Ranks UKZN’s Business School Third Best in SA Ranks UKZN’s Business School Third Best in SA
Dr Macdonald Kanyangale (left) and Mr Dhashen Naicker of UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership at the 2019 Excellence Awards ceremony.

The Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) has been ranked third in South Africa based on a survey conducted between March and May this year by the Professional Management Review (PMR) of South African Accredited Business Schools.

A total of 18 business schools took part with UKZN scoring 8 out of 10 to secure their lofty position.

The purpose of the ranking is to celebrate excellence, with’s goal being to acknowledge and set a benchmark for others to aspire to as well as creating opportunities for teams or divisions within companies and institutions to be recognised for their hard work.

Commenting on the award, Acting Dean and Head of the Business School Professor Ana Martins said: ‘This award is an achievement the GSB&L can be proud of. It is an honour to be among the top three in the rankings. While celebrating this achievement, it is important to foster humility, a culture of appreciation and of care to embrace internal and external stakeholders. The GSB&L team will augment resilience, agility, innovation, and emotional awareness - key features for the success of a Business School.

‘The GSB&L will also continue to inculcate higher order thinking skills, core business aptitudes and competencies - the agile skill set expected in graduates to prolifically engage with global business challenges in the post COVID-19 era,’ said Martins.

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga


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Music Alumnus Zakes Bantwini Accepted at Harvard

Music Alumnus Zakes Bantwini Accepted at Harvard
UKZN alumnus and musician Zakes Bantwini. Click here for isiZulu version

Award-winning South African House musician and UKZN Music alumnus Mr Zakhele Madida, known on stage as Zakes Bantwini, has been accepted into the prestigious Harvard University Business School in the United States.

Madida will study the business of entertainment, music and sports at Harvard. ‘I’m turning 40, I’m going to Harvard, my Love, Light and Music album is 10 years old, and I am launching an international dance label ALL ELECTRONIC MUSIC - what a special day for me,’ he said.

Added his wife Nandi: ‘I am beyond proud of him - he is truly a reflection of what it means to come from hardships and still achieve greatness.’

‘Education is important,’ said Madida. ‘It plays a vital role in the music industry where an artist can now engage with the business aspects of the industry while also being an entertainer.’

He advised Music students to continue with their education. ‘Successful musicians are well-known and they are influential too. As educated artists use your influence to build the Arts into a major discipline and make the music industry a commodity to market internationally.

‘As up and coming young artists, you can change the industry as it’s not only about talent it’s also about being educated.’

Words:Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Nandi Madida

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Webinar Focuses on Africa’s Response to COVID-19

Webinar Focuses on Africa’s Response to COVID-19
At the webinar were (from left) Professor Sihawukele Ngubane, Professor Johannes John-Langba, Dr Candice Moore and Professor Eugene Maafo Darteh.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN hosted a webinar that examined Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant impact on peace, security, public health and social development.

The event, facilitated by UKZN’s Professor Sihawukele Ngubane of the School of Arts, featured a panel of experts including Academic Leader for Research and Higher Degrees in the School of Applied Human Sciences at UKZN, Professor Johannes John-Langba; Senior Lecturer at UKZN’s School of Social Sciences, Dr Candice Moore, and Professor Eugene Maafo Darteh of the Department of Population and Health Studies at the University of the Cape Coast in Ghana.

In an analysis of the African response to the COVID-19 pandemic, John-Langba reflected on the most recent statistics provided by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention that shows all 55 African countries have now reported novel coronavirus cases.

He highlighted the challenges public health systems in Africa would face without robust financing mechanisms, a well-trained and adequately paid workforce, reliable epidemiological information to base decisions and policies on, well-maintained health infrastructures, and cutting-edge supply-chain and logistics to deliver quality medicines and technologies. ‘The likelihood of health systems on the continent becoming overwhelmed is high as the spread of the coronavirus peaks, given the weak and fragile state of public health systems in most African countries,’ he said.

John-Langba focused on the core functions of public health systems including health service delivery, creation and mobilisation of resources, healthcare financing and stewardship functions. He says in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic the stewardship of the national health system is particularly crucial for ensuring effective, efficient and optimum response to the pandemic. ‘This function mainly relates to the overall oversight role of the national health system as well as regulating the use of health resources, and collating and collecting information.’

Moore opened her discussion on issues around peace and security, emphasising the importance of strong state-society relations during the COVID-19 pandemic through government provision of access to healthcare and transparency in decisions taken in response to the virus.

Noting and drawing from the human security paradigm, that health, violence and the environment are key sites of insecurity in Africa, Moore explained that security threats often came from the most vulnerable in society, especially in health security.

She listed three central areas to be mindful of as they affected African security - urban areas potentially engulfed by urban tensions as people’s livelihoods suffer; existing areas of conflict where missions based in war torn countries face new ways of operating, and elections scheduled for this year in many African countries.

Said Moore: ‘It’s not all doom and gloom as Africa has some experience with pandemics through Ebola, and there has been swift and proactive responses at the highest levels, including the African Union. ’

Underlining the effects of COVID-19 at universities, Darteh examined the needs of students and the ability of Higher Education Institutions to provide adequate support services. He stressed the importance of universities being able to complete the academic year and the implications this would have. ‘We must prepare people’s minds to find a balance between traditional and modern ways of teaching,’ Darteh said.

Darteh highlighted the resistance institutions would face, saying a policy was required for online teaching to be embraced. ‘COVID-19 has taught us to embrace technology. We need to make sure that all students’ needs are met and the time to start is now!’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied

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South Africa Supports Sharing Anti-COVID-19 Health Products and Technology Access Pool

South Africa Supports Sharing Anti-COVID-19 Health Products and Technology Access Pool
Professor Yousuf Vawda (left) and Professor Brook K Baker.

By Professor Yousuf Vawda and Professor Brook K Baker

On May 14, President Cyril Ramaphosa joined 139 other heads of state, former heads of state, and other prominent public figures in a letter announcing support for The People’s Vaccine (

The letter stated that: ‘Governments and international partners must unite around a global guarantee which ensures that, when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge. The same applies for all treatments, diagnostics, and other technologies for COVID-19 … now is not the time to allow the interests of the wealthiest corporations and governments to be placed before the universal need to save lives, or to leave this massive and moral task to market forces. Access to vaccines and treatments as global public goods are in the interests of all humanity. We cannot afford monopolies, crude competition and near-sighted nationalism standing in the way.’ A week earlier, President Ramaphosa spoke at the pledging event for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which raised €7.4 billion to support COVID-19 research and access initiatives. President Ramaphosa should be credited with drumming up significant continental and global support for these extraordinary statements of our communal rights to health and to the benefits of scientific progress.

In a related landmark occurrence, on May 15, the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and President Carlos Alvarado Quesada of Costa Rica announced the impending May 29 launch of a Solidarity Call to Action creating a global voluntary intellectual property pool for COVID-19 related information and technologies. They were supported by President Sebastian Pinera of Chile. President Quesada has called on WHO Member States to declare their support for this initiative. It represents a major boost to the COVID-19 response, by creating a technology-sharing platform which removes access barriers to effective vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, and devices.

The envisaged technology pool will be voluntary and based on social solidarity. It will act as a repository of all scientific knowledge, intellectual property, test data, trade secret and industry know-how, to be shared on an equitable basis by the global community. It will promote quicker, more efficient, and better open-science research and product development, it will mobilise and expand additional manufacturing capacity, and it will help ensure speedier and more equitable access to existing and newly-discovered COVID-19 health products. It will rely in part on the Unitaid-sponsored Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which negotiates with patent holders for open, non-exclusive licences on life-saving medicines for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Previously, the MPP prioritised treatments for HIV, Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis, by facilitating licences to generic manufacturers to increase production and distribution of the medicines to enable affordable access. South Africa is a major beneficiary of the MPP, and the massive rollout of its ARV programme would not have otherwise been possible. Under its new expanded mandate, the MPP would pursue equitable licensing of COVID-19 medical products to benefit the entire globe.

President Quesada is quoted as saying: ‘This is a call for Member States. It’s a call also for academia, for the private sector and companies, for research institutions, and for co-operation agencies, all around the world. We want to see these innovations and technologies as global public goods to protect humanity against this threat.’

What is the alternative to such a collaboration? It is to let pharmaceutical companies such as Gilead run rampant, unchecked, while they carve up the world markets for their maximum profit. Their approach of selectively licensing certain manufacturers, and limiting their ability to supply a large number of LMICs, including all of South America and some Asian countries, is counter to the commitment of equitable access for all, around which much of the world is coalescing.

Ironically or punitively, Costa Rica, the country which is leading the call for the global technology pool, is one of the countries that is excluded as a beneficiary from Gilead’s licences on the promising anti-viral product remdesivir. By picking and choosing who gets to receive the treatment and who doesn’t - 48% of the global population - it offends the principle of solidarity and creates divisions among nations.

South Africa has been praised globally for its response to the pandemic, and for many policies that are based on the philosophy of Ubuntu and social solidarity. President Ramaphosa’s championing of The People’s Vaccine displays further leadership in this regard.

We are counting on President Ramaphosa to promptly declare our country’s and continent’s support for the Solidarity Call to Action on the COVID-19 technology pool, which will be officially launched on 29 May 2020.* As we move from rhetoric to reality, we will need implementable initiatives like the technology pool to ensure that lofty words are not subsumed by commercial avarice and a super-nationalistic scramble for needlessly scarce medical supplies. At the same time, we remind President Ramaphosa that there is work to be done at home amending South Africa’s Patents Act, and instituting emergency measures to temporarily suspend patenting of COVID-19 medical products and to provide for automatic or mandatory compulsory licences on such products should voluntary measures prove unsuccessful.

Professor Yousuf Vawda and Professor Brook K Baker are Honorary Research Fellows in UKZN’s School of Law.

(This article was first published in Spotlight on 25 May, 2020)

•    South Africa was one of 30 countries that signed up to support the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool at its launch on 29 May.

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UKZN Student to Serve on COVID-19 International Steering Committee

UKZN Student to Serve on COVID-19 International Steering Committee
UKZN doctoral student, Mr Clement Agoni.Click here for isiZulu version

Doctoral student in the School of Health Sciences, Mr Clement Agoni has been selected to serve on an 11-member COVID-19 steering committee of the Global Shapers Community - an initiative started by the World Economic Forum in 2011.

Agoni was recognised for his significant impact and contributions in this area by leading the Durban hub of the Community in championing a COVID-19 project dubbed ShapersCare in which - supported and assisted by local partners - about 100 000 food hampers were distributed to individuals needing assistance during the national lockdown.

‘My selection to the committee is definitely an honour but at the same time I am humbled, especially considering how large the community is - it has a membership of more than 9 000 people in 145 countries,’ said Agoni.

‘Being one of only two Black Africans on the committee, with my colleague representing the refugee community, my mandate involves inspiring, empowering and connecting the Global Shapers Community’s work on COVID-19, particularly initiatives led by hubs in Africa. This will be in addition to the collective responsibilities of the committee as a whole.’

ShapersCare was recently selected as the only African project to be part of the top five COVID-19 response initiatives of the global community and recognised for the impact created so far.

The 11-member Steering Committee, which has a one-year mandate, will be responsible for building the capacity, knowledge and expertise of Global Shapers to effectively respond to COVID-19.

Since joining the Durban hub, Agoni has led the health team in conducting medical outreaches to Umlazi as well as mental health awareness drives at high schools within the township.

Agoni, together with other members, will also mobilise Global Shapers to take action and push for tangible responses at a city, country and global level, while ensuring the voices of young people are heard wherever the current and future agenda is being shaped.

The steering committee will also represent the Global Shapers Community in the World Economic Forum’s COVID-19 Action Platform.

Agoni, a Ghanaian, is currently in his third-year of doctoral studies under the supervision of Professor Mahmoud Soliman in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

His research focuses on the exploration of drug-target interactions using molecular modelling techniques.

‘I have always believed that the training of an academic goes beyond the four walls of a lecture hall or a research laboratory with community service an important component that must be encouraged, since it produces graduates able to relate to the challenges and be better positioned to solve them,’ said Agoni.

‘My role within the steering committee will definitely expose me to COVID-19 related challenges encountered by communities in different countries and how young people are addressing these challenges. I am sure the varying and culturally diverse perspectives involved will mould me into a complete PhD scholar with a heart for the community,’ added Agoni.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Academic a Finalist for Science Oscar

UKZN Academic a Finalist for Science Oscar
Professor Pragashnie Govender (right) with her family, husband Sathiesh, mum and daughter, Giana Ruby.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN Occupational Therapy academic Professor Pragashnie Govender is a finalist in the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) South 32 Research Awards - also known as the Science Oscars.

The NSTF awards, sponsored by mining and metals company South 32, recognise excellence and outstanding contributions to Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa. The awards are rated as the largest, most comprehensive and sought-after of their kind in the country.

Previously they were always presented at a glittering gala dinner but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 presentation will take place online on 30 July.

‘I feel blessed,’ said Govender.  ‘To be a finalist, the candidate needs to be considered by the adjudication panel as eligible for the award. This means that the nominee has made a significantly outstanding contribution to SET and innovation in South Africa and qualifies to be considered as a potential winner.’

The former Academic Leader of Research in the School of Health Sciences is short-listed as a finalist in the categoryTW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher.

Govender, who was first runner-up in the South African Women in Science Awards in 2018, won the NRF Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researcher in the female category in 2016.

Govender says her family is her constant support and source of inspiration.

‘My story is one of very humble beginnings and many challenges. It’s in moments like these I realise I have been inevitably shaped by the many people who I have had the privilege of encountering during my life, especially a line of resilient women who strived in the face of adversity to give me the opportunities I have had,’ she added.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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Thuma Mina/Send Me - The Call to Volunteer in the Fight Against COVID-19

<em>Thuma Mina</em>/Send Me - The Call to Volunteer in the Fight Against COVID-19
UKZN’s Mr Tony Singarum has been volunteering his time during the lockdown to spread awareness during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world into survival mode with many South Africans unable to work or go about their daily life, prompting UKZN’s Mr Tony Singarum to volunteer his time by spreading awareness about the virus and assisting Law Enforcement Officials with compliance regulations in his community.

A Council-member and Senior Governance Officer at the University, Singarum says he could not sit on the fence and felt the urge to assist in making a difference to ‘save the lives of our people during this pandemic.’

‘My skills and expertise acquired from the University, together with information from our medical experts, gave me the confidence to volunteer to assist.’

Living near an informal settlement, where the majority of people are unemployed and many of those who have jobs are not able to work because of the lockdown, spurred Singarum to take action. ‘They had no money for food and were suffering,’ he said. ‘Women and children were going to bed hungry, while others, in desperation, would approach me for help. It pained me immensely to see their suffering so I assisted with transport using my own vehicle and food.’

He also found many people were unaware of the compliance rules of the Disaster Management Act and more work was needed from law enforcement officials to educate individuals about the Act. Singarum distributed information pamphlets to vulnerable members of the community to help ensure compliance at a time when those contravening the law could be either jailed or heavily fined. ‘The results of a survey conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council are comforting in that they found public knowledge about COVID-19 is very high (97%), indicating our work has assisted in creating awareness about the virus’ he said.

Singarum credits the University’s website and the creation of the “war room” for providing up-to-date COVID-19 information and paid tribute to Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Nana Poku, whom he says inspired the UKZN community to join the COVID-19 community mobilisation campaign and volunteer services to create awareness about the spread of the disease.

Singarum is no stranger to community work and activism. ‘I’ve been a volunteer for as long as I can remember, starting from my childhood days in the church and my community. In the early 1990s, a call was made to the public from the Durban SAPS Flying Squad for volunteers to assist with answering the emergency hotline (10111) and I signed up as a volunteer with them,’ he said.

The highly infectious virus was a cause of concern for Singarum, but he followed the necessary guidelines to protect himself and his family. ‘I was obviously very conscious of the risks associated with this pandemic, not only to myself but also to my family. I took the necessary safety precautions by regularly sanitising, washing my hands, wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing at all times.’

He quipped that washing his hands so often had given him ‘baby soft skin’ again!

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN PhD Candidate Establishes Socio-Economic Development Agency

UKZN PhD Candidate Establishes Socio-Economic Development Agency
UKZN PhD student, Mr Sepele Matlala has launched an agency that will help address the high rate of unemployment in South Africa.

A UKZN PhD student in Leadership Studies, Mr Sepele Matlala, has launched Viwe Development Council, a socio-economic development agency to look after the interests of investors with the ultimate aim of addressing the high rate of unemployment in South Africa and beyond.

The agency was created out of the recommendations of a research project by Matlala, titled: Developing an Investor Aftercare Model for the Promotion of Agro-processing in the Limpopo province.

The project recommends that the institutional arrangement of investor aftercare in Limpopo be reviewed to realise its investment promotion and attraction potential.

The agency specialises in integrated economic development services using investor aftercare as the backbone of economic development. It also offers skills development and learnerships focusing on both the aftercare and agro-processing sectors to individuals and SMMEs in various municipalities in Limpopo province.

All these services are offered free of charge to beneficiaries thanks to sponsorship from both public and private sectors in appreciation of the role the agency plays. The agency plans to stage annual sector events aimed at promoting the socio-economic development aspirations of the people.

‘Being a qualified teacher with 11 years of experience before I joined the economic development field as well as serving as a council member for Letaba TVET College for five years, I plan to introduce a division within the agency where I would guide students from various universities through their educational research journey,’ said Matlala.

He has already secured a partnership for the agency and is in the process of finalising more. ‘The agency has generated interest from various stakeholders and organisations but because of COVID-19 finalising things has stalled,’ he said.

In addition to his string of professional qualifications which include Master of Commerce in Leadership Studies from UKZN and a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours), Matlala is a member of and Certified Business Advisor with the Institute of Business Advisors of Southern Africa (IBASA); a member and chartered public relations practitioner with the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA); a member of the Public Sector Economist Forum (PSEF); a member of the Economic Society of South Africa (ESSA), and a member of the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM).

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Supplied

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Exploring Personal Experiences, Feelings and Events During COVID-19 in SA

Exploring Personal Experiences, Feelings and Events During COVID-19 in SA
From left: Dr Upasana Singh, Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches and Dr Cristy Leask.

By Dr Cristy Leask, Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches and Dr Upasana Singh

The COVID-19 pandemic wave that spread like wildfire was similar to a personal wave of anxiety with tension heightened by media images and reports of increasing daily infections and deaths, leading to a desire to keep one’s family safe. There was a sense of panic at home, with people physically distant and locked-up… in a type of survival mode!

The panic was propelled by fake news and questions about the personal impacts on family, issues around finances and decisions regarding the education of school-going children and those at university. Added to all that was the challenge of juggling responsibilities involved in looking after young children and returning to work.

The presence, infusion and intrusions of technology are clearly visible - far more than previously. A few days before lockdown many people had to make a hasty and sometimes reluctant decision to get their home connected to the internet.

Conscious decisions prior to COVID-19 to keep technology in the home to a minimum - at a safe distance - went out the window when it became obvious that home as we always knew it was about to become office, school, entertainment zone as well as a place of rest, among other things. And so quite suddenly all sorts of electronic devices and equipment were acquired.

The true meaning and intensity of our dependency on technology became more entrenched with each passing day, while weekends didn’t feel the same and the working week took on a new look with boundaries blurred.

Those now working from home need to be mindful of the new demands and directions that work will take. Life has without doubt changed for many.

Burn-out and increased pressure to perform are also issues. This has to do with reduced job security but also an inability to “step away” from work to a place where you can unwind. It is clear that accountability and self-discipline are critical, as is being able to steer past moments of self-doubt, loneliness, and fear. Many may have found themselves having to multitask during these times, with possible not so healthy changes in sleeping patterns.

Businesses have had to embrace digital technologies faster than they would have chosen to sustain their existence in the competitive market. Future organisational structure design has been accelerated with remote working a current reality.

We have seen the rapid growth of e-commerce since the start of the pandemic. Online shopping is the preference for those with a high fear factor of being infected, which has led to retailers having to introduce new socially distant delivery methods, or expanding their current delivery service. The finance sector also adapted to assist customers in a variety of ways.

Families have had to re-structure their daily activities to accommodate the “new lifestyle” demanded by the virus and the lockdown. Neighbourhoods have been devoid of the laughter and play of young children while the elderly are confined to their homes. Households previously dependent on domestic assistance have had to manage without. As COVID-19 infections increase in South Africa, we begin to fully realise our vulnerabilities, and are aware that we are only as strong as our weakest link.

A post-COVID-19 world is not that far away but for now we know that we need to prepare for the peak. There is also a new pressure that has in a sense arisen as workers have become isolated in their homes with the spotlight shining more on their individual contribution and worth. The workforce has slowly returned to the workplace but an uncertain future awaits. It is evident that organisational structures, culture, processes, physical space, operations and the very raison d'être of life will come under intense scrutiny.

Just as lockdowns are criticised because of the balance required between the health of the population and the health of the economy, so too will organisations need to be mindful that there is a fine balance between cost-cutting and being humanitarian and philanthropic. The workforce has been shaken and traumatised to varying degrees and this may negatively impact on productivity as well as motivation and job satisfaction levels. Many customers may be under financial stress and could be questioning their choices, buying behaviour and spending patterns. This will in turn contribute to increased pressure for many businesses.

We encourage a process of reflection to facilitate personal growth with the emphasis on learning by consciously looking at the past and thinking about our future. In such a way, an analysis of experiences, actions and feelings may facilitate learning in a variety of spheres.

This concept of reflection as meta-thinking and self-awareness - a self-regulation process that manifests itself in the continuous reflections on one’s mental states - may help in shifting from a limbic panic into a pre-frontal cortex space of creativity, innovation and renewal.

In a stage of uncertainty, with little or no certainty about what will happen next, it is futile and unethical to offer baseless reassurance - the focus instead should be on an internal locus of control, living purposefully to impact on inequality and climate change.

· Dr Cristy Leask is an adjunct faculty at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership; and a skilled organisational consultant at Symbiosis Consulting, and Capella University in the United States

· Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches, is an associate professor at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership and lectures at postgraduate and masters level in Leadership Studies

· Dr Upasana Singh is a senior lecturer in the Discipline of Information Systems and Technology at UKZN.

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Honours Student’s Turtle Research Experiences Published by News Organisations

Honours Student’s Turtle Research Experiences Published by News Organisations
Ms Natalie dos Santos with a handful of loggerhead turtle hatchlings as she collected data about the new arrivals.

A UKZN Marine Biology honours student’s experiences while doing research on the impact of climate change on sex ratios of turtle hatchlings has been published by journalism training agency Roving Reporters and online newspaper the Daily Maverick.

Ms Natalie dos Santos did the research at Bhanga Nek in northern KwaZulu-Natal in 2019 and earlier this year, recording the highlights in an essay.

Supervised by Professor Ursula Scharler of UKZN and Professor Ronel Nel of the Nelson Mandela University (NMU), research by dos Santos involves measuring nest temperatures and predicting the sex ratios of turtle hatchlings.

She is a member of the Roving Reporters environmental journalism training programme, Developing Environmental Watchdogs, and the WildOceans Ocean Stewards programme which collaborates closely with UKZN’s Marine Biology division at the School of Life Sciences (SLS).

She is comparing loggerhead nest temperatures to those detailed in a similar study in the 1980s to determine whether climate change is affecting the South African turtle population. Since nest temperatures determine the sex of turtles, the ratio of males to females is a useful indicator of changes in climate.

While collecting data for her study, dos Santos joined a team of volunteers from NMU at the research station near Kosi Bay, spending the better part of four months walking an idyllic 5km stretch of beach to seek out nesting loggerhead and leatherback turtles and later, their hatchlings.

Work took place at night while turtles were laying; some nights the group spotted up to 10 loggerhead turtles, and the occasional leatherback. Days involved completing chores, reading research papers, exploring the shallow reefs on their doorstep, and experiencing a few rare visits from day nesting turtles.

Dos Santos’s fieldwork involved the placement of temperature probes known as iButtons, small devices protectively concealed in ping-pong balls, at points along the beach and directly into the nests of loggerhead turtles while they were laying.

She also assisted with general monitoring activities such as tagging turtles with numbered titanium markers, recording existing tag numbers, taking carapace measurements, collecting DNA samples and epibionts, and counting and measuring eggs.

Dos Santos says she had enlightening interactions with fellow scientists, knowledgeable local tour guides and the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife turtle monitors.

After the incubation period of 60 days, dos Santos returned to retrieve the iButtons, designed to be inconspicuous so as not to attract the attention of poachers. Using GPS markers, teams hunted down and dug out the iButtons, a challenging exercise as tides and winds had shifted the sand and the markers. After trying various techniques, including using a metal detector, half the probes were recovered, some of which were faulty, but dos Santos said much was learned to improve future studies using iButtons.

This visit also involved nightly foot patrols; dawn shifts to spot nests about to hatch; and measuring, weighing, DNA sampling, and recording distribution of the hatchlings. The researchers and volunteers returned hatchlings to their nests or released them into the sea to begin their “lost years”, where they all but disappear until returning to their feeding habitats as juveniles.

Dos Santos appreciated the impact Bhanga Nek and its wildlife, people and seascape had on her, saying she was grateful for the opportunity given to her by WildOceans and her supervisors to conduct research and contribute to turtle conservation efforts.

‘I hope this is the start of something big and meaningful for my career as a marine scientist, and I hope to see the hatchlings I watched crawl into the ocean come up the beach in 30 years’ time,’ she concluded.

The SLS offers an honours and an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology on the Westville campus. Marine Biology research conducted by postgraduate students and staff focuses on marine and estuarine ecology, biodiversity, coral reefs, molecular biology, aquaculture, physiology, ocean plastics, systems analysis, modelling, and more, through national and international collaborations.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

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Webinar on SA’s COVID-19 Response and Political Leadership

Webinar on SA’s COVID-19 Response and Political Leadership
Academic and community activist Dr Lubna Nadvi participated in a webinar on the South African government’s response to COVID-19.

The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies hosted a webinar on South Africa’s COVID-19 Response and Political Leadership.

The presentation was handled by UKZN academic Dr Lubna Nadvi, who teaches and conducts research in the field of Political Science and International Relations in the School of Social Sciences. Nadvi is also a community activist and comments frequently in the mainstream media on current affairs. 

‘The response by the South African government to the challenge of COVID-19, has received mixed and varied responses,’ said Nadvi. ‘While President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet have been largely commended for their swift action in putting various measures in place to address the issue of the spread of the novel coronavirus, the consequences of some of these measures and the decisions taken by the Coronavirus Command Council, have drawn sharp criticism from broader civil society.’

She further explored some of these measures as well as criticisms levelled against them.

‘The willingness of the Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize to speak to the media and issue detailed briefings regarding COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic in South Africa, was important and necessary in enabling information to circulate quickly and as effectively as possible,’ said Nadvi. ‘Unlike other countries, where the state and government moved very slowly to put measures in place, the quick action by the South African government is to be commended. It became evident from the early briefings that the government - in particular the Department of Health - had started preparations to respond to and manage COVID-19, before the first case in South Africa had been identified.’

Nadvi noted that many aspects of the lockdown process had resulted in serious and unfortunate consequences, which had cast shadows on the government’s handling of the pandemic. She believes the response was clouded by lack of consideration about the ways in which many of the lockdown measures infringed on human rights guaranteed by the South African Constitution.

‘The people who have lost their livelihoods and jobs and continue to struggle from food insecurity and other challenges need to be made a priority in terms of financial support from both public and private sectors. Military and law enforcement personnel who are responsible for the deaths of civilians during the enforcement of the lockdown must be held accountable,’ said Nadvi. ‘The issue of people having criminal records to their name, due to minor infringements must be reviewed.

‘Ministers who have abused political authority must also be held accountable, while those who have lost their lives due to the virus must be remembered through online and other forms of memorials.’

She also noted that there had been some positive moments emerging during the past few months. ‘Ordinary South Africans and residents have shown incredible support and dedication towards fellow human beings in terms of getting involved in the distribution of food parcels, PPE and other essential items, helping those who need it most,’ she said.

‘The South African government has, despite its many mistakes, been proactive in trying to contain the spread of the virus, using medical science to shape its responses. Its political excesses and abuse of power, however, have to be called out by civil society and individuals held accountable.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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Online Career Guidance from Students Amid COVID-19

Online Career Guidance from Students Amid COVID-19
Mr Luthando Molefe of UKZN and Ms Kgotsofalang Mei of the University of Fort Hare.

Education students Mr Luthando Molefe of UKZN and Ms Kgotsofalang Mei of the University of Fort Hare presented online career guidance to more than 143 matric candidates and out-of-school youth from Secunda in Mpumalanga.

The youngsters were invited by #BeYouthFullClub, an organisation that aims to assist marginalised individuals through educational programmes.

Founder and CEO of #BeYouthFullClub Mrs Lerato Makuwa-Dayimani said, ‘The Youth Club’s focus is to ensure we shift young people’s minds from stigmas and past life experiences to embracing who they are. We had plans to visit rural community schools and provide career guidance sessions to learners from Grade 9 upwards who have matriculated but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we reverted to having online career guidance sessions.’

Every Tuesday afternoon, the Club hosts online sessions using WhatsApp where speakers unpack different issues such as the applications process, and personal and professional attributes and skills needed, including an analyses of the labour market. The Youth Club targets individuals from deep rural townships where such information does not usually reach them.

Said Molefe: ‘Our country needs young people to be active participants/citizens in embracing the spirit of Ubuntu in the name of helping and changing other people’s lives by providing them with relevant information they can use to change their lives and those of others. We are grateful for the opportunity.’ 

Mei added: ‘Many young people are sitting at home not because they do not qualify or they are not capable, but because they lack information. It is up to us as Education change makers to try to intervene by means of providing information to those who need it.’

Both students plan to collaborate in the future on community engagement issues.

Words:Melissa Mungroo and Luthando Molefe

Photographs: Supplied

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Communities of Practice Address Online Teaching and Learning

Communities of Practice Address Online Teaching and Learning
By default, online teaching and learning is becoming the future.

The Teaching and Learning Committee in the College of Health Sciences (CHS) launched a series of communities of practice presentations. The first such webinar was held on 10 June 2020 to share and discuss best practice experience in online teaching and learning.

The event, which attracted academics and professionals in the fraternity, was facilitated by an Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning for School of Health Sciences, Dr Diane van Staden, and the Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning for School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, Dr Pamela Pillay.

In opening, the Dean of Teaching and Learning at CHS, Professor Sinegugu Duma, said online teaching and learning was not a new concept in UKZN, but as part of communities of practice initiative, it was important for colleagues to share best practices and experiences on how they have embraced online teaching and learning in the midst of COVID-19, stressing that while emergency online teaching and learning may be seen as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, by default is becoming the future.

‘This sharing platform is intended to create a conversation as we navigate the online teaching and learning space, and share our experiences on what works and what doesn’t work,’ said Duma. ‘We have to learn and grow together. Most importantly as teachers we need to prepare ourselves as academics and also prepare our students. We have no choice but to start somewhere and apply student-centred approaches using all the resources at our disposal. Collectively and successfully we can own this online teaching and learning space.’

Pillay said although students may encounter challenges in online teaching, it has become imperative to brainstorm and share methods that worked well.

Webinar participants shared their experiences on tips that have worked for them during the dry-run of online teaching weeks in response to facilitation questions posed by Pillay.

Said van Staden: ‘Our students need to understand the new online teaching and learning approaches and know exactly what is expected of them prior to and after classes. Together we have to embrace this paradigm shift. This is work in progress - collectively we will adapt and improve.’

This was the first of many series of communities of practice webinars to follow. During this session, participants were asked to send in their topics for future discussions and were encouraged to participate in the next following sharing sessions.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Shutterstock

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Law Student Graduates Despite Challenges

Law Student Graduates Despite Challenges
Bachelor of Laws graduate, Mr Nkosinathi Masinga.

Having to temporarily halt his studies to go out and work and then later face up to the demands of being a father to a premature baby were among challenges encountered by graduate, Mr Nkosinathi Masinga.

Masinga, who received a Bachelor of Laws degree from UKZN, was awarded a Nursing degree in 2009 but it had always been a dream of his to pursue Medical Law.

‘My late father encouraged me to go for it, so even with the many obstacles I faced, I had to do it for myself, in honour of him,’ he said.

Masinga put his studies on hold to go out to work as he was supporting his family and paying for his studies. ‘My family and friends encouraged me to go back and finish what I started. My nursing colleagues reminded me that I was no longer doing this for myself but for all the nurses and everyone who looked up to me,’ said Masinga.

So he went back but then his first born son was delivered at 32 weeks and he had to spend time handling issues arising from that as well as preparing for his Moot Court and mid-year exams.

‘I am happy I stuck it out and made myself and everyone around me proud,’ he said.

Masinga plans to complete a Masters in Medical Law degree. ‘I also want to do my pupillage in the near future and be admitted as an advocate although my loyalty is still with the Department of Health. I hope my new qualification will assist in dealing with medico-legal issues,’ he said.

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Supplied

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COVID-19 Propels the New Digital Era in SA Higher Education Institutions

COVID-19 Propels the New Digital Era in SA Higher Education Institutions
From left: Dr Cristy Leask, Dr Upasana Singh and Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches.

By Dr Upasana Singh, Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches and Dr Cristy Leask

The global pandemic COVID-19 has created major disruption across the world. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have been affected significantly, with students and staff vacating campuses as lockdowns approached. With this came the drastic decision at UKZN - a face-to-face Higher Education Institution - to move to online teaching. As a result of the sudden onset of the pandemic, each College/School within UKZN started its own mapping towards achieving this. Many academics were frantically trying to learn tools to support this new mode of teaching, conducting needs analysis to understand their student’s access and abilities to study online and developing procedures and guidelines for the implementation of this online teaching and learning.

COVID-19 instilled panic in many academics worldwide, especially those of whom were not at all technologically inclined. One of the ways to support this category of academics at UKZN was through the offering of a series of digital training webinars. The sense of panic amongst UKZN academics was clearly evident when sessions were booked out within one hour of being advertised. This forced us to continually increase the numbers per session from 40 to 100 to 150 and eventually 180 in institutional-wide sessions, which were further supplemented by smaller College-based sessions.

It is somewhat strange having to teach practical concepts through a virtual environment, where, due to the number of participants, screen sharing, video and microphones had to be controlled. The assistance of a technical support person at each session helped the facilitator to focus on the content delivered, and address “academic” related queries.

Understanding the implementation of digital tools at different Schools/Disciplines has been a great eye-opener. Learning occurred as new ideas from participants came to light. In essence, the support put in place to “empower” our academics, assisted in introducing them to already existing tools at our Institution, and guiding them in the basics of implementation and adoption of these tools to support their shift to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A transition to “online learning” in the South African context has however once again illustrated the stark contrasts. Those who have access and the necessary know-how have more of an advantage. As academics in South Africa, we have come to experience how issues of access to a computer, network, internet, electricity and a conducive space, can facilitate or hinder online learning. We have witnessed this at the various levels of education - the “success to the successful” archetype is of relevance, and inequalities once again come to the fore.

As highlighted in a recent webinar, focusing on: Digitial Ways of Doctoral Studies in COVID-Times: International Perspectives, hosted by the UKZN College of Humanities, we have perhaps largely experienced the concept of “remote learning” in a crisis/emergency, as opposed to real online learning - there are profound implications across the spectrum. It has been interesting to see how some students have embraced technology - Zoom meetings are indeed quite fascinating as a new way of conducting lectures. We are now getting used to the Zoom etiquette language - ‘unmute, you breaking up, we lost you, you disappeared there but you back now, so proceed…’ and we have figured out at which angle to place the camera. We can understand and appreciate the benefits but also feel somewhat strange when we do not see faces and hear responses. Students, who are also working parents, have felt the pressure of having to adapt to remote working and learning, whilst also tending to the educational needs of their children. The very strict lockdown in South Africa has seen many shifting between the various stages - fear, anxiety, optimism, helplessness, etc. There is an awareness of the stress that multiple stakeholders (students, academics, parents, management, etc.) in HEIs are experiencing. Effective stakeholder management in HEIs is essential for navigating the complexity, and an appreciation of the need to try to balance the various needs of the diverse stakeholders.

It has however been incredibly comforting to see the number of Webinars, Zoom meetings and even virtual conferences now at our disposal. So while feeling the disconnect, a strange sense of connectedness to those in one’s field may be developing. We are forced to become mindful and present of trends in our fields, as various experts around the world take time to freely share their views, with the aim of sharing best practice and facilitating development.

Opportunities for collaboration have increased - both locally and internationally. There are certainly many avenues for research that have opened up, but we are also finding that certain theories and models now come under scrutiny for their relevance and place, due to the immense complexity that has come about.

There is a need for staff to continue developing their skills, especially in ensuring they are adapting to the digital world. A considerable amount of time has to be spent on assisting with the integration of digital teaching and learning tools into teaching practice. An investment in digital literacy of our academics will go a long way to support the future “new HEI” environment which most likely will not revert to a fully face-to-face environment, but, at the most, a blended learning environment. We have also become aware of how much face-to-face interaction actually means in certain contexts - eg teaching postgraduate part-time, adult learners. The new mode of delivery has meant that experiential learning and the interactive exercises that were essential to making the theory relevant to the work context, now largely fall away, due to not having a conducive space to run such activities. We are also aware of how learners may battle to find the time and space to focus, as they may be under increased pressure at home.

Reflection has pushed one’s thinking and required the consideration of new approaches at a pace never experienced before. The hope for the day after COVID-19 is to implement models of collaboration that will span across boundaries to stimulate new dialogue, theory, research, and applications in many areas where critical gaps exist in significant challenges. During COVID-19, each one of us has heard that the world will not be the same again. Individually and collectively, we had a wrenching global shock. HEIs, in particular, are reeling from it; a new ‘normal’ might look nothing like the pre COVID-19 crisis.

Overall, the dream is that one’s work will undergo a shift in how we go about doing work in terms of where we focus research and how we as a profession innovate new tools and practices. We take ownership and accountability for the “science-practice gap” within the profession and how we maintain relevancy and impact. Much of this discussion is related to the lack of relevance against a growing gap between science and practice. Reflection encourages us to consider the variety of elements that have contributed to us losing touch. Personal reflection is important for continued growth, learning and development.’

We need to ask: Who I am both personally and professionally in the COVID-19 pandemic and what is my role in the day after COVID-19, and what I will do?

· Dr Upasana Singh is a senior lecturer in the Discipline of Information Systems and Technology at UKZN

· Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches, is an Associate Professor at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership and lectures at postgraduate and masters level in Leadership Studies

· Dr Cristy Leask is an adjunct faculty at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership; and a skilled organisational consultant at Symbiosis Consulting, and Capella University in the United States

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