Innovative Book on isiZulu Orthography Launched

Innovative Book on isiZulu Orthography Launched
Ground-breaking book now widely available.Click here for isiZulu version

Ukuvamisa Imithetho Yokubhala Nobhalomagama LwesiZulu Lonyaka wezi-2021 - IsiZulu Standardisation, Spelling Rules and Orthography - a ground-breaking book on isiZulu orthography, translation and interpreting techniques and terminology processes - was launched by UKZN’s University Language Planning and Development Office (ULPDO) and the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) on the Zoom platform.

Speaking at the launch, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Professor Sandile Songca, said language was an important tool that was linked with identity. ‘This project strengthens the University’s resolve to intellectualise isiZulu fully,’ he said.

Edited by Honorary Associate Professor at UKZN and a member of IsiZulu National Language Body (IsiZulu NLB) Professor Mandla Maphumulo, who has published numerous literary works, the new book includes chapters on spelling rules and orthography, writing symbols, phonetics, capitalisation, place names, editing and proofreading.

The book deals with language usage problems in the media, especially isiZulu words that are easily confused with other words and the unnecessary use of borrowed words instead of existing ones. Topics include the history and beginning of the development of isiZulu spelling rules and orthography and the role of isiZulu academics and missionaries in isiZulu writing. 

The work further explains the technique for creating new terms and rules for translation, interpreting and writing of dictionaries. 

Acting CEO of PanSALB Mr Xolisa Tshongolo emphasised the role language plays in social cohesion. ‘Language is life,’ he said.

Songca, who also serves as the Chair of the University Language Board, thanked everyone who had contributed to Ukuvamisa Imithetho Yokubhala Nobhalomagama LwesiZulu Lonyaka wezi-2021, a revised and improved version of an earlier edition.

Programme Director and Acting Director of the ULPDO Dr Lolie Makhubu-Badenhorst said the launch coincided with the celebration of International Mother Language Day (IMLD), which had the theme: Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society.

The online audience was treated to poetry by bard Ms Nokulunga Majola, also known as Inyosi kaMajola.

The book is available through the publishers UKZN Press, and also from bookstores and PanSALB.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Image: Supplied


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UKZN Medical Student Appointed President of SAMSA

UKZN Medical Student Appointed President of SAMSA
Ms Tivana Chellan.Click here for isiZulu version

Miss Tivana Chellan, a fifth-year Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery student at the UKZN Medical School in Durban, has been elected national President of the South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA) for 2021.

SAMSA is a national non-profit organisation comprising of Medical students from various medical schools across the country. Essentially, this organisation is ran by medical students for medical students. SAMSA members serve on a voluntary basis, have a passion for both medicine and creating positive change in South Africa and globally.

Chellan, who served as the Chairperson of SAMSA in KwaZulu-Natal last year, has been involved in initiatives to curb the spread of COVID-19 through public health empowerment initiatives, tackling misinformation, and the ICARE SAMSA project as well as #MzansiUthuleleni, and IForYOUth, which sought to tackle racism and gender-based violence and empower the youth.

Chellan has also worked in the public health arena.

‘I am looking forward to starting my new position as national president and hope to lead South African students and the youth towards innovation and impactful service within the national public health domain,’ said Chellan.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Hosts Virtual Orientation for International First Year Students

UKZN Hosts Virtual Orientation for International First Year Students
Speakers at the orientation event (clockwise from top left): Ms Normah Zondo, Ms Londeka Mzobe, Mr Jeevesh Nandan and Ms Renee Damonse.

Sixty-five international first year students who will study at UKZN this year attended a virtual orientation session hosted by the International Relations Office.

Speaking at the event, Acting Executive Director: Corporate Relations Ms Normah Zondo welcomed students from all over the world and congratulated them on being accepted at UKZN. She reminded them to follow COVID-19 protocols, and highlighted the University`s blended learning approach which has made learning content available online.

‘As the University management we are here to support you, contribute to your learning and help you succeed in your academic studies,’ said Zondo.

Introducing SIMEKA Health as a company which assists UKZN international students acquire affordable and suitable medical aid cover, consultant Ms Debbie Pretorius highlighted the importance of the South African Immigration Act which makes it mandatory for all international students to have medical aid as part of their student visa.

International student officer on the Howard College campus Ms Londeka Mzobe took students on a virtual tour of all five UKZN campuses.

Security and Traffic Manager Mr Trevor Abrahams explained the functions of the three divisions in Risk Management Services (RMS) – (1) Security and Traffic, (2) Investigations, and (3) Occupational Health and Safety.

He mentioned the UKZN Panic Button App that instantly alerts security if the holder is in a threatening or emergency situation and urged students to download the free app through Google Play or Apple App stores. 

Mrs Mirriam Jassat and Ms Cebisile Kubeka of Student Counselling focused on their department’s four core services - life skills development, and academic, career and personal counselling. As a free confidential service conducted by qualified professionals, Jassat and Kubeka encouraged students to seek their services for support and direction.

Deputy President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) Ms Nondumiso Zwane underlined the Council’s role as a body created to represent and serve students. She called on students to make their families proud and to enjoy their stay at the Institution.

Highlighting his experience at UKZN, former international student Mr Jeevesh Nandan thanked the International Relations Office and the International Student Association (ISA) for making him feel at home. Said Nandan: ‘This has been amazing experience and I look forward to coming back.’

Former ISA President Mr Steve Kyalangalilwa invited students to join the organisation listing it as welcoming space for them to learn, celebrate their diversity and voice their opinions.

In closing, Ms Nombuso Mtshali, Head: International Student Office and facilitator for the event, thanked all those who attended and her team for organising the orientation occasion.

Other speakers for the event included, Ms Renee Damonse who explained how to gain online access to the University Library; Ms Zanele Hlophe of Student Governance and Leadership Development (SGLD) who shared how her department supports student clubs and societies; and Ms Zilungile Ntombela of the Sports Union, who encouraged students to stay active and take advantage of their offerings.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Images: Supplied


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PhD Student Earns Examiners’ Commendation

PhD Student Earns Examiners’ Commendation
Mr Gamal A. Shehata. Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN doctoral student in Education Mr Gamal A. Shehata has received an examiners’ commendation for his unique contribution to English language assessment in the context of international education.

Shehata’s study profiles UKZN as an international university with a broad reach extending beyond the continent with its research making a huge impact on foreign institutions, policy makers and teachers internationally.

Shehata, who is Head of the Curriculum and Testing Unit at the English Language Center at the Taibah University in Medina, Saudi Arabia, said: ‘I am excited and privileged to get this commendation as it has been a life-long dream of mine to obtain a PhD degree in an area that is of importance at both academic and professional levels. I hope to enter academia as a lifelong scholar and contribute to the field through publications as well as by supervising other prospective teachers in their scholastic pursuits,’ he said.

His research focuses on relating English language examinations and tests to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) at a Saudi Arabian University – an area which is of interest at both the national and international levels. ‘It is also of close relevance to my current work at the Taibah University. I wanted to investigate this area in order to benefit my current institution as well as contribute to the literature related to this important area,’ he added.

Shehata has a Master of Education in e-Learning from the University of Hull, a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) from Mansoura University in Egypt, and a qualification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont in the United States.

He is also a certified teacher trainer and worked as an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examiner.

With over 30 years of experience in the field of English language education, Shehata has a wealth of practical knowledge on issues in TESOL. His research interests include curriculum design, managing English language programmes, language assessment, and online language pedagogy.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Panel Discussion Dissects Coronavirus Variants

UKZN Panel Discussion Dissects Coronavirus Variants
Panel members (from left) Professor Tulio de Oliveira, Dr Richard Lessells and Dr Nokukhanya Msomi.

SARS CoV-2 variants, including the 501Y.V2 first identified in South Africa, were under the microscope in a webinar debate organised by UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.

The head of UKZN’s Virology Department and also head of the KZN-National Health Laboratory Service, Dr Nokukhanya Msomi, led the discussion.

The deliberations started with the mapping out of the current state of the global COVID-19 pandemic, followed by outlining the terminology and taxonomy used for SARS CoV2.

When asked about the driving force behind the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, Professor Tulio de Oliveira of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Krisp) said: ‘Although it is not really known what drives the emergence of variants around the world, one hypothesis suggests that intra-host immunosuppression could be responsible for three main variants that were discovered in South Africa and the United Kingdom and initially in Japan, but were linked back to Brazil.’

De Oliveira is leading the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) which has been credited with identifying the South African variant 501Y.V2.

Msomi outlined how the various virology diagnostic laboratories and research institutions including NHLS, NICD and Krisp joined forces to form the genomics surveillance network. ‘Although this was implemented for SARS CoV2 surveillance, it can be used as a crucial surveillance tool for detection and control of any emerging infectious disease in the future,’ said Msomi.

Infectious diseases specialist at UKZN Dr Richard Lessells warned that a slow vaccine roll-out could mean the emergence of more variants as the virus could thrive if there was sub-optimal vaccine coverage resulting in ‘selective pressure and vaccine escape.’

‘There will be selective pressure on the virus since some people would be vaccinated and others not so as the virus spreads across the population we will see more variants with the capacity to evade the immune response from the vaccines,’ he said.

The three scientists agreed that South Africa could control COVID-19 transmissions through a vaccination programme which while being rolled out could create population immunity thus reducing the risk of further mutations and transmission of infections.

Although the country recently passed the peak of a second wave of infections, the scientists warned of a possibility of another surge in the winter months.

Responding to questions from webinar participants about the epidemic’s trends in South Africa, de Oliveira said it was critical for new transmissions to be controlled.

‘We know the South African epidemic was the highest in Africa,’ he said. ‘The 501Y.V2 variant was associated with higher transmissibility which drove the high numbers of infections, especially in the second wave. Fortunately, this variant was not associated with higher pathogenicity such as the 501Y.V1variant identified in the UK. The best way to control the epidemic is to find and use vaccines that are effective against the circulating variants.’

Lessells said scientists should consider having a range of vaccines, each targeting a different strain of the virus.

‘We’re reacting to what we’re seeing now. By the time we’ve developed those modified vaccines the virus could have evolved further if we have allowed it to. We need to develop different types of vaccines not just targeting the spike protein but also the different parts of the virus that are maybe less prone to the mutations we have identified,’ added Lessells.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Time of the Writer Festival Online but still ‘Provocative and Entertaining’

Time of the Writer Festival Online but still ‘Provocative and Entertaining’
Coming soon to a screen near you – the 2021 Time of the Writer Festival!

UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities hosts the 24th edition of the Time of the Writer International Festival on the event’s social media channels from 15 to 21 March.

The festival showcases a diverse gathering of leading novelists, social commentators, activists, playwrights, short story writers and poets.

This edition features authors in conversation, panel discussions, a public participation programme, and exhibitions focused on many socially-relevant themes such as whistle blowing, migration, colonialism, gender-based violence and sexual identity.

This year’s festival theme - The Writer: Witness, Canary in the Mine or Testifier - was inspired by an essay written by author Daisy Hernández.

Director of the CCA Dr Ismail Mahomed said: ‘On the opening day of this year’s festival it will be a year since South Africa went into lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Festivals across the globe have adapted in significant ways to the challenges of a lockdown. Last years’ Time of the Writer was the first South African arts festival to go virtual. Exactly a year later we are forced by circumstance to remain virtual but we also remain determined to bring to the virtual community a week of deep engagement, provocation, inspiration and entertainment.’

This year’s festival has been extended by a day to mark the United Nations International Day of Poetry and Human Rights Day in South Africa on 21 March.

Said Festival Co-Curator Ms Siphindile Hlongwa: ‘We will provide a platform for poets from across the globe to speak to concerns about human rights violations and a quest for a just society. The poetry programme will also honour the brave men and women who lost their lives in the Sharpville Massacre.’

This year, the CCA celebrates its 25th anniversary of significantly contributing to the creative industry in Durban and South AfricaTime of the Writer has been a consistent feature on the centre’s calendar and it is the first festival the centre will host during its celebratory year.

Time of the Writer is made possible through partnerships between UKZN and the KZN Department of Sports, Arts & Culture; Amazwi South African Museum of Literature; the French Institute of South Africa; Imbiza Journal of African Writing; the STAND Foundation, and the Foundation for Human Rights.

To stay updated follow @Timeofthewriter on Twitter and Instagram or like the festival on Facebook at www.facebook.com/timeofthewriter

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Hosting Virtual Summer School on Intellectual Property and Transfer of Technology

UKZN Hosting Virtual Summer School on Intellectual Property and Transfer of Technology
The WIPO-SA Summer School on Intellectual Property and Transfer of Technology.

UKZN’s InQubate will host the 2021 WIPO-South Africa Summer School on Intellectual Property and Transfer of Technology being held online from 17 May to 26 May.

The event is being organised jointly by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Academy and the Department of Science and Innovation through the National Intellectual Property Management Office and the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission of the Department of Trade and Industry.

 The programme will offer graduate and postgraduate students, young professionals, SMME founders and employees, officers from public and private research and development institutions, and entities dealing in innovation, a chance to gain insight on Intellectual Property (IP) and Transfer of Technology (TT).

There are no fees required and the programme includes lectures by experts, case studies, stimulation exercises and panel discussions on a variety of topics.

Applicants are required to successfully complete the free WIPO Distance Learning Course on Intellectual Property Management (DL 450). Material for the coursewill be available by 16 March for all who have registered and an assessment must be completed in May (date to be confirmed by WIPO).

Registration for the programme closes on 15 March.

To register click here: 2021 WIPO Summer School

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

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Msizi Chatbot Launched

Msizi Chatbot Launched
UKZN’s Msizi Chatbot.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN has developed the Msizi Chatbot to enhance the student and visitor experience for 2021 online registrations.

Launched at the beginning of February, the Chatbot is a computer programme designed to mimic human conversation and provide predetermined answers by interpreting words given to it in the chat interface.

Named Msizi - isiZulu for “helper”- the Bot was developed to assist those accessing the UKZN website. It is found in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, appearing as a blue icon.

The Chatbot is customised to respond to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which have been categorised as follows: Undergraduate Student, Postgraduate Student, Applications and Information, Student Finance, Student Funding (Scholarships, Bursaries and NSFAS), Student Residence, ICS Student Computing, International Students and the Disability Support Unit.

Created by the Information and Communication Services (ICS) division at UKZN, Msizi Chatbot also has the added “chat with us” feature which enables students or visitors to have a live chat with a staff member.

Commenting on the development of the Chatbot, Mr Handsome Nyathikazi of ICS Support said: ‘The team worked long hours creating categories, capturing FAQs, linking staff members to the chat feature and training the Bot.’

‘Working in a virtual environment due to COVID-19 posed some challenges but we had fun creating the Chatbot and we appreciate the team’s effort,’ said Nyathikazi.

Thanking ICS Management for their exceptional support throughout the project, Nyathikazi explained how the Msizi Chatbot was different to other chatbot services because of a three-pronged interactive approach which includes:

•    Interacting with a pool of information made up of well-constructed FAQs

•    Interacting with the friendly Msizi Chatbot

•    Interacting with well-informed staff members through the live chat.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Images: Supplied


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