Twins Set to Change the Face of Medicine Together

Twins Set to Change the Face of Medicine Together
The Pramchand twins Ashiq (left) and Ishq.

Inspirational twins Ashiq and Ishq Pramchand recently completed their final year of study at UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine boasting a host of Deans’ Commendations and distinctions achieved throughout their academic careers.

They now await their final exam results expected to be released on 15 December.

The brothers both matriculated from Crawford College La Lucia with honours. Ishq was the top student at private schools and first in Crawford Advtech group nationally and is currently in the Top 5 best performing Medical students in the class of 2021. He received UKZN’s Pius Langa Scholarship and the Undergraduate Scholarship for final year.

Ashiq was ranked third in matric among students from independent schools scooping distinctions for all his subjects, receiving the UKZN merit scholarship.

Both boys are keen pianists with over 17 years of classical training and a host of gold and silver awards from local Eistedfods and Trinity College London.

Said Ishq, who is currently studying towards an ATCL performance diploma through Trinity College which is equivalent to a first-year recital of an undergraduate degree: ‘I am very passionate about music, and I feel that it perfectly complements the art of Medicine. Our musical studies were made possible through Ms Phillipa Greenwood, a fierce musician and family friend.’

Ashiq, who has a passion for medical writing, published his first book earlier this year, titled: The Great Medical Student Odyssey - Tales and Adventures in Medical School. A biography of his journey at UKZN’s Medical School, the 194-page book illustrates the incredible adventures and harsh realities of Medical students in South Africa. He was also inspired to pursue medical research while serving as a research placement at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) laboratories. His passion resulted in three publications - two with Pulse magazine and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and one with the Harvard Medical Student Review journal.

As top Medical students at UKZN, the Pramchand twins created a student organisation on campus to improve the speaking and writing skills of healthcare professionals through the development of lectures and study resources for students. The club, BROCA, also produces a student magazine, called the BROCA Times, which is distributed to students.

The brothers have played an active role in UKZN’s South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA), serving in various portfolios. Through SAMSA, they formed a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, an NGO which builds homes for disadvantaged rural communities. While working in rural Umgababa on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, the Pramchands provided information on tuberculosis as well as arranging free HIV testing for the local community.

Apart from achieving academic excellence, research excellence, engaging in the uplifting of local communities, working on becoming professional pianists and engaging in clinical work as part of their curriculum; the twins are also keen sportsmen. Both trained in Northern and Southern Kung Fu styles at the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre in Durban with Ishq also having completed one year of Tai Chi/Qi-Gong training. In 2013, the twins also represented the KwaZulu-Natal team at interprovincial Table Tennis Championships in Bloemfontein and both boys completed the Midmar Mile.

With a full schedule, the young doctors still found time to create and manage a small technology company called ZavourIT which creates Apps to help South Africans find solutions to unemployment. Said Ashiq: ‘In my spare time, I enjoy playing tennis, practicing swordsmanship, meeting friends, watching good movies, playing video games, exercising, writing, travelling, learning new languages and reading.’ He is also a television presenter and voice actor for a local show, African Essence, which raises awareness about important human-interest stories in South Africa.

Ishq who speaks conversational Japanese, which he learnt throughout his travels in the Far East, said: ‘I enjoy travelling during holidays, language learning, dramatic arts and theatre, and reading, while family time is very important to me. Watching movies and going out with friends are a must every Friday. Playing a game of tennis at least once a week with Ashiq is great for a mental reset. I also love green tea.’

In his book, Ashiq details their adventures as Medical students: ‘Thousands of hours are spent at the bedside and in the operating theatre. Blood will be drawn. Tutorials will be attended. Friendships will be forged in the wards - those democracies of appearance. You will see patient gowns, devastated and relieved complexions, tubes and IV lines. In this crucible, where life is renewed and taken away, we witness some of life’s most beautiful and crushing moments. These places are autoclaves for the soul, where pressure, high patient caseloads, and low resources purify us - they force us to abandon or challenge our vices, to help others. These experiences are life-changing and profound. In my anecdotes, I try to capture this profoundness…the clinical years are where the real adventure begins.’

Both boys attribute their passion for Medicine to their father, Dr Mahendra Pramchand, ‘Our passion for medicine started at a very young age, inspired by our father who always selflessly and passionately treated his patients. His love for medicine and people continues to inspire us.’

‘We also thank our mum Advocate Nalini Govender for her ongoing support throughout our studies.’

The twins are keen to travel to exotic destinations such as Mongolia but also look forward to serving their Medical internships next year and specialising in the coming years. Ishq aims to specialise in surgery or internal medicine whilst Ashiq is exploring a surgical speciality.

Words: Maryann Francis

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Features in Times Higher Education Annual Rankings by Subject for 2022

UKZN Features in Times Higher Education Annual Rankings by Subject for 2022
A collage of UKZN’s campuses.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal has been placed into the 601+ band of the Times Higher Education (THE) annual ranking of the top universities for 2022 by subject, which feature 10 South African universities in four key disciplines of study.

THE is the leading provider of Higher Education data for the world’s research-led institutions.

As a company behind the world’s most influential university rankings with almost five decades of experience providing analysis and insight on Higher Education, THE boasts unparalleled expertise on trends underpinning university performance globally.

The Higher Education specialist’s list is a global performance ranking that assesses research-intensive universities. The subject tables employ the same range of 13 performance indicators used in the overall THE world university rankings brought together with scores provided under five categories. However, the overall methodology is carefully recalibrated for each subject, with the weightings changed to suit the individual fields and the results independently audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

For the subject rankings, university performance is split across various fields of study.

UKZN is in the 601+ band in the business and economics table, which comprises 795 universities, up from 729 last year. None of South Africa’s universities are in the top 200.

In the law section, which features 257 universities (224 last year), UKZN is in the 201+ band.

The engineering table boasts 1 188 universities, up from 1 098 last year. Nine South African universities made the cut, with UKZN placed in the 601-800 band.

The computer science table lists 891 universities, up from 827 last year. UKZN is in the 601-800 group.

Executive Director: Corporate Relations at UKZN, Ms Normah Zondo, welcomed UKZN’s latest THE subject rankings, saying they were evidence of the University’s ‘hard work and academic prowess in Africa and the world. While there are many other attributes that characterise UKZN as a top-performing university in Africa, it is always a pleasure to see how we perform as an institution relative to our peers nationally and globally,’ said Zondo.

‘We view the latest Times Higher Education subject rankings as proof that we remain among the top universities in South Africa, Africa and the world. We keep striving for excellence, increased growth and greater impact as a university as we journey together in the 21st Century. We thank our academics and students whose hard work has kept us firmly in global academic rankings, which pit us against our peers,’ she said.

Words: NdabaOnline

Image: Supplied

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The Emergence of the “Pandemic Leader”

The Emergence of the “Pandemic Leader”

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, coupled with government-mandated lockdown tactics, has undoubtedly been one of the most significant events of the 21st century. During the period of the hard lockdown, only individuals working in “essential services” were permitted to leave their homes for work purposes, while other businesses remained closed.

On the other hand, employees in other industries were able to work from home due to numerous innovations being employed to make this possible. This posed a challenge to leadership, commitment to work and the performance of remote workers during the lockdown.

Given the unique circumstances, leadership continues to be one of the most critical elements for businesses and educational institutions to navigate their results successfully. The Science journal editor-in-chief Holden Thorp states that ‘the pandemic has made it more challenging, mainly because we have a massive disconnect between what people expect of Higher Education on the outside, and what Higher Education is capable of doing and wants to do on the inside.’ This is the first time South Africa has been faced with having to navigate through conditions of ambiguity, complexity and unpredictability on such a large scale.

However, as the world starts to recover from the unprecedented aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisational leaders from around the globe have been coerced to contend with challenges beyond the imagination of even the most proactive organisational leaders. The path to recovery is being coupled with the emergence of a new leadership style, namely the pandemic leader. The typical leader, detached from employee experience and fixated on profit and loss, is officially a thing of the past. Especially now that we continue to work on level 1 Lockdown measures despite the new variant and the spike in new infections.

The pandemic challenges organisations to enhance their engagement with employees or risk a significant decline in employee morale - or worse. The rate of retirement doubled since the beginning of the pandemic, resignations and job changes are also increasing at an alarming rate. The decisions taken now will have long-lasting outcomes. This is one of those moments where leaders are in the limelight. The organisations which will win will be able to conform to present conditions, including the ambiguity, and navigate through them. There is a philosophical difference between leaders who deem the pandemic as an obstacle and those who deem it is as a catalyst for change.

For many prominent leaders, the pandemic signalled a more sympathetic approach to business. Leaders must be empathetic, responsive and dependable. The newly established “pandemic” leader rejects the concept of the archetypical leader who directs and evaluates and instead embraces the concept of coaching, improving and inspiring employees to work to their full potential.

The notion of remote working necessitates those organisational leaders to pay much more personal attention to their employees’ well-being. Remote working can have a detrimental effect on employees’ mental and physical health. While some employees are content with working from home, many others experience feelings of isolation, stress, anxiety, insomnia, burnout and other mental health issues.

In such cases, expressing concern and care for an employee’s personal well-being becomes a requirement for employees to derive meaning from the organisation. One of the trends that will distinguish successful organisations in 2021, in line with a recent media publication featured in the Harvard Business Review, is their power to aid employees to live better lives.

Ms Samantha-Jane Gravett, an associate director at Robert Walters Africa - an international recruitment agency - said: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic did not necessarily herald an entirely new work style, but it certainly fast-tracked the inevitable around flexible working, speeding the transition up by as much as five to 10 years for some companies.’

At Anglo American, Mr Mark Cutifani, renowned leader in the metals and mining industry, said that the pandemic coerced organisations to re-evaluate their goals as well as their values. ‘Companies had to demonstrate that they were really there for their communities when they needed them the most,’ said Cutifani. ‘I’m proud of how Anglo American rose to the challenge.’ Cutifani took the ‘tough but necessary’ decision to close mines at the outset of the pandemic. Even in the face of closures due to hard lockdown measures, Anglo American guaranteed salaries for its employees in South Africa, as well as housing allowances and company contributions to medical and pension funds. ‘Being a partner to our local communities is much more than simply providing employment opportunities.’

Cutifani said the most important lesson he learned during the pandemic was ‘that people are at the centre of all we do and everything we deliver, and that re-imagining mining to improve people’s lives is not simply words on a piece of paper.’

Co-author of this opinion piece Dr Andrisha Beharry Ramraj reconfirms this stating that living our purpose is about people believing that they can and do make a difference.

She further states that employees can only perform at their best when they are in good physical and mental health. Innovative organisations will share responsibility for their employees’ well-being instead of entrusting their employees with complete responsibility for their physical and mental well-being. This responsibility is not one of executives alone. Leaders at all levels, as well as colleagues, can work together to create a culture of connectedness in which it is an element of the organisation’s culture to care not only about financial outputs but also about the health and sanity of the people behind the performance and financial output who are critical to the organisation’s success.

Ironically, it is when organisations look beyond profit and performance that they enjoy even higher levels of profit and performance. The link between leadership, improved employee morale and improved performance is significant and has been demonstrated numerous times - and from an organisational context, it has become even more prominent in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Charles, I. (2021). Opportunities for HR leaders to capitalise on post-COVID. Retrieved date Septermber 15, 2021, from

Sheffield, H. (2021). The Pandemic Has Made Europe’s Top Executives Smarter… and Humbler. Retrieved September 12, 2021, from

University, O. S. (2021). OSU University Day speaker gives blunt assessment of where science, higher education need to do better. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from

Dr Andrisha Beharry-Ramraj is a lecturer at the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance in the Discipline of Management and Entrepreneurship.

Ms Theressa Athiah is a registered master’s student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the College of Law and Management Studies, School of Management, Information Technology and Governance.

Photographs: Supplied

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

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Electrifying at 54!

Electrifying at 54!
Mr Kabulo Loji.

Graduating at the age of 54 with a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and already working toward a PhD at a time when most other people start to slow down, Mr Kabulo Loji has all sorts of personal and professional aspirations.

Loji obtained his first degree cum laude while he was living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and completed his B-Tech in a year at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) in 2004. He registered for an M-Tech in 2005 first at VUT and then subsequently at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) but was unable to complete either degree because of unforeseen circumstances.

He subsequently registered for a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at UKZN in 2019 and succeeded in completing the degree in record time.

‘Graduating with another qualification and with a mark of 74% at the age of 54 is a personal achievement for me, especially during this challenging COVID-19 period,’ said Loji. ‘Juggling so many different personal and professional pressures at this juncture was stressful. I hope this degree will inspire my kids.

‘I have studied and enjoyed anything electrically-related since Grade 9, and my passion has remained in this field of study.’

In the 1990s he became a technical secondary school teacher and taught a variety of subjects related to electrical engineering. ‘Those teaching experiences sparked a passion and interest in me for engineering education,’ said Loji.

Having worked in industry before joining academia, Loji really has enjoyed a multi-faceted career. ‘I am now lecturing in the Electrical Power Engineering department at DUT and my greatest aspiration is that learners and colleagues are inspired and should feel enriched after their association with me,’ said Loji.

Loji’s research areas are renewable energy (RE) and engineering education, especially the area of Teaching for Learning. He has locally and internationally authored and co-authored published papers.

‘The increased penetration of RE in electric grids affects and modifies both the structure and the operation of the distribution networks, giving rise to uncertainties in power system operations, affecting in particular power system variables such as the voltage profiles and direction of network power flows,’ said Loji. ‘My research investigated voltage control and stability conditions at Solar PV buses through various case studies and scenarios simulated using the Power Factory® tool, both in static and dynamic analysis modes.’ He hopes that his research contributes to the alleviation of the energy crisis society is facing.

Loji has started working towards his PhD in Electrical Engineering at UKZN. ‘It is a very exciting journey and I hope to complete the degree in record time as I did with my MSc,’ he said.

Words: Swastika Maney

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Fires Up Powerful Liquid Rocket Engine in Ground Tests

UKZN Fires Up Powerful Liquid Rocket Engine in Ground Tests
ABLE is a liquid rocket engine test platform developed by Mechanical Engineers in UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Group.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG) has successfully tested a powerful liquid propellant rocket engine as the first step towards developing a launch vehicle for placing satellites into Earth-orbit.

The Ablative Blow-Down Liquid Engine (ABLE) was designed by Mechanical Engineering students in the masters and doctoral programmes at UKZN. 

ASReG is developing designs for a commercial launch vehicle able to place satellites of up to 200kg in orbit for communications, environmental monitoring, agriculture and Earth observation purposes. The successful operation of ABLE will enable the group to begin work on a flight-weight engine to power the proposed rocket.

ASReG’s Space Propulsion Programme is supported by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

The highly successful ABLE engine test campaign took place at the Denel Overberg Test Range in the Western Cape over a three-week period. Ten Mechanical Engineering students put the South African First Integrated Rocket Engine (SAFFIRE) ABLE rocket engine through its paces on a test stand to measure its performance.

The ABLE engine combusts liquid oxygen (LOX) and Jet A-1 fuel to produce just under two tons of thrust, and is similar in design to engines powering the newest small satellite launch vehicles.

For the test campaign, students not only built the engine itself but also designed and qualified a state-of-the-art test facility with propellant storage tanks, an automated engine control system and a thrust stand to restrain the engine throughout its operation.

During testing, ABLE produced 18 kilonewtons (about 1.8 tons) of thrust in a series of short and long-duration burns. Although there are bigger commercial engines in operation, ABLE is one of the most powerful student-built liquid rocket engines ever produced.

With this development, UKZN has further strengthened its position as a South African centre of excellence in aerospace propulsion engineering. In March this year, ASReG broke the African hybrid rocket altitude record when it successfully launched a Phoenix rocket to 18km. ABLE is a different kind of engine, running on liquid propellants rather than the solid and liquid combination of the Phoenix rocket.

Mastering liquid rocket engine technology places UKZN and ASReG in a strong position to accelerate the development of a commercial launch vehicle. The ultimate goals are to create an African satellite launch capability, support South Africa’s indigenous satellite and space data industries and boost the country’s 4IR readiness.

SAFFIRE Engine Programme manager at UKZN Dr Jean Pitot said: ‘The overwhelming success of our recent ABLE rocket engine test campaign is testament to the profound ability of young South African engineers to find globally-competitive solutions to today’s grand engineering challenges. The rapid evolution of society’s interaction with space over the past decade has been astonishing and is set to accelerate, as the services offered by burgeoning space-based enterprises become integral to our daily lives. The ASReG team is proud of the leading role that the University of KwaZulu-Natal is playing in laying the technical foundations for a sovereign space launch capability that will provide Africa with direct access to the space economy.’

Words: Michael Brooks

Photograph: Supplied

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KZN COGTA and UKZN Sign Significant Memorandum of Understanding

KZN COGTA and UKZN Sign Significant Memorandum of Understanding
Members of the UKZN/COGTA steering committee at the ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions.Click here for isiZulu version

A formal and far-reaching Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and UKZN.

The official ceremony marking the milestone was held on the University’s Pietermaritzburg campus on 30 November. 

A key objective for COGTA, under the Municipal Local Economic Development Support Chief Directorate, is the formulation of strategic partnerships between the public and private sector, aimed at creating job opportunities, stimulating economic growth, improving evidence-based service delivery, skills transfer, knowledge sharing and capacity development within local government.

UKZN was identified as the technical partner and this has the potential to benefit both parties.

The aim of the MOU is to establish a relationship between the Department and UKZN in order to:

•    Co-ordinate activities that will enable dual benefit in information sharing and expertise

•    Monitor and evaluate the process of conducting research and generating knowledge

•    Optimise capacity building and improve efficacy in knowledge management and delivery of training

•    Reach an amicable and mutual achievement of the common goal of information generation and management

•    Agree on and stipulate areas within which information sharing, research and evaluation will be undertaken and improved in the future

•    Define the context and systems through which information will be shared and research results circulated

The overarching goal of the MOU is to improve the service that COGTA delivers to its client - Local Government - by conducting research, determining best practices and ensuring collaboration on key issues affecting local government.

The agreement, effective from 1 August 2021 to 31 March 2024, provides the umbrella under which both parties will share information, and contribute to and provide research and policy expertise on key areas such as climate change resilience; sustainable natural resource use, including ecotourism; food security; water security and the water-energy-food-nexus; land access - rights; reform and redistribution; water access - rights, reform, and redistribution; localisation of Sustainable Development Goals; support of spatial planning processes; vulnerability assessments, especially drought; disaster early warning systems; evaluation; local governance; and any other areas of mutual interest.

The MOU also allows UKZN to improve the learning experience of UKZN staff and students through opportunities to work on real-world projects; and opportunities to share expertise, enhance learning opportunities, and assist students to prepare for the transition from University to the work environment.

Furthermore, the MOU will create a platform for both parties to learn from each other and build capacity by sharing processes and methods; collaborating on publications and conferences; undertaking research and pursuing further studies; and upskilling department staff through skills transfer.

Said UKZN lead on the steering committee and Pro-Vice Chancellor for the African Cities of the Future Research Flagship Professor Rob Slotow: ‘The UKZN Strategic Plan 2017-2022 calls for improved impact of the work of the university on broader society. In order to achieve this, a close partnership with government is required, which provides avenues for aligning our teaching and learning, and the capacity of our graduates to align more closely with the practical needs of society. Importantly, MOUs such as this allow for the co-development, implementation and mainstreaming of results of research jointly with government. UKZN’s strong academic credentials can thus be deployed into key areas of need in South Africa, identified at local government level, and quickly translated into practical solutions to improve the wellbeing of our people.’

HOD Mr Thando Tubane believes the signing of the MOU is a turning point in the Department’s efforts to support the Local Economic Development mandate of municipalities. ‘Through this partnership, we are sharpening our ability to provide specialised support to our municipalities through improved capacity which will assist to find practical solutions in the quest to grow the economy of our municipalities,’ said Tubane.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Ntokozo Dladla

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Agricultural Economics PhD Graduate Sets Records at UKZN

Agricultural Economics PhD Graduate Sets Records at UKZN
Dr Lerato Phali.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Lerato Phali is celebrating completing her PhD in Agricultural Economics as the youngest doctoral graduate in the subject at UKZN and being only the second Black South African PhD graduate in Agricultural Economics at the University.

‘I am so proud that I am the youngest and only the second Black South African Agricultural Economics PhD graduate at the University,’ said Phali. ‘It really does show that we need more of our local talent in academia and I am willing to work hard to ensure that happens.’

Focusing on water economics and governance, Phali’s study was funded by the Water Research Commission (WRC) and involved an evaluation of institutional integration, water user participation and performance in irrigation schemes in KwaZulu-Natal.

Supervised by Professor Maxwell Mudhara and Professor Stuart Ferrer, her work aimed to expand knowledge on efficient management and sustainable and equitable use of water resources in the context of climate change and water scarcity.

‘This research used a multi-disciplinary approach in addressing issues that rural communities face and took a deeper look at how policy can be reformed to address them,’ said Phali. ‘This is important because South African legislature and policies are considered to be very good compared to other developing countries but the implementation is not efficient.’

Focusing on where issues lie in implementation, from policy level to on the ground challenges, Phali sought to contribute to solutions to improve the effectiveness of policies and the improvement of rural farmers’ access to water resources for irrigation of their produce.

Now a lecturer and researcher in agricultural economics at the University of Pretoria, Phali was drawn to the subject because of its status as a management science, with concepts applicable to most spheres of key sectors in the developing world.

‘It is not just “agriculture”, but knowing how we can see value from our “agriculture” to improve livelihoods,’ she said.

During her studies, Phali was selected as a Young Agricultural Professionals Program Fellow, one of only two South Africans selected for the programme which incorporated a study tour in the United States where she visited Cornell University, the World Bank, the International Food Policy Research Institute and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Services.

She also presented her research at international conferences, and participated in a one-year research fellowship at the University of Foggia in Italy.

‘The most important highlight of my studies was working with rural communities and witnessing how much lives can be improved with the right match of development policy and implementation,’ said Phali. ‘There is still so much to be done and I can’t wait to be part of it.’

Phali wants to continue making contributions to academia and contribute towards policy advisory by undertaking more development research.

She thanked Mudhara and Ferrer for their guidance throughout her studies, the WRC for funding her research, and the University of Foggia Agricultural and Food Economics Group for the opportunity to learn from them.

Words:Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

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African Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Gender Dimensions and Youth in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building Highlighted in High-Level Colloquium

African Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Gender Dimensions and Youth in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building Highlighted in High-Level Colloquium
Dignitaries who constituted the high-level panel during the virtual colloquium convened by AIIKS at UKZN in partnership with the Africa Forum.

The role of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), home-grown philosophies, indigenous languages, youth and gender dimensions in conflict resolution and peace building for sustainable development was the focus of a high-level virtual colloquium convened by the African Institute in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIIKS), with its hub at UKZN in partnership with the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government (Africa Forum).

The programme was directed by Mr Tshepo Ikaneng, former South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Presidential Correspondent, and current Managing Director, Harambee TI Media and Marketing Solutions. Panellists from across cultures, regions and linguistic groups shared their insights on the theme.

On behalf of the UKZN Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize welcomed the more than 400 guests and participants. He said that the colloquium would be a step towards realising the seven aspirations of the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 to build the Africa we want. Focusing on the fourth aspiration: A Peaceful and Secure Africa, Mkhize said that despite great strides in achieving peace and security on the continent, a long way still lies ahead. ‘We cannot claim victory when gunfire is still heard in Mozambique, Ethiopia, Sudan and many other African countries.

‘There can be no claim of gender equality when women are victims of gender-based violence and girls continue to be kidnapped by militant groups in many countries across the continent. When calls for democracy continue being silenced through violent means by regimes whose times have passed, we cannot claim victory. But we remain hopeful that we are making significant progress. We are also mindful that solutions lie within our own indigenous philosophies,’ said Mkhize.

The high-level panel was constituted by the following dignitaries: Former President of Malawi, Her Excellency, Dr Joyce Banda; former President of the Republic of Mauritius, His Excellency Cassam Uteem; His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, former President of the Republic of Sierra Leone; and Her Excellency Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and former Chairperson of the AU Commission.

The continental and international roundtable panellists included Tanzania’s Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Professor Palamagamba John Kabudi; Executive Director for the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, Professor Cheryl Hendricks; former Director for Political Affairs of the African Union (AU) Commission, Professor Khabele Matlosa; Deputy High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria, Honourable Dr Bobby Moroe; Coordinator of the Regional Governance and Peacebuilding at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Centre for Africa, Dr Roselyn Akombe; head of Marketing and Communication for the Young Women Desk of the Women’s League of the African National Congress, Ms Lerato Moamogwa; and social activist and academic Ms Nomvula Dlamini.

In her keynote address, Her Excellency Dr Dlamini-Zuma acknowledged the significance of the intergenerational conversation taking place during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign and noted that the colonial system dismantled IKS that protected women. Furthermore, women traditionally played an important role in peacekeeping and unity.

Her Excellency, Dr Banda commended UKZN for organising the colloquium. She said the continent needs to ensure that harmful traditions are checked and eradicated and that women should be involved in identifying credible leaders. She also emphasised the need to promote arts and crafts, which convey messages about African history, highlighting that women play an important role in storytelling as part of an intergenerational dialogue.

Noting that women were the custodians of IKS for conflict resolution, peace building and security, His Excellency Uteem quoted the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah: ‘There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both - that of the women.’

Professor Hendricks highlighted women’s right to participate in peace-building and cited the example of Queen Nzinga in African history who was instrumental in limiting the slave trade. She asserted that Pan-Africanism is the only way to build peace.

Professor Matlosa observed that Africa is a conflict-ridden continent, with 27 million people displaced, the majority of whom are women, youth and children. He highlighted the relevance of African IKS home-grown philosophies and indigenous languages in peace and security initiatives. COVID-19 has disrupted the AU’s conflict resolution efforts. Matlosa noted that the AU Agenda 2063 cannot achieve peace-building without IKS solutions. There is also a need to decolonise education and adopt policies that make people proud of their own languages, while adopting one language for Africa.

The IKS Centre’s Director, Professor Hassan Kaya noted that African indigenous languages have been reduced to tools of communication rather than repositories of IKS. He highlighted the need to start teaching African indigenous languages and to leverage UNESCO’s declaration of 7 July as Kiswahili Language Day to promote indigenous languages. 

UKZN alumnus Dr Moroe spoke on the recent South Africa-Nigeria youth dialogue for Peace and Security, Youth Development and Political Participation, signed on 1 December 2021 by President Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) and President Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria) in Abuja, Nigeria. He remarked that, while Africa has two of the largest economies in the world, it is home to the poorest people. The notion that the youth lack skills is often misplaced because very little attention is paid to teaching them about the potential of African IKS as resources for sustainable community livelihoods and development.

Dr Akombe said Africa needs to reimagine its governance systems and decolonisation agenda, while Ms Moamogwa called for an overhaul of the education system to meet the needs of the youth.

Ms Dlamini noted that African women remain socially and economically marginalised, and continue to be sexually and physically violated. She spoke to the need to teach children about Ubuntu and Pan Africanism. She referred to challenges such as girls dropping out of school because of the lack of school sanitation, carrying out home duties, child marriages and a lack of sanitary support during menstruation. Dr Dlamini-Zuma concurred and added that around six million young people are neither in work, in training nor in school. She indicated her willingness to partner with UKZN to discuss training women through the Association of Women in Mining in Africa.

Professor Kabudi commented that it is important to draw from ‘our own lived experiences, explore African philosophers and thinkers across generations, and engage retired African leaders and professors, not only those who went to university, but elders in our communities.’

In his closing remarks, the High Commissioner of the United Republic of Tanzania to South Africa, His Excellency Mr Gaudence Salim Milanzi observed that few African youths have the opportunity to interact and benefit from the lived experiences and wisdom of their elders, especially former African heads of state and government. The colloquium was an excellent example of such initiatives. He emphasised that Africa cannot achieve sustainable development in an environment of conflict, whether arising from internal or external factors. His Excellency Milanzi added that building on the indigenous is not necessarily what is traditional, but whatever the diverse African peoples consider to be an authentic expression of themselves. Interfaced with other knowledge and technology systems, especially the digital knowledge and skills, and artistic creativity of the African youth, as repositories of our knowledge and value systems, IKS have the capacity to transform our rich diversity of natural, cultural and linguistic resources into unique goods and services for the local, national, regional, continental and global markets, creating job and wealth opportunities for marginalised communities and social groups, especially African women and the youth. This will make a significant contribution to humanising the individualism embedded in globalisation and the 4th Industrial Revolution and create an Ubuntu/human-based environment for sustainable development. It will enable the identification of culturally and ecologically acceptable, affordable and accessible solutions to global challenges including climate change, poverty, conflict resolution, environmental degradation and corruption.

His Excellency Milanzi concluded by remarking that platforms like the high-level colloquium need to be encouraged and supported to promote intergenerational dialogue across gender, age groups, cultures and linguistic backgrounds. There is need to make visible African women and girls’ contribution to public policies for both rural and urban sustainable development. One of the best strategies to empower African women and girls is to encourage more African women, especially female students, to research and publish on pertinent issues on African women’s and girls’ rights.

Africa Forum Executive Secretary, Professor John Tesha said that, going forward, ongoing partnerships should be established among stakeholders across sectors, cultures, regions and linguistic groups to mobilise African IKS, homegrown philosophies and indigenous languages. 

To view the full colloquium, follow this link:

Words: Sithembile Shabangu and the African Institute in Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Photographs: Supplied

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UKZN Humanities Student Receives Rhodes Scholarship

UKZN Humanities Student Receives Rhodes Scholarship
Mr Wiseman Zondi.

Honours student in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, Mr Wiseman Zondi, has been awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship for 2022.

‘I feel extremely honoured to receive the Scholarship and proud to be in the company of previous exceptional South Africans who received the award such as Edwin Cameron, Eusebius McKaiser, Ntokozo Qwabe, and Vuyane Mhlomi - it is something I never envisioned receiving. It is, quite literally, beyond my wildest dreams.’

Rhodes Scholarships are awarded to young graduates with outstanding intellect and character, proven leadership abilities and a commitment to service.

Zondi of Inchanga said he was extremely proud as the award was evidence that his work in and outside of the University had not been in vain.

‘The Rhodes Scholarship also affirms my activism in striving towards creating a just and fair society where everybody is treated with the dignity they deserve.

‘I will always use my position to empower others with less societal power to rise up and find ways to improve their daily lives,’ he said.

‘I will study for a BPhil at the University of Oxford next year and hopefully continue to explore how hate speech causes massive harm to people’s dignity.

‘Hate speech is a symbol of a larger problem of prejudice and bias within our society. It is important to identify this, address it, and make life a little easier for members of marginalised communities.’

Zondi said he valued education because he knew what it felt like to be without it. ‘I have also realised that formal education is necessary but not sufficient to make one a well-rounded individual - it is also necessary to be attuned to the social and political realities of South Africa.

‘I couldn’t escape certain aspects of poverty but I educated myself on other social ills. I read a lot and write about social and political issues and this is why Wiseman Zondi the scholar will echo Wiseman Zondi the individual.’

Zondi thanked his Philosophy lecturers and tutors especially Dr Monique Whitaker, Ms Anele Sithole, Dr Heidi Matisonn, and Dr Jacek Brzozowski.

‘Sitting under their metaphorical learning trees has been an honour and a pleasure.’

The National Secretary of the Rhodes Scholarships for Southern Africa, Mr Ndumiso Luthuli, said the 2022 Rhodes Scholarships had been awarded to 10 outstanding young leaders in southern Africa.

‘Rhodes Scholars-Elect are diverse in backgrounds and disciplines; but all share the following qualities: academic excellence and intellectual curiosity; energy to use their talents to the fullest; courage to lead and make a difference; moral force of character, quiet determination and integrity; and a commitment to service and making a positive impact on the broader community,’ said Luthuli.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied

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More than 120 Students Graduate from Workers College

More than 120 Students Graduate from Workers College
From left Mr Khaliphile Cotoza, board member of the Workers College and Provincial organiser for COSATU KZN; Dr John Mhandu Head of Research Department, Workers College and Professor Vivian Ojong.

A total of 123 students received degrees and certificates during the annual Graduation ceremony of the Worker’s College held at the Coastlands Hotel recently.

The College, through its partnership with UKZN’s School of Social Sciences since 1999, has developed an Industrial Work-Life Programme (IWLP) which is a five-year Bachelor of Social Science Degree course (BSC).

The College was created to address past injustices caused by the apartheid system and provide access to worker leaders, trade union representatives and shop stewards and formalise their education.

The ceremony was opened by the chairperson of the Workers College Mr Phumulani Duma and the Director and Principal of the College, Mr Siyabonga Msiya, who is a product of IWLP.

The live graduation was coupled with the 30th anniversary celebration of the Workers College and graduates were capped with all COVID-19 protocols being observed.

In the keynote address the Dean and Head of the School of Social Sciences, Professor Vivian Ojong, said: ‘Workers’ education is not just about advancing the interests of workers as a group as its function is also to make sure that all those who are not owners of production and are part of the marginalised (precarious or vulnerable) sections of the workforce and society are empowered to improve their social and economic positions.’

Ojong said workers’ education was dynamic and driven by a desire to establish an egalitarian society. ‘As such, the future of workers’ education in South Africa requires the decolonsation of the curriculum, disrupting Eurocentric consciousness and challenging notions of meritocracy within education and society which have privileged the minority,’ she said.

Ojong added that the impressive graduation rate was testimony to the work put in by graduates despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The graduates were from four union federations - COSATU, FEDUSA, SAFTU, and NACTU (SACWU); 24 trade unions - CEPPWAWU, CHIETA, FAWU, HIAWU, HOSPERSA, NAGEWU, NASUWU, NEHAWU, NUCCAAW, NULAW, NUM, NUMSA, NUPSAW, PATU, PAWUSA, POPCRU, PSA, PTAWU, SACCAWU, SACTWU, SACU, SACWU, SAMWU, SATAWU; one community organisation - SANCO; and the Workers College South Africa.

Words: UKZNdabaOnline

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COVID-19 the Focus of Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Symposium

COVID-19 the Focus of Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Symposium
From left: Examiners, Dr Nelisiwe Khuzwayo and Professor Veron Ramsuran and keynote speaker, Professor Hannelie Meyer.

The Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences (DoPS) held its 2021 virtual Research Symposium which focused on a range of topics but with the focus on COVID-19.

Research Co-ordinator, the Rev Dr Lehlohonolo Mathibe, facilitated the proceedings while Academic Leader and head of DoPS Professor Frasia Oosthuizen welcomed the about 130 symposium participants reminding them about the importance of research.

The keynote address was delivered by the Head of the South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre (SAVIC) and Programme Co-ordinator of the MPharm in Public Health, Pharmacy and Management in the School of Pharmacy at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University near Pretoria, Professor Hannelie Meyer.

Meyer’s presentation, titled: Vaccine Safety in the Era of COVID-19, highlighted the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa, the reasons why people are hesitant to vaccinate and the perceptions and benefits of vaccinating.

‘The development of the new variant of COVID-19 is due to the increased number of cases of the disease. There is a low number of vaccinated people, we’re at 35% as opposed to the 70% needed by the Department of Health,’ said Meyer.

Complacency, confidence and convenience were the main reasons why people were hesitant to vaccinate. ‘Social media has played a pivotal role in providing false medical information on testing, the side effects of the vaccines and the safety of the vaccines resulting in many people being hesitant to vaccinate,’ said Meyer.

The symposium included honours degree researchers who made presentations on their work. Topics included: Comparing Generational Ways of Thinking around COVID-19 and the Role of Misinformation on Risk Reduction Attitudes; The Binding Free Energies of FDA - Approved Drugs Against Subtype B and C-SA HIV PR, and The Utilisation of Tramadol in South Africa.

Examiners included Professor Veron Ramsuran of the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences and Dr Nelisiwe Khuzwayo of the Discipline of Public Health Medicine, School of Nursing and Public Health who gave feedback to each of the groups.

Professor Vassie Naidoo led the final year students’ oath-taking ceremony to end the first ever DoPS virtual research symposium.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Photographs: Supplied

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From a UKZN Cleaner to a BSS Degree Graduate Through Hard Work

From a UKZN Cleaner to a BSS Degree Graduate Through Hard Work
Ms Sthembile Mngwengwe.Click here for isiZulu version

A full-time member of the cleaning staff at UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Ms Sthembile Mngwengwe - affectionately known as Sthe - has graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science degree and now plans to register for an honours course.

Commenting on Mngwengwe’s achievement, UKZN writer Ms Swastika Maney, said: ‘I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ms Sthembile Mngwengwe. Pleasure, I say, because in all of the years that I have spent writing Graduation stories, Mngwengwe’s has been one of the most inspiring ever - more so because of her attitude to life and everything around her!’

Despite all the adversities and hurdles life has thrown at her, Mngwengwe has managed to remain positive, upbeat and full of expectation. She said: ‘To me, graduating means no matter how old you are, you can still work towards your dreams if you stay positive, determined and put your mind to it.’

Mngwengwe matriculated from Albini High School near Hammarsdale. Her dream was to attend university full-time and complete her degree but owing to financial constraints she had to start working straight after matric and joined Supercare Cleaners before transferring to UKZN. Years later when cleaning staff became full-time employees at UKZN, her dream to study became a reality and she took advantage of the University’s fee remission benefit for staff. 

Mngwengwe registered as a student and the rest, as they say, is history. Working long hours, raising a toddler alone and finding the time to study were all new experience for her. As much as she dreamed of completing a degree, she soon realised it was hard work.

Being an example for her daughter, Sindiswa, is what motivated Mngwengwe to persevere through the long days and nights. ‘I wanted to show Sindiswa that anything is possible because I believe that our children look up to us as their parents for guidance. Sometimes it was tough and I just wanted to quit but the guidance and motivation I received from my friends and colleagues at UKZN helped me make it through.’

She enjoys working on her laptop in her spare time to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world and applying what she has learned in her undergraduate modules.

‘I want to be ready for bigger and better jobs when the opportunities arise,’ she said. ‘I am a single parent and with my salary I pay school fees, transport and also give some financial support to my parents, so I thank God for giving me an opportunity to study for free. I feel truly grateful and blessed.’

Mngwengwe believes that when God puts something in your heart, He gives you the strength to achieve it. ‘I have managed to obtain this degree through prayers, hard work, sleepless nights and pure determination.’ 

On being asked about her plans for the future, Mngwengwe said: ‘I now know that the sky is the limit and if I dream it I can do it!’

Mngwengwe thanked academic administrator Mrs Marshia Vesazie of the School of Humanities as well as her lecturer’s Dr Bongani Mkhize, Mr Lawrence Abiwu, Dr Phindile Dlamini and Dr Tholakele Ngcobo, for playing such pivotal roles in her academic journey.

Her advice to aspiring students was: ‘Life is about choices, some we regret, some we’re proud of and some will haunt us forever, but the message is, we are who we chose to be.’

Heart-warming comments from Mngwengwe’s “sister crew” flooded in when news of her achievement broke. Said Ms Mbalenhle Gumbi, an HR Consultant in the College of AES: ‘Words really fail me when I think about Sthe. What an achievement! I am super proud of her; she is a strong, hardworking, humble, kind-hearted lady. She is really an example to all not to get comfortable where you are. Always look for better and greater opportunities.’

Said Ms Sibongile Khuzwayo, Administrative Officer in the School of Life Sciences: ‘I have witnessed so many Graduation ceremonies but seeing Sthe in her academic attire was the best of them all. Her achievement is a true testament that nothing is impossible. Over the years I watched her multi-tasking. She would check in for work early, dressed in her cleaning boots and overalls and a few hours later I would meet her in the corridors in her tightest jeans heading for a lecture theatre. Sthe is ambitious and never afraid to pursue what she wants. Well done Sthe, you have earned it!’

Said Financial Aid Advisor Ms Marcia Ntamote: ‘Sthe is a humble, kind-hearted, hardworking and determined lady. All there is to say is may blessings keep falling upon her with love.’

Ms Cynthia Jabulile Bhebhe, HR Consultant in College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, said: ‘Sthe taught us not to settle for the average. Despite our historical background, if you have a dream and the opportunities come your way, you just need to immerse yourself in that fountain and come out on the other side victorious. She is the epitome of inspiring greatness, in line with our University motto.’ 

Words: Swastika Maney

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Hosts Stop Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Webinar

UKZN Hosts Stop Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Webinar
Clockwise from left: Ms Hazel Langa, Advocate Dawn Coleman-Malinga, Ms Lizelle Africa, Dr Lubna Nadvi and Professor Relebohile Moletsane.Click here for isiZulu version

The Corporate Relations Division (CRD) in partnership with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) hosted a webinar titled, Stop Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, which sparked conversations on the growing occurrence of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa and around the world.

In her welcoming address, Acting Director: University Relations, Ms Hazel Langa presented statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) which reveal that one in three women globally, are subjected to violence in their lifetime. She also reviewed crime statistics announced by the South African Police Minister, Mr Bheki Cele, which indicate that between July and September 2021 sexual offences increased by 4.7% and rape by 7.1% with over 9 500 cases of rape reported during that period.

Langa noted how educational institutions were not spared from the scourge of GBV and femicide (GBVF) and highlighted UKZN’s commitment to addressing this challenge through the GBVF Strategy, which she invited staff and students to read more about on the Intranet.

The facilitator for the event, Advocate Dawn Coleman-Malinga explained how the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit of the NPA, valued its partnership with UKZN, saying the webinar series was aimed at creating awareness around GBV and improving the safety and security of the UKZN community.

Coleman-Malinga commented on the appropriateness of the webinar, hosted against the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an event which is commemorated annually, from 25 November to 10 December. She also highlighted how the webinar would focus on the legal aspects of applying for a protection order, women and girls activism in the fight against GBV, and the National Strategic Plan on GBV.

Acting Head of SOCA from the Western Cape Division, Ms Lizelle Africa, delved into the Domestic Violence Act and defined domestic violence as ‘an ongoing pattern of coercive control that may be repetitive or increase in severity over time and vary in form from physical, emotional/psychological, verbal, sexual and economic abuse’. She commented on how the Act applies to persons married according to the law, custom or religion; parents of a child; family members; persons who were engaged, dating or in a romantic, intimate or sexual relationship; and those who share or have shared the same residence.

Focusing on who can apply for a protection order, Africa listed: the direct victim/complainant; the indirect victim (child in the care of a direct victim); minors, or any person on behalf of a minor; and any person who has material interest in the well-being of victims. She noted the process of applying for a protection order and explained how it was necessary to go to a Magistrate’s Office, fill in an application form in the language of your choice and submit supporting affidavits with the assistance of the Clerk of Court. She also mentioned how an interim protection order was available for complainants/victims who seek immediate protection while the protection order is being considered by the Magistrate.

Upon violation of the protection order, Africa urged a complainant/victim to go to the nearest police station, submit a copy of the protection order and make a sworn statement about the incident. She explained how a perpetrator could be arrested, prosecuted for defaulting on the protection order and charged with a criminal offence.

UKZN’s JL Dube Chair in Rural Education, Professor Relebohile Moletsane examined the activism of girls and women from the grassroots level in the fight against GBV. Showcasing the link between poverty, GBV and HIV she noted how women between the ages of 15 - 24 had the least amount of power in society and bore the burden of intimate partner violence and HIV. She highlighted how both men and women who had experienced GBV were more likely to exhibit behavioural patterns that increase HIV infection and also reviewed the high teenage pregnancy statistics in South Africa among girls aged between nine and 14, identifying them as victims of rape.

Moletsane commented on how the COVID-19 pandemic had reversed the progress made in gender equality and in addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. She observed how girl-led activism required the support of adults due to power relation struggles in communities and institutions, and called on the public to empower and uplift women and girls rather than perpetuating the perception of them as vulnerable and victims.

Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences Dr Lubna Nadvi reviewed the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on GBVF focusing on government and civil society-led initiatives. She examined the various gender ministries which include the Commission for Gender Equality, legislation such as the Domestic Violence Act as well as Thuthuzela Care Centres.

Nadvi spoke about the national Total Shutdown marches that took place in August 2018 where women protested against the high levels of GBVF in the country. This led to a delegation of women meeting with the President and constituted the first Presidential Summit on GBVF in November that year. The summit ended with a declarational signing with all sectors agreeing to work together in eradicating GBVF which constituted the implementation of the NSP on GBVF.

Nadvi highlighted the one-year report on the NSP that recorded some successes such as the Department of Defence’s Men for Change launch which tackled sexual harassment within the workplace, but asked why the rates of GBVF across the country had not decreased; if government interventions were sufficient in responding to the prevalence and cases of GBV; how the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the process; and what society should be doing in the meantime to address the scourge GBV across the country.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied

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UKZN Donates Computers to Rural Primary School

UKZN Donates Computers to Rural Primary School
Donated computers were handed over to KwaShangase Primary School.

The School of Built Environment and Development Studies within the College of Humanities has donated computers to the registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) Computers 4 KZN Schools (C4KZNS).

The computers were handed over to KwaShangase Primary School in Ndwedwe in KwaZulu-Natal.

C4KZNS works to equip rural schools in the province with computers to assist in transferring information technology knowledge and skills to learners. The NPO actively involves community volunteers, such as unemployed youth who have the relevant knowledge and skills.

The organisation’s founder, UKZN alumnus Dr Phindile Shangase, is actively fundraising for the NPO’s website and other needs involved in project management. ‘I invite other UKZN departments and our ICS division to donate any unused computers - even obsolete computer processing units (CPUs) - so that the learners can get an idea of how computers works,’ said Shangase.

Shangase also urged research supervisors and postgraduate students to do research studies in rural areas. ‘Such initiatives inspire learners to enrol in computer sciences qualifications in the future, thereby increasing the pool of computer scientists so needed in South Africa. This is also a great opportunity to share solutions to Africa’s development problems as identified in the Sustainable Development Goals (2030) document.’

Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said: ‘Computers 4 KZN Schools comes at a time when UKZN is actively seeking to innovate in its community engagement initiatives. Therefore, such community partnerships are of great value to universities in South Africa.’

Academic Leader for Community Engagement in the School Professor Yanga Zembe-Zondi welcomed the initiative, emphasising the importance of community-based organisations (CBOs) such as C4KZNS in the partnerships that the School and UKZN form with communities. ‘It is through community engagement partnerships with organisations such as C4KZNS that the University is able to contribute towards the social and economic transformation of historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa,’ she said. 

C4KZNS plans to partner with academic institutions in order to identify relevant funding opportunities that will assist in evidence-based interventions. ‘Teachers in these rural schools will get the opportunity to enhance their skills in technology and teaching and will benefit from the free training offered by the organisation,’ said Shangase.

The Principal of KwaShangase Primary School Ms A Dlomo thanked all those involved for the donation.

Computers 4 KZN Schools is on email:

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Spreading Good News about UKZN Initiatives Taken in the Spirit of Inspiring Greatness

Spreading Good News about UKZN Initiatives Taken in the Spirit of Inspiring Greatness
From left: Mr Kwazini Zulu, Ms Normah Zondo, Ms Phakamile Mazibuko, Ms Lilly Njapha, Ms Philisiwe Dlomo, Ms Nozwelo Mpungose and Ms Gabriella Khawula.

UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division has launched an annual campaign aimed at spreading news about initiatives undertaken by the University community in the spirit of inspiring greatness, especially during these difficult times in a COVID-19-ravished world.

The aim of the new project is to tell real stories of how ordinary people take action to address social challenges, determined to make a difference.

Participants - alumni and students - were challenged to demonstrate how they are Inspiring Greatness through initiatives they are involved in anywhere in the world.

Special category prizes were on offer for the highest achievers.

UKZN alumnus Ms Gabriella Khawula won first prize with her project Teach Me, a non-profit initiative established to develop and reshape early childhood education through after-school tutorial programmes that supplement existing education in underprivileged schools. The content concentrates on moulding young learners’ minds and futures by bringing fun and vibrance into learning.

Teach Me identified the urgent need to assist and support the existing educational system which currently lacked the long-term ability to carry all learners through. 

‘Our mission is to assist all learners with Mathematics and English to ensure they have a sound grasp of all necessary fundamentals, while supplementing their existing education with entrepreneurship, financial literacy, farming, and life skills,’ said Khawula

Fellow alumnus Ms Phakamile Mazibuko, who was second in the competition, heads the non-profit Phakamile Mazibuko Foundation which focuses on developmental initiatives to enhance the lives of young people, especially women.

Current student, Philisiwe Dlomo, third in the contest, is chairperson of the Youth Managers Foundation (YMF), an NPO focusing on the development of young change-driven leaders, through mentorship, career guidance and leadership development.

Said alumnus and competition organiser, Mr Kwazini Zulu: ‘It was exciting to finally launch the first instalment of this challenge which will now run annually. Our students and alumni at UKZN are doing some really incredible work to make a difference in our world.

‘It’s our privilege to work with them and the University in taking their initiatives to greater heights. We are really looking forward to what we have in the works for 2022.’

Designed to ignite the spark of community consciousness and encourage the spirit of outreach, innovation, collaboration and action through various initiatives, the project is poised to grow annually.

Executive Director, Corporate Relations Ms Normah Zondo congratulated the winners and lauded the initiative. ‘UKZN, in the top tier of leading universities in our country, has been determined for a long time to be community-focused through brilliant initiatives carried out by students, academics and alumni over the years.

‘Some of the initiatives require further support, exposure and resources to become sustainable. This presents an exciting opportunity for us as a leading University and our incredible partners to not only celebrate them but to propel them towards greater success in society,’ added Zondo.

Words: Rakshika Sibran

Photograph: Albert Hirasen

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World AIDS Day Campaign Aimed to Raise Awareness

World AIDS Day Campaign Aimed to Raise Awareness
World AIDS Day event promoted awareness among the youth about the disease.

End Inequalities, End AIDS was the theme of the UKZN-sponsored World AIDS Day event in Umlazi, Durban.

The programme - designed to encourage young people to get tested and be in control of their health by making informed decisions about their bodies - was hosted by Durban Global Shapers, an international network of hubs developed and led by young people, and sponsored by UKZN’s Extended Learning (UEL) Division.

Commenting on the day’s events, Durban Global Shapers member Ms Thembalethu Ntuli said: ‘World AIDS Day is an opportunity for our communities to fight against HIV/AIDS by showing support for those who have been diagnosed and for others who have died from the disease. The day is geared to inform people about the scourge, its symptoms and how it spreads. It is absolutely critical that we continue to educate ourselves about HIV/AIDS to remove misconceptions and the attached stigma.

‘Our outreach as the Global Shaper Community (GSC) in Umlazi was a reminder to the community that the scourge has not gone away and thus there is still an urgent need for increased funding for the HIV/AIDS response to increase awareness about the impact of the disease on people’s lives and to improve the quality of life of sufferers,’ said Ntuli. ‘As the GSC Durban Hub it is critical for us to continue engaging with communities on the issues of healthcare and we look forward to creating more sustainable programmes with other communities in Durban.’

There were facilities at the event where youngsters from the age of 14 were offered blood sugar testing, sexual health education, counselling, and HIV and TB screening.

Guest speaker Ms Nqobile Ndlovu of the Noxolo Nqobile Foundation focused on the importance of prevention, urging local communities and civil society organisations to be more accepting of HIV/AIDS sufferers. Emphasising how it was possible to live a healthy and holistic life while infected, she highlighted the importance of young people being adequately educated about the disease and called for more awareness about the mental issues involved.

UEL’s Marketing Assistant Ms Nkosingiphile Ntshangase said: ‘UKZN Extended Learning is committed to partnering on programmes and initiatives that contribute and serve those most in need. Through our partnership with community-based organisations and government institutions, we aim to contribute to developing innovations to assist individuals and communities and combat structural factors and inequalities which drive the disease.’

Words: NdabaOnline

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PhD Research into Use of Remote Sensing to Classify and Delineate SA Wetlands

PhD Research into Use of Remote Sensing to Classify and Delineate SA Wetlands
Mr Basanda Nondlazi.

Doctoral candidate Mr Basanda Nondlazi has researched the use of ecological remote sensing science innovation in wetlands to solve the water security crisis.

Nondlazi is in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences and a participant in the Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS 2021).

He says results of his research will, for example, improve the National Biodiversity Assessment of Wetlands and the South African Environmental Management Act.

He has also published papers in the International Wetland Journal, with a five-year impact factor of 2.653 (2020).

Nondlazi’s research work has been widely lauded and recognised, earning him accolades such as the South African Rising Star finalist 2019 and the Mail & Guardian Science Voices finalist.

Nondlazi is also a member of the WITS chapter of the Golden Key Awardees’ Honorary Society through his master’s degree thesis in ecosystems ecology. He has over 13 years’ experience in environmental science.

‘Being in the forefront of understanding how the natural environment is important to our survival as human beings and many other life-forms,’ inspires him to do his research. Nondlazi says he is also inspired through his recognition of the importance of understanding how the environment works and the continued journey of pursuing a deeper understanding of how it can be better-taken care of.

In his research which aims to improve how wetlands are monitored, he combines the discipline of remote sensing with ecology to make sizeable and crucial contributions to wetland protection and conservation through improving the accuracy of wetland boundaries and developing new ways of grouping wetlands using ecological principles.

‘My research outcomes encourage South African policymakers to increase the wetland buffering prescription - outlined in our legislation, the South African Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998) which was gazetted on 13 April, 2017 - from 30m to 100m, making it possible to increase the wetland conservation prescription outlined in Environmental Impact Assessments for new development near wetlands,’ said Nondlazi.

‘This progress will see us as South African ecologists sub-classifying one of the most abundant hydrogeomorphic type unit, the depressions, thus improving their conservation and protection. The National Biodiversity Assessment on wetlands in South Africa previously depended on human accuracy in the desktop delineation of wetland boundaries; however, now they have the opportunity to compare human accuracy with empirical data from direct measurements and boundaries derived from remote sensing.’

Nondlazi, who is looking forward to the opportunity to profile his work at PRIS 2021 at UKZN, is excited about the possibility of collaborations, even though he is on the lookout for job offers. ‘Future wars will be about water; let us protect wetland systems.’ 

To find out more about Nondlazi's research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit 

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

Photograph: Supplied

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Sweet Potato Weevil at the Heart of Research for Master’s Degree

Sweet Potato Weevil at the Heart of Research for Master’s Degree
Ms Buyisiwe Ngubane.

After realising the detrimental effects of the sweet potato weevil (SPW) on the crop, UKZN BSc (Hons) Agriculture graduate Ms Buyisiwe Ngubane saw an opportunity for her master’s degree research to have an impact as consumption of the vegetable has increased throughout African countries.

Ngubane says the potato weevil larvae are difficult to control with agro chemicals, spurring the need for alternative pest control methods such as biological control measures.

Ngubane believes her honours degree equipped her with the necessary knowledge and skills to conduct research for her master’s degree.

She has participated in two internships at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the South African Sugarcane Research Institute in recent years. Here, her skills in field and laboratory work, disease isolation, nematode extraction and identification, insect rearing, project management, statistical analysis and scientific report writing were redefined.

An example of biological control is entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN), which are insect killing nematodes from the Heterorhabditis and Steinernema genera. These have a proven efficacy against various insect pests worldwide, hence the idea to test them against SPW for the first time in South Africa.

EPNs are easy to mass produce and superior strains against the SPW have the potential to be commercialised on a mass scale, especially if they prove to be efficient against other detrimental weevil species.

The aim of Ngubane’s research is to screen and identify entomopathogenic nematode isolates that show high efficacy against Cylas Puncticollis.

Furthermore, the superior isolates will be stabilised by creating homozygous inbred lines which will then be exposed to various environmental stresses to select the best inbred lines for further investigations. These include passing them through galleria multiple times to ensure their stability and testing them at field level.

Ngubane is motived by the support and mentorship of her supervisors, family and colleagues, who have played a role in making sure that she stays focused.

‘My desire to grow and make an impact in my field of research can never be underestimated. Passion has proven to be a driver since the beginning of my studies,’ said Ngubane.

She participated in the 23rd symposium of the Nematological Society of Southern Africa held at Tulbagh in the Western Cape from 19-23 September this year and is now looking forward to being part of PRIS 2021.

Her advice to all researchers is to never give up: ‘Research requires strong will. Protocols don’t always work. This doesn’t mean quitting. It means troubleshoot until something works.’

To find out more about Ngubane’s research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit 

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

Photograph: Supplied

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Discovering What Past Sea Levels Were at Kromme Estuary Focus of Master’s Research

Discovering What Past Sea Levels Were at Kromme Estuary Focus of Master’s Research
Mr Tristan Pillay.

Master’s in Environmental Science candidate Mr Tristan Pillay says he was encouraged by his supervisors to participate in UKZN’s 2021 Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS) as they believe it is a good opportunity to get ‘this kind of research out there and communicated’ as well as being a rehearsal for similar events in the future.

Pillay, who completed his BSc Honours in Environmental Science - graduating cum laude - has enjoyed an academic career packed with memorable achievements. He was recognised as an Allan Gray Achiever during the third-year of his BSc, made a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, and participated in the GreenMatter Fellowship, graduating fully from the programme.

Pillay’s research is focused on paleoenvironments, in particular salt marsh and estuarine environments. The aim of his research is to reconstruct past sea levels of the Kromme Estuary in the Eastern Cape, which can be used as a database of information from which future studies can be built. This involves accumulating sediments - which are thousands of years old - from estuarine environments, which contain valuable microfossils such as foraminifera that can be used as a proxy for past environmental conditions.

As part of his research Pillay collected sediment cores from these sites and did lab analyses on them, including radiocarbon dating (done by labs overseas), organics found in the sediment (stems, wood and seeds), as well as counting and identifying foraminifera along the core. With the data collated, statistical analyses were run to determine past environmental signatures, which were then compared and verified with other studies and dated material.

‘I am motivated by my need to complete my studies successfully and to the highest standard that I am capable of and to assist myself, others and most importantly my family,’ said Pillay.

 He is also involved in his community and is a volunteer ambassador for Rise Against Hunger Africa.

To find out more about Pillay’s research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN’s Computer Science Discipline Concludes Successful Online 2021 Industry Seminar Series

UKZN’s Computer Science Discipline Concludes Successful Online 2021 Industry Seminar Series
Tech Talk industry presenters who interacted online with UKZN Computer Science students.

UKZN’s Discipline of Computer Science (CS) has built a reputation for producing highly sought-after BSc graduates, thanks to the dedication of its 11 academic staff on the Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses.

Leveraging on its strength in quality teaching, the Discipline has steadily established an effective honours programme, which is delivered in an efficient manner and continues to attract an increasing number of high performing BSc applicants.

The Discipline’s research profile has also steadily improved over the years, leading to it getting a ranking of 689 among the world’s best computer science and engineering institutions.

The Discipline seeks to leverage its current position for further growth, particularly in the areas of promoting an industry-relevant curriculum and establishing relationships with industry partners and with that in mind embarked on a series of Tech Talks packaged in a Computer Science Industry Seminar series that ran throughout the semester and was a huge success attracting over 300 students to each session.

The series was designed to bridge the gap between industry and UKZN through achieving three aims: to expose students to current technologies and industry best practice in the field of software development; increase employment opportunities for CS and IT graduates by familiarising students with the recruitment processes of its industry partners; and to recognise CS alumni by giving them an opportunity to give current students a first-hand account of their experience in the IT industry, highlighting the growing importance of CS postgraduate education for industry readiness.

Representatives of tech giants such as Barone, Budge and Dominick (BBD), Amazon, Discovery, Facebook and Microsoft spoke on the virtual stage during the series, addressing UKZN students.

The series, in collaboration with the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s Public Relations team, was an initiative of graduate Mr Malusi Mqadi, currently employed as a junior software engineer at BBD, who had contacted the Discipline.

BBD kicked off the series with a three-day workshop covering topics such as understanding the environment, state management and reacting to data, featuring presenters Mr Nhlanhla Lucky Nkosi, Mr Rudolph Esterhuysen, Mr Thabang Ledwaba and Mqadi.

Amazon hosted four subsequent weekly talks in August and September by Mr Paul Grammaticopoulos, covering the recruitment process at Amazon; an alumnus talk by Ms Angeline Pillay; software testing and quality assurance by Mr Rotondwa Ratshidaho and Mr Kevin Becho, and a workshop preparing students for the workplace presented by Hans Hesse.

Discovery hosted its Tech Talk on 9 September, covering the world of Agile and DevOps in the industry by Mr Marcus Kourie and an alumnus talk by Ms Verosha Pillay.

Microsoft hosted the final Tech Talk on 13 October, with Ms Mariam Hossam covering the recruitment process, Mr Asif Valley on the latest trends in Microsoft Office on the internet of things (IoT), use of cloud computing and artificial intelligence, and an alumni’s industry perspective on using Microsoft Office by Dr Nonhlanhla Ignatia Ndlovu.

The BBD workshop also created an opportunity for students with the launch of the BBD Build Challenge, which encouraged them to implement the knowledge and skills highlighted during the course of the workshop and create a cross-platform mobile application using Expo, which solved a niche community or societal problem that the student had identified. Dozens of entries were received with Mr Theoshan Moodley selected as the winner and awarded a R4 000 Takealot voucher, Ms Kiara Sharma Maharaj was second winning a R2 000 Takealot voucher, followed by Mr Asheran Moodley who received a R1 000 Takealot voucher. All three were students of Mr Luke Vorster, who expressed his pride in their accomplishments.

The series was well received by students and garnered positive feedback. Maharaj of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science said: ‘The Tech Talk was extremely insightful. I have never coded an app before, and the bootcamp showed me how straightforward it is to develop android apps. It’s almost like magic, with instant results that you can view on your mobile phone. It also felt great to connect with other people passionate about computer science. After learning this skill with React Native and Expo, I will definitely be coding more apps in the future. Many thanks to the event hosts for this opportunity!’

Said fellow student, Xolani Lombo: ‘Tech Talk helped me understand how real-world mobile applications are made. Getting to know how easily one can make a cross-platform mobile application was very exciting as it built a foundation for me to develop mobile applications that can help people.’

Reflecting on the Tech Talk series, Academic Leader for Computer Science Dr Mandla Gwetu expressed his delight in seeing how well the Discipline’s alumni were doing in industry and the readiness of industry partners to work with academia towards a mutually beneficial relationship.

Gwetu thanked Vorster under whose module the BBD workshop was hosted, the SMSC tech team for assisting with software installations for the workshops, the CAES PR team for liaising with industry partners and marketing the series in a very professional manner, the industry partners and UKZN Computer Science alumni for sharing their expertise with current students, and most importantly UKZN students who participated in the Tech Talks and demonstrated an eagerness to grow professionally.

Words: Sonali Jagath

Photographs: Asok Rajh

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Scientific Reports Publication Focuses on Accurate Measurements of Speed of Light

Scientific Reports Publication Focuses on Accurate Measurements of Speed of Light
Professor Naven Chetty and Mr Oelof Kruger.

Research by Professor Naven Chetty in the School of Chemistry and Physics (SCP) and Mr Oelof Kruger of the National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NMISA) involving the use of a vacuum air refractometer for accurate and convenient measurement of the refractive index of air was featured in the Scientific Reports publication of the prestigious Nature journal.

‘Having an article published in this journal is considered laudable in the scientific community considering the high rejection rate within the Nature group of journals,’ said Chetty. ‘Being featured in such a multidisciplinary publication demonstrates that our work is multidimensional and straddling the fields of engineering and physics.’

Chetty’s expertise lies in applied physics, with much of his research focusing on biomedical physics, while Kruger is head of the Length Section at NMISA, dedicated to the maintenance, research and dissemination of realisation of the SI definition of the metre in South Africa.

Titled: Development of a Permanent Vacuum Hollow Prism Air Refractometer for use in Dimensional Metrology, their paper covers research that makes important contributions to the science of measurement by testing the accuracy of a modified, portable air refractometer - an instrument used to measure the speed of light in air - that is more convenient to use for everyday applications and more stable over long-term usage than traditional air refractometers, and which may provide more accurate measurements.

Since the international system of units (SI) defines the unit of a metre as the speed of light in a vacuum, accurately determining the speed of light in air is essential to ensure a reliable standard measurement for countless applications, and has to take into consideration several environmental factors when conducted in the air.

Refractive index measurements compensate for changes in the speed of light due to these conditions, and are used in applications from optometry to veterinary medicine to urology, and even the food industry. Air refractometers provide this index measurement.

These instruments commonly use a tube design as the etalon device that measures the small changes in the wavelength of light, but Chetty and Kruger’s research employed a commercial prism to function as the vacuum etalon. They focused on the design, fabrication and testing of this modified refractometer that uses a permanent vacuum and an added laser path for improved stability, and which does not require a vacuum pump, making it easier to use but equally as accurate as other refractometers.

This novel research, building on prior research by Kruger and Chetty and using their low-cost air refractometer design, achieved results with high accuracy that will be important for everyday use as well as for improved accuracy in research.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied

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Student Creates Gender-Based Violence Artwork

Student Creates Gender-Based Violence Artwork
Art student Ms Aphiwe Khalishwayo with her work on gender-based violence.

Visual Arts student Ms Aphiwe Khalishwayo has created artwork titled Scars, which aims to raise awareness about the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa.

‘This piece is about rape and the effects it has on a victim,’ said Khalishwayo. ‘The artwork contains words that perpetrators use on victims and everything they say before and after assaulting them. I also created images that illustrate different types of emotions that victims of rape go through after being abused.’

For Khalishwayo, the artwork means letting go of anger. ‘It’s a story close to home. Living in South Africa female rape is something that hits home because we hear about it every day in the news. I came up with the concept after I was a given a project in class to create artwork based on social issues we are going through as a country.’

Studying towards a Visual Arts degree has equipped Khalishwayo with ‘skills and the confidence to be able to be part of my artworks, hence the images on the piece are images of myself in a vulnerable (nude) state. This helped me to emphasise my point and has shown me that art is not always paint on a canvas.

‘Through this artwork I want to express myself without using words, and for it to be the voice of others out there, so they know that they are not alone, that there are people who understand what they are going through.’

Khalishwayo advises other artists to ‘focus on doing art that you are passionate about. That’s when you produce art that is meaningful and you are able to express yourself because art is a language as well.’

She plans to carry on making art that speaks to people and moves them. ‘I want to help others through my art.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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Students Host Performing Arts Presentation Promoting Deaf Culture Awareness

Students Host Performing Arts Presentation Promoting Deaf Culture Awareness
Scenes from the Listen with Your Eyes, Speak with Your Hands event.

Listen with Your Eyes, Speak with Your Hands was the theme of a performing arts initiative hosted by Deaf students who use South African Sign Language (SASL) at UKZN.

With a steady increase in the enrolment of Deaf students at UKZN since 2016, significant progress in providing SASL services have been made by the UKZN’s Disability Support Unit (DSU). There are currently 11 Deaf students registered across three of UKZN’s campuses.

The initiative aimed to increase awareness of Deaf culture and SASL as well as draw attention to Disability Month which culminated with the International Day of Disabled Persons (IDDP) on 3 December.

Disability Co-ordinator on the Howard College and Medical School Campuses Mr Nevil Balakrishna, who served as the programme director for the event, reflected on some of the milestones achieved by UKZN which graduated its first Deaf student in 2020 with the individual subsequently enrolling as the first Deaf postgraduate student at the Institution.

Said Balakrishna: ‘Today is about showcasing the talent of our Deaf students. They have had to face numerous challenges and barriers in the basic education system as well as in applying and navigating their way to access Higher Education.’

He highlighted the three levels that define people with hearing loss and the coding system used in South African Higher Education:

D: Deaf people who recognise SASL as a medium of communication

d: Deaf people who have hearing loss but don’t use SASL

HoH: Persons hard of hearing and using a range of assistive devices and technology, or with cochlear implants to optimise their residual hearing.

UKZN student Ms Philile Shezi spoke on the topic of Deaf culture which she described ‘as a way of living that allows Deaf people to know who they are and live in a way that is unique to them including their beliefs, behaviour and religion.’

She explained some common behaviours deemed acceptable in Deaf culture and considered rude in the hearing culture such as: tapping one on the shoulder to gain attention and, establishing eye contact with all persons whether an adult or a child.

Shezi listed a few of the don’ts in Deaf culture, including grabbing a Deaf person’s hands while they are speaking; yelling or using exaggerated mouth movements; speaking when a Deaf person isn’t looking at you; standing or walking in between Deaf people when they are communicating; giving Deaf people labels; mocking them or using funny gestures that are offensive; and speaking all at once which is disruptive, especially during online lectures.

During the performing arts initiative, the students performed a thrilling drama piece that illustrated some of the hardships experienced by Deaf children and their families in the journey to accepting their disability. 

Noting how deafness is an invisible disability, Balakrishna encouraged families to focus on acceptance and communication as important tools in providing a sense of belonging for the Deaf. He said the initiative was designed to create awareness and debunk myths in order for better communication pathways to be developed with the Deaf community. 

The students performed a musical item in which they translated Michael Jackson’s Heal the World and You are not Alone into SASL. UKZN students Ms Londeka Phakathi explained how this was achieved through listening to the vibrations of the songs and tons of practise, while Ms Thabile Qondani shared a poem by Sandra Stolnik titled, Being Deaf.

The audience was treated to a routine that showcased some of the student’s best dance moves.

Closing the event, Balakrishna noted how this was the first initiative of its kind at UKZN and acknowledged the role played by the 11 Deaf students at the University who planned the show and performed in it.

He also recognised UKZN alumnus and employee, Mr Lungelo Mbatha for his donation of R50 000 to the DSU to fund like-minded programmes.

Balakrishna thanked all those in attendance, especially the sign language interpreters, for providing their much-needed support to the Deaf students. ‘The highest form of democracy for disabled people is when they themselves lead their own development - and this has been the perfect example!’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Andile Ndlovu

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UKZN Academic Recognised for Participation in Africa Universities’ Day Celebrations

UKZN Academic Recognised for Participation in Africa Universities’ Day Celebrations
Professor Vannie Naidoo.

Professor Vannie Naidoo of UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, has received a letter of recognition and appreciation from the Secretary General of the African Association of Universities (AAU) Professor Olusola Bandele Oyewole for her participation and contribution as one of the panelists in the Africa Universities’ Day Celebrations 2021, held online recently under the theme: Building Technology-Based Resilient Universities, Now!

The week-long celebration, included stakeholders in Higher Education, government, and business on the African continent.

Said Naidoo: ‘In keeping with the relevance and importance of Africa week celebrations, the continent and its Higher Education academics, experts and stakeholders need to be saluted for bravely adapting to online/ virtual teaching platforms at such an accelerated pace. In spite of critics and Africa always being labelled as lagging behind in technology, African universities worked tirelessly in 2020-2021 and adapted their teaching where possible to online/ virtual classroom modes.

‘The accelerated pace of moving from the traditional to a virtual classroom was a very stressful time for all academics, students and other stakeholders in Higher Education. The move to virtual online platforms of teaching and learning transpired due to continued quarantine and lockdown restrictions being imposed. The only way forward for the University’s academic programmes during a vicious and deadly COVID-19 pandemic that affected not just Africa, but the whole world, was to migrate to online learning.’

Naidoo said online learning had been underutilised in the past, especially in developing countries in Africa, however, the current crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the entire world to rely on it for education delivery.

‘The playing fields in Higher Education have drastically changed in the current climate, and technology can be seen as a positive step towards digital evolution for society, especially during the recent pandemic. Fostering collaborations between different universities in various African regions has allowed Higher Education leadership and experts, researchers and other Higher Education stakeholders to discuss their challenges of migrating to online learning platforms. This type of dialogue celebrated by the African Association of Universities and its members and invited guests from the African continent can only strengthen African universities as they learn from each other by sharing knowledge on COVID-19, technology adaptation and through meeting challenges associated with online learning.’

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied

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African Instrumentalist was “Artist in Residency” at School of Arts

African Instrumentalist was “Artist in Residency” at School of Arts
From left: Mr Victor Sithole, Ms Zama Mlambo and Ms Nombuso Buthelezi.

The School of the Arts, in partnership with the Mellon Foundation’s Artist in Residence programme, has hosted artist and African music instrument maker and player Victor Gabela Sithole, who spent three months working with students in the African Music and Dance (AMD) discipline.

Sithole worked with several AMD and music foundation students teaching them how to play a range of indigenous instruments through intensive workshops and was a featured artist during UKZN’s 2021 African Cultural Calabash.

He also performed alongside students as part of their final-year exit recitals. During a final concert presentation before his departure, Sithole performed on a variety of indigenous instruments with all AMD students he had worked with.

‘It was an amazing experience for me to teach students about indigenous instruments,’ he said. ‘I applaud the Director of the African Music Project and senior lecturer Dr Patricia Opondo and her entire team for allowing me to spread the gospel of who we are as African people through these culturally academic activities. The residency was invaluable as I got to share my knowledge and experience with the youth.

‘I am also grateful to the Mellon Foundation for the rare opportunity. I look forward to collaborating with them in terms of acquainting our children with our cultural knowledge.’

AMD student Ms Zama Mlambo said she had learned a lot about indigenous instruments thanks to Sithole. ‘Not only did we learn how to play them but we learned about the type of wood that is used to assemble them as well as their original purpose and who played them. An important fact about indigenous instruments is that they are sacred - they have a specific purpose, a spiritual alignment,’ said Mlambo. ‘Victor Sithole taught us with great respect and humour, reminding us why we pursued African Music and Dance. Thank you to Mellon Foundation, Dr Opondo and the AMD third-year class of 2021.’

Said Opondo: ‘Victor Sithole’s residency has left a very important mark on the programme as students learned to play these rare Zulu instruments. Second-year students will have more time to further their mastery of the instruments, and contribute towards their revitalisation both within KwaZulu-Natal and globally,’ said Opondo. ‘In his final concert in November, Sithole shared the stage with all the AMD students he’s been teaching, producing a memorable concert. We will air the concert online on the African Music Project Facebook page this month.’

Opondo thanked the Mellon Foundation, the Dean of the School of Arts Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa, and Professor Nogwaja Zulu for inviting the AMD programme to be one of the School’s hosting partners. ‘Hosting two luminaries in the music heritage sector Mr Mbuso Khoza in 2019 and Victor Sithole was significant, as the students had the unique opportunity to engage with these two cultural icons. The Artist in Residence programme has allowed UKZN to further foster significant community engagement,’ she said.

Sithole, affectionately known as Mathang’etshitshi to his fans and peers, has performed in America, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Australia, Cape Verde, Italy, France, Finland, Spain, England and Sweden.

He combines Western and African instruments, more especially Zulu indigenous instruments, and celebrates indigenous music and culture with a crossover into jazz producing what he calls “indijazz”. He leads the Durban-based outfit ilima which plays his neo-traditional compositions.

Sithole first started playing udloko (single-stringed zither) at the age of seven and has influenced many South African artists. He conducts online workshops on playing indigenous instruments.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Trevor Lebogang Sejamoholo

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CHS Leadership and EQ Development Workshops

CHS Leadership and EQ Development Workshops
Attendants from one of the Leadership workshops.

The College of Health Sciences (CHS) hosted a series of one-day online Leadership and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Development workshops for staff and students in leadership positions.

The aim of the workshops was to explore and enhance current leadership capabilities and help develop skills in leadership on campus and in the community.

Hosted by renowned coach and mentor Ms Mariane Vorster, who has more than 18 years’ experience in strategic leadership development, the leadership workshop examined issues relevant to young student leaders, including leadership versus management, communication, assumptions and stereotypes, conflict management, reflection, and emotional intelligence.

The EQ workshop examined basic communication skills such as email etiquette.

Audiology student Aaliah Motala said she had learned a lot during the two-day leadership course. ‘What stood out for me is that as a young leader I have to understand my emotions and also those of other people,’ she said.

‘I am now better equipped to handle my emotions and have acquired skills in dealing with other people’s emotions which is a big plus in the leadership world.’

Said Physio student Mr Aman Ramdhani: ‘The workshop was very helpful and enjoyable. It made us aware of problems we hadn’t recognised before and helped us on the road to becoming better leaders.’

Pharmacy student Ms Keiyara Rameshwarnath said: ‘I am glad to know we are not alone and other disciplines have the same experiences as us.’

‘I am grateful for the opportunity. It was an eye opener and I came to realise where I need to improve,’ said Ms Ntombifuthi Mngadi.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Image: Supplied

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Swazi National Graduates with PhD in Public Health

Swazi National Graduates with PhD in Public Health
Dr Cebisile Xolile Ngcamphalala.

PhD graduate in Public Health Medicine Dr Cebisile Xolile Ngcamphalala says she is looking forward to contributing extensively to interpreting and using health economics evidence to strengthen health systems and address pressing public health challenges.

Ngcamphalala is the Associate Director of Health Systems Straightening at the Health Research Non-Governmental Organisation in Eswatini.

Supervised by Professor Themba Ginindza, Ngcamphalala - who specialised in Health Economics - analysed the economic impact of ill-health, an assessment which is distinct but complementary to clinical and epidemiological approaches to disease burden assessment.

‘Specifically, the study provided evidence on the extent of costs information associated with cancer of the cervix, the prostate and female breast in the sub-Saharan African region and further estimated the economic burden - direct medical and indirect costs - associated with the diagnosis and management of each of the cancers in Eswatini,’ she explained.

Ngcamphalala’s findings indicated main costs drivers in the diseases’ management continuum - information critical for policy makers and planners to assist in decision-making and research priority settings.

‘Finally, using the latest pricing and population projections, the study further estimated the population and costs projections for the HPV vaccine for Eswatini,’ she said.

She did her Master’s degree in Health Economics which made her realise the value of health economics in addressing the pressing public health challenges.

‘The disease burden is always high in low income countries yet resources are limited. This underscores the need for understanding the economic burden of disease (costs associated with the condition) in order to inform cost containing measures and maximize efficiencies for optimum output,’ said Ngcamphalala

‘I feel excited and honored to have graduated. This has been a fruitful four-year journey,’ she said.

‘Balancing academics, work and family was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to get the degree thanks to all the support I received.’

She had also enjoyed a great time studying at UKZN: ‘I am grateful to God for the opportunity and give thanks to my supervisors who mentored me all the way. I also appreciate the CHS scholarship which funded the data collection process,’ she said.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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Data Science Extravaganza Targets Top Learners

Data Science Extravaganza Targets Top Learners
Winners of spot prizes at UKZN’s online Data Science event.

UKZN’s Women in Analytics and Dudes in Data event has become a highly anticipated and sought after happening for high school learners.

The School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) hosted the science extravaganza online, with pupils participating from various schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Professor Albert Modi welcomed more than 80 guests, speakers, teachers and top-performing Grade 11 students to the virtual event after a musical item from Barnyard star, Jerryn Fosteras.

Modi said he hoped learners who chose UKZN for their Higher Education would experience positive outcomes from the day’s programme and that advice given would encourage them to keep achieving greatness and broadcast the value of data science.

Dean and Head of the SMSCS and brainchild of the event Professor Delia North said the programme was designed in such a way that current postgraduate students and professionals working in the field of data science had the opportunity to speak about their experiences with the aim of inspiring young adults in their career choices.

‘At UKZN, we link very closely with industry because we want to make sure our programmes are aligned with the needs of industry and deliver the kind of graduates who are needed in the workplace,’ said North.

She encouraged students to pick a starting point of versatility, look for programmes that support qualifications in high demand and to choose wisely, based on their passions. She also explained the structure of data science degrees at UKZN.

North thanked industry partners and sponsors in attendance for their support including Quantify my Future, the South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA), the International Statistical Institute, UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, and SAS (previously Statistical Analysis System).

Keynote speaker Professor Jennifer Priestley, who is Director of the Centre for Statistics and Analytical Services at Kennesaw State University in the United States, encouraged the youngsters to study computational disciplines to help propel their careers and better equip them to contribute to society. ‘I encourage you to study computational science and mathematics and statistics computer science - these skills will serve you well,’ said Priestley.

Another keynote speaker Mr Murray de Villiers, who is the senior manager for education and academic programmes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA)at SAS, stressed the importance of data scientists - and also being a well-rounded data scientist aware of the importance of soft skills. ‘You will learn about subject matter, domain expertise, creative problem solving and project management and all of those things known as analytics hard skills, but you also have to create the ability within yourself to understand what’s going on - that involves soft skills,’ said de Villiers.

He explained the necessity to integrate and mesh the various learning areas in order to be a well-rounded data scientist, saying the top 10 jobs on LinkedIn all demanded very strong soft skills. ‘So it is worth your while to look at your soft skill set.’

The students then moved into breakaway rooms where they were addressed by UKZN Statistics alumni.

Alumni Ms Danielle Roberts, Ms Riona Arjoon and Ms Thandakazi Jantjies spoke to the Women in Analytics group.

Roberts is a lecturer in Statistics on UKZN’s Westville campus who has just completed her PhD in Statistics; Arjoon studied Statistics at UKZN, completing her honours degree before going on to work at Stats SA and is now living in The Netherlands where she works as a Data Scientist; while Jantjies completed her BSc Honours degree (Statistics) on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus in 2020 and is currently doing her Master’s degree in Data Science on the Westville campus.

The three speakers provided a wealth of information and were tangible examples of how women in science are making their mark.

The Dudes in Data students were addressed by Professor Shaun Ramroop, Mr Dane Bax and Mr Aaron Naidu.

Ramroop, a professor of Statistics on the Pietermaritzburg campus, has a PhD in Statistics and was the former academic leader of Statistics at UKZN. The accomplished academic, top class teacher and researcher encouraged and advised learners to build on their knowledge incrementally, implement a good learning system, conduct themselves professionally, and to seek assistance when needed.

Bax, who has BCom degree and an MBA in Finance and Economics, is currently doing a PhD in Statistics at UKZN. He lives on the Isle of Man, where he is the lead Data Scientist for Microgaming.

Naidu, a second year Data Science student at UKZN, spoke to the boys about life as a student and what the degree entails.

Mr Jeremy Beukes of SAGEA spoke about his organisation’s Quantify Your Future initiative.

Beukes said SAGEA was excited to be partnering with UKZN in its new suite of data science programmes, and thanked several organisations for sponsoring prizes for this initiative. Quantify your Future sponsored the Takealot vouchers given away on the day.

Mr Andre Zitzke of SAS said UKZN was one of Africa’s premier institutions for studying data science, which was important as the future became more data driven.

Professor Temesgen Zewotir - professor in Statistics on UKZN’s Westville campus and one of the two foundational developers of the Data Science programme at UKZN - closed the online event.

Words: Swasti Maney

Image: Supplied

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UKZN hosts High School Summer Programme on Intellectual Property

UKZN hosts High School Summer Programme on Intellectual Property
Scenes from the WIPO SA Summer High School Programme.

Five KwaZulu-Natal high schools were invited to do presentations during a UKZN Summer School Programme on their understanding of intellectual property (IP) and innovation.

Schools which took part were:

•    Newlands East Secondary School where a Smartway walking stick has been developed as an alternative to guide dogs.

•    Eden College which reviewed various global copyright cases.

•    Dumehlezi Secondary School which presented on an arts and drama performance and how it could be protected on the basis of Intellectual Property regulations.

•    Westville Girls’ High School which demonstrated how the Griffin Guard Jacket it developed could ward off potential criminals

•    Umkhumbane Secondary School where a diffusing system has been created to remove storm drain blockages.

The presentations were judged by: UKZN Student Entrepreneurship Manager, Mr Khutso Ramontja; Academic Leader: Human Body and Function at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences, Dr Andile Khathi, and Ms Zama Buthelezi of Spoor and Fisher Attorneys.

First prize of R20 000 went to Umkhumbane Secondary School, second prize of R10 000 to Westville Girls’ High School, and third prize of R5 000 to Dumehlezi Secondary School.

The event, the 2020/2021 WIPO Summer School on Intellectual Property (IP) and Transfer of Technology (TT), was hosted by InQubate, the Technology Transfer Office within UKZN from 23 November to 3 December. It was held in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) through the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Japan Patent Office (JPO).

In his welcoming address, UKZN’s Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation Professor Mosa Moshabela encouraged students to fuel their curiosity in order to better understand things around them and drive progress and development in the world. ‘As you engage on issues of IP don’t think about it as something foreign or far away, but rather as something that can be applied to current everyday life.’ Moshabela wished the students well going forward and invited them to start imagining the future and realising that what they do today, impacts tomorrow.

The Acting Head of NIPMO Ms Paballo Masite remarked during her talk on how fortunate learners were to be exposed to IP at high school level and encouraged them to grasp a few concepts they could grow into as a field of interest or even a career. NIPMO is based within the Department of Science and Innovation and students were encouraged to view their website to find out more about service offerings.

The Executive Manager of CIPC, Ms Nomonde Maimela, explained how the organisation operated as an agency for the Department of Trade and Industry and was responsible for industry regulation and registrations of IP. Maimela said she was passionate about inspiring interest in IP among the youth as well as her company’s efforts to ensure that IP was incorporated in the basic education curriculum. Maimela focused on how IP was at the core of artificial intelligence, the fourth industrial revolution and the COVID-19 vaccines saying: ‘You need to be informed about how you can protect your IP as an inventor or artist so that you can benefit from it.’ 

Professor Sadulla Karjiker of Stellenbosch University gave an overview of copyright law and outlined how it was limited to literary, musical and artistic works. Karjiker explained how the work had to be original, in material form, with the author being a South African citizen residing or domiciled in South Africa or a Berne Convention country. 

He said IP was the cheapest form of property one could own, but identified work created during the course of employment as the exception, as it became the property of the employer. He mentioned how copyright had a definite life span that was generally valid for 50 years from the year of the creator’s death or the time the work was first published.

Mr Gregory Khoza of the CIPC interacted with learners in a question and answer session on the various forms of IP including trademarks, design, copyright and patents.

In closing, Technology Transfer Manager Ms Charlotte Mashaba thanked the school principals, teachers and the students for their participation in the programme. She also thanked InQubate’s partners, as well as sponsors Innovate Durban, Spoor and Fisher Attorneys and Adams & Adams for making the event possible.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Albert Hirasen

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Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations Career Expo

Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations Career Expo
Dr Ashika Maharaj.

The Discipline of Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations in the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance hosted its inaugural Research Showcase.

Postgraduate students at the Career Expo interacted with Human Resources (HR) and Industrial relations (IR) practitioners who showcased the diverse careers on offer in the industry.

The following HR and IR practitioners made presentations at the event:

•    Dr Christy Leask,Lead Psychologist - Mental Fitness Symbiosis Consulting. Leask, who is based in the United Kingdom, shared insight from an international perspective about the mental fitness of employees who had to handle a hybrid way of working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

•    Dr Karen Ortlepp, co-founder of Leadership Insight Consulting, who shared some of her experiences from 30 years in the Human Resources field, outlining how the sector has evolved, especially in the area of consulting during the pandemic 

•    Ms Sanash Sewparsad, Group Head of Talent, EVP and Wellness for the PPS Group, who spoke about her career growth from a UKZN graduate to a practitioner, managing and navigating change on personal and professional levels

•    Ms Sinqobile Khuluse, Head of Human Resources at Sandock Austral Shipyards, discussed her career aspirations and how they are driven by people, passion and purpose. Khuluse also spoke about the benefits of using social media to enhance personal brands.

•    Ms Yavini Gengan, UKZN alumnus and ex-HR Administrator at AbbVieSA, whose presentation focused on not giving up hope when applying for graduate recruitment opportunities as well as dealing with the challenges of being an intern and taking full advantage of the growth learning curve.

•    Ms Maxine Ruiters, UKZN alumnus and People Partner at Banner Home Office (Makro), who shared her experience of the pressure of being a graduate and getting placed in a role with many functions resulting in her having to multi-task.

•    Ms Chantal Haripersad, UKZN Alumnus and Ex Group HR Manager at BMW SuperTech, highlighted the importance of continually gaining experience in various fields as HR is a multi-disciplinary field that is constantly evolving.

•    Ms Alishia Mudaly, HR Executive and Specialist Wellness Counsellor who is Co-Director of HR Ingenuity and Director of the Essence Counselling Centre. Mudaly debated the importance of stepping up as an HR practitioner by being well-rounded and adapting smoothly to a changing environment.

•    Ms Prashanti Maharaj, HR Co-ordinator at SMOLLAN, spoke about maintaining a balance between studying and being employed as a working postgraduate student.

Programme organiser and Discipline Academic Leader Dr Ashika Maharaj said the inaugural Expo took place at the perfect time as the Discipline was in the process of restructuring degrees at honours level for roll out in 2023.

‘We also plan to offer an Honours degree in Human Resources Development where I’m hoping to introduce a work integrated learning module where we can introduce a stronger practical component. This was a first of many Career Expos I hope to have with the discipline and experts from industry to help us make this programme a highly integrated programme when it comes to theory and workplace learning,’ said Maharaj.

The Dean and Head of the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, Professor Stephen Mutula, said the expo was well timed as the School would benefit from hearing from industry on how graduates can be well prepared for the working world.

‘According to Stats SA, the unemployment rate reached 32% in the first three months of 2021 and this does not include the impact, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, of the July unrest on joblessness. This is very worrisome, especially for people who are coming out of university expecting to find jobs. The fourth industrial revolution will open up new jobs requiring new skills. How do we prepare for that? Your presence here is very important as it gives us direction of what we should be doing in terms of developing skills of our graduates.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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Ujamaa Centre Pilots Programme to Engage Ministries on “Trans Lives and Lived Realities”

Ujamaa Centre Pilots Programme to Engage Ministries on “Trans Lives and Lived Realities”
Participants at the Contextual Bible Studies series hosted by the Ujamaa Centre and Inclusive and Affirming Ministries.

The Ujamaa Centre in UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics and the Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) have started a process of developing a series of Contextual Bible Studies (CBS) to contest “conservative Bible statements” about lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) people.

According to the Head of the Gender and Religion Programme at UKZN, Professor Charlene van der Walt, the CBS series aims to contest heteronormative discourse and also seeks to assist participants in the reading of biblical text by and with LGBTIQ+ people.

‘In this way, the Bible could become a life-affirming source that affirms sexual and gender diversity and opens the possibility for LGBTIQ+ human dignity to be recognised and celebrated,’ said van der Walt. ‘We hope that this will play a part in increasing and improving equity in access to education, health and legal services, and human rights, which are often denied because of religious homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.’

Ujamaa Centre and IAM recently facilitated an online Contextual Bible Study with a group of UKZN postgraduate students who have been exploring issues of masculinity and gender in a module situated within the Gender and Religion programme in the School.

The Bible Study concentrated on the Ethiopian eunuchs mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Acts 8:26 - 40. Eunuchs in the Bible were figures who lived on the margins, excluded from religious or cultural practices according to the culture and religion of the Ancient Near Eastern times. They were usually appointed as court officials and were tasked with, among other things, serving and protecting women in the palace. They were seen as “safe” because they would not be sexually attracted to women whom they guarded. The term eunuch is derived from “bed guards”.

Among the questions students were asked to think about were: (1) Who in the contemporary church and society are the eunuchs and (2) How do the church and society traditionally respond to them? Students identified those who are “othered” in the church and in the broader society - a diversity of vulnerable groups and people including those who live with disabilities; sex workers; those who experience xenophobia; women who are excluded due to childlessness by family and culture in Africa where reproduction determines their worth, and trans, diverse and intersex people.

The Contextual Bible Study ended with students being asked: How does it challenge you to respond to and journey with trans, intersex and gender diverse people in your community?

Said van der Walt: ‘Responding from diverse contexts, students concluded that trans, intersex and gender diverse people need to be treated with respect and institutions that deny respect should be challenged for better access to services. This speaks of inclusion for all and also for the recognition of the gifts of those who are seen as “other” or on the margins.

‘Both the Ujamaa Centre and IAM remain committed to the process of developing CBS resources to not only assist faith communities to grapple with sexual and gender diversity, but also to enable LGBTIQ+ people to claim the Bible as a source of liberation and change,’ added van der Walt.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Image: Supplied

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