Student’s Eco-Friendly Designs Destined for Dubai World Expo

Student’s Eco-Friendly Designs Destined for Dubai World Expo
UKZN postgraduate student, Ms Nombuso Khanyile with her Afrikan Passion Designs bag and sandals.Click here for isiZulu version

Ms Nombuso Khanyile won recognition as one of the top 50 Design Indaba Emerging Creatives last year and now her eco-friendly fashion lines - Afrikan Passion Designs - are headed for the world stage after she was chosen among Design Indaba alumni who will exhibit at the Dubai World Expo, taking place from next month until March 2022.

Khanyile, who is completing her BSc Honours degree in Biochemistry at UKZN, co-founded Afrikan Passion Designs with Mr Nisbert Kembo - the duo design and manufacture leather accessories using recycled materials such as vehicle tyres.

After their participation in the 2020 Design Indaba, the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) and Design Indaba included Khanyile’s business among select outstanding exhibitors over the past 10 years of the programme whose fashion wear will appear at the Dubai World Expo’s digital showcase.

‘I am so grateful to have been selected,’ said Khanyile. ‘To say I am happy is an understatement.’

Khanyile lists this selection as among her top achievements, along with winning the Durban Youth Connect Innovative Business Competition in 2019, being selected as a Design Indaba Emerging Creative in 2020, and receiving a congratulatory email from UKZN Vice-Chancellor Professor Nana Poku in 2020 after she was selected as a Wonder Woman in Science.

Regarding the significance of her selection, Khanyile said: ‘As a Black woman who has to endure racism and sexism every day, I believe it will open more doors for people who look and sound like myself, it is telling us that we are greater than any and every adversity directed at us, it is saying we matter, we are enough and we are here to change everything we touch.

‘It is giving women who endure what I endure hope that in the end everything will be alright; what belongs to us will find us no matter what,’ she said.

More than 190 countries will participate in the Expo, themed: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, with exhibitions arranged according to the themes of sustainability, mobility and opportunity, as well as specific Expo initiatives and a programme for people and the planet. Under the sustainability theme there is a specific focus on product creation, which is where Khanyile will showcase her designs.

‘Our designs embody sustainability, and our exhibit will communicate the thought behind the design and the creative process as well as why specific materials were selected and incorporated into our designs,’ said Khanyile.

Featuring at the 2020 Design Indaba accelerated recognition of Khanyile’s brand and introduced her products to local and international customers, while the Indaba’s Emerging Creatives programme introduced Khanyile and Kembo to resources as well as institutions which supported them. The event also led to collaboration with other creatives working in the arts and crafts industries.

Afrikan Passion Designs has been featured in publications such as Forbes Africa, interviews on SAfm radio, and in articles in Sibizi Magazine, Isolezwe, CNA, YOCOEyethu Community Newspaper, UKZNdabaOnlineBizcommunity and Twyg Magazine.

Balancing her studies and creative and business pursuits is no small task - Khanyile credits her mother Mrs Philisiwe Khanyile for teaching her skills including determination, self-discipline, independence and self-reliance that have guided her in her studies and business. If funding opportunities arise for further studies, Khanyile is considering proceeding to masters studies, and has further developments for Afrikan Passion Designs brewing that she will share on the company’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.

She thanked Design Indaba, the DSAC, her family, friends and her Creator, as well as her Afrikan Passion Designs customers for shaping her into who she is today.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Milkshake Visuals


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Nursing Students Donate Groceries to Durban’s Point Community

Nursing Students Donate Groceries to Durban’s Point Community
UKZN students reach out to Durban’s Point community donating groceries.Click here for isiZulu version

Second-year UKZN Nursing students donated groceries worth more than R5 000 to the non-profit organisation Siphilisiwe Community Care in Durban’s Point area as part of their community engagement contribution.

Siphilisiwe Community Care was identified by the students through the organisation’s community profile project which forms part of its Nursing course and requires the students to conduct research in assigned communities, identify key problems and search for solutions.

After that, the students devise an outreach programme to raise awareness about the problems they identify and conduct interventions, making contributions in whatever way they can.

Nursing student, Ms Nqobile Msibi said they chose to donate to the Point community through the Siphilisiwe Community Care organisation because of the work the NPO is doing. They approached Siphilisiwe’s soup kitchen owner Ms Mam Yolanda to establish what was needed. Yolanda said they needed food and a drug abuse intervention programme to help street children addicted to drugs.

Ms Thando Dambuza, the organisation’s secretary, said members of the year-old NPO were passionate about feeding the vulnerable.

‘The organisation started operating during the national lockdown last year,’ said Dambuza. ‘We cook food for homeless people or others in need. Beyond that, we help the homeless reunite with their families, and try to get these people off the streets, see them through the process of detox and if necessary take them to hospitals or rehabilitation centres.’

Dambuza added that the organisation relied solely on donations and contributions. ‘We are thankful to the students of UKZN for this donation. I am positive that it will see us through for some time as we continue our work,’ she said.

The students also conducted a programme in the area on the dangers of substance abuse.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Academics Participate in Virtual Islamic Studies Conference

UKZN Academics Participate in Virtual Islamic Studies Conference
College of Humanities academics (from left) Dr Cherry Muslim, Dr Tahir Sitoto, Emeritus Professor Mohsin Abu Fadl Ebrahim, and Professor Goolam Vahed.

Academics in the College of Humanities participated in an Islamic Studies conference themed: Studying Islam and Muslims: Trajectories and Futures of South African Scholarship.

They were Dr Cherry Muslim, Dr Tahir Sitoto, Emeritus Professor Mohsin Abu Fadl Ebrahim, Emeritus Professor Suleman Dangor of the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, and Professor Goolam Vahed of the School of Social Sciences.

The conference - hosted by UNISA, UKZN, the University of Johannesburg, and the University of Cape Town (UCT) - celebrated South Africa’s scholarly contributions to the study of Islam and served to collectively map present and future trajectories of scholarship within the study of Islam for the country and globally. 

‘Our South African scholars have provided a rich and varied milieu of scholarship which began under the political challenges of the apartheid regime and have shifted to new debates in the post-democratic era. The conference reflected the diversity and complexities of the contribution of scholarship to the local and global contexts,’ said Muslim.

The conference was opened by prominent academics in the field of Islamic Studies: South African-born, Professor Ebrahim Moosa, who is co-director of Contending Modernities at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame in France; Professor Abdulkader Tayob, who is the National Research Chair for African Public and Religious Values, and Professor Sadiyya Shaikh of UCT.

In separate panels, Professor Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim focused on the opportunities and challenges of introducing Islamic Medical Jurisprudence and not Islamic Bioethics as an independent discipline in Islamic Studies. ‘As medical science evolved, issues such as reproductive decision making, organ transplantation, just distribution of healthcare resources, access to healthcare and, with the appearance of COVID-19, global public health came to be included within the umbrella of medical ethics. Bioethics as an academic discipline is broader and incorporates medical ethics, animal ethics and environmental ethics,’ he said.

Dangor examined the introduction, establishment, development and transition of Islamic Studies at UKZN by discussing the courses offered in the discipline in the past, the staff who were involved with the department over the years, and the systemic changes, such as the introduction of the modular system, and research output of the Islamic Studies scholars.

Vahed’s presentation, through auto-ethnography, related to his experiences in the field, which have seen him try to negotiate between his own identity as a Muslim and his work as a historian. ‘I am a Muslim born in South Africa. As much as I have felt an insider, as a historian, I have tried to stand above the debates that rage, practicing the faith, but feel the debates directly on my body, including the attitudes of my immediate family and friends. Being an insider has opened doors into the world of Muslims.’

In Muslim’s presentation, she reflected on Islam in the Digital Age: From Buraq to Cyberspace. ‘The Internet has transformed every aspect of life in the modern world and has provided a multitude of new and innovative ways to communicate, work and learn. For many practitioners of religion, online spaces have become critical alternatives for Muslims seeking a place/space to engage faith, create religious identity and build communities, particularly amongst the marginalised,’ she explained.

Muslim highlighted that the concept of Dar al-Cyber Islam had become a significant area of research within the broader, multidisciplinary framework of Religious Studies/Islamic Studies in global academia. Within this, theoretical considerations on political, social, cultural and religious aspects of Islam were interrogated as integrated factors of religion online/online religion. ‘Muslims in South Africa are prolific users of the Internet as are Muslims globally, however, there is a lacuna of research in this area in the South African context,’ she said.

A debate by a panel that included Sitoto, South African poet and scholar at Penn State University in the United States, Ms Gabeba Baderoon, who is the author of Regarding Muslims: from slavery to post-apartheid, and Dr Andrea Brigaglia formerly of UCT now at the University of Naples, concluded the conference.

In his reflections, Sitoto cautioned Islamic Studies scholars to guard against reproducing “racialised knowledge”. The study of Islam and Muslims in South Africa, he argued, was skewed due to its exclusive focus on communities of the Asian diaspora entrenching racial stereotypes of Islam as an exclusively “Indian” and “Cape Malay/Coloured” religious-cultural expression.

The racialisation of Muslims stirred a heated debate in a special panel which discussed the unrest, burning and looting in greater Durban earlier this year. The panel featured community activists, trade unionists, social critics, and community activists, including Maulana Sandile Twala.

Twala, a Black Muslim leader directly affected by the unrest, observed how though he was a known Muslim leader, he was racially profiled as being involved with the “African troublemakers”, threatening State security and the safety of Asian neighbours.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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Graduate School of Business and Leadership Hosts Virtual Open Day

Graduate School of Business and Leadership Hosts Virtual Open Day
UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership’s Interim Dean Professor Ana Martins delivering her welcome address at the School’s Open Day.

UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) hosted a virtual Open Day which featured alumni sharing their experiences and the School providing detailed information on its academic offerings.

Interim Dean Professor Ana Martins said during her welcome address that the School was a research-led business unit that nurtured innovative thinking and entrepreneurship. ‘We create quality learning experiences for students, equipping them with agile and higher learning skills needed in today’s business world.

‘We instil this in our postgraduate students so that when they leave us, they continue with this innovative mindset,’ she said. ‘Many of our alumni are in key positions in companies based not only in KwaZulu-Natal, but across South Africa and abroad. The choice of business school is one of the most important decisions in an individual’s life.

‘I believe our GSB&L is the right choice for bright and ambitious individuals who want to learn and study at a world class institution.’

The School’s academic leaders, Dr Xoliswa Majola and Dr Pfano Mashau gave an overview of its postgraduate diplomas, masters and doctoral programmes and how the unit had adapted its teaching online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Head for Africa Business for Lenmed Health Dr Augusta Dorning spoke on how prospective students should take advantage of the benefits of virtual learning by studying at the GSB&L.

Master of Business Administration and RGM Environmental, Science and Technical support services Country Manager, Ms Simphiwe Mazibuko said her experience at the GSB&L resulted in her enjoying professional and personal growth.

‘When I was working for a state enterprise and being exposed to a lot of things outside of what I had studied and planned for, I decided I wanted to become so good and efficient that no-one could ignore me when I made a point. This is how I came to pursue my MBA at UKZN,’ said Mazibuko. ‘The GSB&L programmes are designed to shape your future, character and mould you as a person. After doing my MBA, I have found that I am now not just a specialist in one area - my position at RGM came about after someone saw my profile and head-hunted me. It feels really good to see how my career is growing.’

Current doctoral student, MBA graduate and professional singer, Ms Praline Ross said the skills she has acquired from the GSB&L have enabled her to become a mind-set coach and edupreneur.

‘I have definitely advanced in my career. I am currently doing my doctorate and have my own business. My journey at the GSB&L has helped me transform as an individual and streamlined the path to finding my purpose.’

Those considering postgraduate studies are invited to visit gsbl.ukzn.ac.za

Offerings include: Doctor of Business Administration; Master of Business Administration; Master of Commerce in Leadership Studies; Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership; Postgraduate Diploma in Local Economic Development; and Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied


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Opportunities Available for Expanded Public Works Programme Beyond COVID-19

Opportunities Available for Expanded Public Works Programme Beyond COVID-19
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The COVID-19 pandemic has put huge pressure on world health systems and the global economy forcing countries to scramble for solutions to ease the disruptive effects and impacts of the disease.

While the pandemic has led to staggering job losses, technology has filled the gap somewhat, providing mechanisms and strategies to do work once performed by people. With this in mind, South Africa needs to look for new opportunities to create employment through initiatives such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

Examining the history of the EPWP, the initiative can be traced back to the National Public Works Programme (NPWP) and Community Based Public Works Programme (CBPWP) where most of the work opportunities the EPWP created were driven mainly by infrastructure during the implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

Since the Growth and Development Summit (GDS) of 2003, the EPWP has evolved and expanded by looking at creating opportunities in new areas such as the social, environment and cultural sectors as well as the economic sector which was later replaced by the non-state sector.

Today the world staggers under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic while the emergence of new technology takes its toll on employment and job creation, so EPWP needs to be reimagined beyond its current form to cater for the growing needs for new employment opportunities, particularly for young people. We must use the programme’s history to look for new opportunities post-COVID-19.

Opportunities are emerging for the EPWP in the implementation of the government’s economic recovery plan, including playing a role in the roll-out of Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in the country as well as other mega capital projects.

The EPWP must be involved in the implementation and maintenance of the ICT infrastructure in the country. The 4th Industrial Revolution is a reality so we must ensure the programme is not left behind? Furthermore, a lot of work opportunities can be created in the “green jobs” space.

These days a considerable number of young people in the programme possess more than just primary school education - some are graduates! These are compelling reasons to re-look and remodel the programme to cater for more than just labourers but to include unemployed graduates, through targeted programmes designed for this cohort of young people to create employment opportunities and improve service delivery.

Lungisani Dladla is a PhD Candidate in the College of Law and Management Studies, School of Management, IT and Governance. His research is titled: The Role of Public Employment Programmes and their Contributions to Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Communities. He is a senior manager in the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

Michael Mokoena is the EPWP’s PR and Communications Officer.

This article was first published in the EPWP Newsletter June 2021

http://www.epwp.gov.za/news_room/Newsletter/2021/EPWP_Newsletter_June2021.pdf

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

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Academic Tasked to Decolonise South African Schools Curriculum

UKZN Academic Tasked to Decolonise South African Schools Curriculum
UKZN academic, Dr Maserole Kgari-Masondo.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Maserole Kgari-Masondo of the School of Social Sciences was commissioned by the South African Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to prepare a discussion paper to guide the Department on decolonising Basic Education in South Africa.

Kgari-Masondo was tasked to construct a Framework for the Decolonisation of the Curriculum which will inform the process of reviewing the curriculum by bringing about content that aligns itself with the decolonisation of the education agenda in the Basic Education sector.

‘The key issue for the framework was mother-tongue education and how it should be implemented in basic education in this era of decolonisation,’ said Kgari-Masondo. ‘In South Africa emphasis is placed on realising learners’ rights to learn in their home language, especially in Grades 1–3 and learners’ transition to English in the intermediate phase. But the national education policy does not prescribe which language should be used as the language of learning and teaching. This choice is made at a local level by a school’s governing body.’

She says ‘this infers that provinces and schools are left to advocate for the appropriate language of instruction to be used. Unfortunately, there have been delays in the implementation of teaching using mother-tongue languages but research indicates that the Constitution of the new South Africa advocates for all 11 official languages to be used for teaching and learning.’

Kgari-Masondo said a wide range of diverse studies indicates that literacy rates in South Africa are very low in all languages, with large scale tests of reading proficiency showing the majority of learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning by the end of Grade 4 or Grade 5.

‘Based on this finding, learners are underperforming and the language issue is identified as critical in inhibiting students’ understanding of the content. It is with that in mind that UNICEF and the Department of Basic Education requested me to come up with how mother tongue languages can be used in teaching and learning,’ she said.

Kgari-Masondo has submitted the report to UNICEF and the Department of Education. Further announcements on the way forward with regard to the proposed framework will be made by UNICEF and the DBE within the next few weeks.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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SA Suicide Rate Soaring, Webinar Hears

SA Suicide Rate Soaring, Webinar Hears
From left: Ms Asiya Hoosain, Mrs Kirschnee Naidoo, Dr Naseema Vawda, Ms Cebile Fuse, and Advocate Dawn Coleman-Malinga.

The increasing number of suicides in South Africa and financial pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were highlighted during a webinar on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Support hosted by UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Also discussed at the webinar - an initiative of the newly-launched UKZN Wellbeing Communication Strategy - were how gender-based violence, feelings of anxiety, exposure to negative news cycles, and other social ills contribute towards people taking their own lives.

Presenters shared coping mechanisms, how to identify suicidal symptoms, reaching out, and where help is available.

Speakers included lay counsellor and board member at Lifeline Durban, Ms Asiya Hoosain, clinical psychologist Mrs Kirschnee Naidoo, and UKZN lecturer, clinical psychologist and Head of Psychology at King Edward VIII Hospital Dr Naseema Vawda. The facilitator of the webinar was the Victim Assistant Officer at the Thuthuzela Centre, Ms Cebile Fuse who is from the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA) of the NPA.

Hoosain, a counsellor for the past 14 years, said suicide was South Africa’s second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 29, with over 800 000 people dying by their own hands every year - one every 40 seconds! She said suicide was prevalent in low- and middle-income countries and a major public health concern in our country.

Hoosain shared names of organisations and foundations that create awareness campaigns and assist in reaching out to those in need of help. She encouraged family and friends to know the signs, find the words and reach out.

Hoosain reminded the audience that victims of suicide were brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters etc, and were missed and loved every day. ‘Don’t judge what you cannot possibly understand,’ she said, quoting Winston Churchill. ‘Courage is what it takes to sit down and listen.’

Vawda, whose research interests include suicidal behaviour, said Durban had the highest suicide rate in South Africa for males, although there were more attempts from women but fewer deaths.

She spoke on some of the risk factors in adults and children which in adults included mood disorders especially depression, anxiety, substance-induced psychosis, physical and sexual abuse, divorce, pregnancy - especially when it causes conflict between partners - and unemployment. On risk factors in children, she highlighted family conflict, school-related problems, over-controlling parents, parental loss through death or divorce, bullying, anger and low self-esteem. She added that a family history of mental disorders could be a contributing factor.

Vawda encouraged people to manage thoughts, regulate emotions, develop good coping skills and the ability to resolve problems and to not use substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

Warning about the impact of social media, she said people ‘must develop resilience and develop children who can get up, stand up, fall down and still get up and get going.’

Naidoo who is currently studying for her PhD in Psychology, also emphasised that people need to remember that it is ok to not feel ok at times, and to ‘realise we are all human and go through difficult times. The key is to start managing our thoughts. If we don’t feel good about ourselves, it is easy to allow negative thoughts,’ said Naidoo.

She shared tips on how to help, what won’t help and how to come up with a crisis plan when dealing with someone who is suicidal. Naidoo shared a relaxation exercise with the audience, a tool to use when dealing with stress and anxiety.

Delivering the vote of thanks, NPA Advocate Dawn Coleman-Malinga said that although she was saddened by the high number of young people committing suicide, a positive was that help was available out there.

Coleman-Malinga thanked the speakers for sharing their knowledge and experiences with the audience, including the helpline numbers provided. She encouraged those with suicidal thoughts to reach out to those organisations and get the necessary help.

She thanked Fuse for facilitating the session, the UKZN Corporate Relations staff members for putting together the webinar and the audience for participating.

Suicide prevention and mental health support contact details:

•    UKZN Toll-free line - 0800 800 017 / email: hrd@ukzn.ac.za

South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) emergency lines:

•    Bipolar Line - 0800 70 80 90

•    Dr Reddy’s Helpline - 0800 21 22 23

•    Pharmadynamics Police and Trauma Line - 0800 20 50 26

•    Sanofi Aventis Sleep Line - 0800 SLEEPY (0800 753 379)

•    Suicide Crisis Line - 0800 567 567 (SMS 31393)

•    Department of Social Development Substance Abuse 24hr helpline - 0800 12 13 14 (SMS 32312)

•    SADAG Mental Health Line - 011 262 6396

•    LIFELINE Crisis Line and Mental Health support Groups - 031 312 2323 / Office Line 031 303 1344

•    ADHD Helpline - 0800 55 44 33

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photographs: Supplied


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Rights of LGBTQI People Centre Stage at UKZN Workshop

Rights of LGBTQI People Centre Stage at UKZN Workshop
From left: Dr Makhosi Dube, KwaZulu-Natal Nursing College; Professor Fikile Mtshali, UKZN; Ms Qhawe Thengwa, Beyond Zero; Professor Orlando Harris, University of California; and Dr ZamaSomi Luvuno, UKZN-SWITCH.Click here for isiZulu version

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) persons face a variety of obstacles in accessing many of their rights, including the right to basic healthcare, says the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UKZN’s College of Health Sciences, Professor Busi Ncama.

‘Many LGBTQI people struggle to find healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about their needs and encounter discrimination from insurers or providers which delays or nullifies care because of concerns about how they (LGBTQI people) will be treated,’ said Ncama.

Ncama was speaking at a two-day Clinical Care Management for Sexual and Gender Diverse Communities workshop attended by a variety of health professionals.

‘It is essential for us as health professionals to ensure we provide competent care for all our patients,’ she said.

The seminar was part of the LGBTQI work package in the Strengthening the Workforce to Improve Treatment and Care of HIV (SWITCH) project, a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-funded pilot initiative awarded to UKZN in 2019.

Lead facilitator of the workshop Dr ZamaSomi Luvuno said the aim of the event was to strengthen LGBTQI content in the College using the quality improvement process to assist students develop an understanding of related health issues and skills in the care of LGBTQI patients.

There were discussions on a variety of issues including the impact of cultural and religious beliefs and sexuality in South Africa, the depth of understanding of basic terminology used in LGBTIQA+ communities, and the appropriate use of terminology in the context of healthcare delivery.

A goal was to heighten awareness about the health needs of transgender women, and bisexual and homosexual men, with a specific focus on sexual health while there was also a focus on the recognition of the underlying prejudice toward sexual and gender minorities, including provider bias.

There were also discussions on sexual practices and safer sexual practices.

Professor Harris of the University of California in the United States demonstrated how to obtain a comprehensive sexual history using the 5 Ps framework, STI diagnosis and the management of anal dysplasia.

Other participants included, Mrs Gugu Shabangu of the Office of the KwaZulu-Natal Premier; Ms Qhawe Thenjwa of Beyond Zero; Dr Sindizama Mthembu of the KZN Nursing College; Ms Lungile Zakwe of Public Services International; programme managers from the Department of Health; University of Cape Town and Durban University of Technology representatives; UKZN’s Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation, Professor Mosa Moshabela; UKZN management representatives and members of the SWITCH team.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Public Lecture Examines “What’s Shaking” in KZN

Public Lecture Examines “What’s Shaking” in KZN
UKZN academics, Dr Mayshree Singh and Mr Thando Nqasha.

Continuing its successful public lecture series, UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) hosted a virtual public lecture delivered by Land Surveying lecturer, Dr Mayshree Singh and PhD candidate and Land Surveying lecturer, Mr Thando Nqasha that delved into what causes the earth to move, interesting earthquake research and implications for KwaZulu-Natal.

Themed: What Do Scientists Do? A Look Inside the Ivory Tower, the series features UKZN scientists working in the CAES and the co-ordinator of the Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC @UKZN) Dr Tanja Reinhardt, who facilitates the lectures.

Said Singh: ‘It is a great pleasure to be able to communicate our research to you in the hope of educating the general public on earthquakes in the region and raising awareness of the ways we can improve resilience to the devastating effects they have.’

Singh, who directs the Maya Geophysics consultancy and teaches Hydrographic Surveying and Introduction to Geomorphology courses at UKZN as well as supervising postgraduate students, is interested in seismo-tectonics which examines the causes of earthquakes from a geological and geophysical perspective. She has over 20 years’ experience in research and industrial aspects of probabilistic seismic hazard and risk.

Nqasha is a contractor at Maya Geophysics and a lecturer at UKZN - he holds a Master’s degree in Land Surveying from the University - and his PhD research is focused on factors that contribute to the damage caused to low cost homes by earthquakes. He has done extensive research into the earthquake directional effects of the 2014 earthquake in the North West Province town of Orkney.

Their presentation gave insight into earthquake research at UKZN, the causes of earthquakes and terminology used to describe them, historical earthquakes in South Africa and KZN, the directional effects of earthquakes, the Haiti earthquake that featured in recent news, and how participants could contribute to earthquake research and resilience.

Singh introduced research projects underway at UKZN including an underwater heritage mapping project, the use of UKZN’s seismic station, and applied research that is of use to society and industry through collaborative consulting projects that involve probabilistic seismic hazard assessments.

She said skills being developed at UKZN could assist in understanding what is happening on the sea floor and thereby contribute to earthquake research and monitoring.

Earthquake research at UKZN involves the collection of relevant historical and instrumental earthquake data, fieldwork after large earthquakes, investigation of damaged structures, development and modification of specialised toolboxes, and research into the causes and mechanism of earthquakes.

‘The large earthquakes that we have in South Africa are in the region of about magnitude six; an earthquake of this magnitude will occur around 150 times a year worldwide, but the energy release is still equivalent to the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb, so it can be quite destructive,’ said Nqasha.

He noted that South Africa had a good seismological monitoring network, while Singh said South Africa had relatively low levels of seismicity and described the different kinds of earthquakes that occurred in the country, highlighting the use of historical records to understand the hazards and risks for regions.

The duo covered the effect of a 2016 seismic event that occurred in KZN and impacted on low-cost housing, the reasons for South Africa’s lower magnitude earthquakes, and the need for increased seismic monitoring and mapping of neotectonic faults to identify the causes of small seismic events in KZN. Nqasha discussed the earthquake directional effect on infrastructure, and how understanding this can reduce the vulnerability of structures being damaged in earthquakes.

The public lecture series will continue in October with Professor Colleen Downs presenting on the topic: Adapt or Die! - The Persistence of African Wildlife in Urban KZN.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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Celebrating our Heritage

Celebrating our Heritage
Diversity and inclusion - a community effort.

Heritage Day was celebrated on 24 September giving everyone an opportunity to celebrate and appreciate South African cultures and religious beliefs. Our heritage is significant and meaningful as it is our inheritance from previous generations.

In the past, heritage comprised mainly structures such as monuments and sites.[1] However, this concept has gradually evolved, and heritage can be represented through practices and traditions in contemporary times. Maintaining the active existence of a heritage encourages local communities to engage in social issues and empowers them. In addition to educating people about the importance of their heritage, Heritage Day can help them respect and appreciate the heritage of others.

In the age of information, people are becoming more curious about how cultures are integrated into everyday life, the tales that are told, and how those practices are preserved to sustain a community. Maintaining our indigenous cultures and religions can ensure they evolve according to needs while contributing to future restoration. By doing so, the evolutionary state of our heritage allows for the accumulation and sharing of beautiful stories and shaping of values as well as the continuation of fostering community spirit.[2]

Embracing and preserving our heritage helps our society grow as we learn to respect differences. Heritage plays a significant role in defining identity and encouraging continuities in culture and tradition in communities across the country.[3] As part of our efforts to rehabilitate the nation, we celebrate this day with the aim of creating a new society moving towards cultural harmony.

We, at UKZN Extended Learning, hope all our fellow South Africans enjoyed a happy Heritage Day!

Words: Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

Photograph: Adobe Stock Image

[1] https://www.timesnownews.com/the-buzz/article/world-heritage-day-2021-history-significance-and-theme-of-the-day/746310

[2] https://www.mvorganizing.org/why-should-we-preserve-our-traditions/

[3] https://www.heritagecouncil.ie/what-is-heritage


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Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Human Trafficking Awareness Week, which is part of a month-long campaign, will this year run from 1 October to 8 October.

The first week of October every year is observed as Human Trafficking Awareness Week by the South African Government in an effort to increase awareness about Trafficking in Persons (TiP) across the country.

During this time, the National Trafficking in Persons Task Team (NICTIP) and the Provincial Human Trafficking, Harmful Traditional Practices, Prostitution, Pornography and Brothels (HHPPB) Task Team in KwaZulu-Natal - led by the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit – co-ordinates events aimed at raising public awareness on Trafficking in Persons in an effort to prevent the offence.

Human Trafficking Awareness Week, which is part of a month-long campaign, will this year run from 1 October to 8 October - the desired outcome is an informed society and an increased public debate on issues around TiP.

The campaign’s key message is: Victims’ Voices Lead the Way with the emphasis on putting victims of TiP at the centre of the campaign while highlighting the importance of listening to and learning from victims of TiP. The campaign portrays victims as key actors in the fight against TiP and focuses on the crucial role they play in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identify and rescue victims and support them on their road to rehabilitation.

Many victims of TiP have experienced ignorance or misunderstanding in their attempts to get help. They have had traumatic post-rescue experiences during identification interviews and legal proceedings while others have faced victimisation and punishment for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. Some have been subjected to stigmatisation or received inadequate support.

Learning from victims’ experiences and turning their suggestions into concrete actions will lead to a more victim-centred and effective approach in combating TiP.

Following the launch of the UKZN-SOCA partnership last month, a second webinar will take place on MS Teams between 14h00 - 15h30 on Monday, 4 October. The event, which kickstarts the UKZN - SOCA TiP awareness month, will focus on human trafficking, and the vetting of job opportunities.

For more information on TIP or to report a case, call 10111 / 0800 222 777 or go to:

•    www.0800222777.org.za

•    www.a21.org

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Shutterstock


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Optimal Diet for Planet and People - Researchers Have Their Say in High Profile Journal

Optimal Diet for Planet and People - Researchers Have Their Say in High Profile Journal
From left are Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi, Professor Sylvester Mpandeli and Dr Luxon Nhamo.

Researchers from UKZN’s Centre for Transformative Agricultural and Food Systems (CTAFS) and the Water Research Commission (WRC) were featured in the Voices segment of the high profile One Earth journal where they commented on the Planetary Health Diet (PHD) proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission in 2019.

The PHD resulted from investigations into healthy diets from sustainable food systems in the context of the Anthropocene era characterised by burgeoning populations, dwindling resources, increasing burden of malnutrition and diseases linked to diets, and the pressures of a changing climate. Calling food a defining issue of the 21st century, the Commission set out to develop a global reference diet for adults that would contribute to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

Saying that food is ‘the single strongest lever to optimise human health and environmental sustainability on earth,’ the Commission highlighted inequality in food systems, the risks to human wellbeing through unhealthy diets, and global food production’s threat to climate stability and ecosystem resilience. Aiming to fill the gap of globally agreed scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production, the Commission convened scientists from around the world across various disciplines to set these targets.

The PHD that resulted from this work recommends, universally, a flexible diet rich in plant-based foods with fewer animal sourced-foods and added sugars.

The Commission set targets that included acquiring international and national commitment to shift toward healthy diets; reorienting agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food; sustainably intensifying food production to increase high-quality output; prioritising strong and co-ordinated governance of land and ocean; and the reduction of food losses and waste.

Concerns have arisen among the scientific community regarding the PHD’s universality and potential trade-offs and conflicts. CTAFS Co-Director Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi with the WRC’s Dr Luxon Nhamo and Professor Sylvester Mpandeli contributed their views on whether a PHD is realistic, where there are remaining knowledge gaps and opportunities, and a way forward where a planetary health diet is concerned. They joined nine other experts from around the world who discussed various aspects of the PHD, from economic considerations to biodiversity and local contexts.

Mabhaudhi, Nhamo and Mpandeli, who have extensive knowledge on nexus planning, spoke about linking nexus planning and sustainable food systems. Saying that the guidelines are useful, they highlighted the lack of consideration of the agriculture-environment-health nexus and issues linked to this: biodiversity, poverty and inequality, social cohesion, and culture. These, they say, determine food sources and reasons for food choices and confer a sense of place and dignity.

The grand challenges that precipitated the need for the PHD are systemic, cross-sectoral issues, say the scientists, and omitting this context limits the PHD’s relevance of context, and applicability to the Global South. They recommend developing interventions that promote transformational change in food systems and diets, and propel these toward greater sustainability, resilience, and equity while operating within planetary boundaries and delivering on human health, well-being, and environmental outcomes.

Drawing on their own experience and expertise, Mabhaudhi, Nhamo and Mpandeli suggest the use of underutilised indigenous crops and wild fruits to address nutrition, human and environmental health, and diversify diets. They add that these kinds of strategies also draw on nexus planning related to poverty, inequality and unemployment, and gender and social inclusion through the creation of new and inclusive value chains for supporting these crops.

UKZN’s CTAFS through its cross-cutting, multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary research is addressing complex problems that include the promotion of novel crops and food systems to deliver social impact.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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Phytomedicine Experts Expound on the Power of Women

Phytomedicine Experts Expound on the Power of Women
From left: Ms Yanga Mhlomi, Ms Clarissa Naidoo, Miss Kashmira Raghu, Dr Depika Dwarka, Professor Yougasphree Naidoo, and Dr Nimisha Singh.

Professor Yougasphree Naidoo, an expert in cellular biology in the Laboratory for Medicinal Plant Research in the School of Life Sciences, was joined at the African Fashion International’s (AFI) Power to Empower event by two of her PhD candidates, Ms Clarissa Naidoo and Ms Yanga Mhlomi, with the trio being interviewed on topics of power, empowerment and mentorship.

Bringing the curtain down on South Africa’s Women’s Month in August, the hybrid event took place online and in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Joining in from the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, the three UKZN women spoke about building their personal power and empowering others.

The conversations were led by AFI founder and CEO Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, with guests including Harvard’s Professor Julie Battilana who authored Power, for All; Secretary General of FIFA Madame Fatma Samoura; Group CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange Dr Leila Fourie; and Chairperson of Anglo-American Ms Nolitha Fakude, who is the author of Boardroom Dancing.

The event linked to AFI’s Fastrack programme and its emphasis on the importance of mentorship and role-modelling across every sector, highlighs women who lead by example and actively develop and mentor the next generation of women leaders.

Professor Naidoo, whose expertise includes plant secretory biology, the properties of medicinal plants, ecophysiological research of halophytic plants, and microscopy, is a prolific author and has prioritised the supervision of students, interns and postdoctoral researchers to develop the next generation of plant scientists.

Mhlomi is doing PhD research on the medicinal properties of chrysanthemoides monilifera (L.) T. Norlindh - commonly known as tickberry or itholonja. She hopes her research will contribute to new knowledge, and that work done on isolated bioactive compounds from the plant might lead to a new drug discovery.

Having always had an interest in plants and aware of the growing burden of disease worldwide, Mhlomi chose to explore what she calls the hidden gems that nature offers through the medicinal properties of plants.

‘As a Black South African woman in science, I hope to establish a voice for not just myself, but one that represents the strength, capability and struggles of women in any field - women are capable of any field of work and we are all equal,’ she said.

During her interview, Mhlomi said that power meant having the ability to be in control and confident, to seek help where needed, to inspire, encourage and be motivating, to be empathetic and sympathetic, humble, kind and respectful to everyone.

Mhlomi said the highlight of the event was the interaction with successful, motivational women - most notably former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi - who overcame adversity and stood as an example for younger women. She also singled out Naidoo for making her PhD experience a memorable one, and providing motivation, guidance and a strong example. Mhlomi aspires to use her knowledge to motivate, empower, teach, and elevate her protégées in the same way.

In research for her PhD, Ms Clarissa Naidoo is investigating micromorphological characterisation, histo-phytochemical analysis and bioactivity of Tabernaemontana Ventricosa Hochst. ex AD.C. (Apocynaceae), known as the forest toad tree or uKhamamasane. Aiming to contribute to closing gaps in medicinal plant knowledge systems, Naidoo hopes to improve people’s wellbeing through knowledge on traditional medicines. Evaluating the therapeutic uses of the plant, she suggests it could be used to create home remedies and even scaled up for trade and job creation, or used by the pharmaceutical industry for herbal medicines.

Having been interested in plants and home remedies, from her third-year of study, Naidoo pursued therapeutic botany research.

While the number of females with higher degrees is on the rise, Naidoo said the scarcity of women in positions of authority in academia remained a challenge, and as a source of inspiration for others - highlighted Professor Naidoo and her achievements, which include a Lifetime Achievement Award for Medicinal Plants Research from the V. Sivaram Research Foundation and the Society for Conservation and Resource Development of Medicinal Plants in India, as a source of inspiration.

Naidoo said having the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of several successful women was gratifying and motivating and, during her interview, defined power as the ability to have control over resources and use one’s confidence and influence to do anything possible. Keen to mentor other young women, Naidoo emphasised the importance of mentorship to develop empowered, confident women.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Hosts Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows

UKZN Hosts Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows
Professor Nathan Andrews (left) and Professor Winfred Avogo.Click here for isiZulu version

The School of Built Environment and Development Studies within the College of Humanities hosted Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Professor Nathan Andrews and Professor Winfred Avogo for three months.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship is designed to reverse Africa’s brain drain, strengthen capacity at the host institutions, and develop long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa and those in Canada and the United States. It receives funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and is managed by the Institute of International Education in collaboration with United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, which co-ordinates the activities of the Advisory Council.

Global and International Studies Associate Professor Andrews of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Canada, and Sociology and Population/Demographic Studies Associate Professor Avogo of Illinois State University in the United States partnered with the School to support their postgraduate mentorship and emerging academics capacity - building initiatives led by the Deanery.

Reflecting on the importance of the initiative, Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said: ‘UKZN is one of South Africa’s leading research and teaching intensive institutions being ranked in the top 2.1% for consecutive years by the Centre of World University Rankings and we are in a good position to host such Fellows.’

Avogo partnered with population and development studies cluster leader Ms Nompumelelo Nzimande in a study to explore the impact of COVID-19 on migrant livelihood in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Avogo’s research focuses on the intersection of social change and the demographic and health aspects of societies, focusing on fertility outcomes, sexual and reproductive health, social aspects of HIV/AIDS, forced migration, and micro-level determinants of uneven female labour force participation in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Nzimande, the Carnegie Fellowship has ‘provided an opportunity for international collaborations in the area of demography and populations. The collaboration is assisting honours and masters students in their research, through workshops and other capacity development activities.’

Andrews partnered with Khalema to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on postgraduate engagement and academic co-mentorship. ‘Through planned workshops and other academic engagement activities, the fellowship offered an opportunity to learn and build on best practices in both UKZN and UNBC with regards to teaching, mentoring, curriculum, research, and supervision practices,’ said Andrews. His research focuses on the international political economy of resource extraction and global development and critical questions around epistemic oppression, academic dependency and decolonisation in Higher Education.

Andrews and Khalema have worked together in the past, co-editing several books when they were both scholars at the University of Alberta in Canada. They have continued to work together on different projects since then. While at UKZN, the Carnegie Fellows interacted with postgraduate students and offered workshops on research literacy as a way to promote a culture of critical research praxis.

Additionally, teaching and supervision seminars were held, providing network opportunities for emerging academic staff. The fellowship has further provided an opportunity to facilitate the development of institutional MoUs, thus advancing UKZNs internationalisation strategy.

Commenting on the impact of the fellowships, the Academic Leader in the Discipline of Community Development, Dr Muzi Matse, said: ‘This has promoted a mentoring space for academic excellence in teaching and learning and has provided opportunities for staff and students to engage collaboratively on important issues of innovative pedagogical, research, and curriculum development.’

The challenges in implementing the activities initially envisaged for the fellowships included the complications working within a COVID-19 context and the recent Durban looting and burning, which significantly limited engagement. Despite these challenges, the Carnegie Fellows used virtual platforms to lead workshops for postgraduate students, and participated in School-initiated symposiums, webinars and conferences, making their engagement with students and staff impactful.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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