in the country,’ said Acting Head of Discipline, Professor Thirumala Govender,’ It is hoped he will inspire more of our graduates to follow in his footsteps.’

Lunga Memela

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Law Students Take the Pledge

Law Students Take the Pledge
First-year Law students at the annual Pledge Ceremony.

First-year Law students recently committed themselves to pursuing a legal career that was ethical, socially relevant and in accordance with the values of the Constitution during the School of Law’s annual Pledge Ceremony.

The induction ceremony involved 250 students taking an oath to ‘conduct themselves with decorum; respect fellow students and staff; and act with integrity’ throughout their academic careers.

Part of the aim is to motivate the students to aspire to follow in the footsteps of the School’s alumni, who include legal luminaries Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and the late Chief Justice Pius Langa.

UKZN’s Professor Karthy Govender delivered a keynote address which focused on the concepts of the rule of law, the supremacy of the constitution and the independence of the judiiary.

‘These three concepts are not academic processes but impact our lives on a daily basis,’ he said.

‘In a short, while many of you will join the legal profession, our hope is that as a result of your learning at our Law School you will nurture and develop our best asset, the Constitution.’

To validate the student’s commitment and understanding of the pledge, the School’s Dean, Professor Managay Reddi, reminded students that the oath was binding therefore they were committed to upholding its values.

The students then followed the Dean in reciting the oath before putting their signatures on the pledge and collected copies of the South African Constitution from Professor Tanya Woker. Mr Vishal Surburn acted as the director of ceremonies.

First-year student, Mr Nkosinathi Nzuza described the experience as one of the most defining in his life.

‘The fact that I have made a binding commitment to the School and the legal profession weighs heavy because it’s a lifelong commitment. However, it feels great to know I am part of a School that will mould me into a professional with a power to change people’s lives for the better,’ he said.

 Thandiwe Jumo

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UKZN hosts Marine Workshop on Echinoderms and Algae

UKZN hosts Marine Workshop on Echinoderms and Algae
Participants at the Echinoderm and Algae Taxonomy Workshop at the School of Life Sciences.

Marine Biologists in the School of Life Sciences - Professor Ahmed Thandar, Dr Deborah Robertson-Andersson and Mr Gan Moodley - helped organise the Echinoderm and Algae Taxonomy Workshop on UKZN’s Westville campus.

The workshop, attended by about 40 participants from around South Africa, comprised both lectures and hands-on practical exercises dealing with the taxonomy of both echinoderms (marine spiny-skinned animals) and macroscopic algae.

The lectures were presented by Professor John Bolton of the University of Cape Town and eminent Belgian scientists, Professor Olivier de Clerck, Dr Yves Samyn and Dr Brigitte Segers. They were ably assisted by Dr Didier van den Spiegel of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium and Dr Rob Anderson of the Department of Water Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries in Cape Town, and UKZN’s Professor Ahmed Thandar.

The first day of the workshop dealt with an introduction to the Expedition to South Africa, Principles of Taxonomy and working with taxonomic data, and Echinoderm taxonomy, while the second day was devoted to Algal species delimitation, Marine Biogeography of South Africa, and Algal taxonomy.

The workshop generated lively discussion on some of the main issues facing echinoderm and algal taxonomy in South Africa.

‘It was an absolute pleasure to meet with our Belgian and South African scientists, and in hosting them at our institution to exchange ideas with them, said Thandar. ‘We also wish to place on record our sincere thanks and appreciation to Mr Thumba Ganesan, who provided technical assistance during the workshop.

Gan Moodley 

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UKZN Students Develop Classified Ads Website

UKZN Students Develop Classified Ads Website
Representatives of Unifieds – a UKZN online classified ads website.

A group of enterprising UKZN students and friends have created Unifieds, an online classified advertising website which caters specifically for UKZN students. 

The Unifieds website was developed by third year Supply Chain Management and IT student, Mr Oliver Kongolo, who said the site offered ‘student related products’. Mr Mesaso Mhlongo, Mr Lloyd Ngunze and Mr Lusanda Zweni, then joined Kongolo in coming up with more effective ways to ensure the site’s relevance to students.

Regular NdabaOnline readers may remember Kongolo (23), a part-time model, web and graphic designer, from the student-centred infotainment website Poogle, which he created with Mr Siba ‘Faro’ Dlamini.

Kongolo said he had encountered numerous students who found it difficult to source affordable textbooks, accommodation and other things. The site allows UKZN students to sell items such as textbooks, find private accommodation, search for lift-clubs, look for student jobs and peruse a lost and found column.

Mhlongo said students from various UKZN campuses were working together to make Unifieds a success.  ‘Our vision is to expand Unifieds to every university in the country,’ he said.

Zweni, a former Durban University of Technology student, said the website was reliable and allowed students to trade conveniently with other students within close proximity – eg a student from P-Block on the Westville campus could sell a text book to a student in New Res.

The Unifieds team wants to change the way of doing things, moving away from ‘sticking posters on UKZN walls to putting things online. This would in turn be cheaper as well as keep our University walls cleaner,’ said Kongolo.

Visit to get your free advert published.

Like Unifieds on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @unifiedskzn

If you would like to join the Unifieds team, you can contact them here:

 Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

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UKZN Academic Shares Insights on Good Governance at International Conference

UKZN Academic Shares Insights on Good Governance at International Conference
From left: Professor Purshottama Reddy with Professor Allan Rosenbaum of the Florida International University, and the former Head of the Public Administration Division of the United Nations, Dr Guido Bertucci.

School of Management, Information Technology and Governance academic, Professor Purshottama Reddy, spoke on good governance at the Third Democracy Conference: “Good Governance in Times of Crisis: Comparative Perspectives” hosted by the State of Florida Legislature and the Florida International University in Miami.

The Conference created a platform for governors, legislators and leaders of national and regional governments as well as interested business leaders and academics to share ideas, knowledge, experiences and perspectives on strengthening good governance internationally.

Discussing perspectives on good governance with 30 civil society leaders from Cuba, Reddy pointed out that good governance was a major challenge in Africa, and this had manifested itself in a continental crisis well documented over the years.

‘Bad governance has generally been a feature of the continent’s political system and a key question that arises is what went wrong and how can this issue be addressed?’ said Reddy.

He said South Africa was currently experiencing some of the continental challenges and could not be divorced from the crisis.

‘The current agitation for democratic reform and good governance by the African populace has yielded some results. However, despite this clarion call, the good governance and democracy project is not on a firm footing on the continent.’

Reddy also shared his insights on Cuba, reminding that country’s delegation that in spite of having a Communist government, the quality of public education and health in their country was good and should be built on in the post-communist era. Cuba’s close proximity to the United States of America provided an ideal opportunity for the promotion and reinforcement of good governance principles and best practices.

Thandiwe Jumo

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New Award to Fund Ambitious Human Granuloma Sequencing Project at K-RITH

New Award to Fund Ambitious Human Granuloma Sequencing Project at K-RITH
Dr Al Leslie at K-RITH.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a three-year $1.1-million grant to KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH)  Investigator Dr Al Leslie to fund an exciting project in human granuloma sequencing analysis.

Working with collaborators Dr Samuel Behar from the University of Massachusetts, Dr Evan Newell from the Singapore Immunology Network and K-RITH’s Dr Alex Pym, the project will see them applying cutting edge sequencing and phenotyping techniques to revolutionise our understanding of the TB immune response in human lung tissue.

While it’s common knowledge that the immune system is essential in controlling TB infection, most obviously because the large majority of people who are TB infected never get sick, we still don’t properly understand what the important protective immune responses are in humans. To date, most human TB immunology work has been done in the blood. However, we are yet to develop an effective TB vaccine, which has led researchers to hypothesise that the answers to TB immunity may lie elsewhere.

Leslie explains that the last major work done on fresh TB lung samples happened 50 to 60 years ago, which was well before modern immunology techniques were available. This grant will enable his team to apply advanced technology to a set of lung samples, gathered in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Thoracic Surgery Unit at King Dinuzulu Hospital Complex and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital. The Unit undertakes among the highest number of lung resections for resistant TB in the world. Using next generation sequencing, cell sorting and mass cytometry Dr Leslie hopes to discover whether or not the specific immune responses seen for TB in the blood match the responses in the lung. Part of their work will also be updating our knowledge of what happens in a TB infected lung.

The K-RITH work is happening in parallel with another Gates Foundation-funded study in the United States, which is doing similar research in non-human primates. It’s hoped that when taken together the results will give scientists a better understanding of TB immunity and ultimately allow them to come to a sound vaccine design strategy. The research falls under the ambit of The Collaboration for TB Vaccine Discovery.

‘To do this work, you need to have a cutting edge research institute like K-RITH, and you need to be close to a hospital where there are surgeons who are taking out TB infected lungs. We work with doctors who are passionate about research and the opportunities that science presents to improve the care they give their patients,’ Dr Leslie sums up.

‘This research represents, in a nutshell, the reason for K-RITH’s existence here in Durban.’ 

Hannah Keal

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K-RITH Researchers Uncover New Piece of HIV Puzzle

K-RITH Researchers Uncover New Piece of HIV Puzzle
First author Dr Henrik Kløverpris (left) with K-RITH Investigator Al Leslie in the K-RITH labs.

KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) researchers have opened a new door to better understanding HIV’s impact on the immune system. 

In a paper published in the journal Immunity, the scientists report that a recently identified class of immune cells called Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs) are lost from the blood immediately following HIV infection.

ILCs have an important role in the body’s response to infection and in maintaining immune system balance. Specifically, they help regulate homeostasis and inflammation and are involved in tissue repair. This study’s findings could be the first step to better understand the link between HIV infection, lymphoid tissue breakdown, and persistent immune dysfunction. 

‘We can see that the ILCs are eradicated from the blood during the first weeks following infection, and since we know that ILCs in general are important for maintaining balance in the immune system it is probable that this could have an impact on the development of Aids,’ says K-RITH postdoctoral research fellow and first author on the paper, Dr Henrik Kløverpris. 

Kløverpris used samples donated by 250 people from KwaZulu-Natal to trace ILC levels through different stages of HIV infection, including antiretroviral treatment. Working with colleagues from K-RITH’s Leslie Lab, as well as local and international collaborators, he shows that in chronic HIV infections (defined as the second stage of HIV infection, over a period of one month to 10 years) antiretroviral treatment does not restore ILCs in the blood – despite its effectiveness in suppressing the virus. However, the authors show that if antiretrovirals are given immediately in the earliest or acute stage of HIV infection (in this case, within 10 days of infection) ILC levels are maintained in the blood. 

‘Currently the mechanisms behind HIV pathology are not fully understood. There are some clues, but the full picture is not described,’ explains Kløverpris. ‘The exciting thing is that these new cells may play a role in the pathology of HIV disease.’

Kløverpris came to study ILCs after a chance meeting with Jenny Mj?sberg, one of the scientists to first describe the cells, and set out to investigate them during HIV infection. Even finding the cells, however, required setting up the technology in a different way – which Mj?sberg provided guidance on. ‘ILCs are not easy to find; they are defined by what they don’t express, unlike other immune cells. This is probably why they were only discovered recently,’ says Kløverpris. ‘You need to use different strategies to find them.’

Researchers don’t know yet if ILCs will help to solve questions around HIV pathology, but their working hypothesis is that they are an important part of the puzzle. The next step for Kløverpris is to understand ILCs’ role in the gut of HIV infected people at different stages of disease.  

‘It’s an opportunity to study HIV pathology from a different angle – and if we understand it better, we have a tool to try and find out how we can manipulate the system to prevent that pathology from happening,’ he sums up.  

Hannah Keal

*Click here to read the full research article. 

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The Ergothioneine Link

The Ergothioneine Link
Dr Bridgette Cumming and Dr Adrie Steyn.

Using novel technologies, KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) scientists have made an important step forward in better understanding how the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), survives in a hostile environment in the lungs.

Using metabolomics K-RITH Investigator and University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Professor of Microbiology, Adrie Steyn, together with UAB Instructor Vikram Saini and K-RITH Research Associate Dr Bridgette Cumming have further characterised the small Mtb protein called WhiB3. They have discovered that WhiB3 and the metabolite, ergothioneine, are linked and that ergothioneine is essential for the survival of Mtb in mice. In a paper published in the academic journal Cell Reports they show how WhiB3 regulates ergothioneine, which in turn helps to maintain the redox balance and bioenergetic homeostasis in the Mtb cells that is required for them to survive. 

Both redox and bioenergetic homeostasis determine how effective anti-TB drugs are. Testing the new generation anti-TB drug bedaquiline, as well as other frontline drugs on “mutant” Mtb strains, which are unable to produce ergothioneine, they have observed clear trends to indicate that ergothioneine plays a role in Mtb drug susceptibility. They have also found that ergothioneine, and therefore by extension redox homeostasis, is necessary for maintaining Mtb’s virulence; its ability to establish an infection in its host. 

Their findings could begin to explain why some people respond to TB drugs, and why others don’t – as well as pointing to a potential drug therapy target. ‘If we can cause an imbalance in the redox homeostasis in the mycobacterium then it cannot produce energy for the bacterium to survive,’ explains co-first author Dr Cumming.  ‘So if we can prevent ergothioneine from being formed, the bacteria will be more susceptible to anti-TB drugs. Also, Mtb may then be potentially more susceptible to any oxidative stress induced by the cells of the immune system.’ 

The scientists adapted technology usually used to study the health of cells in cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes for this research. It is the first time that the Seahorse Biosciences Metabolic Flux Analyser has been used to study Mtb.

‘Without exploiting this new technology, we wouldn’t have made these discoveries,’ says Dr Steyn. 

‘Applying this technology was crucial to studying TB bioenergetics and redox homeostasis and combining that with metabolomics, which has ultimately led us to our major claims that bioenergetic and redox homeostasis is necessary for anti-mycobacterial drug efficacy, and also for TB virulence.’

‘As  science progresses, sometimes you hit a brick wall and you have to take two steps back and say ‘OK – if we can’t answer this question, how can we modify technology to allow us to answer it?’,’ he added. ‘It’s the first demonstration of linking bioenergetics with redox homeostasis to help potentially explain two things: why Mtb is drug resistant, and the mechanism by which Mtb causes disease. That connection hasn’t been described before, because there was a lack of tools to do it. We have the tools here at K-RITH, and that allowed us to make these discoveries.’ 

*Click here to read the paper, titled “Ergothioneine Maintains Redox and Bioenergetic Homeostasis Essential for Drug Susceptibility and Virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis”.

Hannah Keal

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The UKZN Griot. Of Snake Oil and Publication Subsidy

The UKZN Griot. Of Snake Oil and Publication Subsidy

Keyan G Tomaselli*

The analogue age was characterized by snake oil salesmen in the US, and became associated with medical fraud. Pyramid/ponzi schemes emerged a century later when finance capital became dominant, followed in the 2000s by the banking meltdown due to reckless lending and unregulated markets, and of course the narco economies are an enduring blight.  The digital age ushered in 419 scams, trading on individual gullibility. Yes, we all foolishly imagine we have an unknown uncle or aunt somewhere wanting to warehouse his/her millions in our bank accounts.

In tandem with the above, threats to the academic sector are growing daily, what with predatory open access journal invitations cluttering our mailboxes[1], and now predatory conference organisers  also.  These scamsters sport illustrated websites and organise phantom events run by ghosts in places like Washington DC, or in Johannesburg.   Predatory journals with fake impact metrics but real bank accounts offer 12 hour reviewing, and publish scientific garbage, as has been proven by article stings conducted by’ Science[2].  Now there is a new set of threats facing legitimate journals.  These include: cloning, theft of titles, mimicking appearance, stealing websites and articles, and appointing fictitious board members.

Now, there are brokers who offer to “place” articles for authors and moreover offer payment and PR.  Others claiming to be guest editors offer complete thematic issues, ready to print, immediately. These perverters of purveyed academic porn seem to originate from the ex-Soviet Bloc, if I am to believe the locations listed by self-appointed guest editors and brokers.

Recently, a new attempt at securing publication has appeared, written by real academics from the same ex-Soviet states. The inquiry is identical, only the names and topics differ:  name, title, followed by:  “Could you, please, take a look at the topic of my article and let me know whether it is appropriate for the journal …?” Each then summarises objective, approach, conclusion, practical significance.

Initially, I wondered whether the authors are legit, and whether this kind of appeal is an indicator of the dominance of English as the pre-eminent academic language globally. I am told by Taylor & Francis that some of these inquiries from authors based in Kazakhstan in particular might stem from publishing seminars run by the company at two universities, in response to state requirements for increased published output in WoS journals with relatively high impact factors.

Impact factors and English are intertwined.   Sound familiar?

Increasingly, South African authors are driven less by a thirst to communicate knowledge but to secure DoHET publication subsidy.  Where the international gurus wait patiently in the production line, South Africans demand immediate attention, immediate publication and often complain about revisions required by referee reports.

Editors of overseas journals remark on how they are sometimes browbeaten by South Africans to publish substandard articles, often to the astonishment of these submissions’ reviewers whose helpful suggestions are ignored by both authors and editors.

When I and my colleagues have queried such ill-advised action, the editor’s response has been thus:  a) ‘we felt sorry for the author, he’s from Africa you know’, or b) we were bullied, or c) we needed to fill the space.  This kind of paternalism does the academic enterprise no good at all.

Also, such journals simply take the route of least resistance. While these journals are not ‘predatory’, sometimes their authors are.  They are a menace to good scientific practice and editors who publish substandard work will vitiate the academic value of their journals.  When due protocols are dismissed a sense of author entitlement follows.

But there’s more, to paraphrase a well-known TV ad. Many SA universities now require their MA and PhD students to publish from their theses.  So editors and reviewers are now having to process opportunistic submissions on a scale not previously experienced, without any recompense for the labour, time or administrative costs incurred by publishers, whose voluntary editorial boards are already stretched to the limit.

Journals are thus made into unwitting accomplices of institutional assessment processes. And, let’s not discuss performance management indices where academics submit half- done papers to accredited journals simply to generate the receipt that ‘proves’ that they have met their annual submission quotas.  Again, the journals pick up the cost of this duplicity perpetrated by desperate academics who clearly have no self-respect or respect for their peers or the consequences of this kind of unprofessionalism.

UKZN Professor Emeritus, John Aitcheson, recently reminded us in the Mail & Guardian of some of the undesirable consequences of the DoHET subsidy, the goose that lays the golden egg, when not abused by universities or academics[3].  One open access predatory journal was recently deleted from DoHET accredited list after an exposé by The Times. The journal’s listed head office address is actually a car park in Rome, and was being actively promoted by some snake oil apostles as a legitimate way of milking the system.

Then, there are the titles that are so general as to be meaningless, whose editors can’t tell the difference between an academic study and a technical report.  A recent ‘Research Letter ‘published in the SA Journal of Science[4] suggested that a majority of articles published  in the astonishing 19 South African titles on management evidenced indications of  plagiarism.  That’s another consequence of misuse of the DoHET system.

Other kinds of stings now occur. One colleague recently wrote a hoax report with fictitious references in his assessment of what he assumed was a hoax MA thesis, sent him for examination, on a topic about which he knows nothing.  So, now hoaxes are being perpetrated upon hoaxes and universities are party to the game[5].  Satire is the only method left to assess this kind of absurd academic environment.

By all means publish and be damned, but for the sake of knowledge.  Universities need to devise indices to measure quality rather than demanding just quantity. Otherwise we might end up publishing in predatory journals that have no fixed or findable addresses – other than their bank accounts. Why is it that we had to leave it to The Times to expose the fraud and the snake oil?  Universities should be doing this work.

Read Griots, Satirical columns, and the micro public sphere which appeared in The Journal of African Media Studies.  

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

[1] Jeff Beal’s List of Predatory Publishers 2016

[2] John Bohannon, ‘Whose Afraid of Peer Review?  

[3] Unscrupulous Academics buy into ‘university 419 Scam’

[4] Article by Adele Thomas article

[5] The UKZN Griot.  Of Hoaxes and Parody.  

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