UKZN Academic Receives Award for Cybersecurity Leadership

UKZN Academic Receives Award for Cybersecurity Leadership
Dr Brett van Niekerk.Click here for isiZulu version

An academic in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Dr Brett van Niekerk, has received the Winston Hayden Leadership Award for his work in cybersecurity from the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

Van Niekerk was nominated for the award for leading a South African team to victory in an international cybersecurity challenge in January, his leadership of an international working group and participation in numerous other working groups, and his editorship and reviews for international journals, among other activities. He received the Contribution Award in 2018.

ICASA - formerly the Information Systems Audit and Control Association - is an international not-for-profit professional organisation with a focus on IT Audit; IT governance, risk and compliance, information security and cyber security. The organisation has more than 140 000 members in 180 countries.

The organisation provides guidance and manages some of the sought-after professional certifications, such as the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), and the Cyber Security Practitioner (CSXP). The South African chapter, the largest in Africa with more than 2 200 members, instituted the awards - presented at their annual conference - to recognise their members for their professionalism and service.

Words: Leena Rajpal

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Alumnus Now Property Development Player

UKZN Alumnus Now Property Development Player
Mr Skhulile “SK” Ndlovu and the Avoca Heights project.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN alumnus and CEO of Ntaba Holdings Mr Skhulile “SK” Ndlovu is making an impact in the property development industry!

Ntaba Holdings - a turnkey property development company established in 2019 and co-founded by Ndlovu - aims to make it easier for first time owners and investors to acquire property.

Ndlovu, who graduated with a BCom degree in Supply Chain, Marketing and Human Resource Management from UKZN, says he had always been fascinated by property development but buying his first piece of real estate made him realise how complicated the process was and how many other young professionals were probably facing the same challenges. ‘I saw this as an opportunity to start my own real estate business that would make the process of buying property much easier, especially for first-time owners.’

Ndlovu has a wealth of experience in investment banking, having worked at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) and the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS).

He attributes a large part of his success in the corporate and business sector to what he learned at UKZN and through his involvement in SIFE-UKZN, now known as Enactus UKZN. Enactus is an international, non-profit organisation that brings together students, academics and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to improve the quality of life and standard of living of people in need.

With a vision of becoming one of the biggest turnkey property development companies in Africa, Ntaba Holdings launched its first project early this year - Homestead Views Security Estate - which is a mix of a 100 apartment and standalone units at St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape.

The company also launched Avoca Heights in Avoca, Durban, as an upmarket apartment project boasting 100 units worth a total of more than R100 million. Said Ndlovu: ‘This exciting new development offers two-bedroom units with full bath and double parking for less than R1 million. But what’s even more exciting is the location which is based just off North Coast Road with easy access to the N2 and the airport, and only a few kilometres away from Umhlanga.’

Ndlovu thanked his family, friends and business partners for their support in getting him to where he is now. He encouraged other entrepreneurs to start wherever they are and to be consistent in order for their business to succeed.

Ntaba Holdings is based in Johannesburg, with regional offices in Durban, and the Eastern Cape.

Follow @ntabaholdings on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied


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Launch of JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues Archive and Colloquium Proceedings

Launch of JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues Archive and Colloquium Proceedings
JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues archive launched.

The JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience and the Centre for Creative Arts within the College of Humanities have launched the JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues archive and colloquium proceedings.

Artistic Director/Curator of the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience Dr Lliane Loots said: ‘We are delighted to launch the Masihambisane archive that will become a living and growing free and open access digital archive supporting focused South African and African (and Diaspora) dance scholarship and research in an accessible and community-driven manner while supporting inventive ways of engaging dance/performance scholarship, practice, and practice-led research.’

Over and above the benefit of pushing dance scholarship and research in South Africa and Africa, the archives are a valuable resource (for all performing arts and Humanities scholars) in tracking performance-based dialogues that allow artists and dancers to have a space to articulate and interrogate their own practices in a safe and supportive environment.

‘This archive - as it grows annually - will continue to imagine new and innovative ways of sharing and archiving knowledge that helps support a community of African (and African Diaspora) dance scholars and practitioners in representing and theorising themselves. We also continue to welcome support in this endeavour from key partners in India, Europe and the Americas,’ said Loots.

The archive has been made possible with the support of the National Institute of Humanities and Social Science (NIHSS).

The digital archive can be found on the JOMBA! website:
https://jomba.ukzn.ac.za/masihambisane-dialogues/ and is now available.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Val Adamson


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Webinar Focuses on COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters

Webinar Focuses on COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters
Professor Ameena Goga, Unit Director of the SAMRC HIV Prevention Research Unit.

COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Doses in Low-Middle Income Settings: The Science, Politics and Ethics, was the title of a webinar hosted by UKZN’s Developing Research Innovation, Localisation and Leadership (DRILL) programme in association with the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).

Presented by the Unit Director of the SAMRC HIV Prevention Research Unit (HPRU) Professor Ameena Goga, the webinar delved into the science behind COVID-19 boosters, the politics behind vaccine coverage in low-income households, and the ethics of who will benefit from the vaccine.

Goga, who was welcomed by UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor Mosa Moshabela, said: ‘The goal of COVID-19 immunisation is protection against hospitalisation, severe disease and death.’

According to Goga, there have been 245 million cases of the infection since the onset of the pandemic last year and almost five million deaths. ‘There is now an urgent need to increase the distribution of vaccine boosters.’

She listed factors including the booster vaccine, the target population, the intensity of initial exposure and a circulating variant of the virus as being important in the light of decreasing immunity.

She referred to the Sisonke study into the protection of healthcare workers which was completed in May this year and has successfully administered the Ad-26 COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. According to the study, the vaccine had proved effective in providing protection against death and hospitalisation.

When comparing the J&J and Pfizer vaccine, ‘in-vitro, the J&J vaccine works better against the Delta variant, and gets better over time with both Delta and Beta. Vaccine effectiveness in the delta-proxy period looks better than in the beta-proxy period in healthcare workers in South Africa,’ said Goga.

The presentation further highlighted the unequal distribution of the vaccine boosters especially in low-income countries. Goga says the World Health Organization has warned that 42 African countries were likely to fall short of the vaccination target.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Academic Presents Paper at African Academic Diaspora Homecoming Event

UKZN Academic Presents Paper at African Academic Diaspora Homecoming Event
Professor Vannie Naidoo.

UKZN’s Professor Vannie Naidoo presented a paper at the 2021 African Academic Diaspora Homecoming gathering which was held on a virtual platform.

The event - sponsored by the Pan African Heritage World, the African Association of Universities and the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo - attracted panelists, experts, researchers and stakeholders in Higher Education, government and business from all over the world.

A panelist in Session 1 which focused on Strengthening Higher Education Management in Africa, Naidoo of UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, presented a paper titled: Repositioning African Entrepreneurial Education to Keep Abreast of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Said Naidoo: ‘Africa is a vibrant and dynamic continent. To remain sustainable and take care of its people, the continent needs sustainable opportunities that drive its economic independence and wellbeing.

‘Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are important contributors to a country’s GDP and have great potential for growth on the African continent. This makes the area of small business and entrepreneurship an essential and highly lucrative sector of the African economy that needs continued development to ensure its future sustainability.

‘To overcome poverty in Africa, SMEs need more structure and Higher Education significance as well as academic programmes in Higher Education that work well with assessing and addressing labour market needs, COVID-19 and advancements in technologies that drive the enterprises’ future sustainability.’

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN’s 2021 Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium Opens on 9 December

UKZN’s 2021 Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium Opens on 9 December
From left: School of Engineering students Ms Phyllis R Kwenda, Ms Naomi Kingu and Mr Antoine Badi.

More than 200 presenters will discuss their research while representatives of about 20 companies will speak on their organisations and job opportunities available during the 2021 Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS) being hosted online on 9 and 10 December by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES).

The Symposium provides an opportunity for CAES students to showcase their research to their peers, academics and other research partners. Awards will be made for the best presentations.

Three of the students from the School of Engineering presenting during the Symposium are Ms Phyllis R Kwenda, Ms Naomi Kingu and Mr Antoine Badi.

Ms Phyllis R Kwenda - Community-Based Management of Household Solid Waste for Harare, Zimbabwe: A System Dynamics Approach, is the title of the paper Kwenda will present at PRIS 2021.

Kwenda has made presentations at a variety of conferences and seminars during the past three years and is looking forward to improving her research through feedback from the PRIS audience.

Kwenda, who has recently submitted the presentation she will make during the conference as her thesis for her PhD in Bioresources Systems, holds an MSc in Bioresources Systems, BSc (Hons) in Microbiology, and a BSc in Industrial and Applied Biotechnology (cum laude). She is a member of the Golden Key society and holds numerous short course certificates. To expand her knowledge in her field of interest, Kwenda has attended summer schools on the managing waste and the system dynamic, and has worked as a teaching assistant at high school and university levels.

A highly motivated researcher, a variety of factors contributed to her decision to pursue research in the field of proper solid waste management the results of which, she says, have the potential to address 11 of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), to mitigate climate change, ensure environmental preservation and safeguard human health, and thus protect the future of generations to come.

‘Life is very short, but I believe each one of us has an assignment to complete and a purpose to understand. Not only for what there is to gain but what there is to give,’ said Kwenda, who believes in doing research that gives back to family, friends, community, city, country, continent and the world. ‘Science, when used responsibly, is a tool to help understand and protect our home, earth.’

Her study is based in Harare, Zimbabwe as a case study of a developing country. The city has poor solid waste management with household solid waste (HSW) not only the most complex type of solid waste due to its non-homogeneity but also the majority of the solid waste generated in the city. With the Harare municipality lacking in terms of human resources in both the financial and technical fields, the study explored a community-based approach to HSW management.

Kwenda, whose work has been published in the Waste Management and Research Journal, is in the process of publishing three more papers

Ms Naomi Kingu - The Use of Sustainability Within Innovation and Technology in the Improvement of Sustainable Communities is the title of a presentation Kingu will deliver at the Symposium.

Kingu has been a Golden Key honour award holder since 2014 and was the winner of an Erasmus Plus Scholarship in 2017/2018. In 2019/2020 she assisted in lecturing Construction Economics in second-year and third-year classes in the Construction Engineering Department at UKZN.

Other achievements include graduating with a cum laude MSc degree, receiving a Delegate Certificate of Attendance to the International Cost Engineering Congress (ICEC) (2012), and a Habitat for Humanity International Certificate for Crew Leadership (2007).

Kingu was an Assistant Quality Control Manager from 2014 to 2016 in the construction of the Mount Edgecombe Interchange outside Durban.

She decided to participate in PRIS 2021 because of the innovation aspects of the Symposium. ‘This is an exciting opportunity to create ideas through research and industry involvement to provide global solutions.’

The focus of her PhD thesis which she will present at the symposium is on sustainable regenerative communities. ‘Socio-economic aspects such as health and wellbeing, education and unemployment are among challenges faced by our world,’ said Kingu. ‘These challenges are magnified by rapid urban shifts and unplanned settlements.’

She says her research provides sustainable solutions towards resolving challenges faced by sub-Saharan countries and whether they could be used globally.

‘Inspiration for the research came from the idea of nature and mankind co-existing,’ said Kingu, who watched construction and civil engineering documentaries and Discovery TV channels as a youngster which she believes steered her interest towards mega construction projects.

Her favourite quote is by the CEO of Harley-Davidson Jochen Zeitz: ‘Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm, it’s about doing more good.’

Kingu’s research has been published in conference proceedings and she has participated in a variety of conferences including the DATA + AI Summit Europe in 2020 and several annual international conferences of the Association of Schools of Construction of Southern Africa (ASOCSA).

She has also presented her research in Italy and South Africa during lectures and at meetings with “Green Building Councils”, municipalities, professionals and academics.

Mr Antoine Badi - Combining Local Descriptors and Clustering Methods for Human Emotion Recognition, is the title of Badi’s presentation.

Badi of Cameroon, currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering, arrived in South Africa two years after completing his school leaving exams and registered at UKZN for a four-year Computer Engineering degree. During his studies he was awarded two Dean’s Commendations and several Certificates of Merit.

‘I received scholarships in my first- and second-years thanks to my excellent academic performance,’ said Badi. ‘In third-year, UKZN identified me as being among the top 15% of achievers on my course. In the same year, I received invitations to join the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Honour Society and the Golden Key Society.’

His decision to study Computer Engineering was spurred by his interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and how it is portrayed in movies as a futuristic technology which could enable robots to take over the world. ‘My research made me very aware that AI is already here and has many practical applications. My interest in AI and human-computer interactions makes this topic the perfect match for me.’

His master’s research involves using computer vision and AI to read facial expressions and recognise emotions. Human emotion recognition (HER) is a growing area of research due to the increased adoption of assistive technology and human-computer interactions. Key areas of application include service robots, assistive technology for disabled people, driver safety, audience attentiveness in video conferencing, video-gaming, and customer reviews.

‘My research provides insight into the proficiency of existing approaches in relation to various contexts and specific factors that could enhance future HER systems.

‘One of my dreams is to have a positive impact on the world,’ added Badi. 

To find out more about the research work of these students as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit www.pris.ukzn.ac.za

Words: Sinegugu Samantha Ngcongo

Photographs: Supplied


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Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign

Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign
Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology postgraduate students.

Postgraduate students in UKZN’s College of Health Sciences and academics from the Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory commemorated Breast Cancer Awareness Month by informing and updating the public about the disease.

Professor Peter Owira, his postdoctoral research Fellow, Dr Nikita Devnarain, and his postgraduate students from all levels, handed out pamphlets and breast cancer awareness ribbons to the public in Durban malls and on campus.

‘The community engagement campaign was about creating breast cancer awareness in the Durban community,’ declared Devnarain. ‘We aimed to educate people about breast cancer; what it is, what causes it, the warning signs, ways to prevent it, treatment, myths and facts about it, and how women can do self-examinations to detect signs.’

According to Owira, breast cancer is a serious public health problem and no-one is exempt. ‘Besides genetic predisposition, obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are among conditions which heighten the risk of contracting the cancer,’ he said.

Risk factors had reached epidemic proportions in South Africa. ‘As in all cancers, the earlier it is diagnosed the better, hence we chose to highlight these issues to the general public based on the in vitro findings of the research we are currently doing,’ he said.

Clad in branded t-shirts, caps and masks, the team set up an information desk with fliers and banners at Westwood Mall and The Atrium shopping centres where they informed interested community members on basic preventative measures and diagnostic options.

The team was also on UKZN’s Westville campus quad, educating students and staff about the disease.

According to Devnarain, the campaign succeeded in heightening awareness, especially among men and young boys many of whom were unaware they were also susceptible.

‘Many women were pleased to discover that they could do self-examinations in the comfort of their own homes.’

The campaign also benefitted women not well informed about breast cancer and who didn’t go for annual breast examinations and mammograms.

It also helped elderly women recently diagnosed with cancer but unaware about their treatment options.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Two Academics Awarded for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Support

Two Academics Awarded for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Support
Dr Nokuthula Cele and Dr Janine Hicks.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Nokuthula Cele of the School of Social Sciences and Dr Janine Hicks of the School of Law have been honoured for their excellence in teaching and learning support.

The presentations were made during the annual Culture Cluster (College of Humanities) awards.

Said Cluster Leader: Culture (Anthropology and Tourism) Dr Maserole Kgari-Masondo, who pioneered the event: ‘This award acknowledges these two role models who enhance cultural cohesion in our University. Dr Cele is an inspiration. Despite being critically ill, she has excelled, going beyond her duties to help our students and staff. We also honour Dr Hicks who has impacted the landscape of UKZN in ensuring that debates about gender-based violence take place candidly. She is a lecturer who also takes the same spirit of community service into her classroom.’

Said Hicks: ‘I feel deeply honoured to receive recognition from colleagues in this Humanities cluster. We have all been working under very difficult circumstances - our students in particular. I appreciate opportunities for us to network and learn across our disciplines, and share best practice in teaching and learning.’

Hicks serves as Chairperson of the UKZN Gender-Based Violence Committee, and as convenor for the Navi Pillay Research Group, a collective of academics from the School of Law seeking to address critical emergent issues of race, class, gender and disability in post-apartheid South Africa through research, law and policy reform.

She is also Project Leader for the SA Law Reform Commission’s Project 143: Maternity and Paternity Benefits for Self-Employed Workers, and a former Commissioner with the South African Commission for Gender Equality. Hicks holds a PhD from UKZN, an MA degree from the University of Sussex, and an LLB degree from the former University of Natal.

Cele, a lecturer in UKZN’s Culture and Heritage Tourism Programme on the Howard College campus, has a PhD degree in History from Michigan State University in the United States. Before joining UKZN she taught for a year at Hope College, Michigan. Her research interests include marine-related studies, human settlements, and gender-based violence.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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Education Student Gets Honorary Golden Key Membership

Education Student Gets Honorary Golden Key Membership
Mr Luthando Molefe receives honorary membership of the Golden Key International Honour Society.Click here for isiZulu version

Master of Education student Mr Luthando Molefe has received a Golden Key International Honour Society (GKIHS) honorary award and membership for his community involvement and achievements in the Society’s three core pillars - academics, leadership and service - over the past six years.

Molefe is one of UKZN’s youngest recipients of the award and membership.

‘It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I accept this prestigious award and membership from GKIHS,’ he said. ‘It is a reward for the many hours of hard work and dedication I have invested in the three pillars over the years and in collaboration with others.’

GKIHS is an internationally recognised, non-profit organisation affiliated to more than 400 universities in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, The Bahamas and the United States. The Society’s mission is to enable members to realise their potential by connecting individual achievement with service and lifelong opportunity.

Golden Key UKZN Pietermaritzburg Campus and Community Outreach Director Ms Nosipho Mkhize congratulated Molefe saying: ‘Well done to Luthando on all his prestigious achievements as well as for being a leader and for his academic leadership and community engagement skills. May this achievement open more doors for you in the future.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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Cuban-Trained Medical Students Completing Course at UKZN

Cuban-Trained Medical Students Completing Course at UKZN
Ms Boitumelo Mabuza and Mr Denvour Raboroko at the College of Health Sciences’ Port Shepstone based office.Click here for isiZulu version

After six years of training in Cuba, two Medical students, Mr Denvour Pabalelo Raboroko and Ms Boitumelo Mabuza, are now attached to the College of Health Sciences (CHS).

They are among 60 Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Programme (NMFCMCP) students welcomed to UKZN where they will complete the last 18 months of their clinical training in order to register as medical doctors with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

During the 18 months of training, the students will rotate through a variety of teaching blocks, including Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Surgery and Paediatrics. The blocks are taught in hospitals throughout KwaZulu-Natal.

Raboroko and Mabuza, are now based in Port Shepstone Hospital rotating in the Internal Medicine Block.

Discussing his background, Raboroko, originally from Limpopo, said he experienced a very difficult childhood, growing up in a home where he was abused and he suffered physical trauma at the age of seven, causing epilepsy.

Raboroko says he excelled in school and in Grade 10 he was selected to join the University of the Witwatersrand Targeting Talent programme for talented learners. Raboroko was sponsored by the Limpopo Department of Education, SANRAL and BP.

Passionate about the creative arts, Raboroko initially did not consider a career in Medicine but in Grade 12, he successfully applied for a scholarship to study Biological Sciences in Turkey but due to family issues was unable to go. In 2014, Raboroko successfully applied for the NMFCMCP scholarship and moved to Cuba at the end of that year.

Raboroko, like all South African students who are part of the programme, was given four months to learn Spanish, the home language of Cuba. He says his experiences in Cuba were very stressful, depressing and extremely demotivating, resulting in him falling ill during his fourth-year of study. He was sent back to South Africa for nine months to undergo medical, psychiatric and psychological treatment.

‘We have received 5-star treatment at UKZN. The accommodation is extremely comfortable, we have the most amazing resources available to us and the teaching staff are excellent. We have lots to learn after getting little exposure to clinical work in Cuba.

‘I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for a few strangers who helped me. I owe them my life,’ said Raboroko.

Raboroko plans to start a podcast titled: Medicine Made Easy, which will educate the public about common conditions, prevention, associated home remedies and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Mabuza, also from Limpopo, says she was inspired to pursue a career in Medicine by her blind grandmother. ‘My grandmother never saw me and because of those circumstances I wanted to get into a career where I could help people and make a difference in their lives.’

After matric, Mabuza enrolled to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg but dropped out after two years of study due to financial issues.

She then successfully applied for a Department of Health bursary and joined the NMFCMCP. ‘I love being at UKZN. It is “A” class. We get a lot of support and I am coping well.’

Mabuza plans to do a Master’s degree in Business Administration and then open her own business.

Words: Maryann Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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