UKZN Academics Develop Innovative New Tool to Improve Service Delivery

UKZN Academics Develop Innovative New Tool to Improve Service Delivery
The innovative new multi-million rand information technology tool, the Municipal Innovation Maturity Index (MIMI).Click here for isiZulu version

Drs Andrew Okem and Sithembiso Myeni from the School of Built Environment and Development Studies have partnered with the national Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), to develop and pilot an innovative new multi-million rand information technology tool called the Municipal Innovation Maturity Index (MIMI).

The goal of the MIMI is to help municipal officials improve service delivery, accelerate social transformation, and alleviate poverty in keeping with the ideals of a developmental state.

The tool will also assess how a municipality, as an organisation, responds to science and technology, and recommend areas of improvement to adopt innovative practices. It provides insights for municipalities to plan for innovation and to migrate to higher levels of innovation maturity.

Principal Investigator Myeni said, ‘It is a very exciting experience to lead the UKZN team in the consortium and to serve in the governance and decision-making structures of the MIMI.’

Myeni was involved in applying scientific thinking in the service of society and demonstrating the importance of measuring public sector innovation. ‘I am convinced that if we can measure, we can understand, manage and lead. I look forward to enrolling municipalities in this strategic intervention that aims to remove barriers to implementing innovation. The support we received from the leadership and employees of municipalities was important in the success of the project. We also enjoyed support from the UKZN leadership including the Dean of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, and administrative and academic staff.’

Co-Principal Investigator Okem said, ‘The MIMI seeks to stimulate a culture of innovation in municipalities. Being involved in this project over the past few years has been an exciting experience. We have engaged municipal officials through various learning forums for cross-pollination of ideas between them and the MIMI team. I look forward to the MIMI national rollout and its strategic role in mainstreaming innovation behaviour and practices into the business processes of municipalities across the country.’ 

The implementation testing phase of the MIMI showcased that it can generate maturity scores for municipalities and the valuable role of the processing in facilitating, learning, adoption and implementation of innovation. Following the successful testing, the target of the national rollout is to cover 50% of municipalities over the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) period.

‘An important milestone for the MIMI will be the selection of an institutional host to implement the next phase of the project, including the introduction of innovation awards for municipalities in South Africa as motivation to improve their performance,’ said Myeni.

DSI Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, called on all stakeholders in the national innovation system to partner with government in implementing initiatives that support a capable state.

‘I invite all stakeholders to work with us in creating an enabling environment for innovation across the state and municipalities in particular,’ he said, citing a number of initiatives that have been earmarked to bring innovation to various sectors of society.

‘We believe the District Development Model provides an excellent approach to introduce technologies and innovation that can renew existing economic sectors, drive new sources of growth and create a capable public sector, supported by technology to improve the standard of living and the quality of basic services,’ said Mjwara.

A preliminary report of the municipal innovation measurements based on the insight emerging from the pilot phase of this index was shared at the recent launch. In preparing for this piloting phase, 68 municipalities (eight metro municipalities, 20 district municipalities, and 40 local municipalities) were recruited.

The piloting of the digital MIMI allowed for continuous assessment of its feasibility and applicability as a tool to gather information on municipalities and municipal officials’ innovation capabilities. This enabled the MIMI team to refine and revise the instrument. The pilot also helped to identify possible functionality problems that might prevent the digital MIMI platform from operating effectively and was an opportunity to address any system bugs or glitches that might disrupt the tool’s universal access and scale-up.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Image: Supplied


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Medical Student Addresses Vaccine Hesitancy Amongst Educators

Medical Student Addresses Vaccine Hesitancy Amongst Educators
Mr Mohamed Hoosen Suleman addresses vaccine hesitancy amongst educators.Click here for isiZulu version

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) identified vaccine hesitancy as a challenge amongst educators during their vaccine roll-out programme. In order to support the project and encourage educators to take the vaccine, third-year UKZN Medical student, Mr Mohamed Hoosen Suleman, was invited to address a group of 45 teachers from the south of Durban.

DBE spokesperson, Mr Elijah Mhlanga, explained to educators why vaccination is important, and encouraged them and support staff to choose to vaccinate. The DBE programme is currently being rolled out nationally using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Suleman’s presentation titled, The need for vaccines, now more than ever, unpacked the necessity of vaccination given the emergence of new variants of COVID-19. His presentation traced the course of the pandemic and how far we have come in dealing with COVID-19 at a global and local scale. He emphasised that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks: ‘Adverse events of blood clotting such as cerebral venous thrombosis and thrombocytopenia and heart inflammation such as pericarditis and myocarditis are statistically insignificant and should not deter people from accepting the vaccine.’

Suleman, who is also a UKZN summa cum laude Pharmacy graduate, outlined the latest information available on COVID-19 vaccines and the critical need to combat fake news and misinformation. He encouraged the audience to get their information from official and verified sources.

‘My presentation was well received with many asking questions and seeking more information on different aspects of COVID-19 vaccines. Providing and explaining the facts and figures around the safety and efficacy of vaccines is fundamental in advocating for vaccine acceptance. Healthcare professionals shoulder the responsibility to address challenges as and when they arise. Vaccine hesitancy ought to be given the necessary attention as it poses a threat to our efforts to end the pandemic,’ said Suleman.

He added that clear and effective communication regarding COVID-19 vaccines is a key public health priority: ‘Providing evidence-based information and ensuring transparency will instil confidence in the public. Our public health response is centred around the need to ensure disease prevention and save lives. Working together, we can overcome COVID-19.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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A Ticking Time Bomb

A Ticking Time Bomb
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The recent unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng that led to massive destruction of property and the loss of many lives is a classic example of a ticking time bomb. Twenty-seven years into democracy, South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world. Widespread unemployment and poverty have resulted in anger and frustration, with sporadic unrest throughout the country. The government has been very lethargic in its response, often deploying military and law enforcement agents to temporarily quell the tension, while making empty promises to address the underlying issues.

This situation has persisted for far too long and has now come back to bite us. In response to the recent widespread destruction, government’s modus operandi remains the same, with all sorts of conspiracy theories as to why people are behaving in this manner, deliberately avoiding dealing with the elephant in the room. This myopic attitude is not in tune with the reality on the ground. It reinforces the impression that leaders are there for themselves and that they care very little about the plight of their constituencies. 

I would argue that our government is entirely responsible for what we saw unfolding in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. While space does not allow an exhaustive analysis of the reasons for the quagmire the country finds itself in, some of the central issues are addressed.

Economic inequality is at the centre of this unrest. It is not surprising that young people aged 18-35 have been the main participants. Our youth languish in abject poverty due to unemployment, unemployability, a lack of business opportunities, the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and poor delivery of health, social and other basic services. These are the pressing issues confronting South African communities on a daily basis which the government has done little to address.

Over the past 10 years, South Africa has descended into political bickering, first within the ruling party (the ANC) and then amongst opposition parties. This has crippled constructive and meaningful debate within these parties and rendered parliament virtually ineffective. Grandee politics and endless squabbles have resulted in the abandonment of civic duty by those we, the people, elected to lead us to a brighter future. The ANC is politically and administratively fractured. While these divisions are historical, they have recently been exacerbated by the rift between those who support suspended Secretory-General Ace Magashule and those that align with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to root out corruption within the ruling party. These divisions have permeated all sectors of society and the electorate is utterly polarised. This is a stark contrast to what the world witnessed during Mandela’s time; the noble ideals of a rainbow nation have slowly crumbled.

South Africa has witnessed an unprecedented wave of student and community protests in the past 10 years. For the most part, government, and political and other analysts have misdiagnosed the problem. Such unrest is an indication that something is fundamentally wrong in our country. Inequality has deepened to the point where those affected have become so despondent that their moral compass is shaken; they feel that they have been deliberately ignored. Thus, people on the ground have resorted to violence, destruction of property and vandalism.

Recently, South Africans were astounded when students resorted to similar tactics. They were labelled as hooligans and criminals that needed to be locked up. We forget that these young people are part of a wounded society.

The government’s ill-preparedness and lack of accountability have become the norm. Whenever the country faces challenges, the government’s response is disorganised and disjointed. The recent unrest is a case in point. While the President initially blamed “ethnic mobilisation”, he later maintained that it was a “failed insurrection”. Meanwhile, Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Nqakula refuted the President’s statement. These contradictory responses indicate that they were caught off guard, and looked for excuses in lieu of taking full responsibility. This has been the attitude of the government throughout and it has led to where we are today.

In short, I would argue that the pandemonium into which the country was recently plunged has been in long coming. Our leaders have abdicated their civic duty in their quest to enrich themselves and their families at the expense of the masses. Excluded from the mainstream economy, unheard and frustrated, the masses resort to violence and anarchy. Until such time as our leaders in government and all other sectors embrace the principles of caring, transparency, and accountability, such unrest will continue.

Mr Khumbulani Mngadi is a Projects Coordinator for the Language Planning and Development Office (ULPDO) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


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Student Support Services Interns Boost Mental Health Offerings for Disadvantaged

Student Support Services Interns Boost Mental Health Offerings for Disadvantaged
Ms Andile Mkhize (left) and Ms Nokwethemba Mbatha.

Interns working with the Student Support Services (SSS) Division in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) recently spent six weeks providing psychological services to children cared for by the Angels Care Community Project.

Ms Andile Mkhize and Ms Nokwethemba Mbatha worked with Angels Care - which provides for the education, healthcare, food security, development and crisis care needs of children from indigent homes in the Howick area - to offer psychological assessments and interventions to some learners.

The CAES SSS is an accredited site to host student interns for their one-year internship as part of the requirements to become qualified psychologists. Under COVID-19 restrictions, their consultations with students have continued unabated via online platforms.

Mbatha said the first six months of the internship programme provided insight into the day-to-day realities of a psychologist’s work, developed their skills through supervision by experienced colleagues, honed their practical competencies, provided them with workshops and training, exposed them to new theories and practices, and enabled them to explore their own strengths and weaknesses.

As part of this programme, the team offers free psychological services to the wider community, and working with organisations like Angels Care provides interns with the experience they need with clientele from diverse backgrounds facing varied challenges as they work towards their qualification. While physical interactions between SSS and their University clients have been impossible under COVID-19 restrictions on campus, observing strict protocols allowed the duo to work with Angels Care in person.

Organised and supervised by Ms Rossella Meusel, the programme was underpinned by a memorandum of understanding between UKZN and Angels Care, and falls within Meusel’s area of interest in clinical supervision - the subject of her ongoing PhD work.

‘Participating in this community project has allowed me to apply the skills I learned to conduct assessments at CAES SSS to Angels Care, which is a different context from the one I was exposed to,’ said Mbatha.

‘In addition to sharpening my skills in administering assessments and writing comprehensive reports, working with children was enriching and heart-warming and further developed my knowledge base,’ said Mkhize.

The psycho-educational assessments that Mkhize and Mbatha conducted involved assessing the children’s academic potential to determine appropriate school placement, as well as other supportive interventions.

Undertaking this work at Angels Care enhanced Mkhize’s and Mbatha’s training by enabling them to apply the skills they have acquired through their studies and practical experience, including conducting assessments, case formulation, comprehensive reporting, and tailoring interventions for younger clients. They were also able to collaborate with professionals across disciplines.

Angels Care staff said the interventions recommended for the learners are practical, insightful, strategic, and supportive, and staff and parents reported having a better understanding of the learners’ learning and behavioural profiles.

‘We are very grateful for both [their] hard work and assistance to our children,’ said Ms Jo James of Angels Care, adding that she hoped that the collaboration between the CAES SSS and Angels Care would continue.

‘Working with the UKZN student population and Angels Care has revived my passion for helping young people to better themselves and achieve their full potential in life,’ said Mkhize. ‘Knowing that I have contributed to the betterment of the children I assessed is fulfilling.

‘I feel honoured to have been able to contribute to what [Angels Care] have established. There is a wonderful saying in isiZulu, “Izandla ziyagezana”, literally, “It takes one hand to wash the other”. Just as hands work together for a common purpose, working with Angels Care added meaning to my internship while assisting these children in addressing some of the hindrances they encounter.’

Mbatha added that, as a result of her time at Angels Care, she is considering a career in the non-governmental sector.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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Webinar Tackles Community Engagement as a Site of Struggle in Universities

Webinar Tackles Community Engagement as a Site of Struggle in Universities
From left: Professor Gerald West, Professor Brij Maharaj and Ms Tracey Sibisi.

The School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) and the Ujamaa Centre recently hosted a webinar that tackled the contested nature of Community Engagement (CE) within the University setting. It featured UKZN academics Professors Gerald West and Brij Maharaj, and student and community activist Ms Tracey Sibisi. They deliberated on the role of CE in both the academy and the community.

SRPC Academic Leader - Community Engagement Professor Lilian Siwila said, ‘The School has a long history of community engagement activities. A number of CE activities that are carried out by different academics within the School have not only put us on the global map but have also contributed to research output and academic excellence through the integration of community activities into research and teaching and learning. One of the planned activities for 2021-2022 is to create space for colleagues to share their research in a form of indaba - conversation between and among each other.’

The webinar focused on the importance of CE within the process of social transformation in the field of research.

In re-conceptualising CE engagement for the future, West noted that socially engaged scholarship requires recognition of UKZN as an enduring site of struggle. ‘Socially engaged scholars should facilitate “invigorated spaces” within UKZN’s notion of CE as an “invited space”, so that together we may forge “invented spaces” in which to collaborate for social transformation, including the transformation of UKZN,’ he said.

West added that, ‘we do not understand that the bodies of those at the margins become an important part of social transformation and this cannot come from community engagement as a secondary tool of change.’

According to Maharaj, ‘The ultimate challenge for academics in South Africa is to maintain and sustain a critical intellectual agenda which is sensitive to the stresses and strains of transformation, and to survive in an era of commodification of knowledge.’

He argued that the University has a responsibility to provide the space for critical intellectuals to develop and ideas to flourish. ‘The need to sustain a critical, independent intellectual prospectus in academia cannot be overemphasised, given South Africa’s repressive apartheid legacy and Africa’s postcolonial record.’

Sibisi asserted that within academia, contextual realities are viewed from a place of privilege. ‘Community engagement should be viewed as the starting point of all transformative conversations because it informs us from a point of lived experience.’

As a student occupying both spaces of transformation, Sibisi realised that the field informs her academic work. ‘Our biggest failure within the academic world is the misconception that because we are academically informed, we add more value to discussions of social transformation than those that are within our communities. We mine communities and forget to reflect and act on this data in a way that serves those at the margins,’ she said.

She believes that researchers need to work hand in hand with activists involved in community engagement.

‘Through this kind of partnership, academics will be able to work towards social transformation by learning the language of the community and activists in the field, as well as reflections from the perspective of academia and the marginalised,’ said Sibisi. ‘This is a powerful tool because it acknowledges the community, shows respect and is received well, which will make the process of transformation an effective one. This is the strength of Uthingo Network, Ujamaa Centre and the Gender and Religion Programme at UKZN.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Webinar Explores Delta and Other Variants in South Africa

UKZN Webinar Explores Delta and Other Variants in South Africa
UKZN experts Professor Tulio de Oliveira (left) and Dr Richard Lessells examined the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in South Africa.

The highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 was under the microscope at the latest in the Data@Breakfast webinar hosted by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.

Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) Professor Tulio de Oliveira looked at the emergence of the Delta variant, first sampled in India in October 2020 and now rapidly becoming dominant in many countries.

De Oliveira traced the proliferation of variants in South Africa including Delta, Beta (first identified in South Africa), and Alpha. ‘We are now quite confident that the Delta variant is responsible for most of the infections in the explosive third wave,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, we expect it to completely take over infections in the country.’

Referring to the rapid increase in cases in Gauteng, he said: ‘As the Delta variant starts increasing in prevalence in Gauteng, it is starting to fuel the number of infections.’ He explained that genome sequencing data from Gauteng on 19 June showed that more than 75% of infections are due to the Delta variant. Similarly, infections in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape are also being fuelled by rapidly increasing cases of Delta.

Infectious disease specialist based at KRISP, Dr Richard Lessells, focused on the transmissibility of the Delta variant. Lessells said, ‘As Tulio says, transmissibility trumps everything.’ He noted that data from a number of different studies suggests that the Delta variant is significantly more transmissible than the other variants of concern, including Beta and Alpha (first identified in the United Kingdom (UK)) and probably about twice as transmissible as the first viruses discovered in Wuhan, China. ‘This virus spreads very efficiently from person to person, and this means that it can spread very quickly in our communities, within healthcare facilities and anywhere that people gather in close contact.’

He said that evidence from the UK shows that we may be seeing a slightly different symptom profile with the Delta variant. Prominent symptoms seem to include a runny nose, sneezing, headaches and a sore throat.

Lessells said that, as yet, there is no clear evidence of disease severity and cautioned that there may be a risk of reinfection due to a ‘reduction in neutralisation with serum from people infected with the Beta variant.’

He posed the question: ‘What does this variant mean for the vaccines?’ Lessells said there appears to be high levels of protection against severe disease for vaccinated individuals. ‘This news is encouraging. There is new data coming out on a daily basis that shows us that the vaccines should retain high levels of protection with severe disease with the Delta variant.’

Head of the Centre for Quantum Technology at UKZN, Professor Francesco Petruccione, paid tribute to de Oliveira and Lessells for being central in tackling ‘the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa and making some of the crucial decisions that paved the trajectory of fighting COVID-19 in the country.’

De Oliveira and Lessells delivered their presentations on behalf of the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa. To view the webinar, click here.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photographs: Supplied


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Webinar Examines the State of Civil Society During COVID-19

Webinar Examines the State of Civil Society During COVID-19
CIVICUS members.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s Centre for Civil Society (CCS) and CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance hosted a webinar on the state of civil society during the COVID-19 pandemic. It featured Mr Andrew Firmin, Mr David Kode, and Dr Inés Pousadela of CIVICUS.

The webinar tackled some of the key civil society responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that unfolded during 2020. It traced how civil society organisations (CSOs) provided help to communities that experienced the impact of the pandemic and the emergency measures taken by states as well as defence of the rights of specific groups during these times.

Firmin suggested that some of the emergency regulations were overly broad, ‘The trends noted by CIVICUS during the pandemic included censorship and restrictions on media and information, posing the risk of action against those who criticised state responses to a point where the rights of privacy were violated’, he said.

He noted that, although this was a difficult time to organise and build solidarity, ‘civil society responded with agility and urgency, often offering superior measures to those of the government to provide relief and essential services.’

Communities of care sprung up, particularly around vulnerability and protection, movements were organised remotely and in online and offline spheres, and service provision was linked to struggles for rights to refine purpose, test assumptions, and make a new case for civil society.

Civil society also proposed new ideas for recovery that aim to redistribute power and build solidarity, whilst securing the rights of the most excluded. It promoted economic and climate justice and harnessed public and political support to advance rights-based reform of trade, aid and governance systems and redistribute global power.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photographs: Supplied


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Durban International Film Festival hosts Successful Virtual Opening Night

Durban International Film Festival hosts Successful Virtual Opening Night
DIFF Opening Night film, The Eagle’s Nest.

The Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities officially opened the 42nd Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) that runs from 22 July until 1 August.

The indie feature film The Eagle’s Nest by Cameroonian-British Director Mr Olivier Assoua opened the festival. The film, which was shot in Cameroon, tells a story that touches on immigration. ‘In 2018, CNN published a report stating that, six migrants and refugees die every day on the journey to Europe by boat. They also exposed how Black Africans were sold as slaves in India, which made me think: What can I do? How can I tell the world that African lives matter?’ said Assoua.

The movie also aimed to give young people in Africa the unique opportunity to showcase their talents to the world. ‘I am pleased to say that Ms Felicity Asseh, who plays Samantha in the movie, has gained some international recognition,’ Assoua remarked.

According to the Director, the movie project is an independent, self-funded, feature film that aims to create global awareness of the psychological and emotional wounds resulting from Africans’ desperate bid to leave the continent. ‘In making this movie, I want to participate in the debate and hopefully offer practical, realistic recommendations to policymakers on how we can meet those challenges. I also made the movie because I wanted to give young people in Africa this unique opportunity to gain new skills, and a paid job, as well as have some fun in the process.’

The film follows a night of debauchery, in which best friends Paris and Samantha discover five million dollars. Later, a thief breaks into Paris’s house, kills her mother and her sister and leaves her for dead. When she recovers, with the help of Samantha, Paris sets off on a quest to find answers. What begins as a search for the truth quickly turns into violence and disturbing revelations. In a world of lies, deceit and betrayal, will they be able to uncover the identity of the murderer?

The entire programme, alongside the films that will be screening, is available here.

Tickets for the virtual screenings are free and open through a booking system two days ahead of the event.

The 42nd edition of the DIFF is organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s CCA with the support of the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, National Film and Video Foundation, National Arts Council and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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Webinar on the National Policy Framework for Internationalisation

Webinar on the National Policy Framework for Internationalisation
From left: Ms Normah Zondo, Professor Johannes John-Langba, Mr Mahlubi Chief Mabizela and Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa.

UKZN hosted a webinar on the National Policy Framework for Internationalisation of Higher Education on 20 July.

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology published this policy framework in November 2020. It aims to provide a concise roadmap for Higher Education Institutions to engage in comprehensive internationalisation. The framework includes guiding principles on student mobility; international partnerships; international research collaborations that enhance teaching, learning, research and community engagement; and joint programmes and degrees. It also has relevance for the internationalisation of the curriculum that enhances the scope of internationalisation-at-home activities.

Acting Executive Director of Corporate Relations, Ms Normah Zondo opened the proceedings by welcoming all present. Professor Johannes John-Langba, academic leader of Research and Higher Degrees in the School of Applied Human Sciences at UKZN presented a brief background on internationalisation in Higher Education. He noted that ‘Over the past three decades, globalisation has resulted in a significant increase in international activities among universities.’ John-Langba observed that this includes international staff exchange programmes, joint research, an increase in the number of international students, joint degrees with other universities, student mobility and Memoranda of Understanding with universities abroad and in Africa.

Mr Mahlubi Chief Mabizela, Chief Director: University Education Policy and Research Support in the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) presented an outline of the policy. He said that the internationalisation policy focuses on three approaches. The first approach is mutual understanding, which is traditional to Higher Education, while the second is skilled migration and the third is capacity-building through the exchange of knowledge and learning.

Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa, Dean of the School of Arts in the College of Humanities at UKZN presented a critical response to the National Policy Framework for Internationalisation. She noted that it encourages learning across cultures and added that all relevant stakeholders will be involved in the University strategy and policy for internationalisation.

In closing the proceedings, Zondo remarked that, ‘It will take all of us working together to make sure that we interpret the policy well and that we come up with an individual institutional framework that will take the work of internationalisation forward.’

A recording of the webinar can be accessed on Zoom here.

Words: Langa Mathe

Photographs: Supplied


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Studying Science in the Era of COVID-19


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UKZN Co-hosts Symposium on Multilingualism

UKZN Co-hosts Symposium on Multilingualism
Clockwise from top left: Professor Sandile Songca, Dr Engela Van Staden, Dr Lolie Makhubu-Badenhorst, Dr Elias Malete, Dr Peet Van Aardt, Mr Njabulo Manyoni and Mrs Tholakele Zungu.

UKZN and the University of the Free State (UFS) hosted their first webinar mini-symposium on 22 June titled Multilingualism in practice. This ground breaking initiative was the first time that the two institutions partnered on language matters.

The symposium was officially opened by UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Professor Sandile Songca and Dr Engela Van Staden, UFS’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic. Songca welcomed participants and reaffirmed UKZN’s commitment to operationalising the South African constitutional imperative of developing indigenous languages by endorsing functional bilingualism and the intellectualisation of isiZulu. Van Staden highlighted UFS’s milestones and affirmed the university’s commitment to develop the previously marginalised languages of the Free State, particularly Sesotho and isiZulu.

Both universities presented their lived experiences in navigating this journey. Dr Lolie Makhubu-Badenhorst, Acting Director in the University Language Planning and Development Office, presented the UKZN Language Policy and Plan. She highlighted the University’s wide-ranging initiatives to intellectualise isiZulu thus far.

Dr Elias Malete of UFS focused on African languages as part of multilingualism and traced the links between these languages and the constitution’s endorsement of multilingualism. Malete also emphasised the importance of sharing experiences and knowledge. Presentations were also made by Dr Peet Van Aardt from UFS and Mr Njabulo Manyoni and Mrs Tholakele Zungu from UKZN.

The webinar concluded with a question and answer session, and comments from participants. It was agreed that there are synergies between the work being undertaken by UFS and UKZN and that future collaboration will be fruitful.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photographs: Supplied


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Getting to Grips with Forensic Investigations

Getting to Grips with Forensic Investigations
Getting to grips with forensic investigations.

Forensic techniques and advances have a significant impact in the investigation process. Advances in forensic technologies and software have increased demand for skilled individuals to facilitate investigations. During the course of an investigation, evidence is collected and analysed in a laboratory or by an investigator, with the results ultimately produced in court. This lengthy process can cause a delay in the justice system’s turnaround time. Time is key when a crime has been committed, and it is crucial to have a team that can accurately facilitate the process.

The demand for well-equipped investigators prompted UKZN Extended Learning (UEL) to launch its Certificate in Forensic Investigation Techniques programme. This 12-day training provides insights that assist in incorporating forensic techniques into crime analysis. This can assist in identifying patterns or correlating other information pertinent to the case, resulting in sound evidence that can be used in court. Information collected through forensic investigations helps to solve cases faster or to identify linkages and trends across cases.

Participants will gain an understanding of legal concepts, basic accounting and forensic investigations. They will be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the civil and criminal trial, including the analysis of witness statements and affidavits. The programme exposes delegates to the substantive, practical and ethical aspects of forensic investigation. Upon completion, they will have a sound understanding of the application of basic legal concepts in their work environments, forensic auditing, specialised forensic investigation techniques, and rules of evidence, as well as forensic report writing.

The upcoming intake for the Certificate in Forensic Investigation Techniques is starting on 23 August. To secure your place or obtain more information about this programme, click here or contact:

Percy Sishi
T: +27 31 260 1234
E: Sishis@ukzn.ac.za

Words: Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

Photograph: Supplied


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Enactus UKZN Wins National Championships…Again!

Enactus UKZN Wins National Championships…Again!
Team Enactus UKZN has won the national championships for the second year in a row.

Team Enactus UKZN has done it again, winning the 2021 Enactus South Africa National Competition, for the second year in a row.

This year, Enactus UKZN defended their title against 11 other teams from institutions around the country in a virtual event on 23 July.

Themed, Passion for Purpose, the national competition saw UKZN being placed first, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) second and the Central University of Technology (CUT) third.

Noting the team’s hard work and dedication, Enactus UKZN President, Mr Thulani Musa Mthembu said: ‘Defending the championship was not easy, but our determination to keep trying far outweighed the difficulties we were faced with.’

An international non-profit organisation, Enactus is committed to inspiring students to improve their world through social entrepreneurship. Enactus UKZN has taken this task to heart with initiatives such as MyDigiTutor, SmartGro, Sinawe, After21 and the Ubuntu Social Enterprise project which helped them secure first place in the competition.

The Ubuntu Social Enterprise project is an agribusiness solution that aims to achieve inclusive and sustainable local economic growth through cultivating and accelerating small holder and co-operative farming businesses. It employs a three-pronged approach that includes agricultural education and practices, and business development.

Mthembu thanked the Enactus UKZN Team, the 2020/2021 executive committee, UKZN faculty advisors, stakeholders, alumni and the beneficiaries for their commitment and support: ‘It has been a blessing and a privilege to engage with communities as innovators and growers of change. In every community, there is work to be done and I strongly believe that in every heart, there is the power to do it.’

UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku congratulated the team: ‘This is indeed a time for celebration, and we thank our young leaders for putting the University on the world stage. It inspires us all and brings hope. Congratulations, Team Enactus UKZN!’ 

Having scooped another three titles at this year’s competition, namely, the Harmony Gold Local Economic Development Thematic award, the Nedbank Triple Bottom Line Thematic award, and the Senior Alumni of the Year award which was bestowed on Mr Sethu Sidzamba, Enactus UKZN is set to represent South Africa at the Enactus World Cup in October this year.

To meet the team click here.

You can also follow Enactus UKZN on all social media platforms.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela and Nqobani Mhlongo

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Law Students Highly Sought After by Leading Law Firms

UKZN Law Students Highly Sought After by Leading Law Firms
Leading South African law firms continue to recruit UKZN law students and graduates.

UKZN Law students had the privilege of engaging with prospective employers at the annual Law Professions Day which was hosted virtually by the School of Law. Established 13 years ago, the event provides a platform for Law students to learn about opportunities for vacation work, articles of clerkship, and graduate internship and bursary programmes. This enables them to make informed decisions on their choice of firm or branch of the legal profession.

Welcoming students and members of the legal profession, Dean and Head of the School of Law, Professor Managay Reddi said she was pleased that despite the pandemic, law students had not been denied the opportunity to prepare for the world of work.

Reddi thanked the members of the legal profession for their continued support and assured them of the School’s commitment to delivering quality legal education even during the pandemic. She said: ‘Online blended learning has not adversely affected our students’ skills set but they have acquired new skills to do consultations online which is useful for working remotely.’

The event was attended by 18 leading South African law firms that were represented by UKZN alumni who have established themselves in the legal profession and as talent specialists. Among them was Mr Ugendran Odayar, Director specialising in acquisitions at Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) South Africa Inc. who recalled attending Law Professions Day in a marquee 10 years ago. He said that NRF recruits candidates to become future partners rather than simply candidate attorneys for a short period as in his case. He advised them to ‘consider progression as a very important factor when selecting the firm for traineeship.’ He explained that NRF is a consortium of global law firms which leverages on international relationships and counterparts. Having been exposed to handling large business clients as a trainee, he encouraged students to consider NRF as their company of choice.

Senior Human Resources Business Partner at ENS Africa, Mr Thabang Ratau, shared statistics on UKZN alumni at ENS Africa and said that a substantial number of directors at this prestigious firm have come from UKZN and that they were hoping to grow their pool of candidate attorneys from the Law class of 2021. He encouraged students who are interested in Commercial Law to consider ENS Africa.

Mr Siya Ndlovu shared his experience as a candidate attorney at Livingston Leandy and advised students to get involved in as many departments of a law firm as possible and to treat the traineeship as two years of continuous learning and a two-year interview process.

It was heartwarming to hear UKZN alumnus and Associate at Werksmans Attorneys, Mr Dale Adams, talk about his transition from being a student to a candidate attorney. He joined Werksmans in 2019 and was exposed to labour and employment as well as competition and data privacy law. ‘Treat your traineeship in a professional manner and remember that while you are a junior, your input is valued by the firm! Come into the job with an open mind as there is no room for complacency,’ he advised.

Another UKZN alumnus and new candidate attorney at Werksmans Attorneys, Ms Lukrisha Ramadu, said it was fascinating seeing theory come to life, which proves that the UKZN School of Law prepares students well for the world of work.

Ms Hannah Szudrawski, Director at Venns Attorney told students that they look for trainees who are team players with a good attitude, and community driven people who understand the interconnectedness between the firm and its clients.

Ms Jennifer Anthoo of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) - a voluntary organisation of lawyers whose primary goal is a legal and judicial system that provides access to justice for disadvantaged people and the rule of law - informed students about plans to launch a Student Chapter of NADEL. She encouraged them to become members of NADEL and to advocate for Human Rights.

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH),one of Africa’s largest commercial law firms, was represented by Talent Optimisation Specialist Ms Boipelo Mathodlana who enlightened students about bursary opportunities even if trainees are not signed up with CDH.

Since staff recruitment is conducted virtually these days, Ms Zola Williams, Professional Development Manager at Adams & Adams provided useful tips on preparing for a virtual interview. These include having a load shedding schedule at hand, finding a quiet space, informing family about the interview and even ensuring that simple services such a grass cutting do not create distractions during one’s interview.

Provincial Human Resources Manager at Legal Aid SA, Mr Baboo Brijlal, informed students that they accept applications throughout the year as long as the LLB degree is complete.

Young Talent Specialist at Bowmans, Ms Bohlale Paile thanked the School of Law for ensuring that the event was held virtually. ‘We recruit to retain candidate attorneys; hence, we offer Legal English and Professional Legal Training in-house in order to build one to be the best legal practitioner,’ she said. She encouraged students to check out their fascinating Virtual Experience Programme.

Other law firms who found the engagement beneficial included Stowell & Co, Shepstone & Wylie, Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys, Austen Smith Attorneys, Allen and Overy, MacRobert Attorneys and ProBono. Most firms that participated in Law Professions Day advertise opportunities for graduates on the Leap.ly platform and they encouraged students to visit this site for more information.

The event was well received by students who immediately applied for various offers for traineeship and bursaries. Academics from the School of Law Professor Warren Freedman and Ms Jacintha Toohey facilitated the interactive four-hour programme and commended students for their attendance, participating enthusiastically and posing relevant questions to recruiters. They also thanked Ms Robynne Louw who has successfully coordinated the event for the past 13 years.

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Shutterstock


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EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021- Internal University Round

EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021- Internal University Round
Clockwise from top left: Dr Salona Prahladh, Ms Nazish Peer, Mr Mnqobi Vezi, Mr Mongezi Dlamini, Ms Phiwayinkosi Tshikwe, Ms Trianne Armachand, Ms Nomandla Ngcoya and Ms Nozipho Tshakane.

UKZN InQubate recently hosted the Internal University Round of the 3rd EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Challenge. EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity is an initiative of Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) under the Department of Higher Education and Training.

A total of 132 students at UKZN entered in this year’s competition. After a rigorous screening process, 28 students were selected to participate in the Internal University Round, which was the first stage of the Challenge.

Reflecting on this year’s internal round, the Director of UKZN InQubate, Mrs Suvina Singh said, ‘The level of competition from our students this year surpassed the previous two years. It was difficult to select participants to go through to the regionals, simply because there are so many great student businesses. This is really encouraging as it is what we’ve been working for since the entrepreneurship skills programme, ENSPIRE, was launched in 2018.’

The EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Challenge comprises of four categories, ie, Business Idea; Existing Tech Business; Existing Social Impact Business; and Existing General Business. In accordance with the EDHE protocols, two winners in each category were selected to proceed to the regional round where they will compete with their peers at sister universities in KwaZulu-Natal.

In the Business Idea category, the two participants selected were Dr Salona Prahladh, a PhD student in the School of Clinical Medicine, and Ms Nazish Peer from the School of Health Sciences. Prahladh has created an autopsy data collection application, which stores pertinent data about autopsies. This is uploaded in real time to a cloud drive and produces instantaneous statistics regarding demographics, cause of death, etc. Peer’s idea is to produce adaptive clothing which makes it easier for the physically challenged or elderly to get dressed or for their caregivers to dress them.

In the Existing Tech Business category, Mr Mnqobi Vezi from the School of Education, and Mr Mongezi Dlamini, from the Graduate School of Business and Leadership were selected. Vezi’s business, Delivery Buddy (Pty) Ltd provides a delivery and support service to clients that have difficulty shopping on their own. Dlamini’s business, Anonaya Gardens (Pty) Ltd, is a hydroponic based farm.

In Existing Social Impact Business, Ms Trianne Armachand from the School of Applied Human Sciences and Ms Phiwayinkosi Tshikwe from the School of Social Sciences were selected. Armachand’s business, Laelthelabel (Pty) Ltd, supplies novelty crayons in different shapes and characters made from the highest quality non-toxic wax. She said that her crayons are different from most commercial crayons because they are thicker, came in fun, customised designs, and encourage children to learn. Tshikwe manufactures aluminium doors and windows at her business, Queen of Aluminium, and empowers women in the community through training on the manufacturing process. She said she learnt the trade from her friend’s father when she was in high school.

The two participants selected in the Existing General Business category were Ms Nomandla Ngcoya, a PhD student in the School of Chemistry and Physics, and Ms Nozipho Tshakane, from the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences. Ngcoya, the CEO of DChem (Pty) Ltd, recently launched her detergent manufacturing factory in Pietermaritzburg. Tshakane’s business Tshakane Hygiene and Cleaning Services also focuses on detergent manufacturing, and provides a food and microbiology testing service.

Singh noted that, ‘The EDHE Intervarsity Challenge is a wonderful catalyst for stimulating competition and is great fun, but for the InQubate team, it’s more about using opportunities like this to support the development of a growing youth economy in KwaZulu-Natal.’

UKZN Student Entrepreneurship Manager, Mr Khutso Ramontja said, ‘We will be engaging with all 28 applicants from the Internal University Round to determine whether development funding can be provided through the ENSPIRE programme to support the student businesses.’

Last year, two students, Mr Jabulani Nyembe and Mr Sihawu Kunene, reached the finals. Nyembe‘s company, Clinalytics (Pty) Ltd offers web-based computer software, Electronic Health Records (EHR), for general practitioners to store and analyse patients’ medical information. Kunene presented on the “Nene Device”, which is a security button for university and college students.

Ramontja also said that the ENSPIRE team will be working closely with the students going through to the Regional Round and providing coaching in order to ensure that they are well-prepared.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photographs: Supplied


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