A Creative Response to Environmental Issues

A Creative Response to Environmental Issues
Some of the South African Phone Call to the World works that were showcased at COP26.Click here for isiZulu version

The Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) within the School of Applied Human Sciences partnered with Art A Resource for Reconciliation Over the World, South Africa (ARROWSA) to produce an exhibition in Glasgow as part of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

The CCMS and ARROWSA are part of an international creative environmental project Phone Call to the World that is led by the Scottish Youth Theatre and funded by the British Council. The project explores climate change and environmental crises through art, science and digital technology.

Groups of young people from three continents are engaging with climate change issues that impact them at a local level, coming together to consider the wider global climate challenge. Using the simple holding framework of Phone Call to the World, young people from across Scotland, South Africa, Palestine, England and India are creating digital performance work that informs, questions, confronts and demands that its many audiences make a difference to the world’s climate.

During COP26, Phone Call to the World culminated in an interactive exhibition, assembling work from all the partners and young people involved in the project. The exhibition narrates the journey of the project - traversing each of the intersectional localities and lenses that the participating organisations bring. The work bridges the auditory and the visual, the interactive and the participatory, acting as testimony to assert how young people encounter the world they live in and emphasising that they demand climate justice now. The exhibition is a space for witnessing and transition, where the threat of global extinction is responded to at the local level.

CCMS honorary lecturer and ARROWSA Chair Dr Mary Lange managed the project in South Africa that included ARROWSA Bechet, Sydenham, Durban and South Roots International youth from Pelican Park on the Cape Flats.

Mr Bheki Dlamini, ARROWSA Bechet co-ordinator said, ‘It was an exciting opportunity for us as we tapped into something that we are aware of but had never taken time to learn about. This was an opportunity to educate ourselves on the issue so that we could find possible solutions to address the issue of climate change which is very apparent in the changes in Durban’s climate. It was especially exciting to bring in the arts to address the issue, making it fun for the participants while they learnt.’

Ms Mahri Reilly of the Scottish Youth Theatre commented, ‘The shared endeavour and values of partners involved in Phone Call to the World has been the energy that has driven the project. The work of our South African partners, ARROWSA and South Roots International, has demonstrated the wealth of possibility when young people are empowered to act and make a difference in their communities. We are proud to have shared their work with visitors to the project exhibition in Glasgow during COP26.’

In October 2021, ARROWSA Bechet youth led by ARROWSA school portfolio leader, Dlamini, hosted South Roots International youth and the Local History Museum’s Abasha Bash alumni for a week at Bechet High School where climate issues were discussed. The week’s activities included engagement with field rangers and a snake expert, Mr Nick Evans, at the Palmiet Nature Reserve, Westville.

They explored the power of indigenous knowledge systems and technologies that did not negatively impact the environment. The rest of the week was devoted to song, dance, poetry, visual arts and drama workshops, which culminated in a vibrant performance for the community at Bechet High School.

Ms Tamia George, ARROWSA Bechet participant said, ‘It was such an amazing experience meeting with South Roots International to create our production for Phone Call to the World. We were busy getting the production together, but at the same time we were learning so much along the way. It’s been an eye-opening experience and as ARROWSA, we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and grow not as a school but as a community to make our world a better place.’

Another ARROWSA Bechet participant Ms Mary Tshiteya remarked, ‘Being part of COP26 has really been a great experience not only for ARROWSA as a group but for me as an individual. I have learnt a lot from the different projects. Until now, we have not really taken climate change seriously so learning about the different ways in which we as individuals can help reduce the damage we cause to Mother Earth was really good because in the end we all will be affected.’

A vegetable and cultural garden that includes a painted mural and tyres also formed part of the Phone Call to the World project. It was created at Bechet High School and the vegetables will be donated to families in need.

‘We decorated the old tyres that we had reused. We gave the tyres meaning that related to the environment. Some of them represent seasons. As we know mother nature goes through changes and so do we as individuals. Change prepares us for life challenges and better opportunities,’ said Mr Chulumanco Lwana, ARROWSA Bechet participant.

Videos were filmed and edited of the week’s events by ARROWSA visual arts portfolio leader Mr Vincent Salanji and Ms Shanette Martin of South Roots International. These formed part of the PhoneCall to the World COP26 exhibition. The video can be viewed on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4YbvfHL-MPMDVGMvQDP_5A.

Salanji said, ‘I was absolutely amazed by how the participants used different forms of art to interpret social issues. Art is a beautiful international language; it makes us all comfortable to address the social issues we face in our multicultural society, especially during a time like this global pandemic. For me visual arts can speak to the hearts of many, more than words can ever do.’

The project has had an impact in that Dlamini, supported by senior learners, is keen for environmental issues such as climate change to be introduced in the school curriculum. He hopes to expand the project by including the corporate world and using digital technology to educate the youth on environmental issues.

The artworks can be accessed remotely from anywhere in the world, via the Phone Call to the World Interactive Media Map.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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Water Wheel Feature Dives into Spatial Ecology of Freshwater Eels in South Africa

<em>Water Wheel</em> Feature Dives into Spatial Ecology of Freshwater Eels in South Africa
Dr Céline Hanzen with one of the eels captured for her research.

Postdoctoral researcher in the School of Life Sciences Dr Céline Hanzen’s work on the diversity, distribution and spatial ecology of freshwater eels in South Africa and the implications for their conservation was featured in the November/December edition of the Water Research Commission’s Water Wheel magazine.

Working in the Centre for Functional Biodiversity, Hanzen focuses on the spatial ecology of African freshwater eels and their associated fisheries. This is part of a multi-country project funded by the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association. She is also the recipient of a postdoctoral fellowship from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, and is one of 100 female scientists participating in the global Homeward Bound initiative promoting female leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine.

With more than a decade’s experience in terrestrial and aquatic ecology and conservation, Hanzen’s work has taken her across Europe and Africa where she is now contributing to the implementation of projects relating to fish migration and river connectivity. With colleagues, she has contributed to research that resulted in the downgrading of the conservation status of the African Longfin Eel.

In the magazine feature, Hanzen noted that there is a dearth of knowledge on freshwater eels - a migratory species affected by changing land use and altered or interrupted water courses - and highlighted that eel species are declining rapidly.

Research by Hanzen on this topic was published in the Hydrobiologia journal. She and her co-authors were the first to measure the home range and quantify the habitat use of freshwater eels in African freshwater habitats. This work also featured in Hanzen’s PhD research.

She focused on four eel species in the Thukela River, part of KwaZulu-Natal’s largest water catchment.

Hanzen recounted the effort of capturing the slippery Anguillids to weigh, measure, photograph and tag them before re-release. By clipping a small part of their fins, the researchers were able to barcode the creatures’ DNA to provide information about the species, particularly those being harvested and traded.

Hanzen and her colleagues tracked the eels’ movement for almost a year, using the data to analyse their home range, spatial overlap and habitat preferences. Unexpected results included seasonal changes in home range, core area and habitat use, with small home ranges in winter and a lack of territoriality.

The changes in habitat preferences across seasons and between species call for river management that considers the varying habitat requirements of threatened eel species throughout the year; however, this is a challenge in South Africa’s water-stressed river systems.

Freshwater eels in Africa have long, complex lifespans, utilising different aquatic environments throughout their lives, spawning in the ocean then making their way to riverine systems before returning to the ocean at the end of their lives to breed. They are difficult to separate into different species based on their form and structure, making the development of targeted conservation strategies challenging.

Hanzen said the eels’ long-distance migration and widespread distribution make them useful indicators of the health of ecosystems, but more action is required to conserve them in the face of habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, overexploitation, environmental and climate change, diseases and parasites and barriers to their migration.

Significant declines in recent years, coupled with increased export of the species from Africa, mean that more data that catalogues Anguillids’ contributions to sustainable ecosystems is needed to promote their sustainable use and conservation, as well as better informed river connectivity and fish migration management practices.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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Agricultural Economics Professor Adds MBA to his Résumé

Agricultural Economics Professor Adds MBA to his Résumé
Professor Lloyd Baiyegunhi.

Professor and academic co-ordinator in the Discipline of Agricultural Economics at UKZN, Lloyd Baiyegunhi graduated with his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from UKZN’s College of Law and Management Studies in the 2021 Spring Graduation ceremonies.

Baiyegunhi joined UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences in 2009 after three years at the University of Fort Hare, where he completed his PhD studies. He completed his undergraduate and master’s studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria.

Baiyegunhi was drawn to studies in agricultural science due to the field’s broad applicability from agricultural production to agribusiness and economics, specialising in a field of study that gave him insight into business management and economics.

He decided to pursue MBA studies to enhance his consultancy and strategic thinking skills and expand his knowledge of the agricultural business sector.

‘I developed an interest in business administration after years of trying to understand the process that holds businesses together on different levels, so I enrolled for an MBA to gain a better overview of the business world and a deeper understanding of the changes that occur in this environment,’ said Baiyegunhi.

MBA studies presented the opportunity to challenge himself and sharpen his grasp of business and management. His dissertation is a case study of emerging sugarcane farmers on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast, focusing on the impact of human capital on innovation and productivity; the study resulted in the publication of two papers in accredited peer-reviewed journals.

Baiyegunhi said attaining his MBA will improve his contributions to the agricultural sector, especially as an academic operating in developing and emerging economies where there is a need for robust agricultural education and training.

‘Agricultural production and agribusiness remain the most viable option to transform economies in developing countries,’ he said. ‘The industry needs the input of skilled professionals to help bring productivity, profitability, ecological sustainability and produce quality up to the natural and technological potential, and meet the challenges of increasing urbanisation, food insecurity, environmental change, consumer safety, economic and social prosperity, sustainable energy development, and rural development.’

Baiyegunhi added that his MBA experience enabled him to acquire expertise in business functions, develop a deeper understanding of agribusiness strategy and learn how to approach complex business issues from a systematic, theoretical and practical perspective. It also enhanced his career by encouraging continued personal and professional development, and afforded him the opportunity to learn from industry leaders and explore innovative ways of doing business through team projects.

He believes the MBA and the knowledge it imparted in terms of contemporary thinking, practices and business tools applicable to agribusiness will enable him to better train students interested in entrepreneurship or a career in the food and agribusiness industry, or who hope to gain competitive advantage and specialisation in the job market. He is considering diversifying his skills portfolio by establishing an agribusiness consulting company in the future.

Baiyegunhi and his wife Dr Omolara Baiyegunhi welcomed their first child, Eliana Tiara while he was completing his MBA, and he commented that dedication, perseverance, commitment, humility, focus, hard work, the grace of God and a life of prayer enabled him to manage his academic and family responsibilities. He expressed gratitude to his wife and daughter and his supervisor Professor Mihalis Chasomeris for their support and encouragement.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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Professor Kaymarlin Govender Delivers Inaugural Professorial Address

Professor Kaymarlin Govender Delivers Inaugural Professorial Address
Professor Kaymarlin Govender.

UKZN Behavioural Scientist and Director of the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) since 2011, Professor Kaymarlin Govender delivered his inaugural professorial lecture under the title: Preventing HIV Among Young People in Eastern and Southern Africa: Progress and Challenges in Addressing Psychosocial and Structural Drivers of Risk.

Govender has been a researcher and technical advisor for the past 25 years on health programming in sub-Saharan Africa with a special focus on HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Introducing Govender at the presentation and outlining his resume and long list of accomplishments, College Dean of Research and Acting Dean and Head of the School of Accounting Economics and Finance Professor Colette Muller said: ‘Professor Govender has worked extensively with international and national funding agencies, including the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Department of International Development (DFID), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Fund and the Wellcome Trust. More recently, he has been working on HIV programming on key populations with the HIV Secretariat of the South African Development Community (SADC).

‘Professor Govender has served as a principal investigator or co-investigator on several multi country research studies, focusing on the social and behavioural aspects of HIV, and has led bilateral partnerships with universities and research institutions in Sweden, Norway, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and a variety of African countries,’ said Muller.

In his address, Govender considered the epidemiology of HIV infections in eastern and southern Africa, psycho-social development models of youth health, samples of evidence on risk and resilience processes to sexual health, and guidelines for HIV prevention programme design.

He said although HIV testing services had improved since 2010, two out of 10 people are currently living with HIV in the region, with many not knowing their HIV status. In 2019, about 20 million people - 12 million women and more than 7.6 million men - in eastern and southern Africa were living with HIV.

A total of 78% of adults and 57% of children were on antiretroviral drugs. While, the rate of new HIV infections is stabilising in some of the hardest hit countries, yet it remains far too high, not least because the future cost of maintaining an ever-expanding pool of people reliant on daily treatment for survival is unsustainable.

Govender said HIV prevention targets for 2020 had not been met, and to have any hope of ending infections by 2030, efforts would have to be increased significantly through a multi-sectoral effort.

On the issue of new HIV infections by population across sub-Saharan Africa, he highlighted that new infections in women aged between 15 and 24 were more than twice as high as those for males in the same age group. 

He said risk of being infected by HIV was exacerbated by gender inequality, poverty, dependence on men, gender-based violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and mental health issues. Notwithstanding the complexities in the HIV epidemic in ESA, Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) remain the “face” of ongoing HIV transmission and their male counterparts bear the increasing burden of AIDS-related deaths, while Young Key Populations (YKP) have shown elevated rates of new HIV infections with widespread prejudice, stigma and human rights violations limiting their access to HIV services.

Govender said there was a need to focus on promoting a combination of prevention initiatives such as biomedical, behavioural and structural interventions to reduce HIV risk. While combination prevention interventions were been implemented in some contexts in southern and eastern Africa, existing human rights barriers to accessing HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services was still evident.

'The impetus for more effective HIV prevention programming also raises some general issues for future programming. How can we collectively capitalise on these opportunities and use them as avenues to engage with young people themselves on the multiple issues affecting their lives? We need to work with young people in all their diversity on accessing benefits of HIV/ SRH services. In addition, the increasing focus on YKP increases prospects for challenging the heteronormative orientation of much research, policy and programming to allow issues of diversity to come forward as part of evidence-building on policy and programming,' said Govender.

Govender advocated for the need to bolster the capacity of civil society to gain investments in social and human rights programming to reduce stigma, shift harmful social norms, and promote the inclusion of sexually and diverse gender minorities, while driving health services towards people-centred approaches.

Between 2014 and 2018, he was a visiting professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and also served as a member on the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Human Excellence and Human Development, where he has held several NRF grants.

He also has an established research record having authored more than a 130 peer-reviewed articles, with several publications in Q1 journals; he has also supervised many PhD and master’s students.

While serving as associate editor of the African Journal of AIDS Research, Professor Govender led international special editions on the challenges of implementing HIV/AIDS programmes in eastern and southern Africa. He has also served and currently serves on several regional and international committees and task forces on HIV and human rights and health programming focusing on eastern and southern African regions.

Said Professor Muller: ‘His research on health promotion and advocacy activities has had considerable influence at local, national and international levels.’

Earlier this year, Govender held a virtual launch of his new book titled: Preventing HIV Among Young People in Southern and Eastern Africa: Emerging Evidence and Intervention Strategies.

In additional to thanking colleagues and friends who have sustained, encouraged and celebrated his achievements along the way, he paid tribute to his partner Ms Shakila Govender and their children Tayur, Sanah and Arzhan for their support. He also mentioned guidance and support from his mother Mrs SR Govender, his late father Mr J Govender and his brother, Poobalan Govender and his sister Jaya Govender and their families. Support from his family and colleagues during his early years as an academic and social activist was warmly acknowledged. 

Offering his congratulations on behalf of the University community and congregation, the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Law and Management Studies, Professor Brian McArthur, said: ‘Professor Govender’s wide ranging research and endeavours have contributed significantly to knowledge generation on the socio-economic aspects of public health, especially the African HIV and AIDS pandemic.’

‘Professor Govender’s research output, has provided multidimensional perspectives on intervention strategies that can be adopted by other researchers and policymakers in the prevention of HIV infections among the youth in our region,’ said McArthur.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN hosts Webinar on a Restorative Approach to Social Justice

UKZN hosts Webinar on a Restorative Approach to Social Justice
Top from left: Dr Hema Hargovan, Dr Carl Stauffer and Mr Mike Batley. Bottom from left: Ms Venessa Padayachee, Ms Lesley Ann Van Selm and Professor Ann Skelton.

The School of Built Environment and Development Studies in collaboration with Khulisa Social Solutions and the Restorative Justice Centre (RJC) hosted a webinar on Addressing Harm: A Restorative Approach to Social Justice, as part of International Restorative Justice Week (21-28 November 2021) under the theme: Protect and Empower the Person Harmed.

UKZN’s Dr Hema Hargovan highlighted that over the past two decades, globally, restorative justice (RJ) has evolved and been applied in many contexts. It is promoted as a ‘way of transforming our entire legal system, our family lives, our experiences at school and university, our conduct in the workplace, our practice of politics. What is clear is that restorative justice has been adopted through a multi-disciplinary, multipronged approach that traverses the arenas of peacebuilding, human rights and social justice, with the overarching theme being “access to justice”.’

Explained Hargovan, ‘South Africa’s restorative justice journey is inextricably linked to its socio-political history. Restorative approaches to justice in South Africa are largely informed by indigenous and customary responses to crime and conflict and include processes within and outside of the criminal justice system. The adoption and application of restorative approaches to justice in a range of policies and pieces of legislation, is due mainly to its transformative potential.

‘Its popularity may be attributed to varied emphases over the years of its benefits for offenders, victims, the wider community, and the criminal justice system. South Africa has also come a long way in mainstreaming restorative approaches at various phases of the criminal justice system through the inclusion of restorative approaches in legislation and policy, and by introducing and developing practices at the pre-trial, trial, sentencing, corrections and pre-release phases of the criminal justice process.’

Dean and Head of School Professor Ernest Khalema said, ‘In order to restore what is broken and address injustices, it takes all of us present today and in our case communities of practice to understand the impact of harm in our lives and how to restore dignity to victims, survivors, and those who have atoned and asked for forgiveness through words and deeds. This is an important event in the University’s calendar as it gives all of us an opportunity as a community to collectively tackle very important issues that affect us all.’

Dr Carl Stauffer, a strategic leader with 30+ years’ experience in peace, justice and reconciliation initiatives, delivered the keynote address on Restorative Justice: A Social Service or a Social Movement? He examined readiness to seize political opportunity, the ability to mobilise resources (both human and material), and the creation of a framing message (a social narrative) with populist appeal. ‘Based on these three pillars of measurement it seems that restorative justice could be defined as a burgeoning social movement.’

Stauffer is of the view that, as a social movement, RJ has the potential to move the current justice system into a process of monumental change. ‘RJ as an ethical worldview, a corporate vision and as a practical strategy for national justice policy reform and practice has great potential to address community building and peace. It can provide alternative ways of doing and being that satisfy the requirements of true justice.’

Stauffer argued that while the notion of humility is hard to define, much less measure forgiveness, RJ as “facilitated processes” have the potential to nurture humility and put it to work.

After briefly discussing understandings of humility, forgiveness, and restorative justice, Stauffer deliberated on how these approaches could be integrated. He noted the value-added effects of group humility (its virtues, benefits, and outcomes). 

Stauffer highlighted the ‘need to bind relational and structural transformation together at all levels of society with equal emphasis on the “safety” of those most affected by personal and structural violence, and “accountability” by those causing harm. This process requires that we “centre” the voice of the harmed, and build the community’s assets and resources to change oppressive structures in order to prevent future harm and establish a healing justice at the local, contextual level.’

Mr Mike Batley, co-founder and director of the RJC revisited the Restorative Justice National Policy Framework and Implementation Plan - 2016, which has yet to be finalised. He said, ‘There has been no guiding framework to advance restorative justice and no implementation or resources plan.’ Batley called for a new, broad alliance to advocate for increased implementation of RJ and for interested parties to lobby for the finalisation of the National Policy Framework by the Department of Justice, the development of a strategy and implementation plan to ensure systematic implementation supported at the highest levels and commitment to financial resourcing of the plan.

Ms Venessa Padayachee, a social worker in the criminal justice sector for over 26 years focused on stories of healing and restoration. She shared case studies of three individuals and related how restorative justice was successfully implemented through community dialogues and support groups. ‘These cases show that restorative justice restores human dignity and brings healing to individuals and communities via a broad range of creative solutions to conflicts. Restorative justice and Ubuntu are key components of community development.’

Ms Lesley Ann Van Selm of Khulisa Social Solutions’ presentation was titled, Evidence of Grassroots Peace Mediation - A Case Study. Khulisa Social Solutions has been operating in Alexandra for the past 20 years, ‘during which time we have rendered multiple programmes ranging from crime prevention, to entrepreneurship development, youth leadership, skills development, job creation, working with the elderly, and restorative services.’

Khulisa Social Solutions set up peace dialogues for the Alexandra community to address the unrest that broke out in the township in July this year. They partnered with the police to host peace-making dialogue circles. Van Selm said ‘the idea was to bring together the looters, parents, victims and others impacted by the violence to tell their stories, come to an understanding of what happened and begin a process of healing.’

In closing the webinar, Professor Ann Skelton of the University of Pretoria and member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child commented, ‘Despite its loss of credibility in recent decades, rehabilitation as a concept still looms large on the South African criminal justice landscape. Restorative justice offers a different view on how to promote the aim of a crime-free life for the offender, and South African criminal justice practitioners, researchers and academics are urged to engage in the discovery of realistic community-centred models.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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Tackling TB Using Automatic Detection

Tackling TB Using Automatic Detection
Mr Mustapha Olayemi Oloko-Oba, PhD candidate in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

Mr Mustapha Olayemi Oloko-Oba is looking forward to taking part in the Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS 2021) hosted by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) where he will be presenting on the topic: Ensemble of Convolution Neural Networks for Automatic Tuberculosis Classification.

Oloko-Oba is a PhD candidate under the supervision of Professor Serestina Viriri in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. He holds a BSc (Hons) from Kogi State University, Nigeria, and a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. His current research area is image processing (medical), with a specialisation in computer vision.

His research involves Tuberculosis (TB) detection using a computer-aided detection system. Tuberculosis is ranked among the highest causes of death and is most prevalent in developing countries, especially in Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the cause of much economic distress, poverty and vulnerability, with South-East Asia and Africa accounting for about 69% of total cases. This motivated Oloko-Oba to use Deep Learning models to develop an automatic detection system. ‘This system will assist with early diagnosis, correct misdiagnosis, eliminate the bottleneck of skilled radiologists and ultimately avert millions of deaths,’ he said.

With early detection, TB is curable, and millions of deaths could be averted. ‘I want to contribute to addressing a life-threatening disease through meaningful research,’ added Oloko-Oba.

One of the most reliable ways to screen for TB is a chest X-ray; however, its success depends on the interpretation of skilled and experienced radiologists and regions with high TB burdens lack such skills. A computer-aided system can automatically detect TB from chest X-rays. ‘We employed state-of-the-art Deep Learning models through Ensemble learning to automatically detect and classify infected CXR from healthy ones. Our model was trained on the Shenzhen dataset and validated on the Montgomery dataset to improve accuracy and generalisation on new (unseen) datasets as compared to existing models with low sensitivity and accuracy,’ explained Oloko-Oba.

He has participated in several other conferences and highly recommends PRIS that offers ‘constructive criticism from experts that will help shape your research and could attract collaboration.’

Oloko-Oba said he owes his success to his supervisor, Viriri. His also thanked his fellow researchers.

To find out more about Oloko-Oba’s research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit pris.ukzn.ac.za

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

Photograph: Supplied


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Former SRC Central President Appointed to National Student Body

Former SRC Central President Appointed to National Student Body
Former SRC Central President appointed to national student body.

Sport Science student and former Student Representative Council (SRC) central president, Mr Siyabonga Nkambako has been appointed Deputy Secretary General of the South African Union of Students (SAUS). This national body aims to consolidate and strengthen students’ voice in the governance and enhancement of Higher Education and Training in South Africa.

Having joined UKZN in 2017 after facing academic hardship, Nkambako served at all levels of student leadership in the Institution, from house committee, to the Joint Chairperson Committee (JRC), Campus Representative Council (CRC) and Student Representative Council Executive (SRCE) deployed by the South African Students Congress (SASCO). He also served as a peer educator.

‘I have never lived an easy life. I have always been a go getter, especially if I have identified what I want. I don’t give up easily and I’m forever motivated,’ said Nkambako.

He added that he is grateful for the numerous skills that he acquired during his time as president of the SRC and that this will assist him in his new role at the SAUS.

‘My term of office has improved my communication and listening skills, which contribute to finding practical solutions to the issue at hand. I have learnt that a strong, positive team is needed to succeed, with a strong leader that is not afraid to take decisions. I have also seen the importance of unity in both the structure and the people you are leading,’ said Nkambako.

His vision for the SAUS includes tackling the student debt crisis, working for free education, creating positive working relationships between the union and different stakeholders across South Africa and addressing gender-based violence.

‘I have always taken the initiative to challenge the status quo in the Institution without any fear or favour but mostly by treating all students fairly. The organisation that deployed us taught us that it’s always better to win issues at the negotiating table rather than resorting to war or strikes. This has made me a better leader,’ said Nkambako.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Photograph: MaryAnn Francis


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Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court Competition

Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court Competition
Judge Mokgere Masipa announcing Ms Sanele Chiliza as the winner of the 49th annual Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court competition.

The School of Law hosted its 49th annual Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court competition on 23 November 2021. The competition aims to familiarise LLB students with various aspects of litigation and courtroom procedure. Finalists Mr Khanya Thwala, Ms Londeka Magudulela, Ms Sanele Chiliza and Mr Macalen Chetty displayed their legal prowess before Honourable Judge Mokgere Masipa of the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court, Advocate Barry Skinner SC, Chairperson of the Society of Advocates of KwaZulu-Natal, and retired UKZN Law academic Professor Karthy Govender.

In announcing Chiliza as the winner, the judges complimented the finalists for delivering their arguments confidently and comprehensively.

‘The topics involved crucial areas of our law and all of you prepared well. Your heads of arguments were researched and written properly. Your oral submissions were well prepared and well presented. However, we agreed that the one candidate’s oral submissions were very well articulated, making her today’s winner,’ said Justice Masipa.

Dean and Head of the School of Law Professor Managay Reddi said that the moot programme is regarded by the School as an essential component of a well-rounded legal education and is an important stepping stone for entry into the legal profession.

‘I’m delighted to share with you that our presiding judge tonight, Judge Masipa is a graduate of our School. Also remarkable is that judges Skinner and Govender are not only graduates of this Law school but both are past winners of the moot finals. The training that our students receive from participating in our moot programme and their exposure to arguing real cases before high court and other judges have proven invaluable in developing them into top class lawyers. Based on the track record of their predecessors, I am confident that today’s finalists will enjoy great success in their law careers whilst making a significant contribution to the legal profession in South Africa.’

View the 49th Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court Competition at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEu_C_iagJ8.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied


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Overcoming Loss to Graduate in Record Time

Overcoming Loss to Graduate in Record Time
Mr Thabiso Khumalo.

For Mr Thabiso Khumalo, graduating with an LLB is confirmation that persevering despite the odds is worth it. The 21-year-old, who lost his mother during the first-year of his studies and his older sister the following year, said it was not easy to deal with his grief and the demands of his studies.

‘They were the two people who raised me. Losing them changed my life in that I had to adapt to a different family structure and find new ways to cope with the demands of school and life without their support. It was difficult, but I understood that the only way I could ever have a better life was to study,’ he said. Moreover, he completed his degree in record time.

‘I was able to secure a scholarship from Webber Wentzel in 2020 which was renewed this year for my studies. What keeps me going is knowing that wherever my mother is, she is proud of all that I have achieved. I am now left with my 14-year-old nephew, who called me his role model, which made me feel that I must be doing something right,’ he said.

Khumalo plans to use the remainder of his scholarship funds to pursue a Master’s in Business Law but for now, he begins serving his articles of clerkship at Venns Attorneys in Durban next month.

‘I hope to become an admitted attorney within the next two years. However, I am working towards becoming a Magistrate or a director in a leading legal practice in South Africa. This will require a lot more learning and growing in the profession which I am looking forward to.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

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Academic Monitoring Support Colloquium Explores Student Support and Online Learning

Academic Monitoring Support Colloquium Explores Student Support and Online Learning
AMS Colloquium keynote speakers Professor Sid Nair and Dr Upasana Singh.

Reflections on Student Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic was the theme of the 8th Annual Academic Monitoring and Support Colloquium hosted by the College of Law and Management Studies (CLMS) Teaching and Learning Office in partnership with the UKZN Teaching and Learning Office.

The two-day colloquium featured 29 presentations and plenaries mainly focusing on academic and student support staff’s experiences of online learning during the pandemic and the impact of academic support interventions over the past decade. The paper streams were divided into language academic experiences, mental health, the impact of Academic Monitoring Support (AMS) interventions and student resilience.

In his welcome addresses, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning Professor Sandile Songca highlighted that the issue of student learning is rigorously researched to find new ways to support student learning while closely monitoring it.

‘Over the years, the AMS Colloquium has been a unique and central feature of UKZN’s teaching and learning strategy,’ said Songca.

‘The Colloquium has endured over the years and is something we use to establish family and student-centredness and focus on our students’ learning capacity. As a university, we are committed to fully capacitating everyone for online learning, e-learning and blended learning. If we are not to leave any student behind in this digital transformation, we need to move all of them to environments where data connectivity is assured.’

Helping Students Thrive During COVID-19 Online Learning was the title of the paper by Professor Sid Nair, Executive Dean and the Dean of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience at the Victorian Institute of Technology, Australia and Dr Upasana Singh, academic leader and senior lecturer in UKZN’s Discipline of Information Systems and Technology. It focused on the importance of technological competencies when it comes to blended and e-learning, the stability of the internet connection, transitioning to online learning from face to face, IT and computer proficiency, after-class consultations with academics, support in learning and communication, and health and well-being.

The CLMS’ Student Support Services Department presented a workshop on stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic. The keynote panel discussion featured panellists and UKZN’s College Deans of Teaching and Learning Professors Msizi Mkhize, Naven Chetty, Ruth Hoskins, and Sinegugu Duma discussed the AMS Roadmap at UKZN while College case studies were presented by UKZN academics Drs Annah Bengesai, Boby Varghese, Saloschni Pillay and Sharmla Ramas.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the CLMS Professor Brian McArthur said the colloquium provided an important platform for engagement and sharing of research and experiences on blended and e-learning. McArthur echoed Songca’s sentiments and added that while UKZN already had experience with blended learning through the UKZN’s University Technology Enhanced Learning (UTEL), Moodle and other e-learning resources prior to the pandemic, the challenges of quality teaching and learning, student and staff mental health, sustainability and the effectiveness of different approaches remain relevant.

‘It is a truism that COVID-19 has impacted every facet of our lives and created a crisis of opportunity in Higher Education to ensure ongoing delivery of services to students. This has also transformed academic staff’s methods from the traditional teacher-centric to a more student-centric approach. As we reflect on the experience of the past year, it is crucial to consider successes and challenges, share best practices, and identify opportunities for further innovation and achievement.’

View the 8th Annual Academic Monitoring and Support Colloquium on UKZN’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/UKZNSouthAfrica/videos.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photographs: Supplied


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Disaster Management the Focus of PhD Study

Disaster Management the Focus of PhD Study
Doctor of Administration graduate Dr Roshilla Sahadeo.

For Deputy District Director of iLembe Health District Dr Roshilla Sahadeo, pursuing her PhD while being at the forefront of managing and controlling the spread of COVID-19 has been a challenging experience. Sahadeo who graduated with a PhD in Administration at UKZN’s Spring Graduation, added that reaching the finish line was only possible through the support of her supervisor Professor Mogie Subban, and her family.

‘I was living a disaster management situation while working on my doctoral study and is was extremely challenging to balance work commitments and study deadlines,’ she said.

‘The unwavering support of my supervisor, a timeline and lots of hard work after hours and on weekends helped me to overcome this challenge.’

Her study titled: Integrated disaster risk reduction framework in health service delivery: A case of Ilembe Health District focused on swift and effective responses to disasters, post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation.

‘My study related to the current disaster imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic globally and at a local level. The empirical research conducted at iLembe Health District focused on communication, co-ordination and integration of stakeholders regarding disaster risk reduction (DRR). A DRR efficacy intervention is bottom-up. Key recommendations include an integrated framework for effective DRR implementation and health delivery improvement through community-based resilience,’ explained Sahadeo.

As the 2018 recipient of the UKZN Doctoral Scholarship who also won a laptop during the lucky draw during the Scholarships Awards ceremony, Sahadeo says she is very grateful to the College of Law and Management Studies and UKZN as the scholarship was really a boost to her studies.

‘Achieving this qualification has been a humbling and exciting experience. I feel proud of my achievement as a legacy for my children to aspire to and achieve their own dreams, and I am glad that I made UKZN my university of choice!’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

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Effective Teaching in the Digital Age

Effective Teaching in the Digital Age
Ms Sarah Blewett, MSc candidate in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

Ms Sarah Blewett is an MSc candidate in UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. Her research focuses on online student engagement (OSE) with the aim of developing a model for predicting student success. She will be presenting at the Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS 2021) hosted by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES).

The new era of teaching and learning is an uncertain yet exciting one. Technology for teaching is no longer optional but, if it is not integrated correctly it can lead to disastrous results.

Blewett has a BSc (cum laude) in Computer Science and Information Technology and a BSc honours in Computer Science (summa cum laude). She is passionate about making an impact in e-learning and has been involved in pioneering work on effective digital-age teaching approaches. She is involved in training schools, universities, and businesses to effectively use technology in teaching as well as to develop engaging online courses.

Her passion developed when she discovered she was one of only three female students in her honour’s class. ‘It became a passion of mine to not only make a difference in e-learning, but to inspire more young people, and especially girls to pursue careers in technology.’

Blewett is inspired by her father, Professor Craig Blewett, who is a leading Educational Technology academic and consultant who has developed pioneering approaches in modern education. He developed the Activated Classroom Teaching (ACT) Model on which most of Sarah’s research has been based. It provides a framework of six digital-age pedagogies: Consumption, Curation, Conversation, Correction, Creation, and Chaos. ‘I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to play an active role in his on-going journey,’ she said.

Her study aims to reconceptualise OSE through a pedagogic lens that stratifies engagement based on the pedagogic underpinnings of online activities. This will enable improved prediction of student academic performance. The pedagogies are ordered based on the level of OSE required, with Consumption being the lowest and Chaos the highest. These groupings will enable better understanding of effortful engagement and can be used to better determine OSE as a whole.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought into sharp focus the need for effective online education. One of the key issues confronting teachers is determining student engagement and activity. The lack of “visibility” online makes it difficult for teachers to gain insight into students’ engagement and respond to potential issues. Online student engagement is vital to the success of online teaching. Numerous studies point to a positive correlation between OSE and academic performance making it a key element in predicting student success. However, there is much confusion around the definition of engagement in online learning.

Blewett presented at the UKZN e-learning Symposium in September this year, where she demonstrated how she has used her research to create effective and engaging online courses at the University.

She is also an entrepreneur and has founded a company that develops websites and Learning Management Systems with a focus on education.

To find out more about Blewett’s research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit pris.ukzn.ac.za

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

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Boosting Home Security

Boosting Home Security
PhD student Ms Olutosin Taiwo.

Ms Olutosin Taiwo will present on Enhanced deep learning based intelligent smart home control and security systems at the Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS 2021) hosted by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES).

A PhD student under the supervision of Dr Absalom E Ezugwu, she obtained her BSc in Computer Science from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria, and her MSc in Computer Science in 2017 from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. Her research interest lies in the Internet of Things (IoT) with a specialisation in smart home automation.

Taiwo is investigating the use of IoT technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) models to solve daily problems associated with home safety, security, and healthy living. The work is novel in that it employs the walking pattern classification. ‘The research aims to design and develop a ubiquitous, cloud-based intelligent home automation system,’ explained Taiwo. These systems control, monitor and oversee the security of a home and its environment via an Android mobile application. The system consists of two modules, one that controls and monitors electrical appliances and environmental factors, and another that oversees home security by detecting motion and capturing images. An enhanced deep learning model is used to classify the features of the image captured and to determine if it is that of a regular home occupant or an intruder, before sending an alarm to the user.

‘Experimentation of our work shows that the CNN models outperform other models by yielding an accuracy of 98%,’ said Taiwo. Existing industrial products use biometrics verification such as finger printing, face detection and iris detection for authentication. IoT technology and AI is a unique way to classify detected humans or pets in the home.

Taiwo has published two conference publications and two journal articles from this work, with two further publications under review. She presented two papers at the online International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications - ICCSA 2020. She said that she owes her academic success to her supervisor, whom she thanked for his ‘innumerable technical and professional contributions to this research.’

To learn more about Taiwo’s research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit pris.ukzn.ac.za

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

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2021 Helen Clark-JoPPP Award for UKZN Professor

2021 Helen Clark-JoPPP Award for UKZN Professor
Professor Fatima Suleman.Click here for isiZulu version

Professor Fatima Suleman of the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences has been awarded the prestigious 2021 Helen Clark-Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice (JoPPP) award. Named after the honourable Helen Elizabeth Clark, former New Zealand Prime Minister, the award recognises the talents of exceptional individuals who are making a significant contribution to pharmaceutical policy and practice.

Suleman is Director for the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Policy and Evidence Based Practice at UKZN, a former Prince Claus Chair of Development and Equity: Affordable (Bio)Therapeutics for Public Health, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (September 2016-2018), and Global Practitioner in Residence - College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Drake University, USA (August-December 2015). She has served on a number of WHO committees and groups over the years in senior roles including as chairperson, and been a technical advisor on pharmaceutical policy for a number of countries.

Her interests lie in pharmaceutical policy and systems strengthening and she has served in a number of ministerial appointments in South Africa and abroad. Her expertise was requested for technical advice to the Pharmaceutical Service Section in the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for capacity development of the National Essential Medicine List Committee (November 2015-2017); the Malaysian Ministry of Health for capacity building on price setting mechanisms and framework development for medicine price regulation (July-December 2016) and stakeholder engagement plans for healthcare financing strategies (January-June 2017) with regard to pricing and reimbursement in Ethiopia (January 2017); for the WHO’s Expert Committee on Selection and Use of Essential Medicines (2017; 2019; 2021); to Rwanda on developing and implementing pricing policies for medicines (November 2018-June 2019; 2021); and to Sri Lanka on pricing policies for medicines (10-15 June 2019).

Apart from her strong research thrust and a host of publications in prestigious journals, she also received Distinguished Teacher Awards from UKZN, the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences of South Africa, the South African Association of Health Educationalists Educator of the Year and a Teaching Advancement at University Fellowships for conceptualising and implementing online Master’s programmes in Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Through a Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development grant, Suleman facilitated the development of online/blended master’s programmes in Mozambique and Malawi and was involved in the Medical Education Partnership Initiative grant and the African Forum for Research and Education in Health, leading the development of a regional learning management system for inter-professional training and networking.

Honourable Helen Elizabeth Clark said, ‘Many congratulations to all the award winners. With the increasing use of medicines globally, all winners have contributed significantly to increasing our understanding of different dimensions including policy, access, and rationale use.’

Professor Zaheer-Ud-Din Babar, chair of the Judging Panel and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal said, ‘These are exceptional individuals and their efforts have promoted in-depth understanding in areas related to medicine use, access, and pharmacy services.’

Professor Busisiwe Ncama, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences remarked, ‘Congratulations on this wonderful achievement, this is wonderful news for UKZN. May you keep growing from strength to strength.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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TB Detection and Care’s First Client Completes Treatment

TB Detection and Care’s First Client Completes Treatment
Staff members of UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health/ HSRC Connect TB project.Click here for isiZulu version

The first client in the novel Connect TB study successfully and timeously completed treatment for tuberculosis (TB) at the end of October.

The Connect TB study is a partnership between UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, and Vula Mobile under the leadership of Drs Jody Boffa and Tsholofelo Mhlaba from UKZN and Dr Sizulu Moyo from the HSRC. It is being undertaken throughout the eThekwini District and is funded by the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH programme and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The project is a partnership between the private and public sectors that provides a one-stop shop for TB testing in the private sector by providing access to free testing through the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) for GP practices via the Vula Medical Referral smartphone application.

Project manager Dr Buyisile Chibi said, ‘Doctors request testing via the Vula App and project drivers collect the samples from the doctor’s rooms and courier them to the NHLS laboratory at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital for testing. Testing is undertaken according to the public sector testing guidelines.

‘When a client is diagnosed with TB, they receive their results via text message and are provided with regular treatment adherence support over the telephone. Adherence support provides a safe support structure for people taking TB medication, helping clients to overcome barriers to treatment completion like stigma, inadequate access to services, and food insecurity.’

The project intervention started in May 2021 and will end in March 2022. The first client to be enrolled was diagnosed with TB in early May 2021. She started treatment in the public system two days later and has now completed it on time. Chibi said this milestone highlights the success and value of public-private health partnerships in detecting and treating people with TB.

Ten more clients will soon be following suit. Clients enrolled to date range from 17 to 65 years of age and live in eThekwini. They include school-going children, students at tertiary institutions, the employed and unemployed, and pensioners.

Clients diagnosed with TB are often linked to care and start treatment within two days of diagnosis. Most importantly, Adherence Facilitators provide counselling support to help clients understand their diagnosis, link them to additional support services that reduce structural barriers to treatment, and cheer them on through a difficult treatment journey.

‘Currently, more than 50 people have been diagnosed with TB through the GPs involved in the study and connected to TB treatment. Early experiences suggest that with the support, clarity, guidance, and reassurance provided by an Adherence Facilitator over the phone, the TB treatment journey can be a positive experience,’ said Chibi.

Recent statistics point to an increase in TB deaths in 2020, while the TB prevalence survey shows that people with symptoms of TB delay seeking care, while around 30% of those with symptoms of TB first present to the private health sector. The project is expected to play a major role in improving detection and care of TB patients.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Quantum Expert Appointed to International Commission for Optics

Quantum Expert Appointed to International Commission for Optics
Dr Yaseera Ismail.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Yaseera Ismail, a senior lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Physics and a member of the Centre for Quantum Technology has been invited to serve as an appointed Vice-President of the International Commission for Optics (ICO) for a three-year term, representing the international society Optica.

The ICO was established more than seven decades ago to contribute to the progress and diffusion of knowledge in the fields of optics and photonics. As one of its seven international organisational members, Optica elects a member to represent it in the ICO. Ismail was recommended by Optica’s CEO and is the first South African to serve as an ICO Vice-President on behalf of Optica.

Optica - formerly the Optical Society of America - is a well-established international society affiliated with over 300 universities worldwide and boasting more than 30 000 members, with its own publishing house and reputable quintile one Optica journal.

‘Optica’s reputation speaks for itself and I am honoured to have been recommended to represent it at the ICO,’ said Ismail.

Affiliated with Optica since 2008 when she was a master’s student based at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ismail has engaged in several activities from being a student member to a professional member, including being selected as an Optica Ambassador (the only South African to have been selected), co-founding a mentorship programme and the Optica student chapter in Durban, helping to promote the Optica Ambassador drive for scholarship support for Black scientists and engineers, participating in its travelling lecturer programme, serving as a technical executive member of the Non-Linear Optics Technical Group and chairing one of Optica’s medal award committees.

Ismail will represent Optica at ICO meetings, vote on relevant motions, organise events, disseminate information about the ICO, and contribute to the vision of how the commission will progress. The role will enhance networking between Ismail and scientists from other countries, provide increased access to information, programmes and opportunities for South African scientists, and enhance awareness of the field.

Ismail is looking forward to drawing attention to UKZN’s contributions to optics and photonics and to working with the ICO not only in its general promotion of optics and photonics, but also in its strong focus on the developing countries among its 53 Territorial Committee Members.

ICO support includes sponsoring conferences and travelling lecturer programmes, advancing optical and photonics technologies that drive sustainable development to address the challenges confronting these regions, inspiring and assisting young scientists to meet their research goals, redressing gender imbalances, and encouraging innovation through flagship activities such as awards programmes.

While South Africa is not currently one of the 53 ICO Territorial Committee Members, local scientists are driving the establishment of a territory in the country where despite being small, the optics and photonics community is well-established, internationally-recognised, and poised to contribute its knowledge to greater investment in quantum technology.

Ismail, who recently received a Y1 rating from South Africa’s National Research Foundation, graduated with her master’s cum laude in 2011 and her PhD in Physics from UKZN in 2015, focusing on quantum communication. Her research focuses on quantum information science, specifically the development of quantum optical tools to advance free-space long-range secure quantum communication. She is part of a BRICS multilateral collaboration to develop a Quantum Satellite and Fibre Communication network in South Africa, was selected for the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Future Professors Programme, is the recipient of a TechWomen Emerging Leader Award from the US Department of State, and is an Editorial Board member of the Scientific Reports journal.

Words: Christine Cuénod

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UKZN Academic and Alumnus Win Best Research Paper at NIHSS Alumni Conference

UKZN Academic and Alumnus Win Best Research Paper at NIHSS Alumni Conference
Drs Thembelihle Makhanya and Dumsani Gumede received awards for Best Research Paper at the NIHSS 2nd Annual Alumni Conference.

Social Work lecturer, Dr Thembelihle Makhanya and UKZN alumnus and social scientist at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), Dr Dumsani Gumede received awards for the Best Research Paper at the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) Alumni Annual National Conference in Gauteng. The conference theme was The Role of Humanities and Social Sciences in the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

A number of papers were presented at the conference, with four regarded as best papers as they were relevant and well-articulated and met the requirements and the theme of the conference.

Makhanya emerged as a winner for her research that explored the perspectives of social work graduates at an African university. Gumede’s research explored the perceptions held by health sciences students of rural origin of the support programme offered by the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation (UYDF) to undergraduate students in South Africa.

Makhanya’s study also focused on colonisation’s impact on social work education and practice. She explored how the university is responding or its failure to respond to the call for decolonisation of South African education. She focused on the extent to which South African university training either roots African students within their experiences, value systems, languages, cultures, epistemologies and philosophies, or uproots them.

‘Calls persist for a decolonial South African university that is founded on the needs of the poor and social work education that is free from colonial pedagogical and epistemological teaching and learning,’ said Makhanya. ‘It is fundamental for universities offering social work education in South Africa to focus on transformation, not only in terms of quantity access but in terms of an African-centred curriculum.’

Gumede examined the different processes that are part of the UYDF support programme. This comprehensive, multifaceted initiative includes compulsory social and academic mentoring and comprehensive financial support. The processes include orientation and information sharing; on-going support (life skills); monthly communication with a local mentor; bi-annual visits from a UYDF mentor and compulsory practical exposure during university holidays.

Gumede concluded that these processes are proactive and assist students to find solutions when they face challenges. The students’ perceptions were generally positive with initial orientation and information sharing perceived as useful as it bridges the gap between high school and university and assists students to set goals and targets that will be monitored by local mentors and the UYDF. The support required appeared to diminish with increasing years of study.

Gumede recommended that, ‘the support programmes should prioritise students in their early years of study as this was found to have a positive impact on students’ ability to cope and to make a positive contribution to throughput.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Hosts 13th Convocation AGM

UKZN Hosts 13th Convocation AGM
UKZN hosts 13th Convocation AGM.Click here for isiZulu version

Outgoing UKZN Convocation President Mr Fanle Sibisi emphasised the importance of giving back to the University during his address at the 13th Convocation Annual General Meeting, which was held virtually.

Sibisi, who served as President for nine years, urged alumni to respond to societal challenges and ‘not just rely on the government.’ He highlighted the importance of ‘finding solutions to our problems.’

Sibisi also spoke of the challenges encountered during his term of office, including the COVID-19 pandemic. He encouraged student leaders to work with management. ‘Let us find ways of protecting our University,’ he said, condemning the ‘unprecedented disruptions to property,’ during mass demonstrations.

He noted that Convocation raised R1 million for the Bavelile Bursary Fund, in honour of the late former Convocation Executive member and Deputy Minister Bavelile Hlongwane.

Sibisi acknowledged Convocation Executive (Convex) members who served during his term of office, congratulated the newly elected Convex, and stressed that alumni should be ambassadors for the Institution. ‘We need to be beacons of hope in all that we do.’

Convex Treasurer Ms Nqobile Gumede extended gratitude to the outgoing Convex members. ‘You were a formidable team and forces to be reckoned with,’ she said. She briefly highlighted Convex’s expenditure and echoed Sibisi in congratulating the new incumbents.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Nana Poku paid tribute to the Convex team led 'valiantly' by Sibisi and congratulated the new Convocation leadership. ‘The systems and legacies we leave behind define our contribution to the present and also, of course, to the broader cause of bettering society through education,’ said Poku.

Registrar Dr Kathlyn Cleland announced the following elected Convocation members who will serve for four years:

Dr Qiniso Mlita as President of Convocation and Chair of Convex; Mr Thabani W Mkhize and Mr Mandlenkosi Patrick Kumalo as Convocation representatives on Council and members of Convex; and the following six members of Convocation: Mr Siphile Buthelezi, Ms Godslove Zama Zindela, Mr Sandile Terrance Ngcobo, Mr Siphesihle Xulu, Ms Oyena Ngcobo and Mr Mpumelelo Phungula.

‘Dr Mlita served on the outgoing Convex as Vice-President of Convocation and will therefore provide the necessary “institutional memory” to ensure continuity,’ said Cleland.

Mlita thanked everyone who had voted and said he was looking forward to an upcoming strategic workshop with the outgoing President.

Cleland acknowledged the outgoing Convex and commended the staff in the Alumni Office and the Corporate Relations Division as well as the development team in ICS and her office for ensuring the smooth voting process and a successful AGM.

Words: Raylene Captain Hasthibeer

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Agricultural Economics Lecture Focuses on Human Development

Agricultural Economics Lecture Focuses on Human Development
(Clockwise from top) Mr Duncan Stewart, Professor Gerald Ortmann, Professor Stuart Ferrer and Professor Lloyd Baiyegunhi during the FR Tomlinson Commemorative Lecture.

The Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa’s (AEASA) annual FR Tomlinson Commemorative Lecture was hosted in KwaZulu-Natal for the fifth time, with UKZN alumnus Mr Duncan Stewart invited to present the address.

Stewart, the Managing Director and founder of the Lima Rural Development Foundation (LIMA) joins previous honourees from UKZN, Professors Emeritus Gerald Ortmann and Lieb Nieuwoudt, UKZN alumnus and Honorary Professor Michael Lyne of Lincoln University in New Zealand, and Mr Rex Hudson. The Lecture is named after Professor Frederick Rothman Tomlinson, founding member and first president of AEASA and the father of agricultural economics in South Africa.

Convened by Professor Stuart Ferrer of Agricultural Economics at UKZN, the hybrid event was held at the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market and via the Zoom platform.

Ferrer emphasised that the occasion honoured the contributions made by Stewart to rural development in South Africa.

Stewart completed his BSc Agric and MSc Agric studies in agricultural economics at the then University of Natal and began his career with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, his education, work experience and postgraduate research giving him a sound understanding of livelihoods strategies and resource utilisation.

In 1989 he founded Lima, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working towards a more just society through dynamic community engagement and innovative rural development initiatives.

‘Under his leadership, LIMA has grown to become one of the largest rural development NGOs in the country,’ said Ferrer. ‘Its work has not only positively impacted and given hope to many rural families, but has also provided a platform for a number of young graduates to develop fulfilling careers as community development professionals.’

The topic of the Lecture was: Human development: Isn’t this After All What Economics is All About?

‘The Tomlinson Lecture offers an opportunity to share my agricultural economics journey with our friends at AEASA, and to provide some hope and motivation to those that have chosen to take up the baton,’ said Stewart.

He outlined theoretical concepts from the social sciences that have driven LIMA’s approach to rural development, and shared LIMA’s community development experiences - notable programmes include smallholder farmer support, land reform, infrastructure, public employment programmes and youth linkage projects - and the role that community and stakeholder participation plays in creating a more just and successful nation. He touched on sobering realities affecting the rural poor, including chronic malnutrition and terms of trade.

Stewart has remained a stalwart supporter of the University, hosting annual field trips for Agricultural Economics third-year students for three decades, sponsoring awards for top students, facilitating postgraduate studies, and employing many graduates from the Institution. He played a key role in establishing the Friends of UKZN Agriculture alumni association.

‘LIMA’s story begins at the University,’ said Stewart, adding that his master’s studies fostered determination and self-belief, and equipped him with the tools to establish LIMA.

‘LIMA’s success has been the result of a sustainable flow of top graduates that have come through the organisation in the past 30 years; adding value to the team and growing LIMA’s capabilities and reputation, and then moving on to other careers, taking with them their development philosophy and spreading the gospel of consultation and economic inclusion.’

Despite the postponement of the event from 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it drew record attendance, with more than 120 guests from universities, research institutes, private consultancies, government departments, the citrus, sugar and forestry industries, the banking sector, farming companies and NGOs. All nine South African provinces were represented, as well as Namibia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and the United States.

‘Your lecture is a testament to your passion for human development, which is a noble objective,’ said Ortmann in delivering the vote of thanks and presenting Stewart with the FR Tomlinson Commemorative Medal.

The content of the Lecture will be published in AEASA’s Agrekon journal.

Sponsors of the event included AEASA, UKZN, the LIMA Rural Development Foundation, the South African Canegrowers Association, and Nedbank.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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