Meet UKZN’s Oldest 2021 Autumn Graduate

Meet UKZN’s Oldest 2021 Autumn Graduate
Mr Bonginkosi Mshengu graduated with a BA Honours degree in Political Science.

Mr Bonginkosi Mshengu (69), this graduation season’s oldest graduate at the University has been awarded a BA Honours degree in Political Science, realising his long-held desire of obtaining a postgraduate qualification.

Mshengu, who decided to return to UKZN after halting his academic career more than 30 years ago, is proud of his achievement.

‘I feel so happy to finish what I always wanted to do - my family was supportive by allowing me time to focus on my studies,’ he said.

Mshengu believes no-one is ever too old to study and encourages people of all ages to pursue their dreams while they can. ‘I might even study further!’

Mshengu began his studies at UKZN in 1988 but dropped out due to personal reasons. Despite his age, he returned to complete his honours degree after doing research on understanding the rising level of corruption and its impact on service delivery.

‘South Africa is a relatively young democracy, still emerging from the colonial past of segregation and discrimination,’ said Mshengu. ‘Writers have on many occasions stated that Blacks in general and Africans in particular have had very limited access to basic services, including education, training and skills development. The challenge therefore is to stretch the limited resources to deal with backlogs. Public sector corruption siphons off financial resources desperately needed for development.’

Mshengu’s research concluded that rising levels of public sector corruption had an impact on the delivery of services and that corruption was multi-sided and sophisticated, making it difficult to detect.

‘The question about why public sector corruption was rising in South Africa is answered with my work which clearly shows there are no consequences for corruption, while departments responsible for administering justice have been compromised. Corruption syndicates assisted by senior officials siphon millions of rands out of the system. Public sector corruption has the ability to undermine governance and worsen inequalities and poverty. The impact of corruption permeates the whole fabric of society,’ said Mshengu.

Confident in his time management skills, he managed to balance family, friends and his studies. Reflecting on memories during his studies, Mshengu said: ‘I had such a good relationship with the younger students in lectures and I hope that I inspired them to continue studying.’

He is grateful for the support he received from his family as well as the joy and pride they have for his achievement. Said his wife, Mabuyi: ‘Well done Bonginkosi! You worked very hard and deserve this.’

Mshengu, who has 35 years’ experience in the Human Resources field working for organisations in the private and public sectors, has operated at an executive level for many years as a Human Resources generalist. With a passion for leadership and community development, he also spent a number of years in the government service as a social worker.

He has managed human resources projects in Namibia and Ethiopia and successfully handled the project of implementing a performance management system for all staff below executive level at the eThekwini Municipality.

Mshengu is the past regional President of the Black Management Forum; a current member of the Mhlathuze Water Board; President of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business; and Managing Director of Bhekani Consulting.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Alistair Nixon


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The Impact of Floods on Black African Women in the Greater Durban Area

The Impact of Floods on Black African Women in the Greater Durban Area
PhD in Political Science graduate, Dr Fidelis Udo.

Exploring experiences of vulnerability among local Black African women in adapting to the impacts of flood disasters in the Durban metropolitan areas resulted in Dr Fidelis Udo graduating with a PhD in Political Science.

The sampled women were from Inanda, Ntuzuma, KwaMashu and uMlazi.

The study also focused on how municipal climate adaptation policies address women’s vulnerability to such impacts and is premised on the recognition that ‘women and men are experiencing climate change differently as gender inequalities persist around the world, affecting the ability of individuals and communities to adapt.’

Said Udo: ‘Women who are poor are more likely to experience the greatest impact and this is due to the socioeconomic, socio-cultural and socio-political dynamics that promote gender inequity and continue to put women at the lower status both in homes and in workplaces.’

He says women are leading the way in the search for more equitable and sustainable solutions to climate change. ‘Across sectors, women’s innovations and expertise have transformed lives and livelihoods and increased climate resilience and overall well-being.’

Udo called for the recognition of the important contributions of women as decision makers, stakeholders, educators, caretakers, carers and experts across all sectors and levels. He argued that a gendered analysis and examination of climate change and its impact could contribute towards effective, successful and long-term solutions to climate change and adaptation.

‘Considering the South African context which is largely characterised along race, gender and class lines, it is pertinent that the eThekwini Municipality takes an intentional approach towards addressing the vulnerability and adaptation needs of poor Black women, especially in various rural settlements affected by floods and other climate disasters,’ he said.

One of the examiners noted that ‘a key strength of this research is its employment of the intersectional lens to gender and climate change.’ A fellow examiner added: ‘Acknowledging the advances that South Africa has made since becoming a democracy and ending apartheid, the researcher is cognisant of the outstanding challenges, including the persistence of discriminatory practices and inequality.’

Udo’s supervisor, Professor Maheshvari Naidu was proud of him. ‘Fidelis has traversed a long path and triumphed against some early obstacles. He overcame his limited background in gender studies as he was a Political Science student and he did this by persistent effort and critical engagement with the relevant literature. It is immensely heartening to read the highly complimentary reports by two of the examiners who have strong feminist backgrounds,’ said Naidu.

Udo - who thanked his family, friends and supervisor for their support - plans to apply for postdoctoral opportunities and to boost his research portfolio in academia. ‘I love community service and I will be serving the community in my own capacity,’ he said.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Graduate Bags 16 Distinctions!

Graduate Bags 16 Distinctions!
Inspired by family members who graduated from UKZN, Ms Theshaya Naidoo achieved a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree cum laude.

Ms Theshaya Naidoo scored 16 distinctions during her Bachelor of Social Sciences degree studies which she achieved with a cum laude pass.

Naidoo said she was proud to be following in the footsteps of her late aunt who had attended UKZN and her parents and brother who are also graduates of the University.

‘Completing my first degree at the age of 20 with a cum laude pass and 16 distinctions after very average marks in matric was confirmation that I could achieve anything with a goal and plan,’ she said.

In 2018, Naidoo was awarded the Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship which recognises exceptional academic performance. She also received the Werkmans Bursary in 2019.

Some of her other achievements include making it as a finalist in the UKZN e-Learning Competition; being recognised as a South African Women in Law by the Human Rights Moot Court, and being a finalist in GradStar which identifies the Top 100 students in the country based on leadership qualities and readiness for the workplace.

Naidoo is a member of the prestigious Golden Key International Honour Society and is the Media Director for the UKZN Criminology Association in which she maintains open communication with senior management.

She is also a social media influencer and runs three businesses while studying for a Law degree at UKZN. Naidoo has this advice for fellow students: ‘Find goals and plans that work for you. Focus on academics.’

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Alistair Nixon


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“Blesser-Blessee” Relationships Explored in Master’s Research

“Blesser-Blessee” Relationships Explored in Master’s Research
Exploring the attitudes of students on “blesser-blessee” relationships earned Ms Nomazulu Singata a master’s degree.

Understanding “blesser-blessee” relationships through the perspectives and experiences of students was the subject of a study by Ms Nomazulu Singata who graduated with a Master of Arts degree.

“Blesser-blessee” relationships is a social phenomenon which sees wealthy men and poorer women linked for material gain. Singata explored the attitudes of students towards those relationships, the reasons for engaging in them, as well as the opportunities and constraints for changing such relationships.

The research underlines the arrangements and relations between the two parties which often result from female students’ personal circumstances such as poverty, unemployment, peer pressure and gender inequality.

‘These structures have an impact on their (female students) ability to make their own decisions,’ said Singata. ‘The relationships ultimately produce their own structures which can be both positive (financial needs and education) and negative. The negative leads to gender-based violence (GBV) as well as health issues that impact on the “blessee’s” agency.’

Singata hopes society not only looks at the impacts of this issue but also the causes embedded in these structures and the reasoning behind becoming a “blessee”. She believes that focusing on the reasons and finding solutions for the issues could prevent “blesser-blessee” relationships developing.

Singata said the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging but she prevailed in the end. ‘Those sleepless nights have paid off and I now realise that all my hard work was not in vain. It also feels exciting because I have become a positive statistic as a young Black female moving towards her PhD.’

She says her master’s degree is an achievement that has opened doors for her academically and professionally and she plans to give back to her community by opening her own environmental consulting company.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Rogan Ward


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Master’s Study into Migration of SA Teachers

Master’s Study into Migration of SA Teachers
Master’s degree in Education graduate, Mrs Nadine Stow.

Reasons why South African teachers leave their home country to work overseas and why some are attracted to Kuwait was the focus of research by Mrs Nadine Stow who graduated with a master’s degree in Education.

Stow, herself a migrant teacher, found that the majority of teachers left for financial reasons but noted ‘if small changes were made so that teaching conditions were improved, teachers might be more willing to handle the financial challenges and remain in South Africa close to family and home’.

Said Stow: ‘One thing prominent in the interviews and discussions I had with teachers was how they all still think of South Africa as their “home” even though many have lived and worked in Kuwait for 20 years or more. They all share a special love for South Africa.’

Stow’s master's journey was fraught with challenges. ‘I lost my job in staff reductions caused by COVID-19 and a month later, my son was born. Fortunately, I started work again full-time soon after giving birth,’ she explained.

She thanked her supervisor, Professor Sadhana Manik as well as her family and friends for their support during her studies.

Stow plans to continue researching, learn more and help make positive changes in issues facing the teaching profession in South Africa.

Words: Melissa Mungroo 

Photograph: Supplied


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Doctoral Research Shines Spotlight on School Librarians and Libraries

Doctoral Research Shines Spotlight on School Librarians and Libraries
UKZN staff member and PhD graduate, Dr Siyanda Kheswa.

The training of teacher librarians and the development of school libraries in KwaZulu-Natal were the focus of research by UKZN staff member, Dr Siyanda Kheswa who graduated with a PhD in Information Studies.

Kheswa evaluated the effectiveness of the Advanced Certificate in Education School Library Development and Management Programme (ACESLD) by tracing educators who have graduated from the programme and determining its impact on their work as teacher librarians and the development and management of their school libraries.

The study found that the ACESLD Programme had encouraged teacher librarians to contribute to the development of their school libraries and they used the knowledge and skills gained from the programme.

Kheswa noted that ‘the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education’s Directorate of Education Library and Information Technology Services (ELITS) had a much broader role to play given that its focus is not only the provision of access to functional school libraries but also necessitates that it provides library-related professional development and support for targeted schools within the province.’

The study also revealed that in the absence of full-time teacher librarian posts in schools, the teacher librarians should have their teaching workloads reduced to afford them more time to focus on maintaining a functional library service. ‘With more time at their disposal, the teacher librarians would be able to instigate collaboration with other educators to integrate the curriculum and library resources. They would also have the time to teach information literacy skills, reading for understanding and digital literacy,’ said Kheswa.

He recommends that the Directorate compile a report on the progress ELITS has made regarding the school library development in KwaZulu-Natal. ‘ELITS should conduct extensive monitoring and evaluation to determine if the teacher librarians are maintaining the school libraries, given that they were provided with the initial resources to develop school libraries.’

Kheswa thanked his family, friends, work colleagues and his supervisor for their unwavering support. ‘I am grateful for their constant support throughout this journey.’

His grandmother, Eslina Kheswa said: ‘I am proud of Siyanda. His late mother, Nophikelelo and grandfather Wilson would be very proud of this achievement given their love for education. I remember when Siyanda was in Grade 1, he never wanted to be late for class and would run to school without having breakfast. I just knew that there would be a good outcome or reward for that dedication towards learning. We have a doctor in the family!’

Offering advice to other students on the importance of discipline and hard work, Kheswa said: ‘Remember that research is an ongoing process, not an event, so it will take time and needs you to be committed and dedicated to your study. There is no study without a supervisor; hence they need to be part of the journey from developing a research topic to the submission of the final copy for examination.’

What are his future plans? ‘I am a life-long learner. I will continue learning and growing through publications and the production of masters and PhD students. I have ambitions of being a professor, so I plan to work towards that goal. I would also like to empower society by sharing my knowledge and expertise in library and information science, especially information literacy and school librarianship, and improving our education’s standard and quality.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Graduate Examined Interpretations of Masculinities in SA Soapies

Graduate Examined Interpretations of Masculinities in SA Soapies
A doctoral degree in Media and Cultural Studies for Dr Melba Nzimande.

Interpretations of masculinities presented in three South African soap operas: Uzalo, Imbewu and Isibaya by Zulu male audiences living in KwaZulu-Natal were the focus of a doctoral research undertaken by Dr Melba Nzimande who graduated with a PhD in Media and Cultural studies.

Nzimande says research contributes to African masculinity studies, especially those in soap operas in terms of representation and audience engagement in a “post” era from the perspective of the global South.

Her study found that contemporary South African soap operas uphold and subvert dominant discourses of Zulu masculinities that are fluid and influenced by social and cultural factors. This articulates the complexity of these masculinities, thus working against stereotypical representations of Zulu men.

Nzimande identifies the significance of this finding. ‘Firstly, soap opera producers are creating narratives that no longer conform only to traditional soap opera codes and conventions. They encode messages through narratives that draw in male viewers and use the power of cultural proximity in representations, meaning that there is a move to the indigenisation of settings, storylines and languages to attract audiences.

‘Secondly, male audiences decode the messages through parasocial relationships and cultural proximity,’ she said.

The study ‘adds to understanding the specificities of viewing within the African context, and the importance of creatives to be aware of the ways in which these habits shape the meanings of the programmes they produce.’

Looking back on her doctoral journey, Nzimande said: ‘Being a student in the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) pushed me to work harder, read more and to ask more questions. The type of learning environment present blew me away and I loved every moment of it. I have the highest respect for the CCMS staff and their research integrity. I am privileged to have been a part of it. The academic boot camps, colloquia and symposiums were enlightening.’

Reflecting on the supervision process, she said: ‘The supervision relationship is a vital component of the doctoral journey. I was lucky that Professor Lauren Dyll was my supervisor. She provided me with wonderful academic assistance providing feedback on drafts and urged me to attend special workshops and symposia, even arranging for my attendance in Dr Kerry Frizelle’s psychology gender and identity classes. On top of all that she was always kind to me.’

Among the biggest challenges Nzimande faced was juggling work and studies as she was based in Pietermaritzburg, but registered to study in Durban. This meant commuting weekly to attend colloquia, workshops, lectures and taking time off work to attend. ‘I knew that the typical student worked about 40 hours a week on research and that I had to equally put in those hours after work. This meant a lot of weekend time was spend on studies, plus late nights and very early mornings. As a new mom and a wife, I created a rhythm of working that was able to accommodate all that.’

Nzimande is grateful to her family for their support as well as to the men who participated in the focus groups and the soap opera producers from the various production companies: Mmamitse Thibedi (Uzalo), Duma Ndlovu (Imbewu) and Jacob Ntshangase (Isibaya).

She urged all current and future doctoral students to ‘invest in your supervision partnership - and the starting point is open, dialogic and frequent communication.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo and Lauren Dyll

Photograph: Supplied


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Graduate Applauds UKZN’s Supportive Study Environment

Graduate Applauds UKZN’s Supportive Study Environment
Cum laude graduate, Mr Prince Dlamini thanked UKZN staff for going above and beyond to support him through his studies.

Mr Prince Dlamini struggled with depression during his studies but persevered to graduate with a BA (Philosophy and Economics) degree cum laude.

‘When in the midst of a spell, I would see my marks plunge and recover again when I was in better shape,’ said Dlamini. ‘I am so grateful for the support from friends and family and also UKZN staff members whose help went beyond academics - it was something that always pulled me through.’

Dlamini said his undergraduate years were rewarding as well as challenging and frustrating. ‘UKZN staff are among the most empathetic and brilliant in their fields but they also push you to keep on achieving.’

‘A lot of students seem to adopt the attitude of “getting by”. What we need, I think, is one of excellence and intellectual rigour - not just in the classroom but outside as well and in the way we live our lives.’

Reflecting on the positives during his undergraduate years, Dlamini said: ‘Engaging with lecturers outside class showed the compassionate side of the University. This was powerful for me with my goal being to become an academic. Mrs Yolanda Hordyk recommended books which are now my firm favourites and I always go around trying to arm-wrestle people into reading them!’

He has this advice for other students: ‘Start strong and persevere. We always think we can catch up later - rather get into the habit of starting early and staying on track. It helps to reduce stress and will serve you well for your postgraduate studies where you need to have established habits for learning or you’ll struggle.’

Dlamini plans to study for an Honours degree in Economics.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph:Rogan Ward


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Doctoral Thesis Presented in Creative Arts-Based Mode

Doctoral Thesis Presented in Creative Arts-Based Mode
PhD in Education graduate, Dr Hlengiwe Makhanya.

Dr Hlengiwe Makhanya, a subject advisor in the Foundation Phase (Grade R to Grade 3) in the Department of Education who graduated with a PhD degree, presented her thesis in a creative arts-based mode using collage and drawing.

Makhanya’s research was a self-study project conducted to explore her practise and learning as a subject advisor in continuous professional teacher development (CPTD) as well as her understanding of how she could apply her new knowledge to better support teachers.

Submitted in a creative arts-based mode, the study offers an innovative approach and understanding of meaningful continuing professional development from a subject advisor’s perspective.

Her PhD in Education was supervised by Professor Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan and Dr Lungile Masinga.

‘Throughout my self-study journey, I learned from a socio-cultural theoretical perspective and social constructivism,’ said Makhanya. ‘A socio-cultural perspective assisted me in understanding teachers’ and subject advisors’ learning backgrounds. In understanding social constructivism, I discovered that teachers and subject advisors learn better if they interact as they construct knowledge together.’

She said self-study required that she examine her own practise and reconstruct her thinking about how she conducted CPTD. She gained confidence and valuable insights into her practise as she came to understand more about teachers’ and subject advisors’ experiences of CPTD.

Makhanya says her research demonstrates the power of ‘self-study to facilitate a process of learning, whereby improvement in practise can be achieved as we discern context-appropriate ways of bringing about changes in offering CPTD in challenging circumstances. We can start to value teachers’ contributions in planning and facilitating CPTD programmes that are more inclusive and participatory, and that address teachers’ genuine concerns.’

Her advice to other researchers is: ‘Persevere, take one step at a time and be focused.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Honours Self-Study Research Focuses on Biracial Identity

Honours Self-Study Research Focuses on Biracial Identity
Honours in Theology graduate, Ms Belinda Crawford.

UKZN staff member, Ms Belinda Crawford graduated with an Honours in Theology following self-study research examining her biracial identity in relation to Genesis 2-3 in the Bible to find belonging within South African society.

Crawford’s research was derived from a biblical methodology known as the tripolar method that allows the biblical text to be analysed within its context, followed by an individual analysing the context as a reader then appropriating the biblical meaning in the context of the individual as the reader.

While conducting the study, Crawford found it difficult to revisit aspects and events of her life lying dormant and that needed to be either addressed, challenged or affirmed. ‘I discovered meaning in my biracial identity and was utterly satisfied with it. I was able to shift my worldview from a marginalised view to inclusivity, meaning that I don’t view people in categories that promote segregation and division; however, I can be a social being in a society that is all-inclusive.’

Crawford hopes her research will benefit society from a racial perspective that protests against racial oppression, segregation, and suppression through religion or the religious text study. Her research also aims to inform society that everyone is included.

Her supervisor, Professor Helen Keith-van Wyk said: ‘Belinda has overcome tremendous odds to complete her honours degree. Making her biracial identity the focus of her research is nothing short of heroic. To the best of my knowledge, no-one has read Genesis 2-3 from the perspective of their biracial identity to date. Hers is thus a fresh contribution, and that at honours level! As her supervisor, I couldn't be happier. I am blessed and humbled to have walked this journey with her and look forward to walking alongside her academically as far as she wants to go.’

Rev Sthembiso Zwane, Director of the Ujamaa Centre for Community Development added: ‘Belinda’s academic journey can be characterised as an inspiration for emerging young scholars. She has managed to overcome most of the pitfalls to acquire her honours degree. Her commitment to excellency suggests that she is destined for success in academia. The Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research team is proud of her achievement.’

Crawford thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support. She is currently working towards a master’s degree in Theology.

WordsMelissa Mungroo

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Japanese Collaborative Concept Core of PhD Research

Japanese Collaborative Concept Core of PhD Research
Dr Avash Juggernath (right) with his supervisor, Professor Nadaraj Govender.

Using an ancient Japanese collaborative concept to help teachers in South Africa integrate new technologies in their lessons may seem misplaced but it helped Dr Avash Juggernath earn a PhD in Science Education.

Juggernath’s study, supervised by Professor Nadaraj Govender, explored teachers’ experiences of Lesson Study which is a Japanese form of professional development for integrating Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in teaching.

Juggernath chose a career in education because he wanted ‘to make a difference in the world’, with his love of teaching leading him to consider things from various perspectives, especially those of the learner.

He says he noticed throughout his 22-year teaching career how learners interact with each other and learn, which resulted in his interest in ICTs. 

During studies for his doctorate, his emphasis changed from his role as a science teacher to one of a digital learning initiator. Interactions with teachers had alerted him to how despite being competent in using ICTs, they often had difficulty integrating the technologies in their lessons.

Juggernath said a turning point occurred when a senior teacher asked him the following: ‘I know how to use the technology but how do I use it in teaching?’ This question resulted in research that launched Juggernath’s PhD journey. ‘I began researching professional development approaches and came across Lesson Study. Based on what I had read, it represented what seemed like a suitable way of helping teachers integrate ICTs in their teaching in a holistic manner.’

Commenting on his doctoral journey, he said: ‘The hard work and long hours helped me develop a deep sense of respect for academics and the challenges they face.’

Referring to Juggernath’s research, an examiner remarked: ‘It is independent ground-breaking research that is worth publishing so that it can be shared with a broader research community in the fields of science, mathematics and technology education.

‘One of the most significant challenges, among others, was maintaining a balance between family time and finding time to write. These challenges helped me develop time management skills,’ said Juggernath.

‘The study has resulted in a significant contribution to the limited body of knowledge on the use of Lesson Study to integrate ICT in teaching and shown the potential and use of the method as an alternative to traditional forms of professional development, illustrating how teachers can be agents of change and work collaboratively in integrating ICT in their teaching.’

Juggernath said the PhD experience was long, challenging, and filled with emotionally-charged moments. ‘But thanks to the unwavering support of my supervisor Professor Nadaraj Govender; my wife, Karishma; children, Suharsh and Upasana; other family members; and friends, it ended successfully. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to those special people in my life.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Graduate Falls in Love!

Graduate Falls in Love!
A love for Philosophy earned Ms Sabrina Loubser a degree summa cum laude.

Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude graduate, Ms Sabrina Loubser ‘fell in love with Philosophy’ during her studies.

‘Philosophy extended and challenged my intellect and made me think outside of the box while formulating solid arguments and analysis. The Discipline is one of the most inspiring and relevant to humanity.’

Loubser had to travel between the Howard College and Westville campuses to attend lectures for her two majors (Philosophy and Economics). ‘I was determined to do this cross-disciplinary degree. The co-ordinations were tough but extremely worth it.’

Loubser, who received the UKZN Malegapuru W Makgoba Scholarship for academic merit, advised other students to ‘soak it all in’. ‘The undergraduate university experience disappears before you know it. Go to lectures. Attendance was my number one key to making the best of my UKZN experience.’

Loubser plans to pursue postgraduate studies at UKZN.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Education Student Excels with Help of Silibona Scholarship

Education Student Excels with Help of Silibona Scholarship
Ms Nosipho Gabela who has graduated with a Bachelor of Education.

Ms Nosipho Gabela, who in 2018 won a Silibona Educational Trust scholarship to complete her studies, has graduated from UKZN with a Bachelor of Education degree in Business and Life Science.

The Trust provides financial assistance to previously disadvantaged students for university studies.

With the added assistance of the Shaping Futures Foundation, Gabela also received mentorship and guidance throughout her studies as well as having historical debt paid off.

She thanked the organisations for their support. ‘Silibona Educational Trust came into my life and gave me peace of mind in so many ways. Although tuition was paid for, the mentorship was the cherry on top because I always had a friend to listen to me and advise me when I needed it.’

Ms Mandy Cobbing, who runs the Durban Silibona programme in partnership with the UKZN Foundation, hopes to enrol more students soon when further funding is confirmed. ‘The mentorship session is a safe and informal space for the students to talk about any current challenges and to get advice and support from their mentor,’ said Cobbing.

‘The mentorship relationship, if functioning well, provides a platform that gives students the assurance that they are not alone, an insight into how their challenges can be overcome, and support and confidence to continue.’

Students are encouraged to continue to be involved with Silibona after graduating by providing support/mentorship to colleagues and sharing their experiences, challenges and ideas to assist Silibona improve on its offering.’

Gabela has enrolled for a Bachelor of Education Honours degree. ‘We wish her well as we continue to provide mentorship and support. We are confident she will make us proud again,’ added Cobbing.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Bringing Mathematics and the Arts Together

Bringing Mathematics and the Arts Together
Dr Makie Kortjass graduated with a PhD in Education which explored early childhood mathematics teacher education.

UKZN lecturer Dr Makie Kortjass graduated with a PhD in Education for research that explored an integrated learning approach (ILA) in early childhood mathematics teacher education.

‘I wanted to become a change agent by assisting student teachers to develop a genuine interest in mathematics and seeing it within their reach,’ said Kortjass.

It was a self-study project in which Kortjass used arts-based materials and methods, including collages, concept maps and metaphors, to help her study provide a noteworthy contribution to early childhood mathematics teacher education and self-study methodology.

She found that ‘mathematics was taught in an abstract way, which did not make sense because it lacked connection with everyday lives. Since mathematics is related to tangible aspects and connected to our everyday lives, it needs an integrated approach to show the interconnectedness of mathematics and our lives. Students acquired more mathematical skills when they were actively involved. Playing games as an extramural activity for understanding mathematics is invaluable.’

Kortjass adds her voice to other South African scholars in mathematics integration conversations, especially in early childhood mathematics teacher education. She plans to create an exciting and accessible classroom for her diverse groups of pre-service teachers.

‘I want to channel my student teachers’ negative experiences into positive ones by bringing mathematics and the arts together through hands-on arts-based activities such as creating collages and concept maps, artefact retrieval, and memory drawing. I hope this will inspire their learners to enjoy discovering mathematics.’

Kortjass thanked her supervisor, friends and family for their support. ‘I am thankful and appreciative to have such an amazing family who supported me throughout my PhD research. I will forever be grateful.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Rogan Ward


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Are Men More Likely to Have Unsafe Sex Once Circumcised?

Are Men More Likely to Have Unsafe Sex Once Circumcised?
Ms Lungelo Khanyile who obtained a Master’s degree in Social Sciences.

Research by UKZN’s Ms Lungelo Khanyile revealed that men may engage in unsafe sex or have multiple concurrent partners once they are circumcised or go on to an oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen.

The research, which earned Khanyile a master’s degree in Social Sciences, examined factors that influence how men choose which HIV prevention methods they want to use, focussing on oral PrEP and voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and how men respond to risk compensation.

Risk compensation is ‘the idea that there will be an increase in risky behaviour when a person thinks their risk to HIV infection is low following the use of HIV preventative measures. Important in my study is the idea that men may have unsafe sex or have multiple concurrent partners once they have become circumcised or go onto an oral PrEP regimen.’

Her findings reveal that ‘there seems to be a lack of HIV knowledge, from contracting to preventing HIV infection. PrEP is seen as a panacea for HIV infection and would most likely result in the increase of risky sexual behaviour. The most prudent finding which would benefit society is that combination prevention is the only way to reduce our high HIV infection rates and that should include behaviour counselling.’

Speaking about some of the moments that stood out for her in her study, Khanyile said: ‘When speaking to the older men (aged between 30 and 39), they were still confused about how a person contracts HIV and remains HIV negative. This contradicts what we read and hear that our nation has HIV knowledge/awareness fatigue. It showed me that we need to go back to basics about HIV awareness and roll out awareness campaigns that do not assume that people already know what to do. This will resonate with the target audience.’

While completing her studies, Khanyile faced health issues and major family changes. ‘I was ready to submit in December 2020 but I contracted COVID-19 and fell very ill. Another huge hit for me was losing my mother to COVID-19 related complications and shortly after that, my grandmother died. These were the women who had supported and encouraged me my whole life. It was a huge blow and as a family, we are still struggling to come to terms with their deaths.’

She dedicated her degree to her mother and grandmother and also thanked her fiancé, family, friends and supervisor, Professor Eliza Govender for being her support system. ‘I am grateful that I was fortunate to have a supervisor who never gave up on me even when I had given up on myself and was ready to quit. She went above and beyond what was required of her as a supervisor.’

On her future plans, she said: ‘I am fortunate that the job I do at Developing Research Innovation, Localisation and Leadership (DRILL) in South Africa and Strengthening the Workforce to Improve Treatment and Care for HIV (SWITCH) incorporates studies through which I have gained a lot of insight and experience. I am surrounded by so many early career and established researchers and they have inspired me to continue with my education and pursue a PhD in the near future.’

Advising other students, Khanyile said: ‘Choose your supervisor carefully as they can make or break you. Do not let the challenges you may face during your journey deter you.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Cum Laude Master’s Research Explores Dominant Constructions of Masculinity

<em>Cum Laude</em> Master’s Research Explores Dominant Constructions of Masculinity
UKZN master’s graduate and pastor, Mr Siwakhile Ngcobo.

The dominant construction of masculinity and the vulnerable position this places women in was the focus of research conducted by a pastor within the Apostolic Faith Mission, Mr Siwakhile Ngcobo, who graduated cum laude with a Master of Theology (Gender and Religion) degree.

Ngcobo says dominant constructions of masculinity are promoted by Penticostal Men's Conferences in promotional material used against the backdrop of the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) pandemic in South Africa.

‘As a country, we have not only had to deal with COVID-19, but also GBV,’ said Ngcobo. ‘(The year) 2020 forced us to address the issue - we could no longer ignore its existence. We also had to have uncomfortable conversations about the dominant construction of masculinity and the vulnerable position this places women in. There was a need for conversations to happen around how patriarchy has unrealistic expectations men must live up to as well as its oppressive nature towards women.’

Ngcobo's study found that the production and construction of masculinity, informed by the use of Christian men’s conference promotional media material, dominantly portrayed masculinity as patriarchal and violent. These problematic representations of masculinity deeply inform and justify GBV against women.

He found that the religio-cultural discourses of masculinity are based on the heteropatriarchal system that promotes male dominance and superiority while treating women as second-class citizens.

Each year, the Gender and Religion programme hosts a cohort of 10 master's students exploring the intersection of gender, sexuality, religion and culture in the African context. Ngcobo was part of the 2020 cohort of the gender and religion master’s programme which is externally funded by the Church of Sweden. Students in the cohort benefit not only from financial support, but also from extended research support.

As part of the research interventions championed by the programme, Ngcobo joined an experimental virtual writing retreat from 9 to 13 November 2020 in order to commit specialised time to the completion of their projects. ‘The virtual writing retreat afforded me the opportunity to engage with other’s work. Engaging with writing mentors, who engaged with my work objectively and critically, was really helpful for my research.’

His supervisor, Professor Charlene van der Walt said: ‘Siwakhile’s research work is bound to have a profound impact on his faith community.’

Ngcobo thanked his wife, family, friends, the master's cohort and his supervisor for their support and patience.

He has been accepted to do his PhD in the Gender and Religion Programme in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, and aims to become an academic.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Research Explores Novice Teachers’ Memories and Stories

Research Explores Novice Teachers’ Memories and Stories
Bachelor of Education (Honours) graduate, Ms Rakheeba Bux.

The memories of novice teachers and stories of their mentors during teaching practice experiences were explored by Ms Rakheeba Bux who graduated with a Bachelor of Education (Honours) degree summa cum laude.

‘After completing the “Mentoring in Schools” module, I learned that a novice teacher’s professional development could be significantly affected by the type of mentoring support they received during their teaching practice,’ said Bux. ‘My interest grew in understanding this and also how their encounters with their mentors - both positive and negative - play a role in shaping their professional practice.’

She believes that it is fundamental for mentors to understand their influence in a mentee’s professional growth and development. ‘A mentor’s role is far beyond filling in forms as a requirement for assessment purposes.’

In order for novice teacher growth, Bux says there needs to be collaboration between various school stakeholders to provide the teachers with feedback to improve their practical knowledge, thus creating positive memories of mentors and mentoring experiences.

‘When we zoom into novice teachers’ experiences of their teaching practice, we understand how important it is for them to receive proper support during their teaching practice because those are the skills and knowledge that they take with them into their classrooms,’ said Bux. ‘By reflecting on memories of being mentored, the positive and negative experiences help shape novice teachers in their everyday practice. The positive memories of being mentored help us learn from the good experiences while the negative memories of being mentored help us to avoid repeating those practices in our classrooms as a teacher or a future mentor.’

Her advice to other students is: ‘Never give up on your dreams - there will be many challenges but the end results are far more rewarding. Every sacrifice you make towards your studies will bring you immense joy once you reach your goal. The sky is the limit and teachers are lifelong learners.’

Bux thanked her family, friends and supervisor, Professor Daisy Pillay, for their support and encouragement.

Said Pillay: ‘As an emerging African teacher-researcher, Rakheeba’s passion for spaces of inquiry outside traditional research fields is promising. I wish her well and every success in her educational journey as a transgressive teacher-researcher.’

Bux is completing her Master’s degree in Education in the Teacher Development Studies Discipline.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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