UKZN Student Publishes Book on Adventures While at Medical School

UKZN Student Publishes Book on Adventures While at Medical School
Medical student, adventurer and now author - Mr Ashiq Pramchand has just published his first book.

A final-year Medical student with a passion for medical writing has published his first book titled The Great Medical Student Odyssey - Tales and Adventures in Medical School.

The 194-page book by Mr Ashiq Pramchand of UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, describes some of the amazing adventures and harsh realities experienced by Medical students in South Africa.

Pramchand (23) matriculated from Crawford College La Lucia scooping distinctions for all his subjects which ranked him third in KwaZulu-Natal among students from independent schools that year.

Inspired by his parents, who are both in the medical profession, the adventurous Pramchand joined UKZN’s Medical School and developed a passion for medical writing while serving as a research placement at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) laboratories. His passion for writing resulted in him having articles published in the Pulse magazine and the Harvard Medical Student Review Journal, among others.

As one of the top Medical students at UKZN, Pramchand has been instrumental, together with his twin brother, Ishq, in the creation of a student organisation on campus that aims to improve the speaking and writing skills of healthcare professionals through lectures and study resources. The club, BROCA, also produces a student magazine, called the BROCA Times.

Pramchand has played an active role in the SA Medical Students Association (SAMSA) branch at UKZN for five years, serving as vice-president, treasurer and research director. Through SAMSA, he formed a partnership with an NGO Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for disadvantaged rural communities. While working in rural Umgababa, Pramchand got involved in helping provide education on tuberculosis as well as arranging free HIV testing for community members.

A keen pianist and a student of Northern and Southern Kung Fu styles at the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre in Durban, Pramchand manages a small technology company called ZavourIT which creates Apps to help South Africans find solutions to unemployment.

An avid sportsman, he has completed the Midmar Mile twice and represented KwaZulu-Natal at the South African Table Tennis Championships in Bloemfontein.

In his spare time he enjoys playing tennis, practising swordsmanship, meeting friends, watching good movies, playing video games, exercising, writing, travelling, learning new languages and reading. He is also a television presenter and voice actor for a local show African Essence, which raises awareness about important human interest stories in South Africa.

Said Pramchand: ‘Medical students will spend thousands of hours at bedsides and in operating theatres. Blood will be drawn, tutorials will be attended and friendships forged in wards. You will see patient gowns, devastated and relieved reflections, tubes and IV lines. In this crucible, where life is renewed and taken away, we witness most beautiful and crushing moments. These places are autoclaves for the soul, where pressure, high patient caseloads and low resources purify us, force us to abandon or challenge our vices to help others. These experiences are life changing and profound. In my anecdotes, I try to capture the profoundness…the clinical years are where the real adventure begins.’

Pramchand’s book is available on Amazon and in bookstores.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photographs: Supplied

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UKZN Nursing Discipline Redesignated by WHO as Collaborating Centre

UKZN Nursing Discipline Redesignated by WHO as Collaborating Centre
CHS academics with the WHO delegation.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s Discipline of Nursing has been designated once again as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHOCC) for Nursing and Midwifery in the Africa region.

It is one of four such centres in Africa which are recognised by WHO,’ said Academic Leader Nursing Discipline and Director UKZN WHOCC for Nursing and Midwifery, Professor Ntombi Mtshali.

The designation, which is for four years, will expire in December 2024. The Discipline was first designated as a WHOCC in 1998 and has been re-designated several times, with the last re-designation in December 2018.

The Discipline is designated by WHO to form part of an international collaborative network carrying out activities in support of WHO programmes at national, regional and global levels. 

Mtshali said: ‘As a WHOCC we are expected to implement the agreed work plan in a timely manner and to the highest possible standards of quality. The work plan covers three areas: (1) conducting research, documenting best practices and disseminating evidence on Nursing and Midwifery education and practice in the African Region; (2) developing the capacity of Nursing and Midwifery education institutions in the African Region, and (3) strengthening the capacities of communities and health workers to address priority health problems in mental health, maternal and child health as well as health emergencies and emerging diseases such as COVID- 19,’ she said.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College Professor Busi Ncama expressed the College’s appreciation for being redesignated by WHO as a centre of excellence and reiterated the importance of realising the vision and mission of the University through activities such as those of the WHOCC. ‘Well done,’ she said.

Mtshali said ‘maintaining this prestigious recognition for more than 20 years is an honour’.

Words and photographs: Nombuso Dlamini

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Passion for Food Security Breeds Practical Results

Passion for Food Security Breeds Practical Results
PhD student and plant breeder Ms Marylyn Christian.Click here for isiZulu version

PhD student Marylyn Christian says what she loves most about researching plant breeding is that her projects have a purpose and can be applied to industry.

Christian, currently completing her doctoral studies in plant breeding under the African Centre for Crop Improvement on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, is researching the efficiency in silicon use to improve the quality of drought-tolerant wheat.

‘Our findings help achieve a better quality of consumer products and food security. The research serves a purpose and that is fulfilling,’ said Christian.

Other research projects her department is involved in include breeding for resistance to pests and disease, and climate change.

Her research focuses on plant breeding during drought conditions. ‘When you have a drought the quality of wheat is poor,’ said Christian. ‘Our aim is to improve - through plant breeding - the quality of wheat in a drought environment. That way the country won’t have to rely on imports, instead our exports will increase.

‘Our work is geared to help the local economy. Essentially plant breeding is the foundation of agriculture because we work with seeds the farmers will plant and by developing more nutrient dense food sources we can help people eat more healthily.’

It’s a lot of hard work but Christian loves what she does. She paid tribute to her ‘amazing colleagues, peers and lecturers. It’s kind of hard not to love what you do when you have passionate lecturers and fellow researchers who all encourage each other to excel,’ said Christian, making special mention of her plant breeding lecturer, Dr Julia Sibiya.

‘Dr Sibiya is a strong female presence and a role model for all her students. She represents the level of success we as females can achieve in Science.’

Christian says there is a lot of scope for females in agriculture with women contributing significantly to the Centre’s research. ‘In some communities where women do most of the cooking, we interview them to establish the dietary and nutritional needs of their families and community. That way we get a sense of what people want and need out of their food sources.

‘We need more women in Science and there needs to be more gender equality in industry and government.’

•    Article first published in the Maritzburg Sun.

Words: Jade le Roux

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UKZN Hosts Webinar on Trade Marks in South Africa

UKZN Hosts Webinar on Trade Marks in South Africa
Ms Amina Suliman.

UKZN InQubate - the Technology Transfer Office of UKZN - in partnership with Adams & Adams Attorneys - one of SA`s largest Intellectual Property law firms - hosted a webinar titled: Protecting Trade Marks in South Africa and How to Use Trade Marks Effectively as Commercial Tools.

The webinar which featured guest speaker Ms Amina Suliman, partner at Adams & Adams and UKZN alumnus highlighted the protection of trademarks and how to register and use trademarks as commercial tools.

Suliman examined Intellectual Property (IP) as the collection of different types of rights and noted the overlap that exists between various forms of IP namely: trademarks, copyright, patents, designs, trade secrets and goodwill.

She defined a trademark as 'a mark used in the course of trade in relation to goods or services for the purpose of distinguishing those goods and services from others.’ Using the banking industry as an example she said ‘consumers are drawn to trademarks because they attribute a certain quality or reputation to that mark.’

Suliman discussed how trademarks, designs and patents are the only IPs that can be registered. She identified a mark ‘as a sign capable of graphic representation’ and described the different forms of traditional and non-traditional trademarks.

Highlighting a requirement used for registering a trademark, Suliman said ‘the mark must be capable of distinguishing.’ She listed marks that cannot be registered as those that are incapable of being distinguished, have no intention of being used, are an adaptation, imitation or translation of a well-known mark, and are likely to deceive or cause confusion that is contrary to the law.

Suliman urged businesses to select trademarks from a marketing and legal standpoint by including a mark that has words or letters; is original or unique; has a logo; is easy to remember and pronounce; sets you apart from your competitors; is not descriptive of your goods or services; and translates well into other languages.

She noted how the registration process for a trademark can take up to two-three years to be completed and encouraged businesses to conduct general internet, domain, company and trademark searches to identify any potential risks before embarking on the registration process.

Suliman explained the importance of registering for a trademark as it makes it easier to enforce your rights, acts as a deterrent from others registering or using your trademark and becomes an asset.

In closing, she advised businesses to check on their portfolio regularly after registration, renew their registration every 10 years, obtain proper licensing agreements, update their records on the system and acquire IP audits and valuations in order to maintain and protect their brand.

The webinar was well received and had a varied attendance of staff and students. It shared practical advice and examples on the use and value of trademarks within a business and ended on lighter note with Suliman giving students a short guide on how one can become an IP attorney.

The Technology Transfer Office will be offering more webinars with topics ranging from IP and collaboration projects; protection of plant breeders’ rights; as well as early and late stage technology funding.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied

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Hybrid Rocket Built by UKZN Team Smashes African Altitude Record

Hybrid Rocket Built by UKZN Team Smashes African Altitude Record
UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Group with the Phoenix-1B Mk I hybrid rocket and the record-breaking Phoenix-1B Mk IIr hybrid rocket launching at Denel Overberg Test Range. Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s much anticipated Phoenix hybrid rocket test flight at the world-class Denel Overberg Test Range in the Western Cape was a resounding, record-breaking success.

The successful flight took place on 8 March when a gap in the weather provided suitable launch conditions and the Phoenix-1B Mk IIr vehicle soared to a new high altitude mark for hybrid rockets, beating the previous African record of 10.3km.

‘The team was delighted to see all of their hard work come to fruition with a picture-perfect flight, which exceeded our expectations,’ said Dr Jean Pitot, leader of UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG).

ASReG’s Phoenix Hybrid Rocket Programme is a skills development initiative that focuses on suborbital launch vehicle design and testing.

‘Internationally, sounding rockets continue to play a crucial role in the facilitation of experiments conducted in a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including bio-technology, astronomy, astrophysics, materials science and meteorology, among many others,’ explained academic leader for Mechanical Engineering at UKZN, Professor Michael Brooks. ‘They also serve as valuable test platforms for aerospace technologies related to commercial satellite launch vehicles.’

The Phoenix-Mk IIr suborbital rocket that was successfully tested was developed as a technology demonstration platform. 

After signing the fins pre-launch – a tradition in rocketry research – the team retreated to a mission control blockhouse from where the nerve-wracking countdown started.

At 4.47pm Mk IIr blasted off – and the exultant team broke into cheers as the rocket reached an altitude of 17.9km, setting a new African record.

Said Pitot: ‘The Mk IIr rocket is a high-performance version of our initial Mk I rocket, and demonstrates low-cost and robust construction methodologies, coupled with advanced fabrication and propellant technologies.’

Brooks acknowledged substantial funding received from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) for the project.

‘This funding has enabled the development of key expertise in the Engineering Disciplines of rocket propulsion technology, launch vehicle design and flight dynamics modelling as well as the development of appreciable scarce skills. It has also enabled unique cooperation between the University and industry,’ he said.

The ASReG team included 18 postgraduate and undergraduate students who contributed to the success of the launch through their innovative research. These students are products of ASReG’s DSI-funded transformation-centred talent pipeline programme.

Lead engineer on the Phoenix campaign was UKZN PhD student Mr Kai Broughton, a winner of the prestigious Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) merit medal and a cum laude UKZNMSc Mechanical Engineering graduate who has been named among the African Space Industry’s Top 10 Under 30s by the Space in Africa news agency.

Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Engineering Professor Glen Bright said: ‘This launch constitutes a deliverable on our DSI Space Propulsion Programme funding grant under the category of technology demonstration. We are thrilled at the outcome and are very proud of our students whose meticulous work, dedication and commitment contributed to this success.’

The Chief Director of Space Science and Technology in the DSI, Mr Humbulani Mudau, said: ‘Excellent work, team ASReG! You have broken the African record. The DSI – on behalf of Government – is very proud of this achievement. Well done!’

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Professor Albert Modi echoed his sentiments: ‘Well done Guys! You have put UKZN on the map, we are so proud.’

A delighted and relieved Pitot said: ‘This launch is the culmination of months of preparation. We had to move an entire rocket team, its launch platform, two rockets, multiple back-up parts, computer equipment and everything that goes with it 1 700km across the country. It was a massive undertaking, but the work has paid off.’

For further information contact: Dr Jean Pitot on email:; or phone 072 282 9457.

Words: Sally Frost

Photographs: Supplied

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IsiZulu COVID-19 Children’s Book Authored by UKZN Team

IsiZulu COVID-19 Children’s Book Authored by UKZN Team
Dr Maud Mthembu (right) distributes the COVID-19 children’s book to the Mseleni Children’s Home in northern KwaZulu-Natal.Click here for isiZulu version

Social Work lecturer Dr Maud Mthembu of the School of Applied Human Sciences led a team that wrote an isiZulu children’s book about COVID-19 titled: Uhambo lwami ngesikhathi sekhovithi - My journey during COVID-19.

The book uses illustrations and simple language to tell the story of Nsimu, a 10-year-old child whose family was affected by COVID-19 and the impact the disease had on the family. The story is told from Nsimu’s perspective and is intended for children aged six years and above. 

‘When writing stories for children, the context and setting of the story are important, and this book tells the story from the perspective of a child from a rural area,’ said Mthembu. ‘All children can identify with the story and understand the impact of the pandemic on their lives. Despite the relatively low number of COVID-19 related deaths among children, many have lost their caregivers or family members to the virus.’

She believes the book is appropriate for initiating COVID-19-related conversations with children and helping them express their experiences and feelings related to the virus and loss using child-friendly language.

Mthembu partnered with Lulisandla Kumntwana, an NGO from Mseleni, to distribute 400 books to children affected by COVID-19. It was well-received by both children and teachers.

‘We are grateful to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and Fachhochschule University for the financial support received while we were writing the book,’ said Mthembu.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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CANSA Undertaking Lung Cancer Research with UKZN

CANSA Undertaking Lung Cancer Research with UKZN
CANSA MLCCP Volunteers attending a five-day Palliative Care training, to equip them with the skills and knowledge for Palliative Care services as they will be providing such education and awareness to community members in the five identified communities as per the MLCCP project.

CANSA is involved in a three-year research partnership with UKZN’s Multinational Lung Cancer Control Programme (UKZN-MLCCP) under the leadership of Dr Themba Ginindza and other co-principal investigators.

The goal is to improve knowledge and awareness of lung cancer, its risk factors and symptoms, and to positively influence community attitudes towards lung cancer screening and diagnosis.

A further aim is to increase the uptake of lung cancer screening in high-risk groups through community mobilisation at identified sites with community screening services as provided by the project team leaders.

CANSA will focus on establishing community screening and support services, provide multi-level training for fieldworkers, promote palliative care services for lung cancer patients and track patient outcomes.

CANSA’s Manager in KwaZulu-Natal Ms Lorraine Govender elaborated: ‘Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among men and women worldwide - in South Africa it is the number one cause! The SA National Cancer Registry reported that in 2017 lung cancer was the third most diagnosed cancer among men and the fifth most among women. According to Bruni, et al. (2019), the 2018 burden of lung cancer in South Africa was estimated at 8 239 cases and 7 770 deaths. Lung cancer remains one of the top cancers among men and women in South Africa.’

Patients often present to health facilities with advanced symptoms of the disease. This project hopes to address the identified gaps in lung cancer awareness and early diagnosis through a multi-faceted and sustained awareness programme targeted at communities located in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

‘Public private partnerships of this nature strengthen CANSA’s footprint in communities at grassroots level allowing more communities to benefit from education and awareness on common cancers affecting the South African public. Early detection can save lives,’ said Govender.

The programme also aims to screen people and educate communities about symptoms and empower them with information to promote early awareness and detection. Referrals will be made to appropriate clinics or hospitals for further investigation and medical care. The programme will make use of trained volunteers to engage with communities on various platforms, including talks, events, exhibitions in public spaces, videos in health and clinic facilities, media interviews, social media and print media.

Said UKZN’s Mr Siyabonga Dlamini: ‘The overall goal of the MLCCP is to improve access to early diagnostic services for lung cancer by addressing the barriers of cancer care through working with communities and the Ministries of Health in the identified regions in South Africa, Kenya, Swaziland, and Tanzania with a potential for scale-up. We’re excited to partner with CANSA in Phase Two of the programme. We need to positively influence attitudes towards lung cancer screening and improve lung cancer screening in risk groups.’

The main risk factor internationally in lung cancer is tobacco smoking. Lung cancer is still more common among men but the incidence among women has jumped as increased numbers have started smoking.

However, while lung cancer is relatively common among smokers, it is not limited to them, as people who do not smoke can also develop lung cancer. About 10–15% of people who get lung cancer have never smoked.

Other risk factors include the effects of past cancer treatment and exposure to asbestos, radon gas and – in very rare cases – substances such as uranium, chromium and nickel. Lung cancer is not infectious and can’t be transmitted to others.

‘Volunteers are currently attending palliative care training conducted by a Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation partner who is an ardent advocate of palliative care in South Africa,’ said Govender. ‘Certain sites in Durban and Pietermaritzburg have already been identified for the awareness and screening phase.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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Education Academic Edits and Contributes to Book on Sport and COVID-19

Education Academic Edits and Contributes to Book on Sport and COVID-19
Professor Sadhana Manik.

Professor Sadhana Manik of the School of Education has edited a book titled: From High-risk Sports to Sports as High-Risk: Crisis, Captulation and Creativity during COVID 19.

The book is part of the Alternation African Scholarship Book series, launched by Professor Jannie Smit of the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics.

It is also a labour of love for Manik as she is a highly ranked karateka and has experienced the impacts of the pandemic in her training and club participation in the sport, which she captures in a chapter written from an autoethnographic perspective.

The book is a response to COVID-19 and its impact on sport in society, offering socio-cultural, political and economic insights into the role of sport at several levels in society in South Africa and Zimbabwe from the micro perspective of the individual to the meso level of a group (club and community) and the macro level of a nation during the pandemic.

It also provides a critique of selected sport codes with their pandemic afflictions providing creative avenues, physical and digital options, in sport participation and consumption, with a view to mitigating the effects of the virus and facilitating a return to some semblance of “safe” and transformed sports.

‘This fear (due to the pandemic) has forced sports’ organisations and associated sports’ stakeholders to reinvent the nature of sports, to breathe new life into pandemic participation and consumption,’ said Manik.

‘Planning for a future which includes creativity in sport rather than excludes it has become a common narrative and this indicates a positive trajectory in the scholarship with sports stakeholders aiming to find innovative ways to resume sport and to re-think participation and consumption in meaningful productive ways for a greater diversity of participants and consumers,’ she said.

To access the book go to:

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Humanities Academic on The Planner’s Women of Influence List

Humanities Academic on <em>The Planner’s</em> Women of Influence List
Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu.

Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies is on The Planner’s Women of Influence 2021 List announced on International Women’s Day.

Magidimisha-Chipunguwas among those selected from 270 nominations world-wide for the list in The Planner which is the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute in the United Kingdom.

This year’s list featured women working in planning who have had an impact over the past year - dominated by COVID-19 - in areas of planning reform, the relationship between health, inequality and the built environment, and the need to deal with the climate crisis.

Said Magidimisha-Chipungu: ‘I am extremely honoured and grateful for the recognition I have received for my hard work. Similar to many people, I have fallen several times but always get back on my feet and try again and again. At the end of the day, it is not about how many times you have fallen but how many times you have managed to stand up after falling. The more I fall the stronger I become.’

Commenting on the recognition, Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said: ‘Congratulations to Professor Magidimisha-Chipungu for this international recognition by her peers in her field of study. In the spirit of International Women’s Day we must recognise the efforts and leadership of women academics who are trail-blazing and cracking the glass ceiling wide open. She is among those in the School who effortlessly and intentionally contribute to transform the space. We are proud of her!’

Magidimisha-Chipungu became the first SARChI Chair in Inclusive Cities and at the same time the youngest SARChI chair. The Chair, funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and South African City Networks, supports research into spatial, economic and social inclusion within South African cities.

In 2020, she was also awarded the UKZN Vice-Chancellor's Research Award. As a practitioner she sits on numerous national and international boards and bodies, notably SACPLAN, which governs the teaching and practise of town planning in South Africa, and the 24-hour City project at the University of Politecnico di Milan DAStU in Florence, Italy.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Transforming the School of Engineering’s Curriculum for 4th Industrial Revolution

Transforming the School of Engineering’s Curriculum for 4th Industrial Revolution
The School of Engineering is transforming its undergraduate curriculum in a world significantly impacted by the 4th Industrial Revolution.

UKZN’s School of Engineering (SOE) is transforming its undergraduate curriculum in a world already significantly impacted by the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The SOE aims to empower its graduates to influence the economic advancement of South Africa and help shape society for the new norms.

We are currently at the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), a new era of innovation in technology that will enhance human-machine relationships, unlock new market opportunities and fuel growth across the global economy.1

Professor Annegret Stark, SMRI/NRF SARChI Research Chair for Sugarcane Biorefining, says: ‘The most prominent risk for South African society (or any society of less industrialised countries) is that we will simply be left out in the definition process, not only technologically, but more importantly, regarding our ideas of what it means to be human beings in the 21st century.’

Stark said the SOE development focusses on two important areas: ‘First, it seeks to identify 4IR-relevant knowledge and skill areas and transform the curriculum to not only equip graduates to find employment but also capacitate them to shape both industry and our society. Tremendous opportunities exist not only for established industries, but also for entrepreneurial activities. Graduates need to acquire skills whereby they can start businesses which in turn will create jobs, supporting the growth in the South African economy. This is in line with UKZN’s vision of being the Premier University of African Scholarship.

‘Secondly,’ said Stark, ‘it seeks to exploit the potential of digitalisation and other aspects of 4IR in the delivery of teaching and learning content (remote experimentation, automation). This second aspect relates in particular to the important experimental parts of the curriculum of the various programmes at the SOE, and the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science: While a lot of progress has been made in the past months to transform the conventional lecture hall teaching content, this was not the case for experimental work. SOE envisages that the experimental work offers unique opportunities to fulfil the mandate and vision of comprehensive, inclusive and equal engineering education. This, in turn, will contribute to the economic viability of the University, highlighting both the economic and societal impact of the project.

‘The SOE acquired a budget of R500 000 from the JW Nelson fund for 2021 for an initial project duration of a year. Several entities in South Africa and abroad have recognised the need for curriculum content and delivery transformation to the requirements of 4IR. Hence, this funding will lay the foundation for the fundamental curriculum transformation in Engineering at UKZN. Additionally, it will allow SOE to apply to other funding sources, such as the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Department of Science and Technology (DST) and international sources, to address sustainable development challenges, with a focus on education, gender and inequality,’ said Stark.

Academic Leader Teaching and Learning at the SOE Professor Jules-Raymond Tapamo said: ‘The SOE sees this funding as a strategic investment in the transformation of the curriculum which will in turn benefit the long-term sustainability of the School of Engineering at UKZN.’

The research is initially focussing on the development of a comprehensive strategy for the 4IR transformation in the Discipline of Chemical Engineering, thereby producing a roadmap to be used as a blueprint for other Disciplines within the SOE. The project is being conducted in collaboration with Professor Anja Philipp of the School of Education.

‘We as educators have a responsibility to swiftly transform the curriculum to gear the first generation of 4IR graduates such that they can fully exploit their intellectual and innovative capacity, technical skills and contextual understanding in times of tremendous change,’ said Philipp.

According to the Dean of the SOE, Professor Glen Bright, transforming the Engineering curriculum and its delivery in preparation for the 4th Industrial Revolution is essential if the School of Engineering at UKZN is to provide quality education that is relevant to local and international required Engineering practices. ‘It is important that we equip today’s students with knowledge and skills for tomorrow’s engineering workplace. As all Engineering Disciplines at UKZN are accredited with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), it is our duty to strive for teaching and learning excellence for all our undergraduate students. We look forward to a curriculum that prepares our graduates for the 4th Industrial Revolution and beyond,’ said Bright.

•    1 Sep, 2019). ‘What does “fourth industrial revolution” even mean?’ Retrieved from the Mail & Guardian.

Words: Leena Rajpal

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School of Engineering Receives Donation from Generous Benefactor

School of Engineering Receives Donation from Generous Benefactor
Equipment donated to the School of Engineering in memory of Mr Sean Kimmerling.

UKZN’s Discipline of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (EECE) has been generously gifted electronic equipment that belonged to the late Mr Sean Kimmerling.

The equipment was gathered by Kimmerling during years of hard work and passion for his electronics vocation.

His sister, Mrs Theda Gray, and a family friend, Mr Brian Hudson – both alumni of the University – considered EECE a suitable benefactor of Kimmerling’s hard work.

‘Sean’s love for maths and science led to a natural progression into the field of electronics and electronic engineering where he worked and gained many kudos among friends and colleagues,’ said Gray. ‘His natural love for his electronics hobby extended to a pride in his profession.’

Kimmerling had amassed an impressed collection of testing equipment which was handed over to EECE’s academic leader Professor Tom Walingo.

‘We really appreciate this generous gift and the sentiment behind it,’ said Walingo. ‘The equipment and parts will be used within the Discipline.’ 

Kimmerling, who died at the young age of 49, will be sorely missed by his family and friends. ‘We are delighted to be able to donate the items in the spirit of Sean’s love of teaching and generosity,’ said Gray. 

Words: Swasti Maney

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Warm Welcome for New Maritime Students

Warm Welcome for New Maritime Students
UKZN’s Maritime Law and Maritime Studies Unit welcomes new students.

Former students and leading maritime advocates and attorneys from around South Africa participated in a virtual welcome evening for new students at UKZN’s Unit of Maritime Law and Maritime Studies.

The Head of the Unit, Professor Trevor Jones, welcomed guests and spoke on the goals of the current programme. 

Mr Justice Malcolm Wallis of the Supreme Court of Appeal and an honorary professor at UKZN’s School of Law and key adjunct lecturer in core modules of the specialist LLM in Maritime Law degree, spoke about the importance placed on combining a thorough grounding in theory with practical experiences that connect students to an understanding of the wider maritime industry. 

A senior associate at Webber Wentzel Bowens and secretary of the Maritime Law Association, Ms Sharmila Naidoo, spoke to students about what to expect from the programme, while also sharing fond memories of completing her LLM degree at the University.

Participants later gathered in breakaway rooms to mingle and chat in small groups.

Ms Dusty-Lee Donnelly, a former maritime advocate who is a lecturer in the School of Law and has been appointed acting Director of the Unit from 1 April, says the Unit plans to build on the good relationships it has with the maritime industry to strengthen engagement with key role players.

The Unit plans to hold a series of practical workshops for students with invited guests from the industry as well as public seminars and, later in the year, a colloquium on the Unit’s research.

The evening, which took place on Zoom, was well-supported.

Words: Ndabaonline

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Audiology Discipline Members Active in World Hearing Day

Audiology Discipline Members Active in World Hearing Day
Clockwise from the left: Mrs Zandile Peters, Mrs Zandile Shezi, Mr Musawenkosi Makhoba and Miss Ayanda Gina

UKZN’s Audiology Discipline celebrated World Hearing Day (WHD) 2021 - themed Hearing Care for ALL! Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate. – by participating in several hearing campaigns.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2021 marks the launch of the World Report on Hearing, which promotes a global call for action to address hearing loss and ear diseases.

UKZN staff members collaborated with various stakeholders to promote awareness of hearing healthcare and advocate for the profession at a variety of events to help ensure the message travelled far and wide!

UKZN’s Audiology team of Mrs Zandile Shezi, Mr Musa Makhoba and Mrs Zandile Peter volunteered to help translate three WHO hearing-related pamphlets into IsiZulu in partnership with the South African Association of Audiologists (SAAA). ‘These resources will be displayed on the WHO website,’ said Peter.

Team members, including Ms Ayanda Gina, were interviewed on Good News Community Radio and Ikhwezi FM with the aim being to make communities aware about the significance of hearing health, hearing care and World Hearing Day in general.

‘Part of the responsibilities of audiologists is to create public awareness on hearing health care as a prevention measure,’ said Shezi.

‘As a Discipline we hold in high esteem the WHD commemoration and strive to make students aware of the health promotion values,’ said Makhoba.

Gina in collaboration with the UKZN Ear, Nose and Throat department and the KZN Auditory Implant Programme hosted an online webinar to heighten awareness about hearing impairment interventions.

Guest speakers were Dr Bianca Birdsey, Mrs Julie Cordona, Dr Andile Sibiya and Mr Zandile Shezi.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photographs: Supplied

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New Book on Preventing HIV Edited by Two UKZN Academics

New Book on Preventing HIV Edited by Two UKZN Academics
UKZN and HEARD launch a book focused on preventing HIV among young people.

Efforts to confront and reduce the high level of new HIV infections among young people in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) are explored in a new book - edited by two UKZN academics - launched during an online event hosted by the University and the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD).

Against a background of the slow progress being made in curbing the rate of new HIV infections in the regions, the book titled: Preventing HIV Among Young People in Southern and Eastern Africa: Emerging Evidence and Intervention Strategies, discusses the social and structural drivers of the sexual transmission of HIV, including current policy debates regarding the scale-up of HIV programmes. 

The new work, edited by UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Nana Poku and Research Director at HEARD Professor Kaymarlin Govender, has contributions from international researchers, implementing organisations, agencies and policy experts.

During the webinar Govender presented data on some key features of the HIV epidemic in ESA and pathways to infection among young people in the region.

Govender said in 2019 alone, 260 000 new HIV infections had been recorded among young people aged 15–24 in the ESA region (UNAIDS, 2020), with about three out five new infections occurring in adolescent girls and young women.

‘The latter statistics point to a deep-seated gender imbalance in the rate of new infections,’ he said, highlighting that other key groups - such as young people who sell sex, people who inject drugs, gay and transgender communities, incarcerated offenders, and other men who have sex with men - face exclusions from the AIDS response.

Govender said UNAIDS-prescribed targets for 2020 - to reduce new HIV infections to fewer than 500 000 by 2020, reduce AIDS-related deaths to fewer than 500 000 by 2020 and eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination by 2020 - were off course before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, however the pandemic had further blocked efforts toward epidemic control. ‘Lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and restrictions on movements imposed by governments in the region to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus have significantly disrupted HIV prevention, treatment and support services, with these negative effects likely to be felt long after COVID-19 pandemic.’ 

Focusing on adolescents and young people, he said while programmes aimed at reducing mother-to-child infections had been quite successful in recent years, however reducing new infections among adolescents and young adults had been slow and more difficult to achieve. ‘This is a key objective of the book – discussing current efforts to reduce the acquisition of HIV through sexual transmission- has been particularly difficult. One the one hand, this has been mainly due to the complex physical, psychological and social challenges they experience in the transition from childhood to adulthood, while on the other hand, young people face gender, economic, social and legal prejudices in accessing HIV and sexual and reproductive health services as they reach puberty and become sexually active.

‘For example, these negative stresses include cultural inhibitions against sexuality education, discrimination from health care workers when they seek sexual health services, material poverty influencing exploitative sexual relationships and, for young people of different gender and sexual orientations, the associated social and legal stigmas as they grow into young adults in many countries in the region,’ said Govender.

Speaking at the webinar on behalf of Poku, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Law and Management Sciences, Professor Brian McArthur, said the ESA region was the epicentre of the HIV pandemic. ‘It is indeed worrying to see our region is leading globally with 800 000 new HIV infections annually,’ said McArthur.

‘It is even more disturbing to note that our youth is at high risk which then threatens future livelihoods. This group constitutes a cohort of future scientists and the future workforce. Future economic development and growth in our region is equally at risk.’

McArthur commended HEARD for championing the book which took three years to complete and noted the relevance of the work to the University’s vision to be the Premier University of African Scholarship. ‘It is crucial for our research endeavours to remain relevant to the local, socio-cultural context. This book does just that.’

Chief Operating Officer of the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, who chaired the event, cautioned against the stalling of the response to the HIV epidemic. ‘The slowing down of the HIV response was evident prior to COVID-19, so we can’t lay all the blame on the pandemic. In commending the stellar and diverse team of authors who contributed to the book, she said the publication ‘compels us to re-energise our efforts on HIV prevention and make sure that we get to the end chapter of HIV/AIDS’.

The edition which was published by Routledge, UK: Study in Health in Africa Series, provides an excellent roadmap of ways to go about reducing new infections among young people.

Five authors of chapters in the volume provide glimpses into evidence and policy debates on preventing HIV among young people.

The Co-Research Director at STRIVE Research Consortium and associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, Professor Mitzy Gafos, said the chapter she collaborated on reviewed and synthesised findings on the effectiveness of structural interventions targeting adolescents and young people (aged 10 to 24) in ESA. She said ‘improving educational attainment (keeping young girls in school), reducing poverty, challenging harmful gender norms and mitigating the risk of gender-based violence, are important steps to interrupt the casual pathway to HIV infection’.

Associate Director of Public Policy in Advocacy at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation Ms Rhoda Igweta contributed to the chapter titled Global and Regional Initiatives to Prevent HIV Among Adolescents and Youth – Fulfilling the Promise in Eastern and South Africa.

Igweta said that the reduction in new HIV infections among young people and adolescents had stagnated and emphasised the importance of regional, national and global collaborations in order to reduce the number of new HIV infections among this group.

‘We conclude our chapter by making some recommendations that note that all policy commitments must be matched with the financial resources, both domestic and external. There must be ambitious targets that inspire action and guidelines that facilitate programmatic implementation that would result in an extraordinary opportunity for real change for young people in the ESA region.’

In another chapter, a professor at the Université de Paris 8 and a member of the Centre for Sociological and Political Research of Paris (CRESPPA) Professor Jane Freedman and her collaborators outline their research on challenges of young key populations (young people who sell sex and men who have sex with other men) in accessing HIV and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Freedman said there was a real gap in research in young key populations due to ethical and legal challenges ‘so we felt that this was a key area in need of more ethnographic type research’. Their work supports the need to revisit exiting labels and definitions of young key populations with attention given to the context-specific lives of young people. For young people, ‘economic inequality was a key determinant of a vulnerability to HIV and to poor sexual and reproductive health’.

Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in Psychiatry at the HIV Centre for Clinical and Behavioural Studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University in the United States, Professor Susie Hoffman, spoke on behalf of co-authors on the chapter titled: Are Adolescent Boys and Young Men Being Left Behind? Missing Discourse and Missed Opportunities for Engagement in HIV Prevention in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Hoffman said while adolescent girls and young women were at ‘extraordinarily high risk and vulnerability’ for HIV infection, ‘we must not forget adolescent boys and young men’.

‘Although HIV prevalence peaks among young men in sub-Saharan Africa at a much later age than it does among women, young men are not at zero risk,’ she said. ‘Behavioural patterns formed during early adolescence become very ingrained in adulthood, setting the stage for adolescent boys’ increasing risk of HIV acquisition as they become young adults. But early adolescence also provides an opportunity for instilling positive sexual and reproductive health attitudes and behaviour.’

HIV/AIDS Specialist on Adolescents who is based at the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Ms Alice Armstrong, presented on behalf of her colleagues.

‘We need better data. We need stronger, disaggregated data systems that really can drive targeted programming for adolescents and young people. Data that takes into consideration the dynamic changes that are inherent in adolescent development, including those social changes that continue into adulthood,’ she said.

Armstrong said the lack of disaggregated data by age and sex meant that ‘sub-populations of adolescents and young people had been invisible from the data driven and evidence-informed programming efforts.

‘Without this data, we have an incomplete picture of the health and social support needs of adolescents and young people,’ she added.

Preventing HIV Among Young People in Southern and Eastern Africa: Emerging Evidence and Intervention Strategies is available online - click here.

To view the book launch, click here.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Images: Supplied

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Research Reveals Pet Trade of Non-Native Small Mammal Species Growing in SA

Research Reveals Pet Trade of Non-Native Small Mammal Species Growing in SA
Examples of non-native small mammal species being sold as pets in South Africa.

A variety of small, non-native mammals are being sold in South Africa with some becoming invasive after escaping or being released from captivity.

This is according to researchers at UKZN’s Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology and Centre for Functional Biodiversity, situated in the School of Life Sciences.

PhD candidate in Zoology Mrs Ndivhuwo Shivambu said small mammals were among the most charismatic animals being sold as pets around the world. ‘Increasing trade for them has resulted in releases and escapes from captivity. Consequently, several small mammal pets have become invasive, with a significant impact on crops of agricultural importance, biodiversity, human social wellbeing, and the economy,’ said Shivambu.

Some threatened species had become invasive in their introduced ranges, for example, the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

‘In South Africa, this pet trade is growing, and most of the species are sold online and in pet shops,’ said Shivambu.

Together with Mr Tinyiko Shivambu and UKZN’s renowned researcher Professor Colleen Downs she surveyed activities in the online trade and at pet shops across South Africa to get an idea of the degree of trade in non-native small mammals.

In total, 122 pet shops selling 19 391 animals representing 16 species were documented by the researchers. Online, seven websites offering for sale 2 681 animals representing 24 species were recorded. Of the 24 species on sale, seven had become invasive through escapes and releases in other countries.

The most dominant species in both online and pet stores were the Norwegian rat (Rattus norvegicus), guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), European rabbit and the house mouse (Mus musculus).

Said Shivambu: ‘About 46% of the species are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and this includes most of the primate species.’

Prices ranged from R9 000 to R12 000, with primate species sold at relatively higher prices than other groups.

‘Species found to be most popular, cheaper, not listed on CITES, of least concern and invasive elsewhere, pose a particular invasion risk to South Africa,’ said Shivambu. ‘Given this, the study recommends that the sale of these species should be regulated to prevent future invasions and possible impacts.

‘We believe that potential impacts of non-native small mammals can be mitigated through monitoring the trade, including engagement with the public, the pet industry, researchers and policy developers.

‘Appropriate management strategies can also be implemented through such engagements,’ she said.

•    For more information, contact Mrs Ndivhuwo Shivambu ( or Professor Colleen T Downs (

Words: Sally Frost

Photographs: Gumtree and Public Ads

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