Against All Odds

Against All Odds
UKZN staff member, Dr Tasmeera Singh has written a poem on COVID-19.

Without a sigh, gush or gurgle COVID-19 appeared with such tumultuous buffeting,

leaving neither a trace nor footprint in its ruination, just an invisible presence.

Borders closed, trains, planes and vessels grounded,

the earth stood still shattering human connectivity.

A simple human touch became COVID-19s greatest strength,

unleashing a pernicious fury with contempt for human life.

Sunshine, smiles and giggles replaced by darkness, solitude and emptiness,

for the hands that once fed, once provided is COVID-19s strongest weapon.

Playgrounds, beaches and parks bereft of activity.

Schools, nurseries and universities devoid of learners and students,

troubling the foundations of knowledge and progression.

Lockdowns, stays and isolation the new vocabulary epitomising COVID-19.

Such deafening silence globally parading in all its grandeur,

lest not the gurgles and mirth of youth unspent.

BUT in all silence and solitude we witness the manifestation

of nature and nurture in all its glory, forms and shape.

Suddenly the sounds of chirping birds, the crashing of waves against the sea shore,

echoes in symbolic melody of earth’s purity.

Clearer skies sans toxins and pollutants

shine in alluring seduction beckoning a crystalline future.

Nature is reborn with boom and glory inducing,

intoxicating freshness and rejuvenation all around.

Mothers, fathers and children huddled together in fight of COVID-19.

Families rekindle over meals with simple talk without rush and race,

just free abandonment for life’s simple blessings and gestures.

As the COVID storm rages with all its might and fury new appreciation is found.

Love, life and laughter are no longer granted meaningless,

as we garner the resolve to fight the COVID storm,

together in solidarity fearless in all our awe and armory.

Through internationalisation, new bridges to research connect,

unique collaborations engage as we scurry globally,

to find a cure to eliminate this invisible enemy.

COVID-19 has only strengthened the human resolve

to live, to confront, to conquer against all odds.

Ignited is the spirt of solidarity and togetherness in adversity.

Your rage, your ruination and catastrophic devastation

will come to pass as all things do.

Everlasting, never fading, will be the lessons of love for life,

festering unwavering adulation for the kindred human soul in humbleness and humility.

Endure we shall this rage nor cower, nor bow to fear or be defined by YOU.

United our resolve is strengthened with tenacity to persevere until YOU VANISH.

Words: Tasmeera Singh

Photograph: Supplied

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BCom Graduate Publishes First Book

BCom Graduate Publishes First Book
Mr Rotondwa Masindi with his book: A Letter to My Mentee.

Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting graduate Mr Rotondwa Masindi’s book: A Letter to My Mentee aims to make the transition from high school to tertiary education less daunting.

The self-help book takes the reader on a journey of personal development and offers tools to unlearn bad habits from the past in order to become a better version of themselves. Masindi shares his own experiences in the hope of transforming the lives of those he mentors.

‘I firmly believe that no one wants to struggle with something that someone has gone through before. It is for this reason that I share the lessons I’ve learned on my journey,’ he said.

Masindi added that he hopes that the book will instil hope in those who have given up or are on the verge of giving up on their dreams.

‘I love making an impact that matters and I knew that through this book I could positively impact people's lives in South Africa and beyond. I wanted to be a beacon of hope to show others that it is possible to live their dreams.’

Currently completing a postgraduate Diploma in Accounting, Masindi is also the chairperson of a community-based non-profit organisation that aims to build unity among the youth from various churches through mentorship.

To purchase the book, contact Masindi on 076 5639 754 or by sending him a message on his social media platforms @rotondwamasindi. It is also available as an eBook on Kindle Amazon store.

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Academics Create Video on Healthcare Worker Anxieties Related to COVID-19

UKZN Academics Create Video on Healthcare Worker Anxieties Related to COVID-19
Academics at UKZN have created a video which addresses anxieties healthcare workers may face in the wake of COVID-19.Click here for isiZulu version

A video that aims to address health care workers’ anxieties related to dealing with COVID-19 is the product of a collaboration between UKZN’s Department of Psychology, an adult education specialist, and the Centre for Rural Health (CRH).

The four-part video project was commissioned by Professor Inge Petersen and was developed by the Mental Health Integration Programme (MhINT) and the Southern African Research Consortium for Mental health INTegration (S-MhINT) teams led through the CRH to address the anxieties healthcare workers may face, and provides problem management techniques to help them cope.

It was developed in response to a request by the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Health (DoH) to support the development and evaluation of a mental health and psychoeducational support package for frontline workers, patients and community members, as well as healthcare managers in line with their Mental Health and Psychosocial (MHPSS) response to the COVID-19 pandemic in KwaZulu-Natal. The storyboard was developed in consultation with the KZN DoH and a multidisciplinary team including academics, mental health specialists, researchers and an adult education specialist.

The need to strengthen mental health and psychosocial support among communities and healthcare providers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is widely acknowledged. Studies have shown that healthcare workers experience significant stressors, resulting in mental health problems.

‘Much of the stress and anxieties related to COVID-19 experienced by frontline workers are grounded in concerns related to fear of infection; fear for the safety of their families; the adequacy of personal protective equipment (PPE) and feeling ill-equipped to manage COVID-19 patients despite up-dated policies and clinical/practice guidelines that are still in the development stages and have yet to filter down to all frontline staff,’ said UKZN academic Dr Ruwayda Petrus. ‘There are uncertainties about whether they will be able to cope when the pandemic is at its peak, as they will be expected to care for an increasing number of patients with the same staff complement – which in turn will lead to additional stress.’

While the first video was a response to anxiety and stress related to lockdown aimed at all levels of society, the second primarily addresses problem management for healthcare workers dealing with COVID-19. The third and fourth videos are currently in production. One is aimed at healthcare providers and addresses the issue of leadership, while the other targets community members and deals with grief and bereavement.

The video can be viewed on YouTube via

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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School of Social Sciences Signs MOU with University of London

School of Social Sciences Signs MOU with University of London
Professor Maheshvari Naidu (third from right) with staff members from the University of London.Click here for isiZulu version

The School of Social Sciences in the College of Humanities has concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.

Under the guidance of Acting Dean, Professor Vivian Ojong, the Academic Leader of Research in the School Professor Maheshvari Naidu began discussions with the Director of the International Unit and the Manager of Global Engagement from SOAS.

‘The discussions began in the latter part of 2019 and culminated in a meeting with colleagues from SOAS,’ said Naidu. ‘From the outset of my initial contact, they had indicated interest and were extremely keen to meet in person to discuss the terms of engagement.’ Naidu was in turn hosted by SOAS in November 2019 where she met with the Director of the Unit and other staff who shared their research backgrounds and discussed the context of the collaboration and the terms of engagement.

Just before Lockdown, the MOU was finalised after going through the various structures and legal departments of both universities.

SOAS is one of the world’s leading institutions for the study of Asia and Africa. ‘We chose to partner with SOAS for, not only what it could offer us, but what we can offer SOAS; this is a strategic partnership that makes intellectual sense,’ said Naidu. ‘In turn, SOAS is excited by the expertise we can offer them and the networking and rich ethnographic and situational African research and researchers that they can connect with, through our school and staff.’

Ojong commented that, ‘It is important to partner with institutions on an equal footing in the interests of intellectual mutuality and this was a wonderful opportunity for staff and students in the School. Post COVID-19, we are looking at staff mobility, especially for our early career staff,’ she said.

‘The School of Social Sciences is currently planning the first joint activity in the form of an online virtual international symposium in late November 2020 that will bring together experts from both institutions to discuss shared interdisciplinary research themes. We are working with a wonderful team from SOAS to plan the event, said Naidu.’

The symposium will provide a platform to share ideas and identify further research collaborations. SOAS and School of Social Sciences will curate a number of panels and there will be keynote addresses from experts in the field.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Academic Develops Conceptual Framework for Online Learning

UKZN Academic Develops Conceptual Framework for Online Learning
Dr Upasana Singh has developed a conceptual framework to guide online teaching, learning and assessment.

Senior lecturer in Information Systems and Technology, Dr Upasana Singh has developed a conceptual framework, ASSET© (Academic SkillSET) for online teaching, learning and assessment.

The framework was developed as part of her research on the impact of COVID-19 on academics in Higher Education. ASSET© is designed to assist lecturers as they navigate the online learning space.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required academics to make a sudden transition from contact to online learning. Singh notes that this calls for serious attention to re-skilling, ‘Academics need to adapt to this unexpected change, sometimes with minimal digital teaching skills and capabilities. They need to equip themselves with a new skillset for successful navigation of the online teaching, learning and assessment spaces that have been created.’

The ASSET© framework outlines eight basic skills that lecturers need to develop or possess to support a smooth transition from the face-to-face to the online space, which will most likely find its balance in a blended space post COVID-19. These skills are:

- Digital Literacy – Having basic technology-based skills to implement online teaching

- Digital Pedagogy – Knowing which technology tool is best suited to the content being taught and/or assessed

- Emotional Intelligence – Having empathy for both students and colleagues who may be studying or working from non-conducive environments

- Communities of Practice – Academics sharing what they know or learn with colleagues, to support their transition to online learning

- Digital Identity – Creating and maintaining a digital profile and footprint

- Recognising Diversity – Understanding the cultural, social, economic and digital capital in classrooms

- Time Management – Avoiding burnout through a structured routine

- Communication Skills – Considering the nuances of non-contact communication.

Singh commented that the academic skillset required to educate online is vastly different from that needed in a traditional face-to-face environment. ‘Academics need to become familiar with tools to professionalise lectures and actively engage students in the virtual learning space. They have to manage their digital identity and master useful tools to navigate online teaching cautiously but in an exploratory manner.

‘Inducting students on their online learning space requires academics to teach them new skills such as harnessing persistence; independence; technical skills; reading and writing skills; motivation; time management; communication skills and empathy.The academic skillset required to engage successfully in these new learning spaces extends beyond just knowing and learning the technology.’

Singh added that the sudden shift has been compounded by the forced work-from-home scenario, a safety precaution with its own set of challenges. ‘Many academics are teaching from their personal spaces, and this will have its challenges - there may be a baby crying in the background during a lecture, or disruption if technology fails. Academics must also be kinder and more patient with one another during these unprecedented times. Supporting one another is critical in this environment, so if someone has learnt one useful tool, it is important to try and share this knowledge with others in your discipline, institution and network.’

The framework is currently being pilot tested and will be validated through interaction with academics at Higher Education Institutions. Singh has invited more than 500 academics in 18 countries to participate in the pilot. She hopes to implement the validated ASSET© framework as an electronic tool by the end of this year, when it would be available online for academics to ascertain their areas of strength and opportunities to improve their skills.

Singh has a keen interest in Educational Technologies. In 2019 she completed her Fellowship in “Teaching Advancement in Universities” (TAU), from the Council on Higher Education (CHE). Her primary area of research is Digital Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Words: Sejal Desai

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UKZN Gynaecologist Secures Endoscopic Laboratory Sponsorship

UKZN Gynaecologist Secures Endoscopic Laboratory Sponsorship
The official launch of the Endoscopy Unit.

Dr Suran Ramphal, a consultant and head of the Gynaecological Endoscopy Unit and the Urogynaecology and Pelvic Floor Unit at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital and the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, played a pivotal role in securing sponsorship of R4 million from Karl Storz Endoscopy towards the development of an endoscopic laboratory in UKZN’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Minimal access surgery has come to the fore in recent years and is a superior alternative to open surgery for many gynaecological procedures. One of the major challenges is the learning curve to master this surgical intervention as doctors need laboratory training to learn didactic techniques and suturing skills before operating on patients.

Obtaining equipment and instrumentation for such training was a challenge that has been overcome by the sponsorship. The unit will train registrars and consultants in gynaecological endoscopy and prepare them for challenges in the operating theatre. It is able to train eight registrars at a time, and senior members of the Department will assist in their training and accreditation. The Unit is already functional, and has attracted specialists from Africa for a period of two weeks at a time for training in gynaecological endoscopy. Training will resume with the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ramphal received extensive training in the field of gynaecological endoscopy at the Katholieke Universiteit in Belgium, Warrel Unit in Manchester and Tagesklinieke Attonaer Strabe in Hamburg. He was recently appointed to the advisory board of the International Urogynaecological Association as the Africa representative and is a member of the International Society of Gynaecological Endoscopy and the American Association of Gynaecological Endoscopy. He has researched and published extensively in the area of gynaecological endoscopy. Ramphal is an international trainer for Karl Storz Endoscopy and has conducted workshops and training sessions in Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and India. His recent interest is in laparoscopic management of urogenital fistulae and he was the keynote speaker on this topic at the India Association of Gynaecological Endoscopy in June 2020.

Head and Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Ncoza Dlova thanked Ramphal for his ‘amazing contribution’ and urged him to continue with his great work.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

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Partnership Promotes Lung Cancer Awareness and Care

Partnership Promotes Lung Cancer Awareness and Care
Senior lecturer and Epidemiologist in Public Health Medicine, Dr Themba Ginindza.

UKZN’s Multinational Lung Cancer Control Programme (MLCCP) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) to promote lung cancer awareness and community mobilisation and enhance palliative care, mainly for patients with lung cancer.

CANSA has vast experience in community mobilisation and palliative care, which the MLCCP will draw on in sensitising and mobilising communities around Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The project also involves institutions like Addington, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central and Grey’s Hospitals, and local clinics.

Led by senior lecturer and Epidemiologist in Public Health Medicine, Dr Themba Ginindza, who will work with co-principal investigators and internal and external collaborators, including the Disciplines of Public Health Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Health, and Pulmonology, it has been awarded funding of close to R40 million.

The aim is to reduce the time taken from being suspected of having lung cancer to being diagnosed and to increase early diagnosis (stage I or II) to improve treatment outcomes. The project will also sensitise health professionals to the challenges facing lung cancer patients as they navigate the health system.

The ultimate objective is to launch a proof-of-concept incubation for the Cancer Centre of Excellence and Research (CACER) concept by adding a clinical component to the foundation built in phase one of the MLCCP which was completed at the end of September 2019.

The multinational project across four African countries, namely Kenya, the Kingdom of Eswatini, Tanzania and South Africa, aims to improve access to early diagnostic services for lung cancer by addressing the barriers to cancer care (particularly lung cancer). The team will work with communities and the ministries of health in the countries involved.

According to Ginindza, about 1.8 million new cases of lung cancer are recorded globally each year and the disease is the most common cause of cancer-related mortality. ‘Despite this, many African countries lack information regarding the epidemiology of lung cancer and its control. There is also the compounding heavy burden of comorbidities in sub-Saharan Africa, including HIV and TB.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Durban International Film Festival Announces Opening and Closing Films

Durban International Film Festival Announces Opening and Closing Films
The opening night film: This is not a Burial, but a Resurrection (top), and the closing night film: Dust (bottom).

The Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities will host the 41st Durban International Festival (DIFF) from 10 to 20 September 2020. This year the festival will screen selected films, host seminars and workshops virtually and hold drive-in cinema screenings in Durban, Port Shepstone, Newcastle and Zululand.

CCA Director Dr Ismail Mahomed said, although the online space can never replace the power of assembly of an audience in a cinema or theatre they believed that in this current situation it becomes a viable space through which they can continue to inspire, challenge and entertain our audiences. ‘We do so with great empathy for members of the film-making industry whose projects may have been halted and whose livelihoods have been lost as a result of the global lockdowns,’ he said.

The opening night film is This is not a Burial, but a Resurrection by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese in which the late Mary Twala is the lead actress. The film is aco-production between South Africa, Lesotho and Italy that features predominantly South African actors.

Head of Programming at the CCA, Ms Chipo Zhou said, ‘This film sheds some light on the land issues in Lesotho by telling a very personal story through the journey of one woman. Its sophisticated imagery, the stunning, haunting landscapes that appreciate the depth of the magnificence that is the African landscape and how this was intertwined so effortlessly into the narrative is a true homage to African folklore.’

The thriller Dust, directed by Pieter du Plessis, with South African actress Shana Mans in the lead role, is the closing film for the festival. A story of female oppression and emancipation, it is a take on the current global discourse on women’s rights.

Community film screenings, school programmes and engagements with various community organisations around the city of Durban and the province of KwaZulu-Natal will be the pulse of this year’s Isiphethu industry-focused programme at the DIFF.

The Isiphethu programme remains a backbone of the DIFF and offers role players the opportunity to showcase their work and talent, and network with others in the film industry. The vibrant programme aims to entertain, educate, train and up-skill, instil confidence in young aspirant filmmakers and share information that is relevant to the film industry to empower young people.

A range of top facilitators, guest speakers and participants will headline several of these programmes as the festival continues to position itself as one of the biggest festivals on the African continent.

Ticket sales will open closer to the opening. Tickets for the virtual screenings are free and available through a booking system. Tickets for the drive-in screenings will be for sale, but with limited capacity.

The 41st edition of the festival is organised in partnership and with the support of the Durban Film Office, eThekwini Municipality, the National Film and Video Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and other valued funders and partners.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied

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Alumnus Spearheads COVID-19 Hotline

Alumnus Spearheads COVID-19 Hotline
UKZN alumnus, Dr Anuschka Coovadia who spearheaded the national Doctors on Call medical support hotline intiative.

UKZN alumnus, Dr Anuschka Coovadia spearheaded a national medical support hotline: Doctors on Call to assist South Africans as the number of COVID-19 cases spiked.

Four hundred and fifty doctors provided free healthcare services to more than 40 000 people and ran an awareness campaign on COVID-19 which reached over 10 million.

This joint initiative by the KwaZulu-Natal Doctors Healthcare Coalition, Usizo Advisory Solutions and learning system app Vula involved a call centre helpline, and support for the rollout of a free testing programme.

Coovadia who graduated with an MBChB in 2000 and a Masters in Health Economics in 2004 said the doctors were trained in line with national guidelines, clinical protocols and standard operating processes. They adhered to guidelines set by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in providing advice.

She also worked with Vula to co-ordinate referrals to COVID ICUs, the COVID field hospitals, run free testing programmes, provide a free referral channel to public sector doctors; liaise with the NICD leadership and undertake data collection for the NICD.

Coovadia offered advice to companies and community-based organisations, and was involved in setting up a network to provide free mental healthcare services and training to healthcare workers on the diagnosis and management of COVID-19 as well as free testing in vulnerable communities.

In addition to her work relating to COVID-19, Coovadia is supporting the implementation of national health insurance in Zambia, a vaccine initiative in Botswana; and the development of a strategy for the Board of Healthcare Funders; and developing a health quality tool for emerging countries for the International Finance Corporation.

She said that she is committed to strengthening the healthcare system in South Africa in order to alleviate suffering, by creating a modern, affordable, high quality healthcare system, and reducing inequality.

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

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Webinar Zooms in on Challenges Faced by Women Ombudsman

Webinar Zooms in on Challenges Faced by Women Ombudsman
From left: Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, Ms Martha Chizuma and Ms Antónia Florbela Rocha Araujo.

Celebrating Women Ombudsman was the theme of the webinar hosted by the African Ombudsman Research Centre (AORC) in celebration of Women’s Month.

Facilitated by South Africa’s Deputy Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, the panelists included the Ombudsman of Malawi, Ms Martha Chizuma; and Deputy Ombudsman: Angola Ms Antónia Florbela Rocha Araujo. The webinar focused on the challenges faced by women Ombudsman in a patriarchal African society and how they can make a difference in the lives of the poor and marginalised.

In her opening remarks, Ms Janine Hicks of UKZN’s School of Law noted that insights on the particular challenges confronted by women Ombudsman will contribute to strategies and recommendations on how these can best be addressed to benefit poor and marginalised communities.

‘The African continent is not alone in facing resistance to women’s leadership and participation in mediation and dispute resolution. Through this webinar, we hope to generate suggestions and strategies within our community of practice on how these challenges may be overcome. Key to this will be how best we can draw on the unique strengths that women Ombudsman offer, and the positive impact they bring to their work,’ she said.

Reflecting on her experiences as a woman Ombudsman, Chizuma cited work-life balance and the attitudes and stereotypes deeply rooted in patriarchy as the biggest challenges.

‘Our job is tough due to the context we are in. Our situation is even worse now as our job is to hold powerful people accountable. Our goal is to change patriarchal attitudes, as we do not see men as enemies but want them to see us as equal partners in the fight for justice for the poor and marginalised. As women, we are builders and nurturers of society. We should embrace our strengths and be bold, ethical and authentic. Yes, patriarchy exists but we are much stronger than that,’ said Chuzuma.

For RochaAraujo, women’s emancipation and empowerment are the key to cementing women in leadership spaces. She stressed that women should not wait for men to place them in leadership spaces and that women Ombudsman should raise awareness about the challenges women face and ensure that women’s rights are upheld.

Gcaleka called for everyone to do more for the betterment of women.

‘When a woman takes up a position and shakes things up she is seen as a disruption. It becomes about her and she is known as “that woman”. Our role is to use our diversity and compassion to unlock these gaps. We also have to use mainstream media to promote the work we do. As women in the Ombudsman family we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and carry the baton for those who will come after us.’

The webinar was also held in French and Arabic where speaker, Ms Nichole Tirant-Gherardi, the Ombudsman of Seychelles; facilitator Ms Monique Andréas Esoavelomandroso, Mediator of the Republic of Madagascar; and Mme Ingy El Shanoubi of International Affairs: National Council for Human Rights – Egypt, discussed the same theme.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

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Stunning Contemporary Dance at Opening Night of First Virtual JOMBA!

Stunning Contemporary Dance at Opening Night of First Virtual JOMBA!
Some of the featured works from JOMBA! Digital Edge.

South Africa’s renowned dance festival, the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience celebrated its 22nd consecutive year with the first-ever online performances during opening night.

The festival is hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s College of Humanities.

Delivering the welcome address, CCA Director Dr Ismail Mahomed said that ‘the absence of assembly in our theatres spaces leaves us yearning for the intimacy of live performances which is a dynamic relationship between audiences and artists.’ He added that the festival ‘continues to give artists a platform to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and freedom of creativity through a digital and online platform; and at the same time it allows our artists through their participation in the festival to earn some income.’

Mahomed noted that ‘contemporary dance is a dynamic social movement that is central to the heartbeat of a nation that has to still grapple with the challenges of transformation and democratisation. Our artists at this year’s festival will once again boldly engage with themes of human rights, social justice, and gender violence as well as how the physical distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forces us to rethink how we reconstitute our lives, our society, our nation and our place in the global community.’

Festival Director and Performance Studies lecturer Dr Lliane Loots said, ‘At a time in our history in South Africa, when dance is collapsing and artists are literally starving, in the absence of any sustained coherent governmental support of our sector (at either a regional or national level), JOMBA! is deeply gratified to have offered commissions to nine local KwaZulu-Natal based dance makers whose digital dance offering will be available for viewing on our JOMBA! website. May DIGITAL JOMBA! 2020, remind you of what we need to fight for - for artists, dancers and choreographers who carry our memories.’ 

The opening night featured JOMBA! Digital Edge, that looked at nine Durban and Pietermaritzburg dance-makers, who continue to make waves on the local dance scene. They were asked to create short dance films around the theme of Intimacies of Isolation. They include Durban dancers; Jabu Siphika, Kristi-Leigh Gresse, Leagan Peffer, Nomcebisi Moyikwa, Sandile Mkhize, Sifiso Kitsona Khumalo, Tshediso Kabulu, Zinhle Nzama, and Pietermaritzburg’s Tegan Peacock.

Flatfoot Dance Company’s Siphika’s solo piece Ya kutosha, is an intimate and terrifying exploration of gender-based violence and what it means to be trapped in the home. 

Another solo work Fellow created by award-winning and edgy dance-maker Gresse explores an artist’s state of mind in isolation and is a journey through this maze in search of light. 

Neo-classical wonder-person Peffer’s Kairos presents a personal journey in a solo that delves into the confluence of passion and purpose. The work interrogates how life enables us to confront struggle in love, anger, deceit, and loss as well as in failure.

Moyikwa’s work, U n g a n y a k u m, is an experimental multidisciplinary ‘contemplation; a devotion and a prayer decomposed. It is an engagement with silence – demonstrated by blank spaces, an intentioned meditation that seeks evidence for the question: What does it mean to insist not to die?’

One of Durban’s hidden dance gems, Mkhize (Phakama Dance Company) seeks ‘history, forefathers, revolution, and ways of being under COVID-19 and our humanity’ in his work, Time which he performs with Cue Ngema.

Walls is a deeply intimate exploration of a father-daughter relationship set against the separation imposed by COVID-19 and the lockdown and created and performed by Khumalo (Flatfoot Dance Company) and his daughter, Lethiwe Zamantungwa Nzama. Lethiwe has been a regular at many JOMBA! Youth Fringes and makes her professional debut in this work.

Pietermaritzburg dance stalwart, Peacock has created a short film called Control – Alt – Delete which offers intimate insight into the struggle with control or the loss of it. ‘Both internally and externally our lives have been radically altered and everyone is fighting to regain control and find a new normality,’ she said. For this piece, she collaborated with artist Jono Hornby.

Dynamic dancer and choreographer, Kabulu’s work, Space of Colour is an unflinching look at race and its intersection with class and poverty, and the uneven distribution of power and resources in South Africa, set against the backdrop of isolation and the COVID-19 pandemic. Kabulu and Motlatsi Khotle perform this work with poetry by Khwezi Becker and music by Anelisa Stuurman.

Finally, Nzama (Flatfoot Dance Company) performing with Kirsty Ndawo offers Shadow that looks at friendship and the validation of always having someone there for you, even when you cannot hold hands in a world that now asks for distancing. 

JOMBA! will run off the website, All platforms are free of charge and a full programme is available on the website. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied

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UKZN InQubate Student Entrepreneurs Make National Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Challenge Finals

UKZN InQubate Student Entrepreneurs Make National Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Challenge Finals
UKZN students Mr Sihawu Kunene and Mr Jabulani Nyembe.

Click here for isiZulu version

Two UKZN student entrepreneurs have made it into the finals of the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Intervarsity Challenge in Pretoria in November.

UKZN’s Mr Sihawu Kunene won the regional Business Idea Category and Mr Jabulani Nyembe the Existing Business Tech Category.

Regional rounds of the Entrepreneurship Challenge were held virtually throughout South Africa during July and August with KwaZulu-Natal entries received from Mangosuthu University of Technology, the Durban University of Technology, the University of Zululand and UKZN.

The competition is divided into four categories: Business Ideas, Existing Tech Businesses, Existing Social Impact Businesses, and Existing General Businesses.

The Challenge - an initiative of the EDHE which falls under the mandate of the University Education Branch of the Department of Science and Innovation - is funded through the University Capacity Development Programme of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and supported by Universities South Africa (USAf) and its partners.

Sponsors of this year’s edition are the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, the SAB Foundation and First National Bank.

A third-year BCom student, Kunene is working on launching the “Nene device” - a security apparatus designed specifically for university and college students to minimise the level of crime they face.

Kunene, in the finals of the competition with a good chance of winning funding to assist growing his business, is among a group of 20 student entrepreneurs on the Enterprise Accelerator programme run by UKZN’s InQubate division.

‘Nothing has ever tested my drive to make an impact more than the EDHE Intervarsity competition,’ he said. ‘The journey to the national finals is one I am fortunate to have navigated with a support structure that embraces and encourages the entrepreneurial spirit. With a philosophy of hard work and preparation, UKZN InQubate’s ENSPIRE team has undoubtedly been pivotal.’

Nyembe is a Bachelor of Business Science student who already has a Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology degree. His company, Clinalytics (Pty) Ltd, offers Electronic Health Records (EHR) web-based computer software, which allows medical doctors to record, store and obtain medical data from their patients, providing instant data analysis and reducing the time spent on administration work.

Nyembe, who receives business funding from InQubate, said he was delighted to have made it into the finals and would hold the “UKZN flag high”.

Words: Khutso Ramontja

Photographs: Supplied

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Agricultural Management Student a Finalist in Tertiary Pageant

Agricultural Management Student a Finalist in Tertiary Pageant
Ms Nosipho Memela, Bachelor of Agricultural Management student.

First-year Bachelor of Agricultural Management student, Ms Nosipho Memela is a top 10 finalist in the Miss and Mr SA PRE-Tertiary 2020 modelling pageant, a national event that aims to empower young people.

The pageant, arranged by a modelling brand, was founded by former Mrs South Africa semi-finalist and model Mrs Mbalenhle Molefe Mkhize, who achieved a Diploma in Civil Engineering and a certificate in Project Management. It aims to empower, strengthen and encourage youth to improve themselves, demonstrate their strengths, and improve on their weaknesses. Its mission is to contribute to a healthy society by promoting integrity, purpose and value in young people, and by creating a platform for personal improvement where entrants can find avenues to channel their abilities.

Passionate about modelling, Memela entered the competition with the aim of being a source of inspiration to other young men and women, encouraging them to believe in themselves and to seize opportunities. She aims to represent the power of women, the importance of self-love, and the combination of beauty and brains.

As a finalist, Memela has had the opportunity to take part in a professional photoshoot, create a Facebook page to inform people about herself and her activities, conduct interviews, and host an event to raise funds for a chosen charity. Her selection as a finalist demonstrates the value she contributes to the Miss and Mr SA PRE-Tertiary brand, her comportment, the inspiration she provides, and the impact she is having in her sphere.

Memela, who attended Parkhill Secondary School in Durban, chose to study Agricultural Management to equip her to pursue her dream of starting her own company that will create employment and contribute to the development of rural areas. She hopes to manage her own livestock and crop farm, as well as farms for other agricultural companies.

‘I love nature, and agriculture is an industry that feeds our nation and plays a major role in the economy,’ she said.

Having begun her studies as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Memela said the experience has been challenging but has taught her to manage her time, develop discipline and her technical skills, and get out of her comfort zone as she works to achieve her goals.

In addition to her studies, Memela plays netball for UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus team known as Something Diamonds, is a member of the B-WiseHealth youth group and the Mkhonto Workout Bootcamp in her community, and is a treasurer at her church. In her spare time, she loves to bake, cook and read novels, assist her grandmother in her garden and her grandfather with his livestock, and routinely emcees family events.

The pageant’s crowning event on 3 October in Durban, for which Memela has to arrange her own sponsored hair, make-up and styling, will involve a breakfast, make-up lesson, talent and fashion show, charity work, and formal interviews with the judges.

Votes for Memela can be registered by SMSing “SINW Nosipho Memela” to 34877 at a cost of R2; votes are unlimited and close on 30 September 2020.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Da Brian Photography

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Professor Participates in Plant Breeding Guide International Launch

Professor Participates in Plant Breeding Guide International Launch
The international Demand-Led Breeding team in Addis Ababa in 2019 during a professional development session.

Professor Hussein Shimelis, Professor of Plant Breeding and South African Sugarcane Research Institute Chair of Crop Science is part of an international Demand-Led Breeding (DLB) team that recently held an online launch of product profiles(PP) as a useful guide for plant breeding practitioners.

The DLB project was created as part of efforts to transform African agriculture in the area of crop improvement, and involved the formation of an Alliance for Food Security in Africa by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the Crawford Fund Australia and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture with African, Australian and international research institutes and universities. It includes participants from Africa and internationally. Key partners in Africa are the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI), the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture-Pan African Bean Research AllianceUniversity of Nairobi, KenyaMakerere University Uganda, and the West Africa Crop Improvement Centre.

Since late 2019, the DLB working group has been developing guidelines for developing and communicating PPs that are applicable for a range of markets, clients, crops, and environments.

Demand-led crop variety design enables plant breeders to create more high performing varieties that are customer focused and adopted by smallholder farmers, to enable farmers to improve their participation in local and regional markets. Developing PPs that identify the priority traits required by various actors along the value chain is an important first step to successfully implement DLB.

During the event to launch Product Profiles – A Practitioners’ Guide, Shimelis, an academic staff member in the ACCI, introduced the publication, explaining that DLB aims to make the business of plant breeding in Africa more responsive to market demand and places emphasis on the value of the breeder and their experience in new variety design and product profiling.

‘A new variety design and core product profiling requires inputs from a broad range of sources, including clients, stakeholders, the value chain and non-technical experts,’ he said.

‘The PP is an innovative and structured approach to capture a new variety profile involving plant breeders, clients, research and development managers and stakeholders. This guide will be widely shared among plant breeders in the DLB project and community of practice that work within national plant breeding programmes in Africa,’ said Shimelis.

He recommended the integration of PP into postgraduate Plant Breeding curricula to teach new variety design and product profiling that follows international best practice.

As part of a pan-African educators group that developed a PP in partnership with private and public sector experts and the DLB education programme, Shimelis previously contributed to the development of training module units that comprise the chapters of a textbook published in 2017 titled: The Business of Plant breeding: Market-Led Approaches to New Variety Design in Africa.

The new guide will support practitioners to complete the PPs of new varieties and enable communication of the profiles to technical and non-technical audiences that include product design teams, research and development managers, crop variety development teams, technology transfer units, seed scaling organisations and value chain representatives, and investors and donors.

The event included presentations on PPs and variety design for preference groups such as women and the youth and examples of the PPs used in developing various new crop varieties in Africa, and explored the next steps for introducing the Practitioners’ Guide to plant breeders in Africa.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

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Dietetics Professor Champions the Science of Food

Dietetics Professor Champions the Science of Food
Professor Suna Kassier, Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences.Click here for isiZulu version

To commemorate National Science Week and National Women’s Month, the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science is honouring its female scientists through a Wonder Women in Science campaign, highlighting women who are passionate about their fields, are pioneering innovative research and development, and are examples to women following in their footsteps towards careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Professor Suna Kassier, Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Associate Professor of Dietetics and Human Nutrition is an expert in the field of public health, where she focuses on infant and young child nutrition, obesity, body image and food security.

Kassier, who joined UKZN in 2007, grew up with a passion for reading cultivated by a maternal aunt, and during her high school years enjoyed Biology, encouraged by a supportive educator. She excelled at Biochemistry and Physiology in her undergraduate studies at Stellenbosch University, where she met her husband of 32 years in a first-year Physics class.

Kassier’s passion for dietetics was spurred by data collection while conducting research on infants with acute and chronic diarrhoea. She completed a master’s at UKZN and a PhD at the University of Cape Town, presenting results from the latter at three international conferences and a national conference, as well as to the Human Sciences Research Council and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

‘Nutrition-related lifestyle diseases are changing the global disease profile in developed and developing countries,’ she said. ‘South Africa has the second highest prevalence of obesity on the African continent, with 24.7% of school-aged children being overweight, while 14.2% of infants are born with a low birth weight.’

Kassier has prioritised science outreach, regularly writing pieces for community and national newspapers, including recent articles in the Independent on Saturday, the Weekend Argus, and Pretoria News Weekend. While the importance of STEM fields is well known, she suggests that secondary school teachers should remember their pivotal role in inspiring young learners to not only choose science subjects but to pursue them with passion.

In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, Kassier conducted four webinars for UKZN Extended Learning related to COVID-19, nutrition and lifestyle. The author of a guide for students on eating healthily on a limited budget, Kassier also participated in a Zoom session on this topic with students from the College of Health Sciences in conjunction with Student Counselling.

She said that while the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted her carefully planned research activities, it has taught her to build flexibility into deadlines and personal goals, and to prioritise contact with loved ones, even if separated by distance. She has achieved a work/life balance by applying self-discipline and time management.

Kassier’s proudest achievements include sole authorship of a chapter in a 2019 book on approaches to colorectal cancer, and the research of students she has supervised, such as nutrition in HIV-positive kidney donors and recipientsbody image and weight loss practices amongst female UKZN students, and management of moderately malnourished children. She also reflects with pride on master’s graduates she supervised who went on to successful internships.

Kassier is the President of the International Life Sciences Institute South Africa, and a member of the Food, Nutrition and Hygiene Committee in UKZN’s Campus Health Project. She is supervising student research on the metal content of foods cooked in artisanal cookware, the development of a scale to assess infant Body Mass Index-for-age, and evaluation of the growth monitoring and promotion programme for infants under five.

She hopes to leave a legacy of inspiring lifelong learning, and motivating students to be the best they can be.

Unlike many STEM arenas, Kassier’s is a female-dominated one, posing the challenge of inspiring more young men to choose a career in dietetics and pursue postgraduate studies in the subject.

Kassier believes that women bring a different perspective to science and are well-placed to be role models and mentors for younger scientists. She advises young female scientists to be cognisant of rare opportunities and to take them up.

Kassier the Superhero

Kassier said that if she had any superpower, she would choose humour, compassion and handing out hugs.

‘We are often unaware of the extreme difficulties and hardships people around us face, and a single gesture of kindness or a laugh shared can make a difference to the life of someone in mental, physical or spiritual need.’

Her theme song would be We will rock you by Queen, and her go-to gadget would be her constant companion - her laptop.

If she had to pick a team of “Avengers” to take on the world, her husband, children and students that energise her with their passion for research would be by her side.

When she needs a retreat, you’ll find her in her garden weeding and taking care of her orchids, and avoiding her own personal “kryptonite”; drinking too much coffee and being unable to say “no” to anything.

See Kassier take on the #toosieslide dance challenge, view the striking photos from her photoshoot and discover other Wonder Women In Science on our website:

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Sashlin Girraj

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UKZN Hosts Voices against Gender-Based Violence Concert

UKZN Hosts Voices against Gender-Based Violence Concert
Some of the performers at the Voices against Gender-Based Violence Concert.

The Centre for Jazz and Popular Music within the College of Humanities and iSupport Creative Business hosted a Voices against Gender-Based Violence concert to raise funds for the KZN Network on Violence against Women.

The online concert, which was part of the regular Unlocked Music Sessions, brought together 25 vocalists from diverse genres and generations. Durban jazz favourites: Zoe The Seed, Thulile Zama, Debbie Mari, Natalie Rungan, and Xolisa Dlamini were part of the line-up, as were the popular NOSIHE, Zethe, Sam Landers, Skye Wanda and Toya DeLazy.

Other participants included singer-songwriters Haylea Heyns, Simthandile and Chloe Clark, sisters Vanessa Moodley and Jessica Chaz who are based in Canada, and South African born opera vocalist Bronwen Forbay, now based in the US.

Joining this impressive line-up were Mimi Mtshali, Maya Spector, Thandeka Ndlovu, Thandeka Dladla, and Shelly McLean. Male vocalists were Rob Warren, Rene Tshiakanyi, Kwena Ramahuta and opera lecturer Lionel Mkhwanazi.

‘The funds raised will be used to empower women and young girls in communities through structured information sessions. It is crucial to provide reliable information, support and expertise to maximise their safety and meet their needs,’ said Network Director Ms Cookie Edwards.

The KZN Network on Violence against Women was established in 1996 and is a provincial coalition working with key stakeholders to take action to prevent the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence and HIV. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied

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SARChI (Sustainable Rural Livelihoods) Insights Podcast Series Bridges the Gap between Theory and Practice

SARChI (Sustainable Rural Livelihoods) Insights Podcast Series Bridges the Gap between Theory and Practice
SARChI Insights host, Dr Sokfa John.

The SARChI Insights Podcast is a project of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) in Sustainable Local (Rural) Livelihoods held by Professor Betty C Mubangizi in UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance.

It started in June 2020 following a webinar series in April and May on rural livelihoods in the context of COVID-19. The aim of SARChI Insights is to continue this conversation, and to create a platform for individual stakeholders and community members to share their stories and engage in conversations on public governance, sustainable rural and peri-urban livelihoods and other topics aligned with the interests of the Chair. Ultimately, the Podcast hopes to contribute to a nuanced understanding of the livelihoods realities of rural and marginal communities in South Africa and beyond, as well as how relevant government policies interact with these communities through the operations of municipal officials. It aims to bridge the gap between policy and practice, promote public and open scholarship, and produce an online archive of narrative data on sustainable livelihoods to inform policy research and civil engagement. 

SARChI Insights is hosted by its initiator, Dr Sokfa John, with the support and oversight of Mubangizi. A postdoctoral research fellow with the Chair, John is employing a mix of qualitative techniques and geospatial analysis to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the livelihoods of rural communities in the Eastern Cape. He also has research expertise and interest in how issues of religion, identity, social conflict and development are played out and shaped by digital platforms and technologies; and in exploring digital humanities’ tools and techniques for research and learning.

SARChI Insights is partly driven by this interest and a desire to explore new media and digital tools to foster interaction and exchange across academia, policy, communities of “lived” experience, and practice. The research and collaborative work undertaken by the SARChI Chair in Sustainable Local Livelihoods in the Eastern Cape offers the Podcast a rich platform and network to engage, while also extending its reach beyond that space.

SARChI Insights has received encouraging feedback from listeners in Africa and beyond. Work is ongoing to improve content and delivery to grow the audience and impact. Current and future episodes can be found on the SARChI on Sustainable Local Livelihoods website:

Words: Ndabaonline

Photograph: Supplied

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