Webinar Series Explores the Devastation Caused by KZN Floods

Webinar Series Explores the Devastation Caused by KZN Floods
Speakers at the webinar (top from left): Professor Sadhana Manik, Dr Charles MacRobert, Mr Bobby Peek, (bottom from left) Mr Sbu Zikode, Mr Emmanuel Letebele and Ms Tashmica Sharma.

The Recent KZN Floods: An Autopsy of a Natural Hazard which Became a Disaster, was the title of part one of a webinar series featuring speakers from a variety of sectors.

Facilitated by Professor Sadhana Manik of UKZN’s School of Education, the webinar focused on the causes and impacts of the flooding, exposure to hazards, risks, and the vulnerability of communities.

Manik explained that the second part of the webinar was ‘a tribute to victims of the KZN floods.’ She acknowledged that ‘residents were still suffering in the aftermath of the floods - with water and energy insecurity apart from the food insecurity and inadequate spaces to house the affected victims. There were also health-related risks from water-borne diseases.’

In his welcome address, Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Education, Professor Thabo Msibi said he was pleased to host the first in a UKZN series of conversations about climate change with the focus on the recent flooding in the province.

He said latest statistics revealed that more than 400 people had died and 54 remained missing, while 40 000 had been displaced. The damage to infrastructure had been immense, leaving many without electricity or water for weeks.

Msibi highlighted how the floods have affected people of all races, classes and genders, with the poor remaining the most vulnerable. 

‘These events demand that we act and act now. It would be irresponsible for us to keep quiet as a knowledge-generating institution when society depends on us to lead the way,’ said Msibi.

‘We are not only contributing intellectually as UKZN, but we have also responded by providing support to the impacted staff, students and communities at large.’

A senior lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering at Stellenbosch University, Dr Charles MacRobert factored in the geology of eThekwini as a cause of the landslides that occurred, saying how the district comprises of low-lying areas prone to flooding; has a poorly controlled surface water flow partly because of poorly maintained drainage systems; and how some areas, such as those around Quarry Road, contain silt and clay which are prone to long-term seepage due to leaking pipes and soakaways.

The Director of GroundWork and a member of the Presidential Climate Change Commission, Mr Bobby Peek reviewed the historical context of climate change saying how the world is in crisis due to countries in the North having plundered the resources of the South as well as getting rich by burning fossil fuels. ‘The rich are secure behind their walls while the poor are impacted the most by climate change today,’ said Peek.

Calling for a disaster management plan to be created for the city of Durban, Peek remarked on the importance of developing a resilient city, with a resilient economy, and efficient service delivery and healthcare systems.

He provided examples of how to achieve this including: rethinking governance in an open democracy; restructuring the city; developing long- and short-term plans to rebuild the city; rethinking settlement patterns, and reviewing town planning by-laws.

The founding member of Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA, Mr Sbu Zikode said it was a pity that the struggles of informal settlement dwellers were only recognised when middle income and rich people were affected.

Focusing on why dwellers of informal settlements build on river banks, he noted how this was often the last resort for them after being unable to access better land. He urged the government to revisit the land policy and provide better infrastructure in future.

Thanking everyone who had provided aid to those affected by the floods, Zikode asked a poignant question: ‘Where do informal settlement dwellers go to rebuild?’

Acting Manager for Strategic Planning at eThekwini Municipality, Mr Emmanuel Letebele explored some of the causes of flooding, listing them as land degradation, deforestation of catchment areas, poor land zoning and inadequate drainage systems. He said the municipality was concerned about increased population density along riverbanks and acknowledged the challenges, saying there were plans to cope with the issues.

Letebele reviewed hazardous risks through the lens of the municipality’s disaster risk reduction plan which focuses on four priority areas: understanding disaster risk in its entirety; strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk; investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience, and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to build back better.

A UKZN PhD student researching Disaster Management, Ms Tashmica Sharma, highlighted how in addition to climate change and the greenhouse gas affect, other factors had an influence such as the Milankovitch Cycles (they describe the collective effects of the changes in the earth’s movements on its climate over hundreds and thousands of years) and the Obliquity Cycle (the angle of the Earth’s axial tilt with respect to the orbital plane).

Remarking on how 300mm of rainfall fell on 11 April this year, within a 24-hour period in KwaZulu-Natal, Sharma said: ‘This is a stark reminder that we cannot outdo the forces of nature. There was and still is a clear need for investment in infrastructure and better and more storm drainage systems.’

Sharma called for effective governance which requires government and the public and private sectors to work together in unison.

With Durban likely to lose between 1.5% and 2 % of its GDP due to the flood, she said more effort was required from the government in restructuring a disaster management plan and more input needed from the public and private sectors.

Manik concluded the first webinar by stating that ‘the KZN floods and landslides were a wakeup call for everyone.’ In closing she said: ‘the frequency and intensity of extreme events have increased and hazard preparedness and community resilience must be foregrounded and strengthened in KZN through collective action.’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied


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PhD Investigates How Sexually Active Students Engage with HIV Testing

PhD Investigates How Sexually Active Students Engage with HIV Testing
PhD in Psychology graduate Dr Betty Chebitok.

UKZN Academic Development Officer Dr Betty Chebitok graduated with a PhD in Psychology following research she did using a discursive approach into how university students discuss HIV risk in relation to their testing practices for the disease.

Examiners commented on the importance of Chebitok’s detailed work on understanding how students positioned themselves and HIV risk. 

This study found that most participants constructed HIV as a huge threat and positioned themselves as being aware of how serious the threat of the disease is in their setting, but distanced themselves from it. ‘This distancing relates to the negative identity of being HIV positive, having a visible sickness with a body severely affected which puts one at risk of stigma,’ said Chebitok. ‘In this situation, the positions which are available to them are limited, while discourses that are available in their context limit their engagement with HIV testing as a protective practice.’

Chebitok found that participants who reported testing did it in a crisis, being concerned about being infected with HIV after engaging in unprotected sex, or worried about being betrayed by a partner and being exposed to the virus.

‘Prioritising HIV prevention through testing does not help youth in the development of their desired identity - it seems to generate a negative HIV identity which works to undermine the value of HIV testing in their everyday life,’ she said. ‘Their avoidance of HIV testing is one of their many small actions to protect themselves from the negative identity and from knowing it, and others from associating it with them.’

She recommends that ‘health interventions targeting the youth need to focus on subtle aspects of HIV risk, such as their construction of the self (identity).

‘More discursive, qualitative research on this topic is suggested at UKZN to understand how HIV testing strategies and interventions on its campuses have worked,’ said Chebitok.

She thanked her family, friends and supervisor, Professor Mary van der Riet, for their support.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal


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International Fisheries Award for UKZN Researcher

International Fisheries Award for UKZN Researcher
Dr Matthew Burnett received an Opportunity for Learning and Advancement in Fisheries (OLAF) Award.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Matthew Burnett, a postdoctoral researcher at UKZN’s Centre for Functional Biodiversity (CFB) and senior scientist with the Rivers of Life Aquatic Health Services applied research organisation, is the recipient of an Opportunity for Learning and Advancement in Fisheries (OLAF) Award from the American Fisheries Society (AFS).

This award - part of the AFS International Fisheries Section’s international and indigenous membership awards - assists members of the international community from low- and middle-income countries, as well as indigenous peoples, to access the AFS’s networking, conference and information exchange opportunities to grow their profile and research.

Boasting more than 8 000 members globally from various fields, the society’s activities include the publication of five academic journals, the hosting of scientific meetings, and professional development programmes to promote scientific research into and sustainable management of fisheries resources.

The OLAF award is named after the late Dr Olaf Weyl, an honorary research fellow at UKZN and Chief Scientist and Research Chair for Inland Fisheries and Freshwater Ecology at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. Weyl’s career focused on conservation and impacts of non-native fishes on endemic fish communities, and an evaluation of factors influencing the quality of recreational fisheries.

Weyl made significant contributions to inland fisheries throughout Africa, and the award perpetuates this legacy by providing access to developments in North America around fisheries and freshwater ecosystems that could be transferred for use by developing countries.

Burnett, who completed his PhD at UKZN in 2019 doing work that involved co-development of the Southern African Inland Fish Tracking Programme (FISHTRAC), was selected as an OLAF Award recipient from a number of other applicants.

The FISHTRAC programme uses the behaviour of fish in real-time to evaluate water quality and quantity stressors in the environment and relays this information to conservation or fisheries managers.

Burnett has published several papers using fish telemetry techniques to fill knowledge gaps in the behavioural ecology of iconic South African fish species such as yellowfish and tigerfish. This has included a review paper of fish telemetry techniques in African inland waters and their contribution to managing water resources.

‘Understanding freshwater ecology provides vital context to the issue of water provision to South Africa’s population as well as the country’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),’ said Burnett.

In the context of the SDGs, he is applying fish telemetry to determine the efficacy of instream barriers associated with water storage facilities - such as dams - on fish and waterway health.

‘River connectivity has become an important consideration in the construction of water storage facilities - it desperately needs to be evaluated to sustain the diversity and abundances of African fishes so that we achieve the SDGs,’ he said.

Burnett aims to understand how to mitigate and manage stressors in freshwater ecosystems that include pollution events, water abstractions, and habitat fragmentation and alterations. His applied research has focused on rehabilitating fish populations after severe fish kills, fish community assessments across various land uses, and understanding the biology and ecology of iconic native fish.

Burnett, who leads the Rivers of Life KwaZulu-Natal branch and is expanding his field of research at UKZN’s CFB, is currently supervising several students who are learning critical skills within the water resource sector through applied research.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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Public Anger Directed at Racist Stellenbosch Student is Myopic and Fallacious

Public Anger Directed at Racist Stellenbosch Student is Myopic and Fallacious
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South Africans have become accustomed to reactive anger that lasts only a few days. It has happened all too often - I am sure that even our distant enemies have observed the trend. Whoever wants to destroy us as a nation can unfortunately easily exploit.

We tend to put so much energy into and pour scorn on isolated incidents that happen to receive media attention, yet eat and breathe racism on a daily basis. Sadly, once the social media frenzy dies down we pat each other on the back and say we have confronted the issue head-on, and life goes on. This tendency is so myopic and fallacious in character. The South African transformation agenda is just a façade.

Stellenbosch is a microcosm of society. Racism in South Africa is rife and gets worse every single day. Ironically, people who are the perpetrators of this inhumane behaviour are insolently going about their business quietly. They socialise their children in this doctrine, and in turn their kids demonstrate utter disdain for Black people. One does not need to be Einstein to see this; it rears its ugly head in every aspect of their behaviour.

Black people deliberately choose to hide behind Mandela reverence and the Constitution. It seems to me, Black people in South Africa have subconsciously accepted that they are inferior and there is nothing they can do about it. When incidents such as this happen in populous spaces like universities, the same Black folk rush to their television screens and social media to lament what is happening. They scream at the top of their lungs as if this is a completely new phenomenon yet on a daily basis they sit in boardrooms, share a beer, play sports and share company dividends with racists and call them our friends, colleagues and partners.

South Africa is a beautiful country on paper, it has all the ideals of a rainbow nation. It sells itself to the world as being united, embracing diversity and oneness but in reality, racism is inherent and vexed. Until the racism debate takes place brazenly and a spade is called a spade, it will continue to haunt Black people until they do not feel it anymore. Many Black people think that it is enough to have power and to pass laws and regulations to end racism or to allow it to have a natural death. Racism is a socially constructed behaviour, one is taught to be racist, no one is born racist. It will therefore take the process of unlearning racism to end it. No amount of laws will put an end to racism.

Karl Marx explains racism at two levels - capitalist relations of production and their ideological forms, and ideological forms that manifest themselves in an array of discriminatory practices. In the context of South Africa, the means of production are still in the hands of the minority (White people) and ideologically they still feel superior to the majority (Black people). Their superiority complex manifests itself in the discriminatory practices that they socialise their kids in and in turn, their kids behave in a manner that dehumanises and demeans Black kids. The Huis Marais incident at Stellenbosch University is just the tip of the iceberg and should be treated as such. To end racism in South Africa, it will take White leaders, White celebrities, White establishments and ordinary White communities to say enough is enough. It will take our fellow White colleagues at work, in churches, at schools to say ‘Not in my name.’ White folks need to be brave enough to call each other out and say racism is inhumane, it degrades people and it perpetuates hatred and it must stop. White people need to learn not to hide their heads in the sand as if it does not concern them, they will need to learn Sesotho or Tshivenda language and speak it in a manner that some Black folks use the Queen’s English. Ending racism will mean establishments fully embracing coexistence with Blacks.

The same energy expected from Whites should be demonstrated by Black folks in their deeds and thinking. There is absolutely no need for privileged Black people to behave like Whites. It is inwardly racist for Black folks to speak in English when there is not a single person who is a native English speaker in a group or gathering.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with African mannerisms - Black folk should not be ashamed to demonstrate them, it’s what makes and defines them. As a Black person one can be very proud of knowing your African roots, customs, cultures and traditions. Essentially, if Black folk can respect themselves and embrace their African-ness/Blackness it will be easier for other races to respect and embrace them.

 To repeat myself: Our anger at the Stellenbosch University incident is myopic and fallacious.

•    Mr Khumbulani Mngadi is an independent analyst based at UKZN.

*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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Father Overcome with Emotion at Blind Daughter’s Graduation

Father Overcome with Emotion at Blind Daughter’s Graduation
Proud father, Mr Nkosinathi Mkhize embraced his daughter, Ms Masibonge Mkhize shortly after she was capped by Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku.

A father shed tears of joy as he watched his blind daughter graduate at UKZN.

Ms Masibonge Mkhize (23) was awarded a Bachelor of Social Science degree, majoring in Psychology and isiZulu.

Mkhize, who received a standing ovation, said there were no words to truly describe the emotions she felt. ‘I didn’t expect my dad to be standing there and waiting. When he hugged me I was very touched,’ she said.

Her father, Mr Nkosinathi Mkhize, said he got emotional at the ceremony when his daughter was capped. ‘She is our only daughter and the jewel of my heart.’

Nkosinathi says he wants his daughter to be independent and lead a normal life. ‘I don’t like the word disabled. I always tell her that she is just less abled.’

Mkhize said she got nervous while waiting for her name to be called out. ‘I was excited but I also thought everyone would be staring at me and thinking: “How did this blind girl manage to get a degree?” Generally, society sort of expects disabled people to stay at home and collect grants and I wondered if that was what people might be saying. But then I remembered that the world is changing and my experience at UKZN has shown me that people are accommodating and also understanding that those with disabilities are not all that different.’

Mkhize of Pietermaritzburg lost her sight at the age of five due to hydrocephalus (a medical condition that leads to a build-up of fluid in the brain) which caused damage to her optic nerve.

Studying with a disability on a campus filled with mainly non-disabled scholars was daunting at first for Mkhize who said it was a relief to discover that the University had an excellent support system for students with disabilities, ‘The environment wasn’t straining. I received huge backing from the Disability Support Unit, lecturers and classmates. I also became more independent and confident.’

Mkhize - one of 84 people with disabilities who graduated from the University this Autumn - thanked her parents and her four brothers for their support throughout her life. ‘My family have always been there for me. When I started at university my mum was so worried and travelled to campus every day for a while, just to check that I was okay.’

Passionate about psychology, she plans to study for an honours degree.

Words: Sejal Desai

Photographs: Abhi Indrarajan


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UKZN Music Academic Earns Prestigious A-Rating from NRF

UKZN Music Academic Earns Prestigious A-Rating from NRF
Professor Christopher Ballantine received an A-rating from the National Research Foundation.Click here for isiZulu version

Professor of Music Emeritus in the School of Arts and UKZN Fellow Professor Christopher Ballantine has received an A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) - the first time the Foundation has awarded a high rating to a Music academic.

This top classification is given to researchers who are recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their field for the high quality and impact of their recent research outputs.

‘The Arts are often side-lined and seen as less important to society than other fields of activity,’ said Ballantine. ‘My work has consistently argued against that deeply mistaken view. The best thing about this rating is that, by recognising my work in this manner, the NRF has implicitly acknowledged the crucial social importance of music - despite being the most abstract of the arts - and the arts in general. There’s a lesson in this for all administrators and funders.’

Celebrated for his pioneering work as a radical musicologist, his philosophically-grounded writings are widely published internationally, exploring the meanings and social implications of music and the forces that shape it. In particular, he has written about the music of the last 100 years, the philosophy and sociology of music, and South African music.

A graduate of the Universities of Cambridge, Cape Town, and the Witwatersrand, he is the author of several books, including Music and its Social Meanings; the award-winning Marabi Nights: Jazz, ‘Race’ and Society in Early Apartheid South Africa; and he co-authored Living Together; Living Apart? Towards Social Cohesion in a Future South Africa.

Recent publications include chapters in Sound and Imagination (Oxford) and The Routledge Companion to Jazz Studies.

His research career, similar to his academic career in general, has been built around a fundamental interest in the role that music can play in the struggle for a better, more humane, more egalitarian society in South Africa and elsewhere. This work has broached a range of theoretical and disciplinary fields, including the sociology of music, musical meaning, and the philosophy of music. The outcome has been a body of publications related to, for example, endogenous African music, and varieties of 20th and 21st Century classical, operatic, and popular music, including the socio-political history of jazz in South Africa.

The winner of the University Book Prize in 2014, he is regularly placed in the University’s prestigious group of Top 30 researchers, and is often ranked the top-performing researcher in the College of Humanities.

‘Partly because of my commitment to our young democratic society - a society seriously injured by colonialism, apartheid, and rampant inequality - one important theme in my research has been to articulate a scholarly understanding of the ways that music might be at work in these processes, for good or for ill. Importantly, though, the issues at stake here are not confined to post-apartheid South Africa,’ said Ballantine.

He noted that ‘across the globe, the linked spectres of authoritarian nationalism, deeply conservative identity politics, xenophobia, and fascist tendencies currently disfigure our world. So, much of my recent published work has shown music’s potentially powerful role in, for example, the struggle against ossified identities and dehumanising forms of categorisation and border making.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Rewards for Committed Students

Rewards for Committed Students
Mr Sanele Zuma (left) and Ms Tracy Sebastian, Branch Manager of Van Schaik Bookstore Pietermaritzburg.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN students who have committed to personal training and the development of their academic, professional and psychosocial skills to ensure their success at the University and beyond are in line for rewards.

The award scheme was created by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s (CAES) Student Support Services (SSS) and the Centre for Academic Success in Science and Engineering (CASSE) in partnership with bookseller Van Schaik.

To achieve their shared vision of equipping students with the skills needed to succeed in Science and Engineering, the CAES, SSS and CASSE run a Life Skills programme as a critical part of CASSE’s Science and Engineering Access programme. This involves workshops on academic development including study skills and exam preparation, as well as psycho-social programmes that empower students with critical life skills such as stress management, self-esteem development, HIV education, and issues of gender-based violence (GBV). There are also workshops focused on career development.

The weekly workshops culminate in a Certificates Event where participating students who achieved 100% attendance at the year’s workshops are awarded certificates to affirm the training they have received and encourage them to complete the non-credit-bearing programme which does not involve any assessments.

Van Schaik Bookstores have provided a much-needed boost to these workshops by sponsoring the Certificates event and rewarding students who completed the training with a stationery pack.

The SSS is a vital resource for students across UKZN, providing services that include individual counselling and psychotherapy, academic risk assessments, psychological assessments, crisis management, skills development, academic monitoring and support, and telepsychology appointments.

CASSE enables students from socio-economically deprived backgrounds who attended schools lacking proper resources and infrastructure to gain access to Higher Education through programmes providing the necessary facilities to get on par with students who attended better-resourced schools. Facilities include laboratories and dedicated teachers for science subjects.

‘Student development is critical in advancing the academic programme, and many of the skills taught through these workshops empower our students academically and psychosocially,’ said workshop facilitator Mr Sanele Zuma, a counsellor with the CAES SSS who has been a part of CASSE since 2013.

‘We aim to empower students with life-long skills which will not only see them being competent graduates, but also empowered and responsible citizens. It is for that reason that we have a programme that is constantly reviewed to respond to the country’s challenges including GBV and high rates of unemployment,’ said Zuma.

‘It is imperative that universities produce graduates who are not only academically competent but developed all-round,’ he said.

Zuma highlighted the significance of having companies and organisations that support programmes to encourage students along their academic path and recognise those who make time for their personal development in the midst of busy timetables and demanding workloads.

The SSS and CASSE thanked Van Schaik and the CAES Public Relations Office for their support of the Certificate events and the development of students.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN-Hosted Artfluence Human Rights Festival Held at Mandela Capture Site

UKZN-Hosted Artfluence Human Rights Festival Held at Mandela Capture Site
Artfluence Human Rights festival kicked off with a jam-packed session.Click here for isiZulu version

The second annual Artfluence Human Rights Festival themed: Freed Imagination: Resilience, Action and Change was hosted by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) in the College of Humanities, in partnership with the uMngeni Municipality and uMngeni Tourism.

The festival, which featured and profiled artists whose voices and creativity advance a culture of human rights, marked the 60th anniversary of the capture of Nelson Mandela, highlighting the Capture Site in uMngeni and boosting opportunities for cultural tourism in the region.

There was an extensive programme of live and online events broadcast on YouTube and Facebook, with audiences joining in on Zoom.

‘We were delighted that with the end of the national lockdowns we could present a hybrid festival this year with both online and live events; the latter made possible through a partnership with the uMngeni Municipality and uMngeni Tourism,’ said Dr Ismail Mahomed, the Director for the Centre for Creative Arts.

‘The six-day Live in uMngeni programme featured theatre, dance, music, exhibitions, film and a specially curated animation series of some of Nelson Mandela’s favourite folktales aimed explicitly at children.’

According to Mahomed, ‘The festival located at the Capture Site aimed to draw inspiration from Mandela’s legacy and attract visitors to the site after the devastating impact of the national lockdown on the cultural economy. Our partnership with the uMngeni Municipality and uMngeni Tourism aims to strengthen a cultural economy that enables local art organisations to thrive.’

The festival opened from the capture site and featured this year’s keynote speaker satirist Conrad Koch and his alter-ego Chester Missing who provided entertaining but biting commentary about South Africa’s democracy.

Live in uMngeni opened with the Umongo Msindo (Sounds in Context) exhibition, an immersive installation that brings musicians into conversations with their traditional African instruments through videos and textiles that function as interactive wall pieces and a Quick Response (QR) portal that expands on their work.

South African political cartoonist Nanda Soobben exhibited 25 of his cartoons that are a powerful commentary on South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

UKZN’s Centre for Jazz and Popular Music presented a concert featuring some of its most talented students while the Flatfoot Dance Company under the directorship of Dr Lliane Loots staged their latest production, The Cleansing, which journeys into the heartland of Earth issues and negotiates the true meaning of ecology - the connectedness of human existence to all existence.

Poetry Africa curator Ms Siphindile Hlongwa and University of Johannesburg’s Arts & Culture poetry programmes co-ordinator, Mr Quaz Roodt, joined forces to curate the specially devised poetry programme, At the Marketplace, with four poets whom they commissioned to venture out into South Africa’s informal trading spaces to find inspiration for their poems.

Hlongwa curated a unique live programme during Live in uMngeni titled Freed Imagination, which featured internationally celebrated poet Lebo Mashile with local poets. Mashile is an award-winning actress, poet, novelist and social justice activist.

The Centre also facilitated skills-based workshops in art practice and administration for uMngeni-based artists during the Live in uMngeni Artfluence Human Rights Festival.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Image: Supplied


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UKZN Health Care Specialists Encouraged to Join Global Outreach Movement

UKZN Health Care Specialists Encouraged to Join Global Outreach Movement
Dr Sanjeev Arora (sixth from right) flanked by School of Clinical Medicine medical specialists during the “ECHO Outreach” talk.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s Dean of Clinical Medicine Professor Ncoza Dlova has appealed to health care specialists in the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine to join the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcome (ECHO) Outreach movement - a globally recognised organisation that takes on challenges.

Dlova made the call during a UKZN seminar titled ECHO Outreach held at the Medical School.

In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), ECHO has more than 90 hubs in Africa, including one at UKZN.

Guest speaker Dr Sanjeev Arora the Founder and Director of ECHO (the Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcome), said the movement tackled challenges throughout the world by providing access to knowledge and a powerful mentorship approach to help implement best practices in health, education, and other domains for rural and urban populations.

Founded in 2003, ECHO has over the years worked in 70 areas plagued by troublesome diseases as well as getting involved in other complex issues through its 520 training centres in 56 countries.

Based on a mentor/mentee model, ECHO uses technology to leverage scarce resources; shares best practices to reduce disparities; applies case-based learning to master complexities and evaluates and monitors outcomes.

Capacitating primary health care practitioners, strengthening outreach and creating self-sustaining health care services in rural communities are all part of the movement’s core mission. ECHO believes that capacitated health care professionals are best placed to diagnose, test, refer and treat patients timeously which minimises costs and delays.

‘ECHO is a movement that changes the world,’ said Arora. ‘There’s not enough money in the world to help everyone but there’s knowledge. I invite the specialists in the audience to join us in this movement to change the world. This network is a coalition of the willing where passion is key.’

Said Dlova: ‘There is still a lot that we health care specialists can do in terms of strengthening our outreach. This ECHO network is a suitable platform to share skills, transfer knowledge and learn from others. Our registrars can also greatly benefit from this network. We are excited that ECHO has provided the means and tools for all that - let’s put them to good use and see how we can maximise those free tools because it is our responsibility to support and capacitate our physicians and primary health practitioners - that’s how we will improve the quality of health care.’

ECHO Project Manager at UKZN Dr Serela Ramklass thanked the movement for organising UKZN’s participation in the global network. ‘We are grateful for our ECHO license that allows us to access a free Zoom platform which can accommodate 1 000 participants,’ said Ramklass. ‘This license also provides us with an opportunity to access ECHO tools, the library, resources, technical support, and training of our hub team,’ said Ramklass.

‘ECHO has provided UKZN specialists with a better opportunity to enhance healthcare delivery and improve the quality of people’s lives in KwaZulu-Natal through the partnership which includes the Department of Health.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo and Mandisa Shozi

Photograph: Vangie Lewis


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Edgewood Footballers’ Hopes are High

Edgewood Footballers’ Hopes are High
UKZN’s Edgewood Campus Football Team (Pinetown City) beat Bhaki FC in the SAFA SAB League quarterfinals at the Stella Stadium in Glenwood.

UKZN is achieving great success academically as witnessed at the elegant Autumn Graduation celebrations, but has also been scoring impressive wins on the sports field through the Edgewood Campus Football Team currently competing in the SAB League which is affiliated to the South African Football Association (SAFA).

The team, who sent their congratulations to all UKZN graduates, were the champions in the Western area section (Pinetown, KwaSanti, Klaarwater and Hammarsdale) qualifying them to play in the group stages of the playoffs on the Edgewood campus.

Said assistant coach Mr Teboho Hlao: ‘The boys are determined to go all the way to the third division which is the ABC Motsepe league and with the support they get from fans anything is possible. At the beginning of the season we sat down and set out our goals - so far everything is going according to plan. We look up to institutions like the University of Pretoria and Wits that compete in the highest division and we say UKZN belongs there.’

The Edgewood team beat Bhaki FC in the quarterfinals that were held at the Stella Stadium in Glenwood on 25 May and are gearing up to verse Inanda Real Stars FC in the semifinals at SJ Smith Stadium in Lamontville on Saturday, 28 May.

‘We are asking the UKZN alumni community and management to assist with resources such as food, energy drinks, fruit, water and energy bars for the 25-man squad,’ said Hlao. ‘The team also needs assistance with funds to transport players based in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Vryheid and Mooi River. In the group stages the team was supported by companies including SPMG, African Pearl Trading and the Knowles Superspar, while the Department of Student Residence Affairs helped transport supporters from Edgewood to the games.’

To donate, contact UKZN sports administrator Mr Zweli Sapula on 031 260 3610 or email: SapulaZ@ukzn.ac.za.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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International Men of Magnitude Award for UKZN Academic

International Men of Magnitude Award for UKZN Academic
Professor Sihawukele Ngubane.

Professor Sihawukele Ngubane of the African Languages discipline in the School of Arts has been honoured with a Men of Magnitude Award.

The prestigious award is from the New York-based Women of Magnitude/Men of Magnitude limited liability company (LLC) and the Dr Thandeka Mazibuko Foundation.

‘The event was conceptualised with a vision to honour, celebrate, and create cancer awareness and free screening for disadvantaged communities while highlighting those who serve the community,’ said Dr Thandeka Mazibuko. ‘The Men of Magnitude Awards celebrate the phenomenal and evolutionary work these various women and men do in their respective countries.

‘The Awards are made in partnership with the SinomusaNothando Community Development Inc who build cancer centres in rural communities and offer free cancer screening to communities in need. This partnership strengthens the relationship between South Africa and New York City,’ said Mazibuko.

Said Ngubane: ‘A man of magnitude is someone you look up to - an historical figure who has made a powerful mark on society,’ he said. ‘I have dedicated this day to my parents who brought me up to be the man I am through their teachings and belief in me. Both my parents were educators and academic leaders of their time and had a passion for education.’

He said he was humbled by the award. ‘This is quite an achievement since it has always been my dream to be an educator and to teach and inspire the people of my community. The award reflects my hard work.’

He thanked his family for being his support system. His son, Lindelani, said: ‘My father is indeed a Man of Magnitude.’

During his address on receiving the award, Ngubane spoke about the challenges of entering academia during the apartheid era, the highlights of his career and the power of indigenous languages.

‘Apartheid or segregation led us to underestimate ourselves and to develop an inferiority complex. It could even be said to have robbed us of our souls and we have had to work even harder to be achievers. Bantu education was designed for Black African people and was intended by the apartheid government to limit our intellectual development. In spite of that, some of us, by great effort, managed to reach higher levels of education. Our experience as Black South Africans has compensated us with wisdom to face the challenges of social injustice, and to achieve education against the odds while fighting the inequalities of the apartheid era,’ he said.

‘Educating students from different backgrounds has equipped me with an understanding of the value of a human being.

‘Men and Women of Magnitude will host another awards ceremony at the Yankee Stadium in July during the New York Football Club game. We will honour young soccer players from South Africa and Africa with these awards.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Leadership Skills Under the Spotlight at School of Clinical Medicine

Leadership Skills Under the Spotlight at School of Clinical Medicine
SCM hosted a leadership workshop for managers and Heads of Disciplines.

Leading self-consciously through emotional intelligence and in a team environment was the focus of a three-day online workshop for UKZN managers and Heads of Disciplines hosted by the School of Clinical Medicine (SCM).

The event also examined styles of leadership and followership, critical leadership challenges and the importance of integrating the ideas of others to enhance commitment.

The workshop was facilitated by Associate Professor Cecile Gerwel Porches and senior lecturer at the UKZN Graduate School of Business and Leadership Dr Macdonald Kanyangale.

Said Kanyangale: ‘This workshop provided participants with the tools to lead themselves, lead others and lead the system, but what’s really important is looking at the context of how individuals will use these tools to actually situate leadership in their individual leadership context because leadership varies according to context.’

Emotional intelligence, use of empathy maps to better understand team members, models to ensure alignment, and how to identify gaps when implementing strategy or activities were also examined.

‘Examining all interdependencies and embracing change when you’re leading is of utmost importance,’ said Proches. ‘This refers to change at the individual level or change at a systems level. How leaders embrace that change is key. Considering ideas of the people that you are leading is very important as they have their own ways of thinking and methods of operating which could be different from your own. Being open-minded as a leader is therefore a necessity in leading diverse people.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Shutterstock


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Student’s MedTech Smart System Presentation Wins Innovator Award

Student’s MedTech Smart System Presentation Wins Innovator Award
Mr Pragesh Govender at the MediVentors Lion’s Den student competition.

Mechatronics Engineering master’s student Mr Pragesh Govender was a winner in the MediVentors Lion’s Den student competition.

Govender got the People’s Choice MedTech Award for a medical device concept he developed as part of the Innovation Skills Challenge, and also attained distinctions in the MediVentors Integrated Skills Development Programme (ISDP).

MediVentors is a collaborative effort involving four universities and industry partners with the aim being to drive medical device innovation in South Africa by training students to develop successful innovations.

Led by the University of Cape Town (UCT), the consortium includes UKZN, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the National Technologies Implementation Platform (NTIP), also known as the Production Technologies Association of South Africa.

Prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak, the ViroVent Innovation Skills Challenge was initiated by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (merSETA) together with other organisations to meet real world medical industrialisation demands and develop home-grown skills and medical technologies.

To produce optimally-trained medical technology engineers, the MediVentors consortium developed an ISDP that focused on holistic learning to link medical technology projects to real life market needs. It developed three e-learning courses as an extension of current study material to upskill students: a Med Tech Essentials course to prepare for regulatory and legal challenges, a Systems Engineering and Product Lifecycle Management course that concerned product lifecycle stages, and the tooling and industrialisation course to prepare students for high volume production.

The MediVentors Lion’s Den student competition involved teams from UKZN, UCT, CPUT and WITs developing innovations and creating industry links.

The programme set out to train more than 30 students from the four universities for medical device industrialisation through an ISDP, the e-learning curricula, and training-by-doing to help students industrialise medical devices to advance South Africa’s MedTech sector.

Govender - one of five Engineering students on the UKZN team, led by Professor Riaan Stopforth - based his entry on his master’s research that involved developing an Internet of Things (IoT)-based real time healthcare Monitoring System with predictive analytics that uses machine learning and fuzzy expert systems to improve diagnostics.

Govender chose to do his undergraduate studies at UKZN in Chemical Engineering because of the international recognition accorded to the University’s Engineering programmes, and the success of its Engineering alumni in various fields. With an aptitude for systems thinking and innovation across disciplines, he describes himself as a natural problem solver and critical thinker.

Inspired by the innovations he saw coming out of UKZN’s Mechatronics Engineering discipline and his own interest in complex systems, Govender applied to do his master’s degree in this field with the support of Stopforth, despite not having a Mechanical Engineering or Electronic Engineering background.

Juggling the MediVentors courses with his research commitments, Govender designed a wearable, wireless body access network (WBAN) consisting of various sensors which gathered patient physiological data and transmitted it via Bluetooth to a mobile application for storage and processing within an SQLite database before eventual transmission to a cloud via Wi-Fi. After transmission to the cloud, this data could be accessed by doctors via the web or a mobile application.

In addition, during an emergency, the real-time data could automatically alert the patient’s doctor of the emergency and advise on the patient’s location so the doctor could dispatch ambulance services. The machine learning and fuzzy logic models developed allowed for the vitals obtained from the WBAN to be used to determine the patient’s likelihood of a stroke, general health status and the effect of environmental conditions on patient health without a medical doctor being physically present.

A highlight of the MediVentors event for Govender was the Medical Device Sector essentials course and the networking with key role players in medical device development and industrialisation. He said his research and design allowed for the practical application of the skills he acquired from the courses. He also gained an appreciation for the work required to transform research into a usable form for end-users.

‘Although research is important, I realised that what is more important is ensuring that it is geared towards the users’ need,’ said Govender. ‘A complex solution can be useless if it answers the wrong question, while a simple solution can solve complex problems.’

Now a process engineer in the manufacturing sector, Govender is interested in the incorporation of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies into the manufacturing and biomedical sectors, and the use of business intelligence techniques to help streamline and improve systems. He has developed his versatility as an engineer, and is interested in technology, modelling, analytics and innovation, and particularly in integrating engineering with biological systems to advance healthcare.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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Local Economic Development the Focus of MCom Research

Local Economic Development the Focus of MCom Research
Local Economic Development practitioner Mr Thabiso Dube.

South Africa’s failure to implement local economic development (LED) effectively and efficiently even though government support agencies are in place, motivated Mr Thabiso Dube to embark on a research journey which earned him a Master of Commerce in Leadership Studies during UKZN’s Autumn Graduation season.

Supervised by Dr Mlondi Vilakazi of the University’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership, the title of Dube’s study was: Exploring Innovation Platforms for Local Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal: An Analysis of the Ugu South Coast Development Agency.

Dube critically evaluated the innovation and developmental role played by state-funded LED agencies. He says the findings confirm those of previous studies and point to a lack of expertise in public LED spaces, and where adequate resources and capacity are in place, the lack of political will stifles novel undertakings. He said although funding was a perennial challenge, numerous innovative methodologies could be employed to fast-track development.

As a committed LED practitioner, Dube was worried about the lack of interest in his research among senior decision makers who treated the project ‘like just another academic venture.’ He says this underlines the notion that agencies lack capacity and knowledge to innovate because they do not harness and implement recommendations from scholarly research.

Dube’s interest in business development led to him to move to the United Kingdom where he believes he will get international exposure to global business and innovation while he reads for an MSc in Corporate Governance in Leeds.

Not able to attend his graduation in person, he said: ‘I look forward to receiving my merit certificates and degree certificate as testimony to the work and sacrifices that went into this project.’

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Supplied


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Webinar on the Sexual Exploitation of Children Being One of the Worst Forms of Child Labour

Webinar on the Sexual Exploitation of Children Being One of the Worst Forms of Child Labour
Webinar panellists and Law School academics (from left): Ms Rowena Bernard, Advocate Victoria Balogun-Fatokun, candidate Ms Olobalake Ogunwande and Country Manager of TdH in Kenya Ms Magdalene Wanza.

A webinar to highlight the impact of excluding the sexual exploitation of children (SEC) in child labour discussions in the international sphere, was hosted by the School of Law in partnership with Terre des Hommes, Netherlands (TdH N).

The webinar titled: Re-introducing the Sexual Exploitation of Children as One of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL), was a strategic, unofficial side-event to the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour held recently at Durban’s ICC. It was also the first in a series of webinars to be hosted by the School.

In his welcome address, the School’s Acting Dean and Head Mr Adrian Bellengère said: ‘What we are dealing with today is the intersection of two things - child labour and sexual exploitation which in their own rights are equally heinous crimes. ‘The official description of the crimes does not really capture the moral depravity inherent in both of them,’ said Bellengere. ‘This kind of thing pushes us to be more colloquial and less official. You can’t fix something if you deny its existence that is why we are seeking to push for the adoption of a resolution that will hopefully facilitate discussion on this topic and bring targeted and sustainable interventions in the area.’

Facilitated by Child Rights Activist and The Hague University of Applied Sciences LLB graduate Ms Louise Mariano, presenters included academics from the School’s Navi Pillay Research Group (NPRG) and the Children’s Rights Research Interest Group (CRRIG) Ms Rowena Bernard and Advocate Victoria Balogun-Fatokun, and PhD candidate Ms Olobalake Ogunwande.

In addition, and most importantly, the webinar included testimony from several youth advocates from India, Kenya and the Philippines who were affected by SEC as children. The individuals have dealt with the trauma of sexual exploitation and/or related activities directly or indirectly and are empowered to act as youth advocates. They were supported by partner organisations in the three countries, including the Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa (NAYA), the Society for Networking, Empowerment & Holistic Action (SNEHA), and the Bidlisiw Foundation.

Ms Magdalene Wanza, Country Manager of TdH in Kenya, presented on the reintroduction of SEC as a WFCL and explained how pernicious commercial sexual exploitation, online sexual exploitation and exploitation in travel and tourism flourish in the absence of targeted interventions to prevent and address SEC.

Speaking from a perspective of an organisation which has been active in fighting against child exploitation for 55 years world-wide, Wanza expressed concern that the topics of the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour did not include or focus on the sexual exploitation of children.

‘If you look at the Conference’s topics, they are more on child labour in agriculture and other sectors as well as the challenge of COVID-19,’ said Wanza. ‘We have to talk about child participation because every time we discuss projects and interventions, we tend to ignore the voices of children. In the ongoing Conference we are concerned because we haven’t seen any children or voices of children who have a history of suffering sexual exploitation. I think we will learn more from this webinar about the harmonising of laws and legislation from a global, national and regional level which are critical.’

In her presentation, Bernard - who has expertise in child law and labour laws - spoke on a child labour perspective from international and regional (African) perspectives, highlighting that the sexual exploitation of children is a grave concern which requires commitment from government, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to prevent, respond to and eradicate. This is needed in particular because international and regional law instruments may prohibit SEC, but they lack effective mechanisms to ensure compliance, which weakens the enforcement against member states which fail to comply with their obligations towards addressing SEC.

Ogunwande spoke on her research interest in labour law and children’s affairs in the African context, providing concrete examples of SEC, while Balogun-Fatokun - a lecturer with expertise in sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and trafficking in persons issues - presented on the conceptualisation of SEC in the South African context. She highlighted statistics of rape cases and child abuse, emphasising that the constant and repeated exploitation of children was a huge problem in South Africa.

Discussions involving the youth advocates were held in a safe space where speakers’ identities were protected by using pseudonyms and being supported by their caseworkers. The advocates shared insights on the different ways that SEC manifests itself in their countries and in every aspect of a child’s life.

Kenyan youth advocates Maggy and Hellena supported by Ms Dorcas Mwachi of the Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa, highlighted parental negligence as one of the root causes of child prostitution and sexual exploitation. They listed key drivers being parents transferring the responsibilities of child-raising to their children, cultural marriage practices and the expectation by parents for children to contribute financially to the household due to poverty. They added that while Kenya had strong laws and policies aimed at preventing SEC, the delays in their enforcement made them less effective. They called on all government sectors and departments to work together in curbing SEC.

Indian youth advocates Nehra and Ammu supported by Mr Thippiah Ramanjaneya of the Society for Networking, Empowerment and Holistic Action, spoke about the alarming number of missing children and street children in India who become victims of SEC, highlighting inequalities the youngsters face in their daily lives through not being able to report incidents, or receive legal assistance, or emotional and psychosocial support.

John and Alexa, youth advocates from the Philippines, supported by Ms Pamela Uy from Bidisiw Foundation articulated the need to regulate cyber space so that the internet is a safe space for children, the need for child survivor’s identity to be protected during court proceedings and the need for provision of better support services to survivors of SEC in the criminal justice system, including psycho-social support.

Mapping out a way forward and resolution based on the day’s presentation, School of Law academic Dr Willene Holness said: ‘We believe that we need to create more platforms and more time for young voices to be heard. As far as we are concerned, academia does not always provide the best avenue for the voices of children and child participation to come through. In the ivory towers we reside in and the work that we do we must not be aloof to the experiences of children. That is why this gathering was so valuable to us - we will continue to provide space for lobbying and advocacy going forward.’

The webinar can be viewed here.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Mourns Death of Alumnus Ms Ndoni Mcunu

UKZN Mourns Death of Alumnus Ms Ndoni Mcunu
The late Ms Ndoni Mcunu.

Staff and students in the Discipline of Geography and the broader University community were shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of alumnus and high achiever Ms Ndoni Mcunu.

Mcunu completed a Bachelor of Social Science with Honours degree in Geography and Environmental Management at UKZN in 2013, going on to be awarded an MSc in Applied Environmental Science in 2016.

In her master’s thesis she focused on precision agriculture and the use of GIS and remote sensing technology for the early detection of vegetation deterioration, with the view to harnessing satellite imagery to assist in the management of extreme weather events to reduce the impact on farmers and food security.

At the time of her death, Mcunu was busy with a PhD at the Global Change Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, investigating the production of food on limited land. Her work was aimed at increasing farmer resilience to climate change by evaluating the effects of scale and diversity of different farming enterprises.

She was also a researcher and bilateral engagement lead in climate change on the international Adaptation Research Alliance at SouthSouthNorth.

During her short career, Mcunu received several awards for her impact, including being one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans in 2016 and a Mandela Washington Fellow in 2017 as well as receiving an honorary award from the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government in the division of Science Research and Entrepreneurship presented by the KZN Young Achievers Awards and the eThekwini Municipality, and the Gagasi FM - SHERO Award in the Science and Technology category.

Mcunu was made a GreenMatter Fellow for her academic research in climate change and agriculture, and was listed among the Top 50 Most Inspiring Women in Tech in South Africa in 2017, an award presented by the Kingdom of The Netherlands and South Africa. She recently received a Humanitarian Awards Global Award for the Most Distinguished Women Change Makers in Africa in 2020-2021.

She was also one of UKZN’s Wonder Women in Science in 2016, and in 2018 and 2020 presented TEDx Talks on what it means for society when women walk away from science and on female representation in African leadership. She presented a talk at the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2021 Conference on how to empower African climate action.

She quickly recognised the need for mentorship, skills training, and a support network for emerging Black female scientists and established the Non-Profit Organisation Black Women in Science (BWIS). Her generous spirit, and genuine dedication to supporting the next generation of young scientists were evident in her willingness to come back to her alma mater and engage with our Geography students at her own expense.

Mcunu became a prominent figure in climate science and advocate for climate research, often appearing on national television discussion forums.

She had hoped to play an important role in policy development and strategic sustainable planning in the agricultural, food security and climate change sectors.

Mcunu will be remembered as a truly inspirational and visionary ambassador and role model for Black women in Science.

May her legacy and enormous impact continue to help inspire and motivate young scientists to reach their full potential.

Words: Christine Cuenod

Photograph: Supplied


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Gut Health the Subject of Webinar

Gut Health the Subject of Webinar
Dr Matthew Bramble.

The Gut Microbiome in Konzo was the title of a webinar held by the College of Health Science (CHS).

The event investigated the role of the gut microbiome in modulating the development of Konzo (tied leg) which is an epidemic paralytic disease occurring among hunger-stricken rural populations in Africa where a diet is dominated by insufficiently processed cassava that results in simultaneous malnutrition and high dietary cyanide intake.

Facilitated by CHS’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Busisiwe Ncama and Professor Colleen Aldous, the webinar was presented by Dr Matthew Bramble, who is a former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty Global Health Fellow, assistant professor and a staff scientist in the Department of Genetic Medicine Research at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC, in the United States. His research focuses heavily on infectious diseases as well as projects dealing with the mechanistic understanding of cassava-induced neurotoxicity (Konzo).

‘The outbreak of Konzo has been well documented not only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) but other sub-Saharan countries as well. Konzo mostly affects children and women of childbearing age,’ said Bramble.

His research suggests that regardless of location and diet, children in both low and high prevalence zones in the DRC are likely to be affected by the disease.

‘Studies consistently show an association between outbreaks of the disease and chronic dietary reliance on insufficiently processed cyanogenic cassava (manioc or tapioca). Biochemical and toxicological studies reveal that the metabolites of linamarin (a-Hydroxyisobutyronitrile ß-D-glucopyranoside - the main cassava cyanogen), notably cyanide (mitochondrial toxin), thiocyanate (an AMPA chaotropic agent), and cyanate (a protein carbamoylating agent) may play an important role in the pathogenesis of Konzo,’ explained Bramble.

He said Konzo was an irreversible disease but with more experiments and research on the topic a cure could be found.

Currently Bramble spends most of his research efforts building genetic capacity within the DRC to expand user-friendly genetic diagnostic tools as well as techniques involved in basic molecular biology/genetics. During his Fulbright period in both South Africa and the Philippines he plans to continue this line of work.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Photograph: Supplied


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Breaking the Language Barrier Within the Department of Health

Breaking the Language Barrier Within the Department of Health
Ms Nkosingiphile Ntshangase (left) and programme on breaking the language barrier with the Department of Health.

UKZN Extended Learning hosted healthcare workers from the Department of Health on the Howard and Pietermaritzburg campuses for the IsiZulu Basic programme. South Africa has an increasingly diverse workforce where it is beneficial to know multiple languages. Being fluent in more than one language can improve your competitiveness in the job market and expand your relatability with your peers.

According to South African Gateway, approximately 78% of the population in KwaZulu-Natal speak isiZulu and 23% speak isiZulu at a national level. Civil servants across the public sector departments must have a versatile workforce that is able to effectively communicate with and address the concerns of the communities. Having a good understanding of isiZulu will help them navigate the various cultural backgrounds and expectations.

Understanding another culture and dialect allows you to interact with different people. By learning isiZulu, extending beyond the basics of learning a new language, you are introducing yourself to a different realm of culture. Having a working knowledge of more than one language also helps one become more open-minded and feel more connected to other cultures.

One of the delegates in attendance on our IsiZulu Basic programme, Mrs Kimoshini Naidoo (Quality Assurance Manager, Department of Health) stated:

‘The isiZulu training has been very interesting and informative. The facilitator for this course has good teaching techniques that have allowed me to grasp the terms easily. The manner of her teaching style has made learning Zulu less complicated as it was a language that I had previously struggled with. But I am learning quite well due to her teaching method. I enjoyed learning important terms that relate to the language that we use in the Department of Health such as udokotela, as we are quite restricted in our Zulu terminology. I encourage all departments to do this short course. We are always conversing with people whose first language is Zulu so it would be beneficial for all types of professions.’

It is imperative that stakeholders and communities can communicate in their native language as it is the first step to building lasting and positive relationships. By speaking in a common language, language barriers can be broken down, and all parties will feel more comfortable and confident. Facilitating these kinds of relationships is imperative in better serving communities. Having a better understanding of the native language will mean that the communities needs will be addressed, leading to better results in service delivery.

Nkosingiphile Ntshangase is the Marketing Assistant at UKZN Extended Learning, focusing on social media management, marketing, communications and blogging.

*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.

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Joins Hands with the City of Durban to Celebrate World IP Day

UKZN Joins Hands with the City of Durban to Celebrate World IP Day
Scenes from the World IP Day event.

UKZN InQubate, the University’s Innovation Office, celebrated World Intellectual Property (IP) Day with a variety of other institutions and organisations at the Botanic Gardens in Durban.

The event encouraged high school learners from around the city and students of UKZN, Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) to explore innovation as young entrepreneurs through the occasion’s theme - IP and Youth: Innovation for a Better Future.

The event was driven by eThekwini Municipality, and supported by the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry; the Durban Film Office; the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the Rajen Reddy Foundation.

In her welcome address, Ms Nonhlanhla Khumalo of the eThekwini Municipality noted how IP Day was an important event for entrepreneurship and urged participants to engage with speakers on their various topics.

Director of UKZN InQubate, Ms Suvina Singh highlighted the importance of the theme in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, the July 2021 looting and more recently the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) floods. ‘KZN is eager for the youth to rise up and present innovative solutions to the challenges we are experiencing in the province, South Africa and globally.

‘Consumers and investors want to be associated with purpose-driven businesses that are making a difference and coming up with solutions to environmental and societal problems … that solution lies in innovation which is the key to a better future,’ said Singh.

Panelists from various organisations presented on topics associated with the theme.

Ms Amanda Lotheringen of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) examined the importance of celebrating World IP Day, by highlighting the value of IP rights which are internationally recognised, although territorial, and discussed how IP could be commercialised by a business for monetary gain.

Ms Udi Pillay of Adams & Adams focused on IP, its impact on the youth and how it could best be used to protect brands, ideas and property.

Ms Tshimangadzo Munyai of the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) reviewed the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Act. Ms Omphile Modibela of Afriqinnov8 evaluated disputes between Bonang Matheba and the CSA and AKA and The Braai Show. She noted lessons that could be learned including being clear about IP, who you share information with, what your contract says and protecting what matters.

DUT alumnus and Another Solutions owner, Mr Siphiwe Zuma shared his success story in designing a wheelchair that can be used by disabled persons in rainy weather. Zuma noted how as a disabled person himself it was hard to maneuver around campus on rainy days without getting completely drenched, which is what spurred his innovation. He said entrepreneurship was not an easy journey but he was happy to have come out triumphant with a practical product designed by a disabled person for disabled people.

He shared his dream of supplying students in Higher Education Institutions around the country and encouraged other entrepreneurs to never give up.

Mr Ntando Khuzwayo, a Councillor for eThekwini Municipality, thanked his employers as well the other organisations involved for making the event possible. Khuzwayo encouraged the youth to come forward with innovative ideas to make Durban a smart city.

UKZN students from the Pietermaritzburg campus, Ms Nonto Msomi and Ms Siphosethu Magudulela said they were excited to be part of the World IP Day celebrations and to learn more about IP.

Said Msomi: ‘As a member of Enactus, I learned so much today that I’ll be taking back to implement in our own initiatives.’

Said Magudulela: ‘As an inspiring entrepreneur I gained valuable information from industry professionals from the CIPC and Adams & Adams.’

The Durban Film Office and Madifa Films examined how various forms of IP could be exploited within relationships in an entertaining skit. Filmmaker, Mr Samkelo Dingi, shared his success story and highlighted the importance of knowing and being able to use copyright law to protect an individual’s craft.

A competition was held for registered business owners present at the event with prizes including business support services, a one-year membership to the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as business equipment and machinery.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied


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