Prestigious NRF Awards for UKZN Academics

Prestigious NRF Awards for UKZN Academics
Among the UKZN recipients of the NRF awards were (from left) Dr Alexandré Delport, Professor Pragashnie Govender, Professor Sabiha Essack, Professor Steven Johnson and Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim.

Eight UKZN academics have won awards at the annual National Research Foundation (NRF) ceremony held to recognise and reward South Africa’s top researchers and scientists.

Hosted recently in Pretoria and live-streamed virtually to over 500 guests, the high honours recognise achievements of academics in respect of the quality and impact of their work.

Congratulating the eight academics for their outstanding career achievements and contributions to knowledge creation in South Africa, UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Nana Poku said: ‘We are privileged to be associated with colleagues of this calibre who continue to earn the respect of their peers in different fields. Congratulations to all the award winners and thank you for bringing honour to our University and ensuring our flag of excellence in science and research keeps flying high.’

The award winners are:

•   Dr Alexandré Delport of the School of Life Sciences - Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers 2020

•   Professor Pragashnie Govender of the School of Health Sciences - Research Excellence Award for Early Career/Emerging Researchers 2020

•   Professor Sabiha Essack of the Anti-Microbial Research Unit - Champion of Research Capacity Development and Transformation at South African Higher Education Institutions Award 2021

•   Professor Colin Chapman of the School of Life Sciences for his first NRF “A”-Rating

•   Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa for her second “A”-Rating

•   Professor Fernando Albericio of the School of Chemistry and Physics for his second “A”-Rating

•   Professor Kevin Durrheim of the School of Applied Human Sciences for his first “A”-Rating

•   Professor Steven Johnson of the School of Life Sciences for his third “A”-Rating 

‘I am humbled and honoured to have been recognised for mentoring and nurturing the next generation of scientists,’ said Essack.

Said Johnson: ‘I am very pleased to receive this award which indicates that the research from my lab is valued by my scientific peers around the world. South Africa has much to offer in terms of biodiversity, and I plan to continue to address important scientific questions about the origins of species diversity and the key ecological interactions that sustain life.’

Abdool Karim said: ‘I am really pleased that I have retained my previous A-rating status and advanced to the Apex A1 rating within this category.’

The event acknowledges researchers and scientists who are concerned about the advancement of science and technology in South Africa for the greater good of the community. The awards were divided into 10 categories with 68 recipients being honoured.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela and Nombuso Dlamini  

Photographs: Supplied 


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Music Discipline Holds 16th African Cultural Calabash Festival

Music Discipline Holds 16th African Cultural Calabash Festival
Musicians and vocalists who performed at the African Calabash festival (clockwise, from top left) Victor Sithole, Mjolisi, LilyFaith and Mandisa.

The African Music Outreach Community Development Class within the School of Arts hosted its 16th African Cultural Calabash Festival under the theme of Sounds of Peace Imvunge Yokuthula.

The event featured local artists including Mjolisi, a maskandi guitarist; Mandisa, a spiritual African indigenous vocalist; Victor Sithole, a player of a variety of indigenous African instruments and the UKZN Andrew Mellon Foundation Artist-in-Residence in the African Music and Dance (AMD) programme; vocalist LilyFaith, charismatic, multitalented Queen of versatility, and UKZN AMD Students (AMD3) presented a modern mix of Umshado.

LilyFaith’s opening song was aligned with the theme of the event - she performed Sound of Peace followed by Ekhaya and Kuvela Kuwe, ‘My second song was inspired by my family who live far from me and so sometimes when I am missing home, I listen to it. I wrote it during a time when I longed to see my family,’ she said.

Mjolisi, who shared the stage with two guitarists, sang Baba ka Enzo and Konakelephi. ‘Gender-based violence in our country is getting worse and the song Konakelephi focuses on the issue of women being killed in South Africa.

Said Sithole: ‘I am very thankful to have been given the opportunity to share my work with people from Africa - I get great pleasure working with young people to promote African music. My two songs were titled Kwagedegedefele’e mkhontweni and Umthandazo wetshe.’

UKZN African Music and Dance members, Nokubonga Xolo and Sizwe Xulu said they were thankful for the support they had received while preparing for their performance.

Dr Patricia Opondo congratulated students who featured in the successful 16th Calabash edition. ‘It’s exciting to mentor enthusiastic students who featured in the festival and then to have a magnificent end product which we all proudly take collective ownership of. The ability to present online concerts during a very difficult year in the cultural sector is rewarding. Well done Team Calabash!’

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photographs: Andile Ndlovu


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Students Compete in International TV Game Show

Students Compete in International TV Game Show
The Ntuli sisters on the show Family Feud South Africa with US television personality and comedian Steve Harvey.

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The Ntuli Family, comprising UKZN students and alumni, participated in Family Feud South Africa, the popular international television game show with Steve Harvey as the host.

The show features two families who compete against each other to name the most popular responses to survey questions in order to win cash and prizes.

Said Harvey: ‘Bringing Family Feud to Africa has long been a dream of mine. I believe the show will become a household hit here. And this is just the beginning in Africa. I expect this show to lead to multiple media and business projects in and throughout the continent.’

The Ntuli family comprise Kuhlekonke (Masters in Housing); Thembalethu (Psychology); Lungelo (Honours Social Sciences); Lungile (Honours in Population Studies) and Minnie (Bachelor of Arts).

The Ntuli family are fans of the show and had played it previously in the comfort of their own home in New Germany. ‘This fun family activity grew on us and we enjoyed its ability to bring out our different personalities. We wished we could be on the show, win the game and take the money home. When the opportunity actually presented itself, we jumped at it,’ said Kuhlekonke.

‘If the world wants to know about South Africa, they need to know that we, the youth, are leading, influencing and shaping the world we want to see. We believe that the more frequently young Black girls see themselves on TV, the sooner they will realise that there are no barriers to the global stage be it in academia, entertainment or developmental practice,’ said Kuhlekonke.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Stellar Academic Career Celebrated During Inaugural Lecture

Stellar Academic Career Celebrated During Inaugural Lecture
Professor Vincent Nyamori.

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Dr Vincent Nyamori joined UKZN’s Westville campus Chemistry staff as a young lecturer in 2008, fresh from a two-year term as a postdoctoral research Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Fast forward to 2021, and Nyamori has now been inaugurated as a full professor at UKZN and delivered his inaugural lecture!

Nyamori hails from Kenya where he graduated with a BSc degree in Physical Sciences from Egerton University in 1996 before moving to the University of Port Elizabeth to pursue a BSc Honours degree in Chemistry (1999), followed by an MSc (2001) and PhD in Chemistry (2006), awarded by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Since joining UKZN as a lecturer, he has risen rapidly through the ranks. ‘Vincent has contributed enormously to the running of the School and Institution,’ said Dean and Head of the School of Chemistry and Physics, Professor Ross Robinson.

‘He has been an active member of many committees within UKZN. Among other responsibilities, he took on the role of Academic Leader of Analytical and Physical Chemistry in 2012 and has co-ordinated the UKZN Nanotechnology Platform since 2014.’

In 2011, Nyamori was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award, and in 2018, he was named among UKZN’s Top 30 Published Researchers.

Last year he received the Merck Medal which is awarded to a senior author of a paper published in the South African Journal of Chemistry in a specific field of chemistry and which is adjudged to have made the most significant contribution to the Discipline in a specified period.

In recognition of his research activities, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) in 2019 and a Fellow of the South African Chemical Institute (SA) in 2020.

Nyamori, who served as president of the South African Chemical Institute from 2017-2019, was the Chair of the Organising Committee for the NanoAfrica conference held at Salt Rock in 2018 and the Chair of the Local Organising Committee of the 5th International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Green Chemistry Conference held in Durban in 2014.

He is currently Chair of the Scientific Organising Committee for the Commonwealth Chemistry Congress being held in Trinidad and Tobago next year.

Nyamori has supervised 11 PhD and 12 MSc candidates to graduation, and is currently supervising a further 11 PhD and three MSc students. He has published 136 peer-reviewed articles, two book chapters and one patent, and has over 2 199 citations to date.

Nyamori used the occasion of his inaugural lecture to focus on ferrocene and green chemistry, and his interest and contribution to the research field of nanotechnology for sustainable development.

‘Advancements in nanotechnology are helping considerably to improve, even revolutionise, many technology and industry sectors,’ said Nyamori. ‘These innovations, coupled with sustainable chemistry, are at the heart of addressing the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

‘Carbon-based nanomaterials, and their composites, have played a key role in shaping and providing directions to the SDGs, particularly in the case of provision of clean water, a healthy environment and sustainable energy technologies for an ideal modern smart city.

‘Our contribution has entailed synthesising ferrocenyl derivatives by an alternative greener approach, under solvent-free conditions. These ferrocenes have been used in the synthesis of shaped carbon nanomaterials.

‘In addition, we have successfully synthesised nanocomposites containing graphene derivatives, carbon nitride and nanocellulose for key applications in catalysis, water purification and solar energy harvesting,’ he said.

Nyamori concluded his lecture by thanking all those who had supported him during his exciting journey.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Professor Albert Modi, thanked Nyamori for his rich contribution to the University.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied


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Student Excels in Global Community Challenge

Student Excels in Global Community Challenge
Fourth-year Law student Ms Bongisile Nophakela.

Fourth-year Law student Ms Bongisile Nophakela has been making UKZN proud in the 2021 Global Community Challenge (GCC), being in the team which won the semi-finals of the online contest.

The GCC, hosted by the University of Calgary in Canada, encourages students to identify potential solutions with a global impact for local organisations in the Calgary community.

Nophakela, whose attention was drawn to the challenge by alumni and friend Ms Nokuthula Kubheka, said she was thrilled to compete on an international platform, explaining how she chose to participate in the Immigration Services Calgary topic because of the ‘uncertain economic and political times we live in where so many people are affected by immigration issues.’

Nophakela was grouped with teammates from Australia, Italy, New Zealand and Mexico who were all from diverse backgrounds and fields of expertise which gave the team the competitive edge they needed but also posed a few challenges in terms of time differences.

‘All of us at one point had to wake up at midnight to catch group meetings and attend GCC workshops, but it was nothing my team members and I were not prepared for. With lots of compromise and empathy we were able to overcome obstacles and work together in harmony,’ she said.

At the semi-finals hosted virtually, Nophakela’s team delivered an informative five-minute PowerPoint presentation aimed at providing a high-quality intake experience for Calgary Immigration Services. Highlighting the civil, economic and social challenges faced by immigrants the team identified short and long term solutions to immigration requirements, issues and formalities, including a gateway and world citizen chat app developed to inform and empower clients during their stay; an iPad kiosk at reception where clients can register and state reasons for their stay; a needs assessment survey to enable clients to express their needs freely; and a Calm Down Corner as a separate space where clients can relax when feeling overwhelmed.

The team takes part in the finals on 18 November. ‘I am so proud of my colleagues and excited to be in the finals which we are working hard to win,’ said Nophakela.

‘This challenge has forced me to think critically and develop a sense of cultural awareness and tolerance. I have become a better person in so many ways through my participation and I’ve also learned to become a team player,’ she added.

Winners of the GCC receive a training and mentorship programme as a group as well as individually.

Having attended the event virtually, Ms Normah Zondo Executive Director: Corporate Relations said: ‘We are very proud of Bongisile for taking up the challenge and for doing so well. Her participation in the Global Community Challenge has provided her with an opportunity to work with cross-cultural and multidisciplinary teams to find solutions for societal issues. The challenge also allows teams to develop skills in working with diverse groups, creativity, communication and building intercultural capability - which plays a critical role in moulding students to become innovation catalysts for meaningful change.’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Building Goes Green in Support of World Stroke Day

UKZN Building Goes Green in Support of World Stroke Day
From left: Health Promotions Officer, Mrs Samukelisiwe Dladla, Ms Normah Zondo and Mrs Dana Govender and the MTB Building lit up.

In commemoration of World Stroke Day, UKZN - in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa - lit up the Memorial Tower Building (MTB) on the Howard College campus in green with the impressive sight visible from many parts of Durban.

Executive Director of Corporate Relations Ms Normah Zondo said: ‘In keeping with the aims of the University’s Wellbeing Communication Strategy launched in September, we call on all staff and students to take care of themselves and others, in all aspects of their lives.

‘Although large social gatherings are still not permitted due to the pandemic, we reach out to our community through visible, fun initiatives aimed at keeping everyone motivated on their wellness journey. By flipping the switch, we want to remind our community that living a healthy lifestyle means having a strong mind, body and soul.’

During the evening event, a team from the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa conducted free health risk assessments and tests including for blood pressure, blood glucose content and blood cholesterol levels.

Health Promotions Manager at the Foundation, Ms Dana Govender said, ‘The focus for 2021 is: Minutes Can Save Lives. We all know that a stroke is a medical emergency, and we need to take charge.

‘The best way to recognise an imminent stroke is to remember the acronym FAST - facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and time. Ask the person to smile, then steadily raise both arms and finally repeat a simple phrase. If the person has difficulty in any of these, act quickly and get help,’ said Govender.

Zondo encouraged the University community to reach out to UKZN’s team of experts on campuses who are available to help staff and students in connection with their wellness, ‘Visit your College Student Support Service sites or ICAS for staff. Remember that your body also needs a healthy mind. Protect yourself, educate yourself and create a plan for a life of good health. If you take care of your heart, your heart will take care of you.’ Click here to access these support services. 

Watch the lighting up of MTB Building here.

Words: Rakshika Sibran

Photographs: Asante Solutions.


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South Africans Should Expect Petrol Price to Exceed R20 a Litre Before Year End

South Africans Should Expect Petrol Price to Exceed R20 a Litre Before Year End
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The cost of petrol went up again in South Africa this month with the price now set to top R20 a litre by the  end of this year.

Motorists are currently paying R18.82 for petrol in coastal provinces, which is 40% more than the price they were paying in January.

Year-on-year petrol price hike percentages speed way ahead of the country’s inflation rate and based on the current trends we should expect the cost of fuel to exceed R20 a litre before the year ends.

Major influencers of petrol prices are the world fuel (crude) prices and the rand-dollar exchange rate with  hikes in the price of petrol caused by either an increase in the world fuel price or the depreciation of the rand or both.

The rand has been fluctuating at around R15 for a US dollar while world crude oil prices have been increasing. Most countries in the world are still under lockdown, which should have resulted in global demand for fuel being lower than in the period prior to restrictions. Although most countries are relaxing COVID-19 regulations, the global economic activity has not reached levels prior to global restrictions.

The implementation of global regulations in the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus has led to people losing jobs, others having to take pay cuts, salary increase freezes and a reduction in turnover for many businesses. A lot of firms are still struggling to get back on their feet while others have folded.

Petrol prices have a direct effect on the cost of living, forming part of input costs for consumer goods and services and pushing up prices South Africans pay in the stores. This is undesirable considering the fact that South Africa’s household income has been reduced dramatically because of the pandemic.

Moreover, South Africa’s economic situation was exacerbated by protests and looting earlier this year. A variety of businesses have still not fully recovered while large numbers of informal traders and SMMEs have succumbed. The contribution of the informal sector and the SMMEs in South Africa’s economy cannot be over-emphasised.

Petrol price increases affect everyone but the poorest of the poor suffer the most and lockdown regulations have exposed and widened the gap between the poor and the rich in South Africa.

In addition to the increased food prices, transport fares have jumped. Most South Africans rely on public transport as they commute to work and mini-bus taxi owners are not shy to increase fares when petrol prices increase, yet they keep fares static when the petrol price drops.

Government added salt to the wounds earlier this year, when it increased the Fuel and Road Accident Fund levies embedded in petrol prices by 4.24% and 5.31% respectively. The timing of this move was arguably not in the best interests of South Africa as it further delays the recovery of the country’s struggling economy and comes at a time where the government has allowed electricity prices to rise.

South Africa’s economy was struggling before the first case of COVID-19 in the country and as infections increased so too did the number of individuals living below the bread line.

Government has the ability to influence the situation through administered prices - those prices which are arbitrarily fixed through government control and intervention in the market.

A decision to adjust administered prices should be considered in the interests of improving economic growth in South Africa.

Dr Sanele Gumede is a Senior Lecturer in UKZN’s School of Accounting, Economics and Finance.

*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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UKZN Psychiatry Registrars Win Awards at SASOP’s National Congress

UKZN Psychiatry Registrars Win Awards at SASOP’s National Congress
Best presentation winners at the 2021 SA Society of Psychiatrists Congress (from left) Dr Shaun Hain, Dr Nikita Singh and Dr Bilkis Dawood.

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Three UKZN Registrars were announced as winners of research awards during the 20th National Congress of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP).

They were Dr Shaun Hain, Dr Nikita Singh and Dr Bilkis Dawood. 

Hain, who is the Senior Registrar in the Discipline of Psychiatry, won the MS Bell Award in Psychiatry for the best registrar oral presentation.

His study titled: Retain Rural Doctors: Burnout, Depression and Anxiety in Medical Doctors Working in Rural KwaZulu-Natal, was pertinent in the current pandemic and addressed an important gap in mental health issues of doctors working in rural areas.

Said Hain: ‘To address the unequal distribution of doctors in South Africa a variety of strategies has been used to attract them to work in rural areas. However, while there is a need to attract, there is also a need to retain these doctors to ensure equitable access to healthcare. We performed a quantitative descriptive cross-sectional study in three districts in northern KwaZulu-Natal among doctors working at 15 rural district hospitals during August and September 2020.

‘Our study, involving 96 Medical doctors, found high rates of burnout (68,5%), depression (35,6%) and anxiety (23,3%) in rural doctors in northern KwaZulu-Natal, all of which were significantly associated with the intention to leave the public sector in the next two years.

‘Community service medical officers as a group were associated with high burnout (85,2%) and anxiety rates (29,6%), and the female gender were also significantly associated with higher burnout rates (84,7%). We recommend that evidence-based solutions are implemented to prevent burnout and retain rural doctors particularly in the high-risk groups identified.’

Hain was supervised by Professor Bonga Chiliza and Dr P Milligan of UKZN’s Discipline of Psychiatry with his presentation co-authored by Dr Andrew Tomita of the KZN Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), UKZN’s College of Health Sciences and the Centre for Rural Health.

Singh won the MS Bell Award in Psychiatry for the best poster presentation at the Congress. Her presentation was titled: The Prevalence and Association of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Substance Use and Depressive Symptoms in People Living with HIV (PLWHIV) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This study was conducted at an outpatient HIV service in a state hospital in the eThekwini Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal after the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa.

The results of this research described a high prevalence of ACEs, substance use and depressive symptoms in PLWHIV and the association of cumulative ACEs with substance use and depressive symptoms in PLWHIV. The comorbid trauma, substance use and depression were generally undetected, and findings suggest the need for better screening strategies and integrated services for this triple burden among PLWHIV.

Singh was supervised by Dr S Paruk and the poster was authored with Dr V Ntlantsana and Tomita.

Dawood won first prize for best poster presentation at masters level while his study was accepted for publication in an international journal.

His presentation was titled: Unheard, Uncared For and Unsupported: The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 on Frontline Healthcare Workers in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa.

In this cross-sectional electronic survey, healthcare workers were surveyed during the pandemic in connection with psychological distress. Key findings were that at least half of the participants experienced psychological symptoms in the form of depression, anxiety, and stress, with one-fifth being in the severe range. Additionally, most of the participants felt unheard, uncared for and unsupported. 

Said Dawood: ‘High levels of depression, anxiety and stress and traumatic stress, combined with poor perceptions of employer support, highlight the need to identify and address the psychosocial support needs and expectations of healthcare workers for the duration of the pandemic as well as for the mental health sequelae post-pandemic.’

Dawood was supervised by Professor Suvira Ramlall while Tomita co-authored the poster.

Words: Saeeda Paruk

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Doctoral Student Puts Traditional Medicine on International Stage

UKZN Doctoral Student Puts Traditional Medicine on International Stage
Ms Khanyisile Mngomezulu.

Discipline of Traditional Medicine PhD student Ms Khanyisile Mngomezulu’s abstract has been selected as the best in the Track A: Basic Science section and she has been invited to deliver the paper at the 2021 International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) next month.

The bilingual and biennial conference is hosted by anglophone and francophone African countries with the aim being to highlight the diverse nature of the African region’s HIV epidemic and the unique response to it.

Mngomezulu will join researchers, clinicians, and other health professionals to share knowledge and ideas on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, from basic science to global health.

‘This is my first international conference where I will be presenting orally, providing me with a great platform to present my current work and learn from people who are experts in HIV research,’ she said.

‘ICASA 21 will provide an opportunity for young scientists and researchers like myself to share our most recent findings. I feel it is also a platform for advocates and activists to engage with scientists in a way that’s not usually possible. Furthermore, it will provide an opportunity for learning, networking and sharing of information.’

Mngomezulu will present her study titled: Investigating the Potential of Traditional Medicines in Reactivation of Latent HIV-1, which focuses on finding traditional medicinal plants with the ability to reactivate latent HIV using laboratory models.

Supervised by Dr Mlungisi Ngcobo, Dr Paradise Madlala and Professor Nceba Gqaleni, her study was done in collaboration with researchers from the Simon Fraser University, the University of Pretoria, the Africa Health Research Institute (ARHI), and the HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP).

‘The research has the potential to find a solution to a problem in the treatment of HIV which is the inability of highly active antiretroviral therapy to clear HIV copies in latently infected immune cells,’ she said.

‘The majority of the population continue to rely on their own traditional medicine obtained from traditional healers to meet their primary healthcare needs, however, the work of traditional healers is still seriously neglected.

‘My research project uses traditional medicines obtained from traditional healers as a form of community engagement with the medicines used already showing excellent anti-HIV activity. This study is the next step in validating their effectiveness,’ she said.

She is currently part of the Bicycles for Humanity initiative which provides bicycles in developing countries to assist children and young adults to get to school and work on time.

Mngomezulu holds a Master of Medical Science degree in Medical Microbiology, a BSc Honours degree in Medical Microbiology and BSc degree in Microbiology and Genetics, all from UKZN.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Spotlight on UKZN’s Civil Engineering Sustainable Transportation Research Group

Spotlight on UKZN’s Civil Engineering Sustainable Transportation Research Group
UKZN’s Sustainable Transportation Research Group is focusing on sustainable solutions for national and international transportation issues.

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The work of the Sustainable Transportation Research Group (STRg) in Civil Engineering at UKZN was highlighted in the Outlook newsletter of the Durban branch of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering.

The article drew attention to the group’s focus on sustainable solutions for national and international transportation issues.

Founded by Academic Leader Professor Mohamed Mostafa, Professor Dillip Das, Professor Johnnie Ben-Edigbe and Mr Senzo Shange, the STRg was created following a process in the School of Engineering to strengthen its academic and research offerings through the upgrade of infrastructure, the improvement of its work environment and an increase of staff capacity in key areas such as water, structures, geotechnics and transportation.

The STRg group unites experts in transportation to advance research in sustainable road transportation to contribute to alleviating global challenges said to be brought about in part by the movement of people and goods, including environmental degradation, ecological imbalances, climate change and more.

Expanding capacity in transportation research and teaching at UKZN means postgraduate and undergraduate students are exposed to different aspects of the transportation industry such as traffic engineering, transportation planning and roads design, construction, pursuing novel research and design through research theses, and final-year design dissertations and projects. The group offers full- and part-time study opportunities for master’s and PhD students and is working towards establishing a research chair in sustainable transportation.

STRg researchers are pursuing basic and applied research in smart transportation, sustainable road materials, public transport systems, road safety engineering, transport planning, traffic management, pavement modelling, pavement management systems, pavement life cycle assessment, and integrated transportation systems. To accommodate novel research on embedded sensors, non-conventional and nanomaterials, UKZN’s transportation laboratory is undergoing a significant upgrade that includes the acquisition of advanced equipment.

‘We are striving to establish a transportation research hub in KZN by focusing on national and local problems in the sector to provide innovative solutions to achieve economical and reliable transportation infrastructure,’ said Mostafa. ‘We work closely with industry and governmental institutions as we believe research must address the needs of local communities to be internationally recognised.’

STRg research projects also include Applied Systems Analysis approaches to smart city research and the implementation of information communication technology solutions to public transportation in developing countries. It has received international publicity in international journals as well as conference proceedings.

‘We envisage contributing new knowledge, innovative concepts and designs towards developing products and artefacts and technology that will enable sustainable road transportation in Africa and globally,’ said Mostafa.

The group is also focusing on planning aspects of public transportation systems such as road humps and the development of an innovative traffic light system to enhance road safety.

‘We endeavour to contribute to solving complex transportation problems with our research, innovation and problem-solving competency to lead to a more sustainable and liveable habitat,’ said Das.

STRg’s work has resulted in the recognition of its researchers in the South African National Roads Agency’s A category, which supports four projects that the STRg is collaborating on with other universities, research institutes and consulting agencies. The group has international relations with universities in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Dean and Head of the School of Engineering Professor Glen Bright highlighted UKZN’s placement in international rankings where it features in the top 2.5% of the world’s universities - confirming its commitment to sustainability and quality - and its internationally accredited engineering qualifications position the School to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the quality of life for all communities.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Postdoc Student Co-authors Book on Contemporary SA Authors

UKZN Postdoc Student Co-authors Book on Contemporary SA Authors
Dr Danyela Demir with her new book.

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English studies postdoctoral student in UKZN’s School of Arts Dr Danyela Demir has co-authored a book titled: Tracing the (Post)Apartheid Novel Beyond 2000. Demir is under the supervision of Professor Lindy Stiebel.

The book - published by UKZN Press and co-authored by Dr Olivier Moreillon - was launched at Ike’s Bookstore in Florida Road in Durban.

The work contains interviews with 14 contemporary South African authors: Mariam Akabor, Sifiso Mzobe, Fred Khumalo, Futhi Ntshingila, Niq Mhlongo, Zukiswa Wanner, Nthikeng Mohlele, Mohale Mashigo, Lauren Beukes, Charlie Human, Yewande Omotoso, Andrew Salomon, Imraan Coovadia and Fred Strydom.

Conversations with the writers are accompanied by vignettes of their lives and summaries of their works.

‘By allowing the authors to speak to and assess the literary landscape of which they form a part and co-create, we step beyond pure literary theory and analysis. This makes the book an accessible resource both for academics and non-academics interested in contemporary South African literature,’ said Demir.

The authors also trace concepts and terms that describe the current moment of South African literature, such as post-transitional literature and literature beyond 2000.

By adopting a world-literary approach to (post)apartheid literature, this book makes an important contribution to debates on contemporary South African writing. In addition, Tracing the (Post) Apartheid Novel beyond 2000 seeks to raise awareness about the imbalance in both critical and public attention between literary “big names”, such as Andre P Brink, J M Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer and Zakes Mda - who are nationally and internationally celebrated - and the younger and newer generation of South African writers, who go largely unnoticed.

Demir, who holds a PhD from the University of Augsburg in Germany, is a postdoctoral Fellow at UKZN.

Her monograph, Reading Loss: Post-Apartheid Melancholia in Contemporary South African Novels, was published in 2019.

She has published articles on K Sello Duiker, Marlene van Niekerk, Kgebetli Moele and Sarah Penny, and has also edited a special issue of BKO magazine titled: Horns for Hondo at 30, which focuses on Lesego Rampolokeng’s work.  

Demir’s current project is tentatively titled: Writing Against a Loveless World: In Search of Black Consciousness in Selected South African and Middle Eastern Texts.

Her latest book is available online and at all major book shops.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Cedric Sissing


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Webinar on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice

Webinar on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice
Professor Judy Khanyola.

UKZN’s College of Health Sciences hosted a webinar on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice (IPE) in the professions of dentistry, nursing, medicine, pharmacy, osteopathic medicine and public health.

The webinar was made possible through the Strengthening the Workforce to Improve Treatment and Care of HIV (SWITCH) project led by Professor Mosa Moshabela in collaboration with Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) near Pretoria.

The webinar was divided into three workshops and was led by the Chair of the Center for Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Global Health and Equity, Professor Judy Khanyola of Rwanda.

The event highlighted key competencies for effective interprofessional education practice in the health workforce.

Interprofessional education takes place ‘when students from two or more professions learn about, learn from and learn with each other to enable effective collaboration to improve health outcomes,’ said Khanyola. ‘Interprofessional education and practice is a necessary tool in building a collaborative health workforce that is better prepared to respond to local health needs.’

Khanyola said health professionals had made huge contributions to health and socio-economic development over the past century but had failed to carry out 21st century health reforms due to outdated or inadequate competencies. ‘For effective interprofessional education practice there has to be more agile and rapid adaption of core competencies based on transnational, multi-professional, and long-term perspectives to serve the needs of individuals and populations,’ she said.

‘The four key competencies required to help prepare future health professionals enhance team-based care of patients and improve population health outcomes are: Values/Ethics for Interprofessional Practice, Roles and Responsibilities, Interprofessional Communication and Teams and Teamwork.’

Khanyola used interactive presentation tools in her talk, asking participants to divide themselves into groups and answer questions relating to the interprofessional practice framework.

She said change starts when ‘we, ourselves, understand and change the way we learn and become independent transformative learning agents.’

Professor Dini Mawela of SMU led a Q&A debate and closed the event by thanking Khanyola for her contribution.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Photograph: Supplied


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Domestic Violence - Where to Get Help

Domestic Violence - Where to Get Help
Victims of gender-based violence can contact the GBV Command Centre at 0800 428 428 (toll-free).

A victim of domestic violence (DV) can approach their local magistrate’s court and request assistance in applying for a protection order.

A protection order is a written order that is issued by the magistrate’s or a family court to stop any person from committing any act of DV against another person with whom they have a domestic relationship.

People who can apply for a protection order include anyone who is or has been abused, a minor (who may lodge an application unassisted) and any person who has an interest in the life of the complainant. The following people can apply with the written consent of the complainant (unless the complainant is a minor, mentally disabled, unconscious or if the court is satisfied that he or she is unable to give the required consent): a counsellor, health worker, police officer, social worker, and teacher.

The Clerk of the Court will assist the victim (the applicant) to complete the necessary forms and to make an affidavit and will take the victim before a magistrate who will determine whether or not to grant the order.

If the respondent (the person against whom the order has been granted) breaches the protection order, by eg, repeating physical or verbal abuse, the victim may file a complaint at the police station and hand the warrant of arrest to the police who will then arrest the respondent, when the circumstances permit.

Once arrested, the respondent will face criminal charges and be tried in a criminal court for breaking the protection order.

Once the respondent has been arrested for breaking the protection order, the applicant may not decide to withdraw the charges. Only the Senior Public Prosecutor may do so.

In emergencies, the service, that is free, is available 24 hours a day.

The order is valid until the victim cancels it and is valid throughout South Africa.

Victims of gender-based violence should contact the GBV Command Centre for support:

•   Toll-free number 0800 428 428

•   Skype address - Helpme GBV (deaf community)

•   SMS - “help” to 31531

•   Please call me*120*7867# supported by a USSD

The Centre operates a national, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call centre facility.

Words: NdabaOnline

Image: Shutterstock


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