HIRAX Project Edging Closer to Dish Installation at Karoo Site

HIRAX Project Edging Closer to Dish Installation at Karoo Site
Professor Kavilan Moodley alongside the newly-installed MMS prototype dish at the SARAO Hartebeesthoek site.Click here for isiZulu version

The Hydrogen and Real time Analysis eXperiment (HIRAX) project led by UKZN is achieving milestones on its journey towards the ultimate installation of a dish array at its site in the Karoo by deploying and testing two prototype telescope dish designs at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) in Hartebeesthoek, Gauteng.

The prototypes, one made of fibreglass and the other aluminium, were designed and manufactured through a partnership between NJV Consulting and Rebcon in Durban, and MMS Technology in Pretoria, and funded through UKZN and the Department of Science and Innovation through the National Research Foundation. The companies collaborated closely with fabricators and scientists to optimise and streamline materials and processes.

The HIRAX project aims to map almost the entire southern sky using high intensity hydrogen mapping to detect baryon acoustic oscillations (BAOs), remnant of the distribution of early galaxies imprinted by sound waves that can assist with measuring the expansion history of the universe, illuminating the nature of dark energy. This will involve investigations into fast radio bursts (FRB) and pulsars, both transient radio sources. To achieve this, the project requires custom-built dishes that will remain stationary with periodical maneuvering to expand coverage of the southern sky.

Ultimately, 1 024 of these dishes will be installed in an array at the HIRAX main site within the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in the Karoo, an important development towards being able to conduct research into the evolution of dark energy, a mysterious force that scientists believe may be causing the expansion of the universe.

HIRAX began collaborating with local firms in 2018 to develop the final dish specifications required for the project. The precisely-designed six-metre dish prototypes can be manually re-pointed every few months, a cost-effective approach, to allow the instrument to map a third of the sky over a five-year period. The dishes are currently being assessed at SARAO so that final requirements can be developed for the first 256 dishes to be installed in the Karoo.

The cutting-edge HIRAX project has been hailed as an important development in South Africa’s efforts to lead in the global astronomy landscape and foster collaboration between scientists.

Principal Investigator, Professor Kavilan Moodley emphasised HIRAX’s efforts to build technical capacity in South Africa through collaboration between the scientific community and industry. The project team plans to manufacture its dish hardware and subsystems in the country, develop big data analysis tools here, and employ local contractors for deployment of the systems.

SARAO Hartebeesthoek has provided important professional support, lending their expertise and experience to the dish installation and testing of the two prototype designs.

The MMS fibreglass dish can tilt to 30 degrees either side of its zenith, and was designed both for high performance and reasonable cost, with a low mount for easy adjustment and a thin dish.

The NJV Rebcon aluminium dish was developed for practical assembly, disassembly, transportation, installation and serviceability, with laser-cut elements that ensure parabolic accuracy, and an innovative design that is fully recyclable. The fixed dish can tilt down as far as the horizon.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

Renowned Cultural Administrator Appointed Centre for Creative Arts Director

Renowned Cultural Administrator Appointed Centre for Creative Arts Director
The new Director of UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts, Dr Ismail Mahomed.

Accomplished playwright and cultural administrator Dr Ismail Mahomed is the new Director of UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) in the College of Humanities.

With more than 30 years of experience in the performing arts sector, Mahomed says he is thrilled to join UKZN and looks forward to working with University management and the team at the CCA to strengthen the four festivals and to re-envision the role that both the festivals and the Centre play in strengthening a cultural economy in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mahomed intends focusing on strengthening the CCA’s network, building capacity and opportunities within the Centre and to present forums through which the CCA plays a facilitating and leadership role in how culture can advance social development and inspire new artistic practices.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted severely on the artistic practice and livelihoods of artists across the globe,’ said Mahomed. ‘Some of the immediate concerns we will need to focus on are how the connections between artists, audiences, cultural spaces and funders need to be re-imagined. During this challenging time when the physical assembly of audiences and artists is restricted, the festivals need to focus on alternative ways of curating ideas and creativity. The festivals will also have to note the social disparities in our society where access to data can either limit or inhibit the access to online arts experiences. We will need to re-imagine beyond just working in online spaces.’

During his tenure as CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation, he used his strategic vision and well-grounded management skills to grow the Theatre’s box office, its attraction as a venue to hire and broadened its sponsorship base. He also introduced a series of international collaborations, residencies and exchanges.

Mahomed has taught master classes in arts leadership and management at the Tshwane University of Technology and Rhodes University, and participated in seminars and delivered lectures on theatre leadership at the University of Johannesburg, the University of Cape Town and the University of Witwatersrand as well participating in arts symposiums both nationally and internationally. He is also a recipient of the Arts and Culture Trust’s Arts Administrator of the Year Award.

As an accomplished playwright, his work has been staged in South Africa, Chile, Denmark, Germany and in the United States.

Indiana University Press in Drama published his play, Purdah, for the New South Africa, an anthology of plays edited by David Graver, while another of his productions: Cheaper than Roses, was published by Routledge Publishers in Black South African Women, an anthology of plays edited by Kathy Perkins.

Mahomed - a finalist in both the Amstel Playwright of the Year Competition and the PANSA Playwrights Competition - holds an award for theatrical excellence presented to him by the South African Institute for Theatre Technology. In 2006, the Arts and Culture Trust honoured him with the Arts Administrator of the Year Award, while his theatre-in-education project Newsblitz! was a winner of the Caxton Media in Education award.

A regular contributor to various publications during his tenure as Artistic Director for the National Arts Festival, he wrote a weekly column in The Herald newspaper and served as a regular adjudicator for various forums, including the annual Business and Arts South Africa Awards, the Naledi Theatre Awards and the FEDA Festival.

The Makhanda Chapter of Rotary International presented him with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award for the impressive way he has contributed to the growth and internationalisation of the National Arts Festival, which awarded him the Standard Bank Standing Ovation Award in recognition of his visionary contribution to the artistic growth of the event.

Mahomed, who holds the Chevalier le Ordre des Lettres et Arts Award (Knight of the Order of Arts & Literature Award) from the French government, received an honorary doctorate from the Tshwane University of Technology.

Words: Melissa Mungroo


author : .
author email : .

COVID-19 – the Impact on Children with Autism, their Parents and/or Caregivers

COVID-19 – the Impact on Children with Autism, their Parents and/or Caregivers

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with the daily lives of autistic people. Regulations to flatten the curve in South Africa have caused drastic changes in the routines of autistic people because of the closure of Early Education Centres (ECDs), schools and adult learning centres as well as the workplaces of their parents and caregivers. The impact of the changes in childcare and participation in economic activities of parents and caregivers has had disastrous consequences for the physical and mental well-being of autistic persons. It has also caused anxiety for parents and caregivers about appropriate and safe care for their children.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental, lifelong condition characterised by difficulties in communication, social interaction and the need for sameness and predictability. It also manifests in sensory processing differences. There are varying levels of autism with differences in support needs from low to high. During lockdown levels 5, 4 and 3, autistic people struggled to cope with the changes in their daily care to various degrees.

The following are examples of issues and problems encountered by autistic people during lockdown:

•    Sizwe (19) lives with his mother in an apartment complex in a unit which has a small garden. He stims which is a practice that allows him to self-regulate and for him this involves talking and making loud noises outside in the garden. During lockdown Level 5, their elderly neighbour complained to the body corporate, indicating that Sizwe was violating the nuisance rules of the complex. Since the lockdown regulations did not allow exercise outside the premises, his behaviour escalated. Without external intervention, he faced the risk of being arrested. A plea by Disabled Persons Organisations to the President for a relaxation of exercise rules for autistic persons was not successful. During Level 4 there was a small window for exercise in the mornings (when parents are often at work) and then during Level 3 (until 18h00) there was a limited reprieve.

•    Oscar and Tshepo, brothers aged 12 and seven, are on the autism spectrum. Their older sister, Nandi, an adult with an intellectual disability and her six-year old son, Nkosikhona, who is also on the spectrum, live with them. The children’s mother, Londi, is a nurse and single mother. During lockdown Levels 5 and 4, she had no choice but to leave the three minors in the care of her adult daughter, while she continued employment as an essential worker. Oscar has very high support needs while the two younger children are still toilet training so they need to wear nappies. All three boys were traumatised by the change in routine and suffered meltdowns which can involve self-injurious behaviour and damage to property. This escalated to a point when Oscar climbed the roof of their building and the fire department had to be called to rescue him. Londi received numerous complaints from neighbours and their security company about the behaviour of and safety concerns for the children. Her application to her employer to be allowed permission to take paid leave in order to care for her children and grandchild while their day care was closed was not successful. Taking unpaid leave would have left the family without an income so Londi had to continue going to work, leaving her children in dangerous circumstances. She eventually contracted COVID-19.

•    Dennis, a four-year-old boy, has level 3 autism which means he requires daily one-on-one facilitation and support. This involves support in every aspect of his life, including toileting, bathing, eating and day-to-day executive functioning, impulsivity control and managing his anxiety. His mother, a member of the South African Police Services (SAPS), rendering essential services throughout the lockdown period, could no longer rely on childcare by the father after he had to return to work under lockdown Level 3. With specialised ECD not yet available for her son, she applied to be considered as a “COVID-19 vulnerable employee” under SAPS procedures, which would allow her to care for her son at home until ECD reopens. She awaits the outcome of this application.

South African workplaces and communities were ill-equipped for the impact of COVID-19 on childcare, home life and work for families with autistic persons. While our labour laws recognise family responsibilities and the need for reasonable accommodation of parents and caregivers of children with disabilities, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of uncertainty arose as to whether this protection was still available to families. Government’s declaration of a national state of disaster does not suspend the exercise of our human rights as happens in a state of emergency. Instead, adjustments to how we operate are involved.

With government and workplace restrictions on freedom of movement, community living and the workplace, and the closure of ECDs, schools, and adult learning centres as well as restrictions on networks of support such as childcare by family members or friends, parents and caregivers of autistic persons were left with unconscionable decisions - not earning a living or leaving their children in potentially dangerous child care arrangements.

Fortunately, some workplaces developed protocols and procedures that take cognisance of this impact and adapted workplace rules to cater for employees with family responsibilities. Some communities have embraced the need for a “physically distant” ubuntu, which is a recognition of the dignity of all persons and the fact that some people are more harshly affected by COVID-19 restrictions than others.However, other communities have not done so, with dire consequences for families facing continued stigma and harassment from neighbours or unsafe childcare conditions for their children. While interventions by disabled persons organisations, such as Action in Autism, have assisted families such as those of Sizwe and Dennis by providing information on the effects of autism on childcare and daily living to employers and community members, an ad hoc approach is not sustainable.

The Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998, the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995, the Promotion of Equality and Prohibition of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000 and their regulations and guidelines all provide legislative protection to affected families. 

We call on workplaces and community members to take cognisance of these protections that recognise the family responsibility and need for reasonable accommodation of affected families at home, in communities and at work. Reasonable accommodation may involve adjustments to working conditions and schedules. Further, we call on them, where needed, to adapt rules and protocols and restore supportive relationships with affected families during the COVID-19 era. Such an approach will ensure the promotion of the human rights of autistic people to dignity and equality. Where employers and community members violate these rights, parents and caregivers may have to resort to legal remedies at the CCMA, Labour Courts and Equality Courts, sometimes approaching private attorneys or law clinics such as university law clinics or non-governmental law clinics including the Legal Resources Centre or Section27. Alternatively, recourse to the complaints mechanisms of the SA Human Rights Commission or Commission for Gender Equality is available.

Willene Holness is a senior lecturer in UKZN’s School of Law, an admitted attorney and a board member of the Shahumna Adult Business Transference Skills Centre (for Autistic adults) in Durban. However, she writes in her personal capacity.

Liza Aziz, a disability advocate, is the founder and chairperson of Action in Autism, a non-profit organisation that serves autistic persons and their families by providing support, learning, services and resources, including an Early Childhood Education and Adult Learning Centre based in Durban. 

*The names of the adults and children in the article have been changed to protect their identities.

Photographs: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

Meet SA’s First SARChI Chair in Inclusive Cities

Meet SA’s First SARChI Chair in Inclusive Cities
Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu is the SARChI Chair in Inclusive Cities in South Africa.Click here for isiZulu version

Lecturer in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu (35), has become the first SARChI Chair in Inclusive Cities in South Africa.

The Chair is co-funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and South African Cities Network.

This is the first Chair in the Built Environment Cluster at UKZN and speaks directly to the core courses on cities. It provides a direct link between industry and academia while further creating a platform for funding opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to further their studies as well as for collaboration with various institutions from a range of disciplines and to create a future research centre that focuses on cities.

Said Magidimisha-Chipungu: ‘This Chair provides an opportunity to further deepen my knowledge on the cities studies. It serves as a motivation for other young academics with an appetite to be SARChI Chairs. You do not have to wait until you are 50 or 60 years old to become a Chair – you can be anything you want at any age as long as you put effort into what you do.’

Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said: ‘I am delighted about Professor Magidimisga-Chipungu’s accomplishment. She is a fantastic scholar, hardworking academic leader, and influencer of note within communities of practice. I am not surprised having known her and worked with her for almost 10 years – she’s incredible. Her accomplishment not only affirms the University’s commitment to equity, but also assists us in realising two of our key research strategic areas of understanding: African Cities of the Future and Fostering Social Cohesion.’

She is an NRF-rated researcher who made history as the first South African- born Black woman to (1) graduate from UKZN with a PhD in Town and Regional Planning and (2) be appointed Associate Professor in Town and Regional Planning at UKZN with a master’s degree in the same field and a degree in Geography and the Environment - both from UKZN. In addition, she has a Diploma in Project Management from the Roseburg College in Cape Town.

Magidimisha-Chipungu’s awards include being one of the 2018 Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young Influential South Africans; the 2018 UKZN Best Young Academic; the College of Humanities Teaching Excellence Award; and the International Society of City and Regional Planning Award of Excellence for the outstanding role she played during the Young Professional Planners’ workshop and her participation in organising the Congress in 2016.

Her research and publications record include authoring and co-authoring a variety of book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles. She has recently published a book titled: Spatial Inequalities in South African Cities: Towards Redistributive Justice and was awarded funding by the NRF to undertake research on spatial inequality – a project she recently completed.

Magidimisha-Chipungu served briefly on the City Planning Commission for eThekwini Municipality with a strategic responsibility of advising the Executive Committee and Councilors’ in the Municipality. She has served on the advisory committee of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA-KZN) with a focus on spatial equity in the province.

She is a Board member of SACPLAN - a national professional body that governs the teaching and practice of town planning in South Africa. As a professional town planner, she also served on the KwaZulu-Natal Tribunal whose mandate was to resolve town planning disputes in the province. 

Magidimisha-Chipungu is one of the few selected people invited to take part in the 24-hour City project with the University of Politecnico di Milan DAStU, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, in Florence, Italy.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

UKZN Professor Appointed to Editorial Board of the Journal of Retail and Marketing Review

UKZN Professor Appointed to Editorial Board of the <em>Journal of Retail and Marketing Review</em>
Professor Maxwell Phiri will serve on the editorial and advisory board of the Journal of Retail and Marketing Review.Click here for isiZulu version

The Journal of Retail and Marketing Review (JRMR) has appointed Professor Maxwell Phiri of UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance (SMIG) to serve on its editorial and advisory board for three years.

The JRMR - accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) - is a prestigious international and interdisciplinary scholarly platform for sharing insightful and original research and promoting debate in the rapidly developing and converging fields of marketing and retailing.

Phiri joins the board with a wealth of experience as one of the current reviewers for the African Journal of Business and Economic Research (AJBER). He served on the editorial committee for a special edition of the Alternation Journal, which carried selected articles from the e-MIG conference held in Mauritius in 2019. He was also one of the editors for the e-MIG 2019 conference proceedings.

As an academic leader for the Discipline of Supply Chain and Marketing in SMIG, Phiri’s appointment comes at a critical time when the COVID-19 pandemic has put the resilience of global supply chains to the test - many local and national retailers have been crippled and consumer and buyer behaviours disrupted. This presents an opportunity for scholars to conduct meaningful research that will assist players in the retail and marketing sectors to navigate the unprecedented business challenges. As such, platforms like the JRMR are ideal for robust debates and insights during these trying times.

Commenting on his appointment, Phiri said: ‘As we forge ahead in building the image of our offerings in Marketing and Supply Chain Management, the possible introduction of a Bachelor of Commerce course specialising in Retail Management and Marketing as well as SMIG’s participation in this internationally recognised and accredited DHET journal, will assist in setting us apart from others in terms of our excellence and our desire to train and graduate competent candidates for the industry.’

The editor of JRMR, Professor Michael Cant, welcomed Phiri to a board of about 35 local and international academics and said he was looking forward to drawing from Phiri’s academic acumen to assist the journal maintain its high standards in evaluating submitted articles and giving invaluable feedback to authors.

The Dean and Head of SMIG, Professor Stephen Mutula, congratulated Phiri and said: ‘The appointment of Professor Phiri to the editorial board of such a high-ranking journal is testament to SMIG’s commitment and resolve to promoting research excellence, raising the visibility of the University and extending the frontiers of knowledge in the global space of scholarship to help address complex problems facing humanity in the 21st century from diverse disciplinary epistemologies.’

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

UKZN’s New Pedagogy Facilitated through Online Learning

UKZN’s New Pedagogy Facilitated through Online Learning
Professor Nirmala Gopal, academic activist on Human Rights.Click here for isiZulu version

- By Professor Nirmala Gopal

It is June 2020, and since the country’s national lockdown, major transformation in the way we teach and learn at UKZN has been triggered and fast-tracked by COVID-19.

We have noticed how ‘Online learning is catalysing a pedagogical shift in how we teach and learn. There is a shift away from top-down lecturing and passive students to a more interactive, collaborative approach in which students and instructor co-create the learning process. The Instructor’s role is changing from the “sage on the stage” to “the guide on the side”’ (Stern, 2005).

Predicated on the preceding notion, this opinion piece intends to contextualise UKZN’s narrative of online teaching in relation to two of its Strategic Goals: teaching and research.

UKZN’s online initiative began almost a decade ago with staggered buy-in by staff and students. Notwithstanding the staggered buy-in, staff and students acclimatised to Moodle and other intermittent forms of digital platforms.

UKZN’s digital or online teaching and learning philosophy was premised on its Teaching and Learning policy (implemented in 2009) that focuses on learner centeredness. Informed by Jean Piaget, UKZN’s Teaching and Learning policy emphasises:

•    The learner as a unique individual

•    The relevance of the learner’s background and culture

•    Increased responsibility for learning belongs to the student

•    Motivation for learning comes from successful completion of challenging tasks.

By extension, the above constructs demonstrate the notion of “leaving no student behind”. Online teaching provides the opportunity for deep learning framed by Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy.

These philosophies have been the hallmark of UKZN’s ideation of a Premier University of African Scholarship.

During a period of three months the global and national Higher Education sector reinvented itself. All for a good cause. Students are at last co-creators of knowledge. There is greater transparency and accountability on all stakeholders. Students are at the forefront of debating, analysing and critically assessing what they are taught, how they are taught and what their own teaching and learning responsibilities are.

Online learning has secured UKZN’s place on national and global Higher Education sector’s map.

We did this when we incorporated rigorous international best practices into our local best practices and re-commenced online teaching and learning initiatives at the commencement of COVID-19 public communication. The University’s executive management constituted and directed the “project” with the expertise of the strongly entrenched University Teaching and Learning Office.

The online teaching and learning plan accentuated and entrenched online teaching pedagogies to ensure the preservation of knowledge creation through quality models.

Staff as key stakeholders in leading the initiative promptly got on board with a matter of a week or two following the clarion call for this transformed mode of teaching and learning in pursuit of the idiom “no student left behind”. 

The political consciousness of the Executive Management Committee, staff and students drove this concept with appropriate vigour. Every student’s needs matter. This is regardless of race, gender, culture, geographic location and other relevant variables. The University invested sleepless nights and long days in ensuring maximum participation of all stakeholders.

This initiative witnessed a great sense of staff collegiality and cohesion (a significant yet unintended by-product) as various skills and knowledge were shared to ensure no staff or student was left behind. The organic cohesion the University witnessed was a further accomplishment, which too had its genesis almost a decade ago.

The University Teaching and Learning Office under the stewardship of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Sandile Songca worked tirelessly and in consultation with the University Executive Leadership Forum, Senate and other relevant committees to achieve pre-determined milestones in readiness for a world-class experience for staff and students.

In preparation for the exciting journey but conscious of a degree of staff and student trepidation, staff began their reskilling via a host of high-level training opportunities offered via online platforms. University academic and support staff instinctively showed an appetite for the training, evidenced by large numbers of participants. Students participated in dry runs to ascertain where challenges exist with the University responding accordingly to alleviate challenges. Of course the University as a learning institution put its best foot forward in ensuring multiple support opportunities for staff and students for the long-term sustainability of online teaching and learning. 

Numerous virtual training courses and workshops were oversubscribed by enthusiastic staff- a further indication of staff commitment to provide a much deserved quality education to our dedicated cohorts of students. I make a distinction between cohorts to demonstrate that UKZN has a heterogeneous student population and whose needs are indeed nuanced. Hence training sessions were and are based on the heterogeneity of students.

Simultaneous with staff training mandatory decisions on revised teaching and learning models, implementation dates, modes of assessment, student access and other practical matters occurred. All preparation was in favour of facilitating staff and student mandates.

UKZN’s well-resourced, established and vibrant University Technology Enhanced Learning (UTEL) ethos facilitated on-line teaching and learning. This collaboration between the University’s Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) and Information Communication Services (ICS) which commenced long before the pandemic propelled the University’s technology trajectory. UTEL was established to provide a suite of technology rich teaching and learning solutions and innovative pedagogies, using eLearning, online learning, blended learning and the flipped classroom approach. The stage was set almost a decade ago.

The University’s revitalised recording studios facilitated online teaching in a professional manner. Staff have access to existing well-designed e-learning solutions. They were able to maximise technology enhanced teaching and learning activities.

Abreast of continuing advances in digital technologies, social media, and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, UKZN’s online teaching now gives students, “much more control over access to and the creation and sharing of knowledge. This empowers students, and staff to finding ways to leverage this enhanced student control to increase their motivation and content relevance”. (Teachonline.ca: 2018).

UKZN patiently waits to harvest the fruit of online teaching as staff and students become more familiar with digital technologies for teaching and learning. Undoubtedly for staff unrivalled pedagogical responses and strategies are emerging. UKZN known for its academic distinction provided training opportunities on teaching with online pedagogy, uploading videos in Moodle and Zoom using Kaltura. Staff are skilled in using an existing teaching and learning platform but with latest technology to provide students with a rewarding and relevant learning experience. 

Online opportunities are great. Initially some students may experience some discontent and trepidation. But if we go back to the invention of Braille in 1824 by Louis Braille we realise how more citizens could access learning. In a similar vein online teaching will give more South Africans Higher Education opportunities. The bigger picture is we will close the gap between the have’s and have not’s. After all this is a principle that guides the majority of us. Online teaching will materialise the philosophy of Ubuntu. We just need to embrace online teaching and our centuries of values will unfold. All made possible by the Coronavirus.

Remember the 1790 education system developed to prepare citizens to work in factories. The 4th and 5th Industrial Revolutions require us to prepare and be prepared for requisite skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, analytical thinking, etc. These skills are pre-disposed to make us relevant for the workplace.

Let us be the Apollo 17 that was successful during a time of crises with minimum resources. In the words of our President Cyril Ramaphosa, ‘we shall prevail.’ ‘Technology makes this possible. Let us not be left behind.’

If you are experiencing challenges with accessing online platforms or you have not interacted with the University since lockdown - let us help you! The University has a dedicated team to assist you. Please share your experiences with us by sending the following details:

•    Your name and surname

•    Your student number

•    Your cellphone number

•    Your e-mail address

•    Your home address where you reside at the moment

•    GPS co-ordinates where your home location is.

Send your responses to UKZN using the following contacts:

•    E-mail: data@ukzn.ac.za

•    SMS number: 073 529 0192

Let’s embrace the new normal and work together to save the academic year – after all, we are all in this together!

UKZN’s Professor Nirmala Gopal is an academic activist on Human Rights and anti any form of oppression and discriminatory behaviour.

author : .
author email : .

Study Reveals Serious Health Consequences for those Living Near Waste Disposal Sites

Study Reveals Serious Health Consequences for those Living Near Waste Disposal Sites
Dr Mitsuaki Tomita (left) and Professor Rob Slotow.Click here for isiZulu version

A group of international scientists, including prominent UKZN researchers, have found that people living close to waste disposal sites suffer several chronic clinical conditions.

Their study also found that the closer the participants lived to the waste site (as close as 5km), the greater their likelihood of being diagnosed with asthma, tuberculosis, diabetes or depression.

Titled: Exposure to Waste Sites and their Impact on Health: a Panel and Geospatial Analysis of Nationally Representative Data from South Africa, 2008–2015, the study was recently published in the journal: The Lancet Planet Health.

The scientists accessed data over a nine-year period from the South African National Income Dynamics study which included 32 255 participants. The data included the health status of participants living close to waste sites, as determined by data captured in the South African National Income Dynamics Study.

UKZN’s Dr Mitsuaki (Andrew) Tomita, lead author of the study, said: ‘Between 2008 and 2015, we observed a substantial increase in exposure of households to waste sites. The median distance of households to waste sites decreased from 68km to only 8.5km over the study period. We found there was a greater likelihood of asthma, tuberculosis, diabetes, and depression in individuals residing within 5km from waste sites.’

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa is in the midst of a waste disposal crisis with only 10% of waste currently being recycled whilst 98 million tons are deposited into landfills each year. UKZN’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of African Cities of the Future, Professor Rob Slotow, commented: ‘The increased projected levels of waste in South Africa, especially in poorly managed waste sites, are a huge concern. It can result in serious health complications for households as far as 10km away. Landfill sites harbour rodent vectors of respiratory diseases, and air pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide emissions can harm the respiratory system leading to lung diseases, whilst groundwater contamination can also affect health outcomes.’

Professor Jonathan Burns, former UKZN Head of Psychiatry and current honorary professor in Psychiatry at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, said: ‘In apartheid South Africa, due to racist environmental policies, “non-White” people were dispossessed of their land and forcibly moved to sites that were racially designated, often at urban outskirts including close to landfill sites. The danger posed by certain landfill gases lasts for decades, specifically for those living in close proximity to such sites that had little choice as to where they could live in pre-democratic South Africa. Further people living close to these sites; often reported odour, traffic, pollution, and property devaluation, which can also have a psychological impact on these communities.’

The scientists propose a sustainable development approach to address the enormous rise of waste sites in South Africa in order to improve the health and well-being of its people according to the Sustainable Development Goals. Tomita added: ‘We identified multiple health problems in individuals living close to waste sites, which is contrary to the constitutional human rights of the population, as outlined in the Constitution of South Africa (ie Section 24, the right of individuals to live in an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing). Furthermore, the association with mental health outcomes indicates a potential negative effect on the dignity of individuals living near waste sites, which is linked to both social justice and wellbeing.’

Slotow commented: ‘In developing countries, it is essential that due regard is given to fundamental human rights, properly balancing against decisions relating to economic development. Producers of waste (individual entities or countries) need to fully understand, quantify, and take responsibility for the complete costs of waste generation, particularly for the burden placed on communities that live near waste sites. We want to stress the need to prioritise universal health coverage of at-risk communities currently exposed to waste sites as well as minimising waste production to reduce adverse effects on human health and wellbeing.’

Other authors of the study include honorary professor at UKZN, Professor Frank Tanser, who is also a scientist in the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), and professor in the Department of Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Dr Diego F Cuadros of the University of Cincinnati in the United States.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photographs: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

Quantum Techniques Could Revolutionise IT

Quantum Techniques Could Revolutionise IT
Quantum classifier with tailored quantum kernel.

A team of scientists from data cybernetics in Germany, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and UKZN’s Centre for Quantum Technology has published research in Nature Quantum Information about the successful application of a machine learning tool known as the “kernel method to quantum computers”, which could enhance various machine learning methods.

Quantum computing, which solves some computational problems far faster than classical computing by employing quantum phenomena, boasts an ability to enhance machine learning tasks, such as pattern recognition in the analysis of extremely large datasets.

By learning from labelled data, machine learning techniques are used to predict categories for input data, and these pattern recognition techniques in classical supervised machine learning aim to get the best possible results while using minimal computational resources. Despite the limitations in their computations, these techniques have been applied successfully in science and industry.

Vectors, the numerical representations of objects in pattern recognition and machine learning, are collected in what is called a feature space. Kernel methods are an important tool in pattern analysis, referring to a similarity measure of data corresponding to an inner product in the feature space. They are vital for pattern analysis, however classical classifiers relying on kernel methods are limited when feature space is large, and the kernel functions are computationally expensive to evaluate.

The UKZN, KAIST and data cybernetics team further proposed a quantum binary classifier, where the raw data is either represented by classical data via a quantum feature map or intrinsic quantum data, and the classification is based on the kernel function that measures the closeness of the test data to training data.

Dr Daniel Park of KAIST explained that the distance-based quantum classifier’s kernel is based on the quantum state fidelity, a natural measure of the similarity in the quantum domain, and said the quantum kernel can be tailored systematically with a quantum circuit, making it an excellent candidate for real-world applications.

The “swap-test” algorithm developed by these researchers will be practically useful for machine learning tasks where there is a small number of training data and large feature space. The “swap-test” is an elementary operation in quantum computing that calculates the state overlap (or fidelity) of two states. Regardless of the number or size of the data, this protocol requires only a constant number of repetitions, and their novel approach means labelled training data can be densely packed into a quantum state and then compared to the test data.

‘I am delighted to see this great improvement which makes it possible to apply kernel methods to their full extent,’ said Professor Francesco Petruccione, who is the South African Research Chair for Quantum Information Processing and Communication and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Big Data and Informatics at the University.

Petruccione noted the key advantage of the swap-test classifier in comparison to earlier classification algorithms was that the state fidelity of two quantum states includes the imaginary parts of the probability amplitudes which enables use of the full feature Hilbert vector space.

To demonstrate the usefulness of the classification protocol, independent researcher Dr Carsten Blank implemented the classifier and compared classical simulations with a realistic noise model with a proof-of-principle experiment using the IBM Quantum Experience cloud platform.

‘In September 2019 the results were suddenly astonishingly good, proving that our ideas are valid and that the performance of devices is rapidly improving. This is a promising sign that the field is progressing,’ said Blank.

Park, with Dr June-Koo Kevin Rhee of KAIST and Petruccione, found that a technique called quantum forking can be used to implement the classifier.

‘This makes it possible to start the protocol from scratch when the labelled training data and the test data state are all in a product state,’ said Rhee. ‘An application to this might be classification of quantum states that we as humans don’t have a priori knowledge about.’

‘We demonstrated that our classifier is equivalent to measuring the expectation value of a Helstrom operator, from which the well-known optimal quantum state discrimination can be derived,’ said Park, calling the finding surprising as it links the optimal state discrimination to state classification and motivates more research.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Image: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

Education Academic in Fight Against COVID-19

Education Academic in Fight Against COVID-19
Professor Vimolan Mudaly from the School of Education.

Professor Vimolan Mudaly of the School of Education is on a team of experts selected from national and international candidates to produce a report analysing South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mudaly will participate in expert groups contributing to the development of the official Country Report assessing the effectiveness of interventions being used by South Africa to combat the spread as well as the concomitant socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The South African government, through the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC), has requested the National Research Foundation (NRF) to mobilise expert groups to contribute to the development of the Country Report.

The GTAC is an agency of the National Treasury department, established to support government departments on an agile, responsive and as-needed basis. The centre promotes this support through partnerships with academic and research institutions, civil society and business, while the DPME co-ordinates government, planning, monitoring and evaluation to address poverty, unemployment and inequality.

In this time of crisis, it is considered imperative to consolidate all resources and efforts to support government’s response to the pandemic.

Mudaly has chosen to work with the Basic and Higher Education aspect of the report, which is his field of expertise. The DPME, GTAC and the NRF have granted permission for data to be collected nationally and internationally. 

‘Currently, the first four chapters of the report are being written and the other eight chapters will be completed within the next few months,’ said Mudaly. ‘I feel quite chuffed at being selected and I am sure our learning from this entire experience will prepare us well for any future calamities that may assail us,’ said Mudaly.

The team is composed of specialists and experts supported by the NRF through the Research Chairs and Centres of Excellence (RCCE), Research Chairs Communities of Practice, the International Science Council National Committees, and other experts from science councils.

The group will comprise between six and eight members to allow diversity in skills and experiences.

The experts are expected to assess the current level of knowledge about COVID-19, identify gaps and accelerate priority research, and stimulate novel investigations and theoretical perspectives on how people are psychologically affected by and coping with COVID-19.

They will also examine measures put in place by government to minimise the impact of the virus; and to offer governments and policymakers’ evidence and strategies to improve public and clinical intervention systems.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

Humanities Student Hosts Unravel Podcast

Humanities Student Hosts <em>Unravel</em> Podcast
UKZN student, Ms Nokuthula Khwela who hosts a popular podcast.

Drama and Media Studies student, Ms Nokuthula Khwela hosts her own podcast titled Unravel on Spotify and Captive FM aimed at addressing societal challenges she feels are constantly swept under the carpet.

After just over two weeks, her podcast content boasts more than 2 000 downloads with topics covered including prostitution, feminism, lobola, “cheating”, pornography and money.

Speaking about the creation of Unravel, Khwela said: ‘I used to update my social media statuses on experiences which cultivated my character while also sharing my observations on humans in society. I was literally unravelling these ideas and the response I got from friends on Facebook inspired and motivated me to create a platform where people can address every day human struggles in our society.’

Armed with her podcast concept, Khwela collaborated with Mr Elijah Mahlangu, a psychologist and researcher on masculinity and romantic relationships.

‘This podcast is particularly relevant to young adults as it not only serves as an information awareness tool for people but gets them to think critically about the topics on hand,’ said Khwela. ‘This in turn helps change mind-sets and facilitates much needed change in society. The podcast also brings healing.’

She has various projects in the pipeline.

Listen to Unravel with Nokuthula Khwela at:



Words: Melissa Mungroo


author : .
author email : .

UKZN Students Unite Against Racism

UKZN Students Unite Against Racism
UKZN students who have joined the #MzansiUthuleleni movement.

UKZN Medical students and colleagues at various academic institutions in South Africa (SA) have formed #MzansiUthuleleni – a movement to challenge all South Africans to be aware of and protest against innocent lives lost due to injustices by individuals and organisations, including the police.

‘We are aware of the injustices that have occurred globally and in the United States, taking note of the uprisings following the killing of George Floyd, an innocent man who lost his life due to police brutality,’ said the President of the South African Medical Students Association, Miss Tivana Chellan.

‘As South Africans, we have, through social media, displayed immense support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It is now time we compel our judicial system, our President and our national government ministers to ensure a powerful message is sent to every individual, to the SA Police Services and the SA National Defence Force, that we are united people. Our duty is to protect our brothers and sisters and that there will indeed be repercussions of the highest order for robbing innocent individuals of their right to life.’

Said co-founder of the campaign, UKZN Medical student, Miss Sandisiwe Nxumalo: ‘Police brutality dehumanises our brothers and sisters and it should not be tolerated in any manner shape or form. We have created this petition to unite our people in the fight for justice for the murder of South Africans Collins Khoza, Sibusiso Amos and others. As the youth we have come together to speak out against these acts of brutality and our goal is to ensure that the members of the police and the SANDF responsible for such crimes be brought to justice expediently. Ultimately #MzansiUthuleleni means that we not only want justice but we insist on accountability and reparations for families who have lost loved ones.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

Working Women: The Positive Effects of COVID-19 on Working Mothers

Working Women: The Positive Effects of COVID-19 on Working Mothers
Ms Nomfundo Khwela-Mdluli (left) and Dr Andrisha Beharry-Ramraj unpack their thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on working mothers.

- By Ms Nomfundo Khwela-Mdluli and Dr Andrisha Beharry-Ramraj

There are a significant number of women participating in all spheres of economic activity, while also caring for their families and elderly parents, furthering their own academic studies and maintaining social and spiritual balance. Mothers are spending more time in the labour force than in the past but also more time dealing with childcare. There is a constant shift of wearing one hat to another to fulfil commitments and responsibilities, both personal and professional. It seems for most women in the world, maintaining a work-life balance is a consistent struggle and many will attest to often feeling “mom guilt” while doing what they can to achieve in their lives.

COVID-19 caused a state of panic in South Africa in mid-March as the country went into lockdown, something not many had ever experienced before. Despite the scare and the increasing infections and death rate locally and internationally, many people in the country seemed to embrace the situation. One cannot ignore the fast adaption to the current level of normality and the benefits it has had for the working woman with a growing family. While many studies have shown that stay-at-home moms facilitate learning capabilities for their children and create a safe environment for youngsters, physically and psychologically, many other studies have demonstrated that children with working mothers also have the benefits of obtaining realist preparation for adult life, where mothers are teaching children independence and balance through children observing them managing tasks successfully.

The first leg of lockdown had families cooking all meals, and eating at one dinner table more often than ever before. Family members were in each other’s presence and this sparked conversations that could have been lacking, observing traits that may previously have been blind spots.

What it also did was introduce parents to their children’s schooling in greater detail. Concepts became harder to explain, and learning gaps became evident as more specific effort was invested as opposed to when there was just one hour of checking homework at the end of the day. Children and spouses got a glimpse into the day-to-day activities involved in a mom’s job. The benefit of this is the family started understanding each other’s pressures, strengths and limitations. Moral support and nurturing from all members improved.

COVID-19 has dramatically changed personal and work dynamics and we need to let go of the mental model of thinking of work-time and home-time being distinct and separate blocks. Perhaps the term “work-life balance” is wrong. In the time of COVID-19, the two have formed synergies; the physical travelling to a place of work created a mental integration amongst the two.

Many women are working optimally despite the trials and errors caused by bad ergonomics, shifting working stations, and the mistake of packing up the workplace every afternoon and unpacking in the morning. Once people found an ideal spot in their house, they became more productive at home and managed to have more meaningful and fruitful discussions with all stakeholders in the workplace. As the country entered lockdown Level 3, virtual meetings with various stakeholders in and outside of the organisation became the norm. Only critical physical interaction on demand is carried out, then it is back to the home office for the rest of the day.

While there is an absence of the physical work environment and not undermining the psychological impact of connecting with people, the workplace can be a flexible alternative of home or workplace, while still having engagement sessions on demand at the office. The objective is to improve individual productivity, and reduce costs for both the business and employees working from home. The synergy between work and personal life will result in improved work performance, self-development, family relations, and development of the physical, psychological, community (friends, neighbours, religious or social groups), and self (mind, body, and spirit). 

Work cannot continue as usual as the technological ability to work virtually is empowering. In the typical office world, individuals - mainly women - unable to relocate for a promotion or travel out of the province weekly, are not considered for specific roles or issued specific functions, and as a result, their performance reviews suffer. Raising your hand for workplace flexibility provokes professional stigma. Attempting to be an ideal worker as expected is retaliatory for working mothers who also have full obligations as mothers and spouses.

Men, however, are more likely to pass as ideal workers as they have the flexibility for drinks after work to concrete a business deal at the pub from 6pm to 8pm without any interruptions to family life. At the same time, women may decline such an invitation. Many organisations have not been open to flexible working hours or working places and this has seen many women opting out of the workforce or taking a back seat and staying in specific roles even when ready to progress.

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution - a world of laptops, smartphones, Skype, Microsoft Team and Zoom - the essence of any employee is their intellectual capacity, which is fully operational and engaged at home. A choice between the quality of work versus the quantity of work needs to surface. It is possible to produce value from home. Employees can concentrate on the quality of work and be more productive during workdays.

During this pandemic, employers are seeing that workers can’t function optimally if they run into their family time and responsibilities. Following this pandemic, we need to create a system that fits real workers’ needs; a system that considers that women are raising the next generation to enter the workplace, children who need their mothers present, and also mothers able to confidently entrench independence, self-awareness and resilience. Achieving this opens the opportunity to emerge from this crisis with mentally thriving employees resulting in prime performing organisations, families and societies.


Amolo, J., & Beharry-Ramraj, A. (In Press) Appraising the future of Employee Health and Wellness Programmes in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Future of Work, Work-Family Satisfaction, and Employee Well-Being. IGI.

Zheng, X., Zhu, W., Zhao, H., & Zhang, C. (2015). Employee well-being in organizations: Theoretical model, scale development, and cross-cultural validation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(5), 621-644. DOI:10.1002/job.1990

Dr Andrisha Beharry-Ramraj is a lecturer at UKZN’s School of Management, IT and Governance.

Ms Nomfundo Khwela-Mdluli is a High Street Distributor Key Account Manager at Engen and she is pursuing a master’s in the School of Management, IT and Governance.

Photographs: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

UKZN Hosts Webinar on Impact of the Coronavirus on Migrants and Refugees

UKZN Hosts Webinar on Impact of the Coronavirus on Migrants and Refugees
Professor Vivian Besem Ojong (left) and Ms Yasmin Rajah delivered a webinar on the impact of the pandemic on migrants and refugees.

South Africa has about 4.2 million migrants, approximately 300 000 refugees and roughly 279 000 asylum seekers, while the number of undocumented migrants is unknown.

This is according to the Dean and Head of the School of Social Sciences Professor Vivian Besem Ojong who was speaking during a webinar hosted on the Zoom platform by UKZN and Refugee Social Services (RSS) to commemorate World Refugee Month.

The webinar was titled: The Impact of Coronavirus on Migrants and Refugees: Government’s Response.

Ojong said COVID-19 was teaching civil society and academics new lessons about how these categories of people and their livelihoods were affected in times of crisis and disaster where national governments were forced to take urgent decisions.

She said COVID-19 had exposed the vulnerability of cross border and transnational identities. ‘It demonstrated that this group of people live in double-marginality and are not prioritised in terms of disaster as COVID-19 has shown. When all the countries around the world decided to lockdown their borders, they concentrated on locals - those who are residents. So these people who cross the border for livelihood missed the COVID-19 radar of most countries.’

She emphasised it was necessary to examine the “gross inequalities” in the way refugees and migrants were managed and called for the urgent opening of government offices that deal with processing documents for these vulnerable groups.

Director of Refugee Social Services in Durban, Ms Yasmin Rajah said refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa had freedom of movement in that they were not confined to refugee camps and allowed to work and study. ‘A refugee is somebody who has left their country of origin to escape persecution because of their political opinion, their race, religion, or belonging to a particular social group and for those reasons feared for their lives.

‘When they arrive in South Africa they make an application for asylum. In doing that, they receive a document that enables them to work and study and to move around freely - basically access rights they would enjoy if they were South Africans with the exception being the right to vote.’

However, things don’t not always work out the way there were designed to.

Rajah said there was already a huge backlog of people who were undocumented and due to the pandemic could not get appointments to get their documents from the Refugee Reception Office. ‘They still need to eat, have accommodation and food for their children. They’ve got the same health issues as any other community.’ Having no documents excludes asylum seekers and refugees from accessing relief.

She added that bank accounts get frozen when the necessary documents expire so they lose access to any funds they may have.

Rajah cautioned that the virus does not discriminate on the basis of nationality, emphasising ‘we need to treat the “other” how we would like to be treated.’

The webinar was facilitated by UKZN’s Professor Sihawukele Ngubane.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photographs: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

COVID-19: The New Normal for the Workplace

COVID-19: The New Normal for the Workplace
From left: Mr Neville Chinniah, Dr Simon Taylor and Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches.

- By Mr Neville Chinniah, Dr Simon Taylor and Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches

The COVID-19 pandemic has become an international disaster for world governments, and global economies and institutions (Agarwal, Punn, Sonbhadra, Nagabhushan, Pandian, and Saxena, 2020; Tedros, 2020).

COVID-19 has impacted the world adversely and has forced many countries to action national shutdowns (Abbey, Adu-Danso, and Aryeetey, 2020).

The disruption due to the coronavirus has been unprecedented and inevitable throughout the world. This has proven to be very challenging for the leadership of organisations across the globe and they have had to adapt and transform to ensure their survival. Social distancing measures have had to be enforced in places of employment and trade (Hamilton, 2020).

The aim of the lockdown in South Africa was to “flatten the curve” - reduce the spread of the pandemic, however, the lockdown has also resulted in numerous other adverse impacts socially, economically and holistically for the country and the world at large (MacArthur, 2020).

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VUCA) have been prevalent in Industry 4.0 (i4.0), which refers to the digital technological transformation that South Africans are still in the process of conceptualising and embracing. COVID-19 has brought about disruption that has demanded instant adaptation and paradigm shift. This has impacted the way people feel, to varying degrees of discomfort, which has resulted in resistance to these changes and fear of what lies ahead even though people are not quite sure what the future holds.

In ensuring the safety of their employees and to minimise the spread of COVID-19, companies had to close, and where it was practical for people to work from home, this arrangement was applied (Hamilton, 2020). On returning to work, workstations had to be rearranged. This was done in adherence with the recommended safe working distance of two metres apart. In addition, the use of personal protective equipment such as gloves has been enforced, where applicable as well as the use of hand sanitisers (Hamilton, 2020).

There is a worldwide challenge with supply due to the excessive demand for what has become essential protection for people against the virus, such as masks and gloves, and also hand sanitisers, ventilators and testing kits. Exporting of these essentials has been adversely affected as internal demand has constrained the supply of export demand.

Africa, which is largely reliant on imports, has a huge backlog of supply due to COVID-19 (Abbey et al., 2020). Frequent touch points and contact areas have to be more frequently sanitised and good hygiene practices have had to increase immensely. Virtual workstations at home have become more acceptable and more practical, and organisations have had to adapt very quickly to ensure business continuity and productivity in this disruptive era. The information flow is critical to keep people abreast of changes and action plans for the future (Hamilton, 2020).

Adapting to the “new normal” is indeed overwhelming as people adjust to taking on other responsibilities that have been brought about by the global disruption experienced due to COVID-19. One such disruption has been the enforcement of virtual work environments, a situation where those who could work from home had to do so and had no choice but to adapt. People have had to rely on their ability to transform and adapt to these unprecedented changes and disturbances. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused disruptions which have impacted people’s emotions and their emotional balance (Abdel-Fattah, 2020). The economic impact the world will have to endure or sustain post this pandemic is unknown. The pandemic has interrupted global markets and has brought with it a test of emotional resilience and stability. The ability to survive the aftermath of the pandemic will not be based on strength or intelligence, but will instead be determined by one’s ability to adapt to changes (Abdel-Fattah, 2020).

In addition, COVID-19 has impacted the supply chain network. Work streams, environments and the workforce had to be remodelled to comply with: minimal physical contact, commonly referred to as social distancing; restriction of movement within departments; assisting with contact tracing if there is a suspected or positive COVID-19 case; reduced labour on delivery vehicles to comply with the minimum distance between people, and work from home for support services. Essential services had to continue with operations during the period of the lockdown, hence the supply chain fraternity had to transform very quickly without adequate deliberation on strategic directional adaptation of the “new normal” way of day-to-day business activities and the implications thereof. Companies were required to have their COVID-19 operational readiness plans engineered and communicated across the business to the workforce, and the logistics sector also had to comply with the COVID-19 regulations and procedures at the customers’ premises they supply and deliver to.

These disruptions have resulted in a “new normal” way of businesses executing their functions, which they have adapted to despite the challenges faced. Digital technology has proven to be an integral part of the transformation journey since the inception of lockdown. People working remotely and the subsequent convenience of reduced travel time have resulted in significant uptake of virtual meetings through the different digital platforms available. Although physically apart, people are more frequently in contact, and there is increased productivity from the levels of work that are conducted from home, as reduced travel time is accumulated into a productive contribution. People are thus indeed leveraging the capabilities of digital technology.

Given the financial impact of COVID-19 compliance measures related to operational readiness and supply of personal protective equipment, companies need to consider working remotely from home as a strategic plan for the future. This form of work results in benefits pertaining to the reduced costs for office space, onsite parking space, canteen facilities, and meeting offices, which will contribute to economic benefits and maximise storage space for products. Further financial benefits will emanate from arrangements such as virtual meetings for conferences, for regular meetings of different stakeholders from different geographies, and for organised labour, as a result of reduced travel and accommodation expenditure. According to the President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development, the current unprecedented times that have resulted due to COVID-19 have exposed the manufacturing network of food, processes and supply chain to its vulnerabilities (Houngbo, 2020).

New skill sets need to be developed to ensure both effective leadership as well as the ability to follow this leadership. Collaborative engagement is crucial so that teams are able to successfully navigate the challenges that will inevitably arise due to the disruptions brought about by the measures implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19.


Abbey, E., Adu-Danso, E., & Aryeetey, E. (2020). Research Universities’ Multiple Responses to COVID-19. University World News, Africa Edition. Available at https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200420091917110

Abdel-Fattah, H. M. M (2020). Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Stability in Crises. Journal of Psychiatry and Psychiatric Disorders, 4(2): 56-62.

Agarwal, S., Punn, N. S., Sonbhadra, S. K., Nagabhushan, P., Pandian, K., & Saxena, P. (2020). Unleashing the power of disruptive and emerging technologies amid COVID 2019: A detailed review.

Hamilton, J. (2020). How to Manage Workplace Disruption During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Available at https://www.immoafrica.net/news/manage-workplace-disruption-during-covid-19-pandemic/

Houngbo, G. F. (2020). What’s needed to protect food security in Africa during COVID-19. Available at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/what-s-needed-to-protect-food-security-during-covid-19/

MacArthur, B. (2020). COVID-19 Pandemic. Available at https://clms.ukzn.ac.za/thought-leadership-series/

Tedros, A. G. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19): Quick Reference Guide. Available at https://www.customguide.com/cheat-sheet/coronavirus-quick-reference.pdf

UKZN MBA graduate Mr Neville Chinniah is National Logistics Manager for Pioneer Foods; Dr Simon Taylor is Project Manager at UKZN’s Regional and Local Economic Development Initiative; and Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches is an associate professor at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

author : .
author email : .

COVID-19 – A Catalyst for 21st Century Learning in SA Schools

COVID-19 – A Catalyst for 21st Century Learning in SA Schools
From left: Mr Michael Naidoo, Dr Angela James and Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches.

- By Mr Michael Naidoo, Dr Angela James and Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches

In this modern era of the 21st century the world is undergoing radical transformation with people experiencing the transformation in almost all spheres of life. The world is swiftly advancing through the Fourth Industrial Revolution and progressing rapidly to an emerging fifth one.

Over the last decade, the rate at which these changes have occurred has also greatly increased. Globally, governments have come to understand that traditional content-based educational systems of the past do not embrace the knowledge, skills or practices required to function in an era of drastic global change and to adequately prepare learners for life in this era. Consequently, these governments have embarked on processes of transforming their educational systems to be aligned with the principles of 21st Century Learning (21 CL). Inherent in this transformation is the use of digital literacy and digital learning, as these are crucial to surviving the unprecedented global changes.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting quarantine and lockdown measures have forced many private and public schools alike into a digital space which is 21 CL aligned. This is evident from the shift to the use of digital platforms and online teaching methods through the use of cell phones, radio, television and the Internet.

The focus of 21 CL is the application of knowledge to new and different situations, rather than memorisation of knowledge merely through repetition (Lay & Osman, 2018; Varghese, Vate-U-Lan & John, 2019). Some of the 21st century competencies that 21 CL focuses on include creativity, critical and innovative thinking, social and emotional intelligence, global citizenship, civic literacy, cross-cultural skills, self-direction, self-management, lifelong learning, ethics, morals, values and communication, collaboration and information skills (Ariyani, Maulina & Nurulsari, 2019; Barrot, 2019).

21 CL combines competencies from both the cognitive and affective domains. It is also characterised by being cross-disciplinary, inquiry-based and learner-centred (Hines & Lynch, 2019; Shanmugam & Balakrishnan, 2019). In addition, the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in digital learning and the development of digital literacy has proven to be a vital component in creating innovative learning environments during the enactment of 21 CL (Mathew, 2018; Howard, O’Brien, Kay & O’Rourke, 2019). Some of the positive outcomes associated with 21 CL include increased learner participation, improved learner assessment scores, especially in higher order learning, and the enhanced work ethic of both learners and teachers (Kokare & Strautins, 2018; Bedir, 2019).

Effective school leadership is one of the cornerstones of the paradigm shift to 21 CL as well as the new field of digital learning. This is because school leadership has the potential to influence all individuals, structures and resources within a school, all schools within a region and all regions within the national educational system. Many of the leading countries integrating 21 CL have realised its critical importance in preparing learners for modern day life. These countries initiated changes in their educational systems as early as the late 1990s and some have reached the point of completely re-designing their curriculums, assessment methods and teaching practices (Moyo & Hadebe, 2018; Ariyani et al., 2019). South Africa, in comparison, has only recently embarked on the journey to 21 CL in the form of inquiry-based learning and ICT development.

South African private and government schools officially closed on 18 March, 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, schools did not have sufficient time to adequately prepare for teaching and learning during the subsequent lockdown which began on 27 March. This, in turn, was followed by immense uncertainty as to the duration of the lockdown, the restrictions to be imposed, the resources required and the way in which COVID-19 would impact South Africa on the whole. Initially, school leadership bodies believed that the lockdown measures would be for three weeks and that the missed teaching and learning time at school easily compensated for by shortening of the June holidays and/or teaching over weekends or extended school days. However, the lockdown period was then extended by a further three weeks, and schools have remained closed to most grades well into June 2020.

In light of the cumulative school days missed and the prolonged lockdown measures, some schools that were fortunate to possess the necessary digital and financial resources planned and implemented digital teaching, where no personal physical contact would take place. Private schools were at an advantage over government schools in terms of effective teaching and learning during the lockdown period, as they have access to digital and financial resources. The use of the digital space for teaching and learning entailed accessing applications such as Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, Zoom and Seesaw as well as various social media platforms. 

During the lockdown period many schools have been positively affected, shifting into a more digitally-orientated teaching and learning space. However, the focus of the online teaching and learning has been centred on the delivery of missed theoretical content through the same content-based, memorisation approach that would be utilised during a normal school day. The driving forces behind the schools’ delivery of copious amounts of theoretical content was to complete as much of the syllabi as possible as well as perhaps wanting to pacify both parents and learners by presenting some form of on-going schooling.

In this haste to deliver content and appease parents, 21 CL has been largely ignored, not significantly contemplated, or not adequately implemented by schools over the lockdown period. In addition, the pertinent factors related to the interpretation and enactment of 21 CL or digital literacy and digital learning have not been considered. Leadership training and development for 21 CL or digital literacy and digital learning has also not featured during lockdown. This is evident because throughout the lockdown period 21 CL or associated topics such as inquiry-based learning or cross-curricular studies, have not been addressed by government, the private educational sector, or the media. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly and radically changed the mind-set of some stakeholders in education, especially where resources are available, from the traditional context of a schooling system to a digital one with infinite possibilities. The positive impact of the rapid increase of ICT in teaching and learning allows a unique opportunity for South African schools to accelerate the interpretation and enactment of 21 CL. It is, however, important to note the challenges experienced by many schools, learners, teachers and families.

Some of these challenges are related to the organisation of 21 CL training sessions under lockdown restrictions as well as the lack of time for 21 CL training and experimentation because the focus is now on syllabus coverage, assessment and achieving relative normality in schools whilst still following COVID-19 protocols. However, education leaders in the private sector and the Department of Basic Education could begin the process by starting to conscientise educational stakeholders about the basic tenets and benefits of 21 CL utilising digital literacy and digital learning through brief digital presentations, webinars, school-based workshops and articles. The challenges posed by the interpretation and enactment of 21 CL can be alleviated with the understanding that the process is a long-term one that is effected in stages over several years (Moyo & Hadebe, 2018; Hines & Lynch, 2019).

Schools should therefore move away from focusing on just the delivery of theoretical content though digital platforms to initiating the process of incorporating 21 CL. This should involve a strategically planned approach which consists of four critical components:

•    21 CL

•    Digital literacy and learning

•    General school leadership training and development

•    Specific leadership training and development for 21 CL

Each one of these components in this interpretation and enactment strategy of 21 CL involves the understanding of the following factors:

•    What is 21 CL?

•    The need for it

•    The global and South African context

•    Facilitating factors and methods of interpretation and enactment

•    Concerns and challenges

South African schools should thus use the positive outcomes of increased digital learning and transformed educational mind-sets resulting from the worldwide pandemic to catapult themselves into the global arena of 21 CL. There are challenges associated with the interpretation and enactment of 21 CL, especially under lockdown restrictions, but the challenges can be managed and overcome with sufficient time. It is important for South African schools to use the momentum generated from COVID-19 to initiate the transformation process.


Ariyani, A. F., Maulina, H., & Nurulsari, N. (2019). Design and validation of inquiry-based STEM learning strategy as a powerful alternative solution to facilitate gifted students facing 21st century challenging. Journal for the Education of Gifted Young Scientists, 7(1), 33-56.

Barrot, J. S. (2019). English curriculum reform in the Philippines: Issues and challenges from a 21st century learning perspective. Journal of Language, Identity & Education18(3), 145-160.

Bedir, H. (2019). Pre-service ELT teachers’ beliefs and perceptions on the 21st century learning and innovation skills (4Cs).Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 15(1), 231-246.

Hines, M. G., & Lynch, R. (2019). The relationship of grade 7 students’ general ICT use and attitudes towards ICT use for school related activities with ICT self-efficacy in eleven English program schools of Thailand. Scholar: Human Sciences11(2), 366.

Howard, P., O’Brien, C., Kay, B., & O’Rourke, K. (2019). Leading educational change in the 21st century: Creating living schools through shared vision and transformative governance. Sustainability11(15), 4109.

Kokare, M., & Strautins, K. (2018). Setting up blended learning at school: Leadership

perspective. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the InternationalScientific Conference.

Volume II, May 25th -26th, 2018, 240-253.

Mathew, M. A. (2018). The need for digital and media literacy in Indian higher secondary and secondary curricula to cater to future generations. Asia Pacific Journal of Research, 1(88), 128-130.

Moyo, L., & Hadebe, L. B. (2018). The relevance of teacher education as a trajectory in developing and sustaining inclusivity in the digital classroom. European Journal of Open Education and E-learning Studies, 3(1), 1-17.

Lay, A. N., & Osman, K. (2018). Developing 21st century chemistry learning through designing digital games. Journal of Education in Science, Environment and Health4(1), 81-92.

Shanmugam, K., & Balakrishnan, B. (2019). Motivation in information communication and technology-based science learning in Tamil schools. Jurnal Pendidikan IPA Indonesia8(1), 141-152.

Varghese, M. M., Vate-U-Lan, P., & John, V. K. (2019). Students’ perception of technology factors and its impact on BYOD-based learning in private secondary schools in Dubai, UAE. Social Science Asia5(1), 35-46.

Mr Michael Naidoo is the Head of Student Leadership at Crawford Schools and a PhD candidate at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

Dr Angela James is a Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Science Education, School of Education, UKZN.

Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches is an Associate Professor at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

author : .
author email : .

COVID-19 and the Performing Arts

COVID-19 and the Performing Arts
UKZN hosted a webinar on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Performing Arts sector.

The impact of COVID-19 on the Performing Arts sector was the topic of discussion at a webinar facilitated by Dr Lliane Loots, UKZN lecturer in Drama and Performance Studies and recent winner of the CNN African Voices Changemakers Award.

Globally, the sudden effect of COVID-19 has generated widespread precarity and insecurity, affecting livelihoods and careers. Within the Performing Arts sector, physical distancing has curtailed public performances.

Considering the creative, financial, emotional and psychological issues facing the Performing Arts industry during the lockdown period, the prospect of digital platforms and what this means for artists, especially those working historically in embodied and live practices, has raised the question of whether it offers adequate space for the soul of an artist.

Introducing the discussion with the above as background, Loots said: ‘COVID-19 ushered people into a space without enough time to prepare. We found ourselves diving into this, making mistakes and confronting challenges without any frame of reference to guide us.’

Writer, director and lecturer at the University of Zululand Gift Tapiwa Marovatsanga provided insight into his work with young artists in a local township. ‘Part of my community engagement includes skills development in an after-school programme, creating a safe space for dialogue and encouraging learners to find their own way within the industry.

‘Under lockdown regulations, the programme has ceased,’ said Marovatsanga. ‘Some of the children are now stuck in very difficult family conditions, such as child-headed households with no relief or place to play. That safe haven and psycho-social support, they once relied on, is gone. Stress and depression have started to reveal themselves.’

Singer, songwriter, actress, television presenter and alumna Ayanda Mpama addressed socio-political responsibility in the sector. ‘Art and politics have historically, always been connected. Even during apartheid, artists were able to operate with protest theatre, which was evocative and far-reaching. But now we need to use social media, a tool that not everyone is comfortable or familiar with, or in reach of, to try and communicate our feelings and speak about what society is going through. We too as artists are also going through the same thing!

‘Artists from having work planned for this year have suddenly had it ripped out from under their feet by COVID-19 and have had to seek other forms of getting income. The worry is that we might lose them because they feel they have no option and need to leave what they love in order to sustain themselves,’ said Mpama.

On monetising the industry under lockdown, Marovatsanga explained that making work available online was one thing but having audiences willing to pay for it was another. ‘Many people cannot afford to pay based on priority. Even people not classified as “artists” post online, and entertain under different sub genres. Therefore, the idea of paying begs the question of how much the performance is worth.

‘What is encouraging, from the local scene, is that some artists have created a Facebook page and Twitter handle, pulling together as a collective to sharpen themselves, share and survive the period and look beyond,’ he said.

On the notion of adapt or die, Loots said technology was a part of life, demanding people work on new technologies online, where possible. ‘Dancers’ work in connection with other bodies and often it is the smell of the work; it is the visceral, sematic, liminal connectivity that we have with people that is live theatre. However, at this time, we must not lose the politics of the body.’

Agreeing with this, Marovatsanga added: ‘The digital divide is real, not everyone has access to resources such as data or good connectivity. Theatre is ephemeral, creating an intimate space in the here and now. The relationship between the audience, storytellers and the story brings a connectivity. Now we have to ask if we are even able to adapt as directors to digital space, because it is not just about a technical knowledge but aiming to create a digital stage. The fact is, it isa different medium.’

Said Mpama: ‘Apart from organisations commissioning work from artists, and some relief measures in place, much more needs to be done within the sector to help and lift artists. With all our challenges, we must fill our cup while embracing this change. We now have a new medium through which to tell our stories and be inspired.’

Musicians Thulile Zama and David Smith of the UKZN Centre for Jazz and Popular Music who have been running the Music Unlocked Sessions, treated participants to one of their original compositions: Gave My Heart.

The Music Unlocked Sessions support South African musicians with each artist performing 20-minute sets in an online concert taking place every Wednesday under lockdown. It costs R40 to get a “secret link” to watch performances.

Musicians can submit a video created especially for the concerts - probably a solo performance or minimal ensemble because of social distancing. Artists can also submit previously recorded videos not widely available on the Internet. Any genre can be submitted.

Email zamat1@ukzn.ac.za for more information.

Words: Rakshika Sibran

Image: Shutterstock

author : .
author email : .

Top Orthopaedic Surgeon Joins UKZN

Top Orthopaedic Surgeon Joins UKZN
Dr Duduzile Sigodi joins UKZN’s Discipline of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Respected orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Duduzile Sigodi, trained in foot and ankle surgery with a special interest in flatfoot deformity correction, has joined UKZN’s Discipline of Orthopaedic Surgery.

‘I am excited to be in a Discipline with mentors who have contributed significantly to my career development and supported me during my training and Fellowship,’ said Sigodi. ‘I am happy to have taken a specialist position exactly where I was shaped. I have gained experience in the diagnosis and treatment of the most complex foot and ankle conditions from non-operative conditions to complex trauma and deformities.’

After completing the Fellowship of the College of Orthopaedic Surgeons of South Africa in 2016, she started looking for foot and ankle Fellowships offered locally and internationally. In 2018 she approached the head of the Orthopaedic Discipline at UKZN, Professor Leonard Marais to assist her with her application. In January 2019 she joined the University of Witwatersrand for a six-month foot and ankle Fellowship led by Professor Nick Saragas.

Said Marais: ‘She is one of the few Black African Fellowship women trained in foot and ankle surgery in South Africa. She is a brilliant person to work with and is part of our department’s registrar selection committee as well. Hopefully we will get some research going soon.’

Sigodi (38) is from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape where she completed her Medical degree at the Walter Sisulu University in 2004. Her internship at the Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein included two months of orthopaedics training which sparked her interest in the field.

She did her community service at the Bedford Hospital in Mthatha in 2006 and the following year attended an AO trauma course in Davos, Switzerland, which intensified her passion for orthopaedics. In 2009, Sigodi joined a UKZN registrar programme at the Ngwelezane Hospital and then moved to Durban the following year.

Sigodi said she was grateful for the Fellowship opportunity she received and believes orthopaedics should be an example to encourage women in other surgical specialities to pursue advanced training. ‘The Fellowship has a broad based and very active clinical programme for specialists. Training is primarily focused on adult reconstructive surgery but includes sports related injuries, ankle surgery and arthroplasty, and paediatric foot and ankle surgery and trauma. Fellows are also involved in research projects,’ she said.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

New Course for Data Science Students

New Course for Data Science Students
Young lecturers in Data Science (from left) Ms Nombuso Zondo, Ms Arusha Desai and Ms Danielle Roberts.

The School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) at UKZN is putting its expertise in Data Science and Education to work to provide a brand new Data Science course for second-year students enabling them to learn how to mine data using machine learning.

This course forms part of an initiative by SAS, a leading company specialising in analytics, artificial intelligence and data management software and services, to collaborate with universities in South Africa to fill the Data Science skills gap being created by the exponential growth in advances in digital technologies, big data, and machine learning which are transforming the face of business worldwide.

Using the SAS Viva for Learners (VFL) programme, students taking this new course at UKZN will gain practical experience and skills in data mining, focusing on data classification, clustering and association analysis, interpretation of outputs, and model comparison, contributing to their employability upon graduation. This is a first for an African university, and a source of pride for the SMSCS, which often operates with limited resources to realise its mission of producing capable graduates.

It is just one component of planned interventions by the SMSCS to accelerate its offerings for the training of data scientists. The SMSCS is in the process of establishing a SAS Centre for Data Science for Business at UKZN to offer training and qualifications in Data Science, from undergraduate through to postgraduate level.

Dean and Head of the SMSCS Professor Delia North is driven to ensure the School provides graduates with all they need to be work-ready and meet the needs of the industry. The School has cultivated strong relationships with industry to enable partnerships that enhance the skills of graduates by ensuring the relevance of its programmes in the fast-changing world of work.

Lecturer in Applied Statistics Ms Danielle Roberts noted the value of a hands-on approach to students’ engagement with the course, saying the SAS VFL interface provides excellent insight into new methods and advances in Data Science and creates a space for students to develop these skills.

The VFL programme is also useful for postgraduate students who have made use of it to aid understanding of neural networks and apply different machine learning algorithms.

Lecturer in Statistics, Ms Nombuso Zondo noted that the VFL programme had generated an enthusiastic response among postgraduate students who have enjoyed the programme’s fast response times in producing results, even for complex models and large datasets.

An Applied Statistician in the SMSCS Professor Temesgen Zewotir was thankful for SAS’s support through the VFL programme, saying it will contribute to the School’s advances in Data Science education.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

author : .
author email : .

Online Open Day

Online Open Day
The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science held its 2020 Open Day online.

UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) did not let the national COVID-19 lockdown cancel its 2020 Open Day… it held the event online!

The University usually hosts its annual Open Day event for scholars interested in studying at the Institution over two Saturdays in May on the Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses. With a carnival atmosphere prevailing, academics and support staff put on an impressive show, “selling” their respective courses of study to the public.

Everything from livestock to drones to colourful chemical reactions go on show, however with the trending hashtag being “stay at home” and social distancing the new norm, the College had to be creative in the way it reached out to the thousands of high school pupils eager to enter its doors.

‘We were concerned that current matriculants are not getting information about study opportunities at UKZN and that they might be panicking about the application process for 2021,’ said Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of CAES, Professor Albert Modi. ‘We therefore decided to bring our Open Day to them, through a “virtual” platform.’

The College hosted the Online Open Day on Saturday 13 June using the zoom webinar function. Members of the public were able to register and tune in to various presentations.

Information provided covered an overview of the College, its mainstream and access programmes, how to apply to study at UKZN, financial aid assistance and different career prospects within the sciences. It also provided the opportunity for prospective students to interact with the Deans and Heads of its five Schools, as well as academic and professional staff in interactive Q&A sessions.

Schools within the College include Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences; Chemistry and Physics; Engineering; Life Sciences, and Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. Between them they offer a comprehensive package of degrees and a gateway to a satisfying career in the agricultural, engineering and scientific fields.

The Open Day webinar was linked to an informative webpage where further information and resources were available on the CAES including information brochures, educational videos, career assessment information, application procedures and fees information. 

The Online Open Day was also streamed live on UKZN’s Facebook page – attracting some 10 000 views. A recording was posted on the College’s website after the event for future reference.

Words: Sally Frost

Image: Supplied

author : .
author email : .