UKZN Hosts First Virtual Parents’ Day

UKZN Hosts First Virtual Parents’ Day
First-year students and their parents were welcomed during the University’s virtual Parents’ Day on 13 March.

UKZN held its first virtual Parents’ Day to welcome first-year students and their parents to the 2021 academic year.

In his welcome address, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku, thanked parents and students for choosing to study at the ‘most transformed of the research intensive universities in the country with the mandate to develop the next generation of leaders of our countries.

‘You have chosen one of the best universities in the country and on the continent. We hope you will achieve the very best you can and it’s our role to enable you to do that by assisting you every step of the way.

‘To parents, thank you for encouraging your children to come to us. This is a poignant moment as your children head out into the world, propelled by your years of care and nurture, your high hopes and tender concerns,’ said Poku.

He assured the students that precautions have been taken to ensure that the University is a safe environment.

Chief Financial Officer, Ms Nontuthuko Mbhele presented a brief breakdown of the current fees for students from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and for international students. She said that registration fees needed to be paid by 1 April 2021 and that they form the first of the three annual payments made towards the 2021 fees. The second payment is to be made before 23 April 2021, with the final payment by 31 August 2021. She added that interest will be charged on overdue amounts.

Mbhele urged parents to only use the UKZN banking details available from the University website or any Standard Bank. She warned parents and students to be aware of scams and not to pay people to secure places at the University.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Professor Mosa Moshabela said that this is a difficult time for the country and the world, and while we are not out of the woods yet, he is excited about the prospects of COVID-19 interventions.

He added the University has decided that for the first half of the year, most learning will take place online but space has been created for students that need to be on campus. Those allowed back on campus include students who need to be there for clinical assessments and rotations, and practicals, those who have difficulty with WIFI connections, and those whose living conditions are not conducive for learning.

Moshabela said some of the most senior students have returned to campus and that all first-year students are expected to return by 1 April when learning starts. The University will ensure that they are oriented properly on campus and receive their learning material. He added that health and safety protocols have been put in place and that UKZN is working closely with the Department of Health.

Student Services Senior Director, Professor Fikile Mazibuko highlighted the Division’s core services that add value to the academic project. These includes departments that oversee student residences, campus clinics, sports clubs and societies, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the disability unit and student funding.

She assured parents that the University complies with international, national and institutional COVID-19 protocols to ensure that their children will be both supported and protected while at UKZN.

‘The current global changes are not only about gloom and negative challenges but also about great opportunities in the 21st century. At UKZN, your daughters and sons will have an opportunity to explore an exciting future. Thank you for making UKZN your university of choice,’ said Mazibuko.

SRC President, Mr Siyabonga Moses Nkambako welcomed the first-years and assured them that the SRC will be there to support them with any difficulties they might face. He discussed the upcoming Right to Learn campaign which will orient students on Moodle, and help them to get to know the University as well as how they should conduct themselves while at the University and in residences.

Nkambako asked parents to remind their children about the need to respect their peers, lecturers and the entire University community. He wished the students and parents all the best for the 2021 academic year.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photograph: UKZN Archives

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PhD Student Appointed to KZN Climate Change and Sustainable Development Council

PhD Student Appointed to KZN Climate Change and Sustainable Development Council
PhD student in Geography and Environmental Management and Hindu youth leader, Ms Tashmica Sharma.Click here for isiZulu version

PhD student in Geography and Environmental Management and Hindu youth leader, Ms Tashmica Sharma has been appointed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs to represent the South African Hindu Maha Sabha on the KZN Climate Change and Sustainable Development Council chaired by the Honourable Premier of the province, Mr Sihle Zikalala, for the period February 2021 to March 2024.

Welcoming Sharma, Zikalala said: ‘I take this opportunity to welcome you to the Council and look forward to your contribution and oversight role. I trust that you will greatly assist the KwaZulu-Natal government in managing the impacts of climate change and promoting sustainable development in partnership with its communities.’

Sharma’s role in the Council will include implementing, monitoring and evaluating response options defined in provincial and district climate change action plans/strategies with a focus on prioritising the most vulnerable sectors; research on sustainable development for appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies; and capacity building to empower communities to respond to ecological challenges. The inaugural meeting of the Council was held on 19 March.

Sharma is an environmental scientist with an active interest in the fields of climate change, sustainable development and urban political ecology. Her PhD research, which focuses on environmental justice and disaster management in Durban South, is supervised by Professor Brij Maharaj. She served the South African Hindu Maha Sabha (SAHMS) as a youth leader from 2015 to 2018 and thereafter became a member of the Women’s Forum of the Sabha. She is also the current secretary of the Shree Sanathan Dharma Sabha of South Africa.

‘This appointment is a very relevant forum to apply all the academic knowledge from the various degrees that I obtained at UKZN as well my experience gained from civic organizations to create a better environment and save all the endangered species of the various life forms for a peaceful co-existence,’ said Sharma.

Words: Brij Maharaj

Photograph: Supplied

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UEL celebrates eCommerce Day

UEL celebrates eCommerce Day
Ensuring continuity in the global supply chain.

UKZN Extended Learning (UEL) partnered with to celebrate eCommerce Day on 10 March.

The event included a webinar on Global Risk Management facilitated by Dr Robert Trent, a supply chain management academic based in the United States.

The webinar covered a range of potential risk factors and how each poses a threat to the supply chain’s efficiency and effectiveness in various industries. Trent also highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked new ways of working, such as additional regulatory compliance, which affects trade, increasingly complex networks of worldwide suppliers, and economic and market uncertainty. The world of business has evolved as a result. Staying ahead of the supply chain industry curve will demand innovative and problem-solving thinkers. It is essential that those involved in the supply chain have the ability to segment risks by utilising relevant tools and approaches to manage these risks.

The webinar was also an opportunity to introduce UEL’s fresh perspective on its Supply Chain Management programme, which will be replaced by the Global Supply Chain Management (Focus on Business Risk) programme commencing on 26 May 2021. It will offer delegates a broader perspective of the business landscape and a better understanding of risk management. The webinar provided a sample of the content of the new programme that aims to help delegates develop their risk management capabilities through understanding the key elements of supply chain risk with detailed approaches. The root of organisational resilience is the level of preparedness in mitigating risk and mastering disruption recovery processes. Attendees that join the programme in May will receive a comprehensive set of risk management tools, resources and various assessments to promote industry competitiveness.

To view Dr Trent’s full presentation, click here.

For more information on the Global Supply Chain Management programme contact Faith Ndlovu on +27 31 260 1234 or email:

Words: Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

Photograph: Supplied

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Coping with Grief

Coping with Grief
Mental health experts (clockwise from left) Ms Cindy Coleman, Dr Hilton Humphries and Ms Tracey Brand presented at the SAMSA webinar.Click here for isiZulu version

The UKZN Chapter of the South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA) hosted an enlightening webinar to assist students and members of the public to cope with grief.

The webinar included presentations by three experts in the field of mental health: Ms Cindy Coleman (clinical psychologist), Ms Tracey Brand (social psychologist) and Dr Hilton Humphries (research psychologist).

Medical student and president of UKZN’s SAMSA, Ms Serini Reddy commented: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to face many different types of loss in addition to losing family and friends, including economic loss, the loss of safety and security, and the loss of empowerment. We are directly grieving the loss of all these things and the mental health consequences of the pandemic are still ahead of us. It is therefore important to nurture our sense of wellness and look after our mental health. This was the purpose of arranging this webinar.’

A key take home message from the presenters was, ‘If someone is grieving, it is best to support them by being there for them and listening to them when they need to talk. Do not judge anyone’s grief as long as they are safe and okay. If someone has experienced something traumatic, is potentially self-harming or stuck in unprocessed grief, then it is important to help them seek professional help.’

The presenters outlined the five stages of grief, namely, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. A member of the audience commented, ‘Thanks to all speakers. I lost my father in July last year and I could relate to Ms Cindy Coleman’s presentation on the five stages. I’m also grateful to know that it is okay to fall apart even though you thought you had it all together.’

The webinar is available on YouTube and can be accessed at

Words: Nawaal Jacobs

Photographs: Supplied

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UKZN Vice-Chancellor Appointed Chair of the Frontline AIDS Board of Trustees

UKZN Vice-Chancellor Appointed Chair of the Frontline AIDS Board of Trustees
Professor Nana Poku, Chair of the Frontline AIDS Board of Trustees.

UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku continues to put the University on the map following his appointment as Chair of the Frontline AIDS Board of Trustees effective June 2021.

Frontline AIDS is the world’s leading global partnership of more than 60 locally-based civil society organisations working in almost 100 countries around the world to curb the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS. Founded in 1993 under the banner of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance to work with community groups in the countries most affected by the global AIDS epidemic, the partnership relaunched in 2019 as Frontline AIDS to revive awareness of its mission and attract renewed support. In the first year of its relaunch, it provided more than six million marginalised and vulnerable people with sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions; reached more than five million marginalised and other vulnerable people with HIV prevention programmes; and delivered training to 999 community organisations. Its programme of work includes interventions on gender equality; human rights; HIV prevention, treatment and care; sexual and reproductive health and rights; supporting adolescents and young people; harm reduction; and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Frontline AIDS, it has ‘continually adapted its approach, looking for innovative ways to break down the barriers that marginalise people living with, or at risk of acquiring, HIV all with one goal in mind: a future free from AIDS for everyone, everywhere’.

Poku said he was delighted to have joined Frontline AIDS as Chair of its Board of Trustees, adding that now more than ever, the world needs re-energised and refocused commitment to eliminating AIDS as a global public health threat. ‘I am confident that the board can help to consolidate Frontline AIDS’ already considerable standing and achievements, enlarge its strategic vision, maximise its impacts and inspire others. I am proud to have joined this outstanding organisation and look forward to the work we will undertake together,’ he said.

Respected as one of the world’s foremost experts on the political economy of Africa’s HIV and AIDS epidemic, Poku was tasked to lead the United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA) 2003-2006, at the behest of then Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan. The commission’s work led to the continental Momentum to confront HIV and AIDS as the greatest leadership challenge, the Abuja declaration and the establishment of the Global Fund.

From 2004 to 2006, he directed a World Bank programme of operational research (the Treatment Acceleration Programme) to pilot strategies to strengthen the capacity of African countries to scale up comprehensive HIV and AIDS programmes, providing care and treatment in an effective, affordable, and equitable manner. The outcome of the programme was significant in influencing the World Health Organisation’s global policy framework for the provision of complex AIDS-related medication in resource poor settings.

Since 2007, Poku has advised and provided technical assistance to more than 30 governments on HIV and AIDS policy and programming, and has worked closely with numerous regional and global bodies, including the World Health Organisation, World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, UNAIDS, African Union, African Development Bank, and the Economic Commission for Africa, to advance the AIDS response. His experience at the highest political levels, combined with his ongoing research at the frontline of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, means that he is well-placed to support Frontline AIDS and its Global Plan of Action in his role as Chair.

Chair of the UKZN Council, Dr Letticia Moja extended Council’s congratulations to Poku on his appointment, saying that he is highly respected as one of the world’s foremost experts on the political economy of Africa’s HIV and AIDS epidemic.

The appointment is Poku’s second major achievement in 2021 following the launch of his book: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa in February. The new publication is the ‘first book to be devoted to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) which is at once authoritative, accessible and presented both thematically and with a place-specific focus.’

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Andile Ndlovu

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Human Rights Month Dialogue on African Traditional Medicine

Human Rights Month Dialogue on African Traditional Medicine
UKZN’s Professor Hassan Kaya weighed in on a discussion on traditional medicine hosted by SA FM.Click here for isiZulu version

Director of the Department of Science and Innovation-National Research Foundation Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS) at UKZN, Professor Hassan Kaya participated in a panel discussion hosted by SA FM and the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture in the run-up to Human Rights Day.

The dialogue centred on the nexus between African Traditional Medicine and Human Rights and celebrated the legacy of Mama Charlotte Maxeke, an activist in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid, known as the “Mother of Black Freedom in South Africa”.

Issues raised included the interaction of traditional and Western medicine, the decolonisation of religion, and racism related to “natural medicine”.

Kaya emphasised that traditional medicines need to contribute to global knowledge, and said sangomas and inyangas do not need validation from Western medicine as they have ‘been practicing for centuries.’

He said that colonialism and cultural marginalisation have ‘reduced our indigenous languages to just a means of communication – not knowing that they are repositories of a rich diversity of knowledge systems.’

Other panellists included the President of Icamagu Spirituality Dr Nokuzola Mndende; expert on Xhosa culture Mr Mlawu Tyatyeka; and Senior Lecturer: Department of Pharmacy Practice at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Dr Nontobeko Mncwangi.

SA FM presenter Ms Phemelo Motene facilitated the discussions broadcast from the Steve Biko Centre in Qonce (formerly King William’s Town) in the Eastern Cape.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Supplied

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Top Rated UKZN Researcher and Human Rights Activist Professor David McQuoid-Mason Celebrates 50 years in Academia

Top Rated UKZN Researcher and Human Rights Activist Professor David McQuoid-Mason Celebrates 50 years in Academia
Professor David McQuoid-Mason celebrates 50 years in academia.Click here for isiZulu version

Advocating for social justice inspired by his meetings with Nelson Mandela; establishing one of the first university Law clinics in South Africa; being a National Research Foundation A-rated researcher; and teaching some of South Africa’s best legal minds, are some of the iconic achievements for which Law Professor David McQuoid-Mason of UKZN’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies will be honoured during the celebration of his 50th anniversary in academia at the University.

McQuoid-Mason began teaching Law in 1971 at the erstwhile University of Natal. He not only established the first law clinic in Durban in 1973, but also founded the first Street Law legal literacy programme in South Africa in 1986. This led to him visiting more than 132 countries to conduct clinical legal education and medico-legal training as well as to assist with the drafting of legal aid legislation.

Formerly the Dean of the Howard College Law School at the erstwhile University of Natal, a position he held for 13 years, McQuoid-Mason specialises in Medical Law and Ethics, Access to Justice, and Legal Education. He has taught legal luminaries such as South Africa’s former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, current Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi. During the apartheid struggle, he worked side-by-side with the late Chief Justice Pius Langa, and other colleagues from the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and the Mass Democratic Movement.

McQuoid-Mason is the President of the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, a former member of the Human Rights, Ethics and Professional Practice Committee of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, and a member of the Steering Committee of the Global Alliance for Justice Education. He was awarded a Special Mention by UNESCO for his work in human rights education; and the ‘Advocate of the Year’ award by Street Law Incorporated (USA). He has received Honorary Doctorates for his worldwide access to justice and clinical legal education work from the University of Windsor in Canada and the University of Northumbria in the United Kingdom.

To date, McQuoid-Mason has published more than 200 articles in law and medical journals, contributed more than 70 chapters to books, and co-authored 24 books and manuals. Never one to slow down, even during a pandemic, he is currently assisting two technical subcommittees of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, as well as the Gender and Human Rights Commission and private lawyers with Olympic gold medallist, Caster Semenya’s appeal to the European Court on Human Rights. He is also assisting with the review of the Ministry of Health’s proposed standards accreditation criteria for hospitals and general practitioners. He advises nine private hospitals and a number of public hospitals’ ethics committees, individual doctors, academic medical colleagues, and other healthcare personnel on the legal and ethical implications of different aspects of the pandemic and is currently designing training programmes for health practitioners in Ghana and paralegals in Somalia.

In celebration of McQuoid-Mason’s legacy, UKZN will launch an investment fund which will disburse bursaries to financially deserving LLB students who excel in Human Rights Law in June. An international webinar themed: Clinical Legal Education: International Best Practices Pre- Present and Post- the COVID-19 Pandemic will be hosted in SeptemberThe celebration of his achievements will culminate in a commemorative publication which will feature research papers from top clinical legal education teachers from all the continents.

Dean of the School of Law, Professor Managay Reddi said that McQuoid-Mason’s colleagues are proud to have someone of his stature in their midst: ‘We feel incredibly privileged to have been the beneficiaries of David’s expert legal knowledge, visionary ideas and wisdom over the years. We look forward to celebrating his rare and wonderful milestone of 50 years at UKZN and wish him many more years in academia.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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Unsettling Paradigms - the Decolonial Turn in the Humanities Curriculum in South Africa

Unsettling Paradigms - the Decolonial Turn in the Humanities Curriculum in South Africa
Participants at the Unsettling Paradigms - the Decolonial Turn Colloquium.

The College of Humanities hosted a virtual colloquium on Bridging the Oppressive Divide between the Humanities, Arts and Technology towards An Interdisciplinary Curriculum for Redress and Spatial Transformation in post-apartheid South Africa.

The colloquium was part of the Unsettling Paradigms - the Decolonial Turn in the Humanities Curriculum in South Africa pilot project headed by its Principal Investigator Dr Yashaen Luckan, of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, who was awarded an Andrew W Mellon Foundation grant.

‘The ultimate outcome of the project is to implement a pedagogically accessible postgraduate interdisciplinary curriculum for socio-economic redress and spatial transformation in South Africa. Our School provides an ideal base for interdisciplinary conversations and debates on contextually responsive curricula and alternate pedagogies,’ said Luckan.

Planned outcomes of the project include colloquia on decolonisation of the humanities curriculum. These will bring scholars, practitioners and community activists together in a safe space of (re)constructive critical contestation.

Dean and Head of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies Professor Ernest Khalema presented an overview of the project and its critical position in the broader context of Higher Education. He highlighted the challenges facing communities in the Global South and the role of decoloniality in Higher Education to effect social change.

Professor Oliver Mtapuri’s (UKZN) presentation focussed on Unshackling Epistemic Slavery. He noted that, ‘The domination and hegemony of the west over knowledge production have left African intellectuals in a state of paralysis – evident in not engaging, teaching, and researching on matters that are of importance in ordinary citizens’ lives and finding lasting solutions to them. Through the production of our theories and paradigms, Africans can liberate themselves from present odious scholarly and scientific slavery from which many African scholars require unshackling.’

Professor Iain Low (University of Cape Town) looked at Space and Transformation – Architecture in an age of [radical] change. ‘We must respond to the challenges of theory and proffer the means to a reconfigured architecture wherein the certainty of type and its extractive financialised underpinnings is challenged by new collective forms of being, in direct support of an integrative societal change. The production of locality is akin to the rewriting of architectural type.’

Professor Ariane Janse Van Rensburg (University of the Witwatersrand) highlighted the slow rate of transformation in the architectural profession in South Africa. She noted that, ‘economically, as long as architectural professionals are mainly privately employed and earn a cost-based fee, high-cost high-tech building will be perpetuated.’ She also reported on a research project at the Wits School of Architecture and Planning on students’ architectural aspirations and what decolonisation meant to them.

Professor Saras Reddy (UKZN) focused on community engagement as central in transforming Higher Education curricula. ‘Both the institution and students have to confront the contradictions of western knowledge while affirming and reclaiming lived experiences from local contexts in order to embrace competing ways of knowing as producers of transformative knowledge.’ She validated experiential learning as knowledge that is fundamental.

Dr Debbie Whelan (University of Lincoln–UK) looked at changing pedagogy in the Global North. ‘Decolonisation is not only a contemporary challenge in South Africa. In Britain there are increased calls for decolonised thinking, and moves towards decolonised curricula. At the University of Lincoln, university level committees have begun to address these issues through a shift in the composition of the curriculum to allow for exploration through different and diverse lenses with a greater humanities-rich focus.’

Dr Mark Olweny (University of Lincoln-UK) discussed the Challenge of Sameness in Architecture Education, reflecting on how it may be ‘possible to critique exiting modes of education and practices while developing pedagogical approaches that are able to address the lived experiences of an increasingly diverse student population with experiences and worldviews that are not readily found in the existing educational approaches.’

Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu and Mr Samuel Medayese (UKZN) examined the construct of the decolonisation of the educational curriculum for Humanities, bringing to the fore the problems and the ideological positions for the decolonial turn in this curriculum in South Africa.

They argued that South Africa must tackle and dismantle the epistemic violence and hegemony of Eurocentrism, completely rethink, reframe and reconstruct the curriculum and place South Africa, southern Africa, and Africa at the centre of teaching, learning and research. ‘The movement to radically transform and decolonise Higher Education must find ways to hold institutions accountable and maintain the non-violent and intellectual struggle until epistemic violence and Eurocentrism are dismantled,’ they said.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied

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24th Time of the Writer Opens Virtually with Message of Hope for Writers

24<sup>th</sup> Time of the Writer Opens Virtually with Message of Hope for Writers
Writer Ms Zukiswa Wanner opened the 24th Time of the Writer Festival.

The 24th edition of the Time of the Writer International Festival hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) in the College of Humanities was presented virtually on its social media channels, with a keynote address by writer, editor, publisher and curator Ms Zukiswa Wanner.

Festival co-curator Ms Siphindile Hlongwa welcomed more than 300 viewers to the festival's opening. ‘Through our championing spirit, exactly one year ago, we became the first South African festival to venture on an online platform. Our 2nd virtual edition offered a jam-packed programme with over 30 sessions and over 100 participants.’

The festival’s opening also included an introduction to featured writer Mr Fred Khumalo and inaugural festival literature champion Mr Ntokozo Ndlovu. Ndlovu was awarded this title by the festival for his sterling work with the Siyafunda-Donate-A-Book project that makes it possible for children in rural schools to access literature.

Speaking to this year’s festival theme, The writer: Witness, Canary in the Mine or Testifier? CCA Director Dr Ismail Mahomed said: ‘We believe that these three roles are incredibly important to defend our democracy. The CCA values the support that it receives from University leadership, our partners and particularly the artists we work with, to ensure that we create a platform for dialogue that help us to engage with our democracy so that we can create the systems and the opportunity to endow it to future generations.’

Delivering her keynote address on the Writer’s Voice in a Political, Social and Artistically-Conscious World, Wanner said, ‘While we may want to claim to be canaries in the mine, we probably are not. We are just engaging with our past and knowing how it will shape our future, and we seem prophetic only because our leaders are so anti-intellectual, so anti-literature that they do not read so they too can heed the warnings. I hope this is the case.’

She highlighted the vulnerable position of literature and her dream of what the continent would be like if each country had a literature foundation. ‘Writers would not need to debate whether to take Ngugi’s side or Achebe’s side on the language question. Writers, like painters, would paint in a colour or language of their preference, but be certain that their work, if engaging enough, could be translated into another of our languages. And our universities would not allow anyone to earn a master’s degree in any language if they have not translated a book from this continent from one language to another.’

Wanner added that to be a writer is to always hope for the better: ‘As writers, we can be witnesses, appear to foretell doom or testify. Unfortunately, as long as no-one reads us and engages with our work, it will not matter. After the end of this 24th Time of the Writer Festival, I can only hope that the narrative is changed.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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Launch of the Alternation African Scholarship Book Series (AASBS)

Launch of the <em>Alter</em>nation African Scholarship Book Series (AASBS)
From left to right: Professors Nhlanhla Mkhize, Labby Ramrathan, Nobuhle Ndimande-Hlongwa and Johannes A Smit.

The first four volumes of the Alternation African Scholarship Book Series (AASBS) were launched, as part of 24th Time of the Writer Festival Coffee Club Series, hosted by the College of Humanities.

These four volumes focus on research related to the impacts of COVID-19 on academia.

The session was moderated by Professor Relebohile Moletsane, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Social Cohesion, and J.L. Dube Chair in Rural Education.

Opening proceedings, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the Head of the College of Humanities Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize welcomed everyone present. He said the AASBS is located within the Humanities Institute as one of its signature projects. Its launch coincides with the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

‘The launch of the Alternation African Scholarship Book Series in the time of this event, is opportune for us, because it is a series focused on and dedicated to African Scholarship. It is dedicated to bringing in the historically marginalised voices into the Higher Education landscape, including, knowledge that was generated in resisting colonialism,’ said Mkhize.

The Book Series is aimed at preventing the effects of COVID-19 by increasing and intensifying the knowledge divide. ‘It also researches the historical contribution of the continent to global knowledge, from the South, bearing in mind the different ecologies of knowledge in which we are located, and which might be either complimentary or contradictory,’ added Mkhize. 

The Humanities Institute is supported by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku. The AASBS will be one of the Institute’s humanities projects, and is a peer-reviewed, international book series focused on the publication of interdisciplinary contributions in the fields of the Arts and Humanities in Africa, that will compete on equal terms with knowledge produced in the rest of the world. It is inclusive of human and social science aspects in Law, Management Studies, Information Science and Technology, Governance, and the natural sciences.

The project was led by a team comprising of the Chair of the Humanities Institute, Professor Johannes A Smit; Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize; Dean and Head of the School of Arts Professor Nobuhle Ndimande-Hlongwa and the research project leader on Humanities Curriculum Development in the College of Humanities, Professor Labby Ramrathan.

The titles of the volumes are:

•    Re-thinking the Humanities Curriculum in the Time of COVID-19. Volume #01.

•    Technology-based Teaching and Learning in Higher Education during the Time of COVID-19. Volume #02.

•    Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in the Time of COVID-19. Volume #03.

•    Learner and Subject at the Dawn of Digital Research-Led Teaching and Learning in the Time of COVID-19. Volume #04.

Having worked as part of a team, each volume also has its own lead-editor. Ramrathan led the first volume; Ndimande-Hlongwa the second; Mkhize the third; and Smit led the fourth volume.

Speaking about Volume One, Ramrathan said that COVID-19 triggered ‘a moment of deep reflection on the curriculum and this moment may be lost due to a pedantic focus on curriculum content coverage and on emergency online teaching and learning processes, to complete the academic year. Fundamental curriculum questions like What Knowledge is most worthwhile now and who should determine this knowledge may be marginalised in the quest for saving the integrity of the academic year.’ 

He sees the series as ‘a snapshot of initial interventions from an African perspective to teaching and learning during the extended university lockdown that could also be a blueprint to how university teaching and learning might unfold within the realities of the 21st century.’

Speaking in relation to Volume Two, Ndimande-Hlongwa noted that ‘curriculum transformation and development also include the seminal deployment of digital media in curricula. Excellence in digital competencies is key to future research and research-led teaching and learning. We also cannot integrate technology in our curricula and courses without a sound pedagogy.’

She highlighted that the volumes also cover emergency as well as lasting adjustments made to pedagogy during the time of COVID-19, in disciplines such as history, media, graphic design, music and dance, health sciences, commerce education, rural students’ studies, teaching and learning of differently abled studies, and social work’, amongst others. ‘The future will also see the foregrounding of some advanced technology integration in the research processes, published research and related curricula in the broad-based digital humanities space,’ she added.

Speaking about Volume Three, Mkhize said that ‘the main contribution of the research will be in the broad area of the transformation of tertiary education and research.’ He identifies three orders in epistemic transformation.

The first focuses on tacit as well as overt reinforcement of existing understanding and transformational processes in view of certain inefficiencies. Second order changes the replacement of out-dated, ineffective schemata and interpretive frameworks, with new, contextually, and culturally relevant ones.

Third order changes ‘require the conscientising of members of the university about the interpretive frameworks in need of change, and a sensitive facilitation of the emergence and practice of operative, instituted social imaginaries that inform and serve inclusive organisational frameworks. We require an ubuntu approach in Higher Education Institutions’ responses – also to the COVID-19 pandemic.’

Discussing Volume four, Smit said, ‘Not only has COVID accelerated the migration to online teaching and learning; it has also opened new vistas of the possibilities that information systems and technologies have for research-led teaching and learning as such. We can think of the “learner as subject”, and “learner as subject in interaction with an academic subject, during this pandemic”, which involve all – from the senior professoriate through mid-career academics, and tutors alike.’

Smit noted that ‘we also have to embrace this step of equalising the power balances between lecturing and student engagement of learning, not only with regard to subject-specific problematisations, but especially with regard to the enhanced capabilities required to embrace digital media in online teaching and learning.’

He argued that ‘the ball is in the hands of both lecturer-learners and student-learners, to upskill and to continue to learn how to use these technologies to their full capacity and for the optimum benefit to the qualitative e-research and e-learning opportunities and experiences of lecturer and student alike. Thus, this challenge will remain, and will also remain quite exciting, now that we have passed the crisis and emergency tipping points of the impacts of COVID-19 on teaching and learning of 2020.’

The Book Series can be accessed via

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied

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Webinar Addresses Burnout among Healthcare Workers during COVID-19

Webinar Addresses Burnout among Healthcare Workers during COVID-19
Panellists (clockwise from left) Professor Bonga Chiliza, Professor Suvira Ramlall, Dr Saeeda Paruk and Dr Peter Milligan.

Studies show that 40% of South African healthcare workers across the spectrum have suffered from burnout due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These alarming figures were presented at a College of Health Sciences webinar on burnout among healthcare workers due to COVID-19. The panellists included Senior Psychiatrist and UKZN lecturer, Dr Saeeda Paruk; Clinical Head of Psychiatry at King Dinuzulu Hospital, Professor Suvira Ramlall; Chief psychiatrist at Ngwelezane Hospital, Dr Peter Milligan; and facilitated by Head of Psychiatry at UKZN, Professor Bonga Chiliza.

Paruk highlighted that signs of burnout usually include emotional exhaustion, feelings of detachment and negative views about one’s job. She added that anxiety is an additional problem and that there is a 15.8% prevalence of anxiety disorders among South African adults. Studies estimate that between 10 and 44% of healthcare workers suffered from anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, 21% of doctors in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) were found to be suffering from depression. High levels of stress have negative consequences for healthcare workers and their families, their patients and the institutions they work for.

‘Burnout has always been highly prevalent in healthcare settings. Research shows that 59% of doctors at KZN state hospitals and 46% of nurses in South Africa suffered from burnout before COVID-19 struck. These workers serve the country with courage and make sacrifices and they need to be taken care of as well,’ said Paruk.

Ramlall noted that psycho-social interventions like the Healthcare Workers Care Network provide resources for healthcare workers by healthcare workers. This national initiative includes the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, the South African Medical Association and the Psychological Association of South Africa.

Ramlall has been instrumental in providing free therapy for healthcare workers, group sessions and a toll-free helpline. Workshops have also been organised for managers to equip them to assist healthcare workers. Since its launch, the network has received 1 000 calls and 200 SMSs and has provided care to 4 500 people. Ramlall added that burnout and stress among healthcare workers are not local phenomena, but a global problem.

Milligan encouraged healthcare workers to embrace self-empathy and self-compassion by giving themselves permission to take care of themselves as it is impossible to pour out of an empty glass. This includes eating well, getting enough exercise and rest, and maintaining meaningful social connections. He recommended spiritual care and psychotherapy as important tools for self-care which can help to minimise burnout and stress.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photographs: Supplied

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