UKZN Scientist Appointed Co-Chair of IAS Towards an HIV Cure Advisory Board

UKZN Scientist Appointed Co-Chair of IAS Towards an HIV Cure Advisory Board
Prestigious international appointment for Professor Thumbi Ndung’u.

The International AIDS Society (IAS) has appointed Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, Scientific Director and the Victor Daitz Chair in HIV/TB Research at UKZN’s HIV Pathogenesis Programme and the Africa Health Research Institute’s Director for basic and translational science, as Co-Chair of its Towards an HIV Cure Advisory Board.

Ndung’u who is also the South Africa Research Chair in Systems Biology of HIV/AIDS, joins Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, as Co-Chair.

The IAS’ Towards an HIV Cure programme was launched in 2011 to focus on advancing the HIV cure field in countries where resources for HIV cure research are limited, and to facilitate interaction with HIV and other biomedical research areas. The Board is mandated to provide strategic advice to the IAS, and guide the Towards an HIV Cure programme and the implementation of its activities.

Ndung’u is an HIV cure research pioneer whose work has focused on understudied populations and viral strains in resource-limited, high burden settings where knowledge of the role of antiviral immune responses, viral strains and associated genetic factors is likely to yield the greatest impact in terms of biomedical interventions like vaccines or immune-based cure strategies.

‘I am delighted to Co-Chair the IAS Towards an HIV Cure Advisory Board,’ said Ndung’u. ‘The mission of the Towards an HIV Cure programme is to drive concerted efforts to accelerate global scientific research, advocacy and collaboration towards a cure for HIV. I will work to ensure diversity and inclusivity in research and for impact of the research in areas where it is most needed.’

Words: Hannah Keal and MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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Emerging Academics Graduate with PhDs

Emerging Academics Graduate with PhDs
UKZN academics (from left) Drs Viloshin Govender, Lerato Sokhulu and Sanele Nsele.

Three emerging academics who were part of the New Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP) and recipients of the Talent Excellence and Equity Acceleration Scholarship (TEEAS) have been awarded doctoral degrees.

nGAP is a transformation programme initiated by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to help universities to recruit new academics in line with staffing and development plans. As a part of UKZN’s Integrated Talent Management and Transformation Strategy, the programme supports the University in its transformation goals and also contributes positively to South Africa’s transformation agenda of attaining a youthful workforce in the academic sector and a sufficient representation of Black African academics.

Recipient of the nGAP initiative, Dr Viloshin Govender who graduated with a PhD in Architecture and is a lecturer in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, said he was grateful to the team, especially Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu for her leadership in the nGAP programme and being instrumental in completing his doctoral degree. ‘I owe my supervisor Dr Claudia Loggia a huge thanks. She helped me establish myself as a researcher, and without her guidance this academic journey would have been much harder.’

Govender, who’s passion for teaching and research inspired him to enter the world of academia, highlighted some of the challenges of his academic journey which included stressful workloads as he was supervising students while completing his PhD. However, he added that these challenges helped to build his career.

He said he is working towards a professorship, continuing his research projects and setting up programmes to mentor young students and promote community engagement.

TEEAS is a prestigious academic programme that targets top-performing Black South African undergraduates in their final-year of study. The aim of the programme is to nurture and groom students for academic positions at UKZN. Funded by UKZN, the scholarships are part of the University’s Graduate Development Programme and were established by the Human Resources Development Unit in an effort to contribute to the transformation of South Africa’s academic landscape.

TEEAS recipients’, Drs Lerato Sokhulu and Sanele Nsele who are lecturers in the School of Education said that they were inspired and motivated by their lecturers to enter academia.

Sokhulu fell in love with academia after being introduced to research in her honours degree. She thanked her supervisor, Dr Nomkhosi Nzimande for mentoring her from honours to PhD level and Professor Simon Bheki for instilling discipline in her. She also acknowledged her mother and friends for their love and support and UKZN for granting her a scholarship through the TEEAS programme.

Highlighting some of the highs of her doctoral journey, Sokhulu said, ‘I presented a paper at a national research conference during my first year and published a paper from my PhD in the second year’. The lows included struggling with mild depression during the final-year of her doctoral degree, all the while building a house for her mother. ‘I had to seek therapy for my mental health issues, as I was unable to carry the load of studying and building at the same time. But I thank God for the wisdom and sanity.’

Sokhulu plans to publish more, collaborate with other academics in research projects, attend national and international conferences, apply for fellowship grant opportunities abroad, and build her profile as an academic.

Nsele, who said he never imagined that he would one day be a lecturer, thanked his late mentor and supervisor Professor Thabisile Makhosazane Buthelezi saying, ‘I’m here today because of her.’ He acknowledged his family for believing in him and his dreams and his best friend Sineliso Khumalo for his endless support.

He added that he was fortunate to secure a scholarship through the TEEAS programme. While his academic journey wasn’t easy, the process was made easier by not having to worry about finances.

Nsele plans to grow as an academic, explore academia and establish his research interests.

Honouring the academics for their achievements Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu, Director for Human Resources Development, said: ‘Congratulations to all the nGAP and TEEAS colleagues that have achieved this important milestone of completing their PhDs. The journey has been long and hard, but you have all prevailed. The tenacity with which you approached this journey will see you succeed and rise through the academic ranks at UKZN, and inspire greatness internationally. Through your achievements, the University is in better standing to attain its transformation aspirations, especially in the academic sector. To the graduates from the prestigious TEEAS, this is an official and special welcome as employees of the University.’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied


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School of Arts Hosts Farewell Concert for Music Professor

School of Arts Hosts Farewell Concert for Music Professor
Professor Chats Devroop.Click here for isiZulu version

The School of Arts (Music) recently held a farewell concert for Chats Devroop, Music Professor and Academic Leader for Research in the School.

Devroop also took to the stage to perform alongside his band members and students.

His performance-based music-making encompasses diverse music genres, from art music to commercial music. His academic work spans diaspora studies, the South African music academy, and areas of music and technology.

Devroop, who turns 60 this year, will take up a full research professor position focusing on a niche research area that he has been exploring for some time. ‘I would like to believe that I have already made a difference in teaching and learning nationally, and wish to focus the latter part of my career on my research interests,’ he said.

Devroop began playing music at the age of six, taking up the flute. He was heavily influenced by his late, talented autodidact father who was also a musician. Devroop honed his skills, attaining many degrees and qualifications in music. He now plays saxophone, recorder, melodica, piano and electronic wind instruments.

‘I grew up in a household where there was always music. Most of the musicians who were part of my father’s ensembles were unskilled, but their love for music and eagerness to learn inspired me. Under very difficult socio-economic conditions, I witnessed how my father supplemented his income by “gigging”. The limited income from the gigs enabled me and my family to go to bed with food in our stomachs each evening,’ said Devroop.

‘As children, we could not afford a private music education or tuition. The passion to teach music coupled with seeing the joy it brought to others was instilled in me at a very early age. My calling was clear - to become an educator. I love teaching and remain truly impressed by those who teach.’

Reflecting on his time at UKZN, he described the University as a ‘place of positive growth. It helped shape me as a musician, scholar and leader. I have been blessed to have befriended several people at UKZN who were willing to share their time, expertise and projects. They were my sounding boards and support. Overall, I am deeply grateful for my tenure and experiences here.’

Devroop’s message to his students is, ‘You have incredible talent to reshape the artistic landscape of South Africa. I firmly believe that many of the solutions to today’s crises lie in the arts and in creatives. Focus on your progress and do not engage in destructive behaviour against the very institution that will determine your future success. Take your lesson from the recent devastating floods which took only a few hours to destroy years of hard work.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Music Discipline Hosts 17th African Cultural Calabash Festival

Music Discipline Hosts 17th African Cultural Calabash Festival
Musicians and dancers who performed at the African Calabash festival (clockwise from top left) Bavikile Ngema, Usikompilo, Mbomboshe, and The Joy.Click here for isiZulu version

The African Music Outreach Community Development class within the School of Arts hosted its virtual 17th African Cultural Calabash Festival under the theme Asibuyel’ezimpandeni Zethu - Going Back to our Roots.

Director of the African Music Project Dr Patricia Opondo said, ‘This annual festival is held under the umbrella of the University’s African Music Project, giving third-year students an opportunity to plan, organise, and manage a cultural event. Students gain experience in all aspects of event planning such as securing artists, drawing up artist agreements, and fundraising, marketing, and publicising the event. With this year’s show taking place during Africa Month, the theme Asibuyel’ezimpandeni Zethu - Going Back to our Roots provided a renewed connection with our vibrant and diverse cultures.’

She noted that the ‘Lockdown due to COVID-19 has been very challenging for artists and many groups. Some of the artists featured this year experienced a sense of reawakening and excitement for a paid performance on a concert stage.’ In Opondo’s class, students put theory into practice in preparing for future work in festival curation, management, and arts administration.

Third-year student and Calabash Chair Ms Thobeka Sibiya was excited to be part of the highly-anticipated concert. ‘This year’s theme celebrates pride in promoting African cultural heritage, which cultivates a spirit of becoming greater human beings by uniting us, especially through music and dance. With this theme, we hope to bring back love, unity and a sense of Ubuntu. We chose artists who invoke emotions onstage and they lived up to all the hype and delivered a spectacular performance.’

The festival began with indlamu group Usikompilo, then young star Njabulo Mbonambi, popularly known as Mbomboshe took to the stage. He is an alumnus of the UKZN African Music and Dance (AMD) programme. Themba lami is the title of his hot new single.

Bavikile Ngema (Intomb’endala) played the African bow instrument Umakhweyane. Ngema has performed both locally and abroad in Germany and Namibia. She currently teaches in the UKZN AMD programme.

The Joy, an acapella male vocal quintet, completed the festival line up. They are a popular Afro Soul group with a strong following on social media.

Opondo congratulated students who featured in the successful 17th Calabash edition. ‘It’s exciting to mentor enthusiastic students who featured in the festival and then to have a magnificent end product which we all proudly take collective ownership of. The ability to present online concerts during the ongoing restrictions for indoor live concerts in many venues is still difficult but in the cultural sector it has been rewarding. Well done Team Calabash!’

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photographs: Sethu Dlamini


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Webinar Marks World Autism Month

Webinar Marks World Autism Month
Speakers at the Autism webinar.Click here for isiZulu version

The College of Health Sciences in collaboration with Action In Autism held a webinar titled: Support and Resources for the Autism Community: Challenges and Opportunities to mark World Autism Month.

Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that causes a wide range of impairments in social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviours. The webinar aimed to confront the pressing issues faced by the Autism community, recognise best practice and begin the conversation on a way forward to adequately serve the needs of the Autism community.

Public Health Medicine specialist and lecturer at UKZN Dr Tsholofelo Mhlaba and co-host, Chairperson and founding member of Action in Autism, Mrs Liza Aziz welcomed participants.

Unisa graduate Mr Prashant Parusnath, who is on the Autism spectrum highlighted the difficulties faced by people living with Autism. These include expensive medication, a lack of family and community support, lack of job opportunities and the lack of funds to access psychologists and other health professionals. He highlighted the role played by Action in Autism in his life.

Senior psychiatrist and lecturer at UKZN Dr Saeeda Paruk focused on the Signs of Autism, Challenges and the Psychiatric Manifestations of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Paruk noted that the best practice for ASD is individualised treatment, early recognition and interventions.

Ms Theodora Gugulethu Mkhize, educator, exco member and volunteer at Action in Autism highlighted the challenges faced by parents with children living with Autism. She urged community members to educate themselves about Autism and disabilities as a whole, and emphasised the need for Special Needs Schools to hire educators equipped with knowledge of how to manage an Autistic child, as well as government subsidies for medical costs.

The principal of a Special Needs School Mrs Nelisiwe Mdunge called for a paradigm shift from a medical model which fixates on the child’s problems to a social model which focuses on the child’s strengths. She also noted the challenges faced by educators in Special Needs schools.

Paediatric neurologist at the KZN Children’s and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospitals, Dr Vasantha Govender outlined the signs of Autism, the importance of early inventions such as limiting negative language and focusing on the child’s interests; medication and challenges faced by the KZN Children’s Hospital. Social worker, Humesh Achary drew attention to the children’s rights set out in the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. She identified the stressors of caregivers as a lack of resources within schools, the need for Action in Autism parent support groups and access to occupational therapy and psychologists within the school environment.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Image: Supplied


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Graduation Brings Back Warm Memories

Graduation Brings Back Warm Memories
UKZN graduate, Ms Tlharihani Phisac Maphosa.

A study titled: Evidence of Malnutrition Screening Tools for Children Under Five Years in sub-Saharan Africa: A Scoping Review earned Ms Tlharihani Phisac Maphosa a Master of Medical Sciences degree. One of her supervisors, Professor Tivani Mashamba-Thompson is the daughter of Maphosa’s kindergarten teacher. Her other supervisor was Dr Delarise Mulqueeny.

When Mashamba-Thompson asked Maphosa if she had already reserved a gown and she said ‘no,’ she was offered her former teacher’s graduation gown. ‘I saw it as a way of honouring my teacher. It was a fantastic feeling,’ she said.

She added, ‘It was as if the universe was conspiring in my favour. I was dressed in the same graduation gown that my pre-school teacher wore 29 years ago when she congratulated my pre-school group on graduating in Mudavula village, Limpopo. It was an encounter with a very happy past.

‘I immediately recognised the values that Mashamba instilled in her daughter. She was too sweet and not too strict. I recall that when I was in Grade three, we were taught by her when our class teacher was absent. However, the daughter is sweet but very strict,’ laughed Maphosa.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Launch of the South African Health Review 2021

Launch of the <em>South African Health Review 2021</em>
The South African Health Review 2021.

The Health Systems Trust (HST), in collaboration with UKZN’s Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) launched its special 2021 edition of the South African Health Review (SAHR) entitled: Health Sector Responses to COVID-19: What Have we Learnt? at a hybrid event in Pretoria in April.

The publication was made possible through financial support from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation.

The SAHR is an accredited peer-reviewed annual publication which promotes the sharing of knowledge and offers empirical understanding aimed at improving South Africa’s health system. HEARD academics Professors Kaymarlin Govender and Gavin George were guest editors of the 2021 edition of the SAHR, along with Ms Ashnie Padarath, co-editor and Dr Themba Moeti, co-editor and CEO of the HST.

The Review features contributions from over 50 academics and health experts, capturing both the impact and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as recommendations to build a stronger and more resilient health system.

Key findings include:

•    Whilst Government’s response focused on containment and mitigation measures to flatten the peak of COVID-19, with the aim of saving lives and reducing the strain on healthcare systems, prolonged lockdowns have resulted in negative social and economic impacts which have disproportionately affected the poor and other vulnerable populations. 

•    The pandemic has had devastating socio-economic costs and an estimated 2.8 million South Africans have lost their jobs. South Africa’s budgetary and Public Finance Management systems allocated more than R20 billion to the health sector COVID-19 response and an additional R100 billion for income support through the new social grants and temporary employer/employee relief scheme (TERS) benefits.

•    COVID-19 has placed an even greater strain on South Africa’s already overburdened and under-resourced health system. 

•    The pandemic has taken a severe toll on healthcare workers, particularly those that work in resource-constrained settings, with workers enduring shortages of basic resources, and rapid depletion and delayed restocking of COVID-19-related equipment, all of which have had a negative impact on their mental health.

•    The Review highlights the importance of adopting a community-based approach to identify more sustainable and cost-effective methods to deliver services at primary healthcare and community levels. The role of community health workers has expanded to include support for COVID-19-based community testing and screening, highlighting their critical role in responding to this pandemic.

•    There has been an overall increase in maternal deaths, stillbirths and perinatal mortality. Rural provinces experienced increased pressure on their services due to pregnant women migrating from metropolitan areas back home; with metropolitan areas inundated with severe COVID-19 cases, leading to an increased burden in these areas and inability to manage routine emergencies.

•    Government has not been disability-inclusive in its management of the pandemic and the vaccination programme has deepened the multiple layers of vulnerability and challenges for persons with disabilities. 

•    The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated action in a number of areas. Progress has been made in developing reporting systems that combine data from the public and private sectors, and there are promising examples of intersectoral collaboration, public-private partnerships, and innovative joint ventures, and examples of providing rehabilitation services under strict lockdown conditions.

Delivering a message of support at the launch, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation at UKZN, Professor Mosa Moshabela said that the University was proud to be associated with the Review through HEARD. He added that the findings are an honest reflection of what South Africa did right in managing the pandemic and they also highlight those areas in which the country was found wanting. He urged all stakeholders to draw from the lessons when managing future pandemics.

Moshabela noted that the pandemic had shone a spotlight on the exceptional researchers in the country, including Professors Salim Abdool Karim and Tulio de Oliveira, both from UKZN.

The Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla’s presence at the launch to receive the Review affirms the South African government’s commitment to working with academia in addressing the country’s health challenges. ‘We would not be where we are today without your support, I believe we will all take the lessons documented in this journal and apply them to make our health system better prepared for and more resilient to the challenges of pandemics and emerging health challenges such as COVID-19,’ he said in his keynote address.

Commenting on the Review, Moeti added: ‘The SAHR is a repository of valuable information that provides insights and lessons on developing more resilient health systems that are capable of responding to future public health emergencies.’

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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Webinar Explores Local Economic Development Pre- and Post-COVID-19

Webinar Explores Local Economic Development Pre- and Post-COVID-19
CENLED Founder and Director, Professor Marius Venter.

Founder and Director of the Centre for Local Economic Development (CENLED) based at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Marius Venter delivered a webinar titled: Exploring Local Economic Development (LED) in South Africa Pre and During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The event was part of UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) Webinar Series that aims to empower postgraduate students, alumni and business partners with information that will enable them to navigate the unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic.

Venter’s presentation was based on his more than 30 years’ hands-on experience in small business development and entrepreneurial activities, mainly in the local government sphere.

‘If you want to be an LED implementer, you have to be an LED champion. This is the lesson I learned as a small business owner who owned a franchise, and had a PhD, but was unemployed for two years. We need to look at entrepreneurship development from an early age and prioritise the value of lifelong learning,’ said Venter.

He highlighted that the LED core policy pillars are crucial for the realisation of South Africa’s vision of local economies that are inclusive, world class, dynamic places and brands in which to invest and create wealth that is widely shared and benefits the majority of local people.

‘The informal sector has flourished and grown during COVID-19 and it will continue to do so after the pandemic. However, COVID-19 has shown the importance of municipalities planning for scenarios. I don’t know of any municipality that had a plan for a scenario such as a pandemic, or even has a plan for climate change, war or food security, etc. Municipalities have to ensure that infrastructure is in place because we can’t attract business without it,’ he said.

Venter called on LED specialists and universities, especially postgraduate researchers to use the lessons from the pandemic to strengthen LED in the post-COVID-19 world.

Senior lecturer and interim Academic Leader in Teaching and Learning at the GSB&L Dr Xoliswa Majola said that as a business school, the GSB&L prides itself on enriching students with knowledge from thought leaders to enhance their understanding of today’s turbulent business environment.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied


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NSTF-South32 Finalists Celebrated for Outstanding Contributions

NSTF-South32 Finalists Celebrated for Outstanding Contributions
Finalists from left: Professors Fatima Suleman, Pragashnie Govender and Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi.

Academics and researchers from UKZN’s Colleges of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) and Health Sciences (CHS) are finalists for the prestigious National Science Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 awards for 2021-2022.

The awards honour and celebrate outstanding contributions to Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and innovation and are the largest and most prestigious public SET and innovation awards in South Africa.

The finalists include CAES Honorary Research Associate Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi who is a finalist for the NSTF-Water Research Commission (WRC) Award and Professor Fatima Suleman and Associate Professor Pragashnie Govender from the CHS who are finalists for the NSTF-South32 Management award in Basic Sciences for Innovation and the TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher, respectively.

Suleman is a Professor and Director for the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Policy and Evidence Based Practice in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences and has previously been recognised as a Distinguished Teacher by UKZN. The Prince Claus Chair of Development and Equity: Affordable (Bio)Therapeutics for Public Health at Utrecht University was also involved in the Medical Education Partnership Initiative grant and the African Forum for Research and Education in Health, leading the development of a regional learning management system for interprofessional training and networking.

Suleman’s areas of interest lies in pharmaceutical policy and systems strengthening. A strong advocate for equitable and affordable access to medicine, she has served on a number of WHO panels. Her most recent accomplishments include being co-winner of the 2021 Helen Clark-Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice (JoPPP) Award in Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice (https://joppp.biomedcentral.com/joppp-award) and the 5th Venus International Healthcare Award (VIHA 2022 Award) for Excellence in Pharmaceutical Sciences, from the Venus International Foundation in Chennai, India.

Govender is an Associate Professor in Occupational Therapy. A high flyer, she graduated top of her class and went on to work in the public and private health sectors in KwaZulu-Natal. She completed her PhD in 2016 and a SAFRI-FAIMER Fellowship in Health Professions Education in 2018. More recently, she completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Professions Education and Leadership.

As a first-generation graduate in her family, Govender is invested in contributing to the next generation of students and researchers and aims to increase research productivity and knowledge that can transform current health systems. Her broad understanding of communities has led her to focus her research on recipients of care (client-and family-centred research), providers of care (practitioner-related research), and in preparing graduates fit for practice (health professions education-related research).

Govender won the National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers in the female category in 2016; was the first runner up in the Department of Science and Innovation South African Women in Science Awards (distinguished young female) in 2018; was a previous finalist in the TW Kambule - Emerging Researcher category in the National Science and Technology (NSTF)-South-32 Awards in 2020, and won the NRF Research Excellence Award for Early Career Researchers in the female category in 2020 (presented in 2021). She is the only recipient in the country that has achieved awards in the two emerging/early career categories of the NRF Awards. She was also an awardee at the 2nd Venus International Healthcare Awards (VIHA 2019 Award) for Top Researcher in Occupational Therapy, from the Venus International Foundation in Chennai, India.

Mabhaudhi, who is co-director of the Centre for Transformative Agricultural and Food Systems and Senior Researcher at the International Water Management Institute, received UKZN’s prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award for 2020. He holds a Y-rating from South Africa’s NRF and specialises in crop ecophysiology and crop-climate modelling. A graduate in crop sciences from the University of Zimbabwe, his master’s and PhD at UKZN were supported within WRC projects. Mabhaudhi achieved the highest number of publications off a PhD thesis in WRC history.

Mabhaudhi focuses on research that is collaborative, dynamic, transformative, informs policy and has tangible impacts for poor and peri-urban communities. He is involved in multi- and transdisciplinary research covering food systems, global environmental change and the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus, working with international multidisciplinary teams conducting research and development relevant to global grand challenges like food and nutrition insecurity, climate change and sustainability, and the WEF nexus.

He serves on several national committees and expert panels to advise on climate change adaptation strategies and contribute to evidence-based policymaking. Mabhaudhi has led WRC projects on various topics and received a WRC Research Knowledge Tree award in recognition of his contributions to policy, decision-making and human capital development in the water sector, also earning recognition from the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries for championing climate change adaptation.

Words: MaryAnn Francis and Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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Inspiring Impact Challenge Runner Up Aims to Uplift Others

Inspiring Impact Challenge Runner Up Aims to Uplift Others
Ms Phakamile Mazibuko (right) at work with her organisation, Phakamile Mazibuko Foundation (PMF).Click here for isiZulu version

‘The Phakamile Mazibuko Foundation (PMF) is driven by God. I am just a servant living His purpose, and my purpose is to uplift others.’

These were the words of Master’s in Education student at UKZN and founder of PMF, Ms Phakamile Mazibuko, runner up in the Inspiring Impact Challenge.

The non-profit organisation aims to enhance the lives of young people through empowered engagements, workshops, and projects that focus on educational and social development.

As a high achiever who graduated with her Bachelors and Honours degrees in Education summa cum laude, Mazibuko said she was inspired to start her own foundation by her passion for education and rural development. ‘I am passionate about community engagement, particularly to enhance the livelihoods of young people so that they can reach their full potential, be better and do better.’

The foundation provides on-site school visits; academic mentoring and support; psychosocial support; and career guidance, and assists students with funding, accommodation and support services for Higher Education.

Born and bred in Ulundi in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mazibuko believes in shifting the narrative by putting women at the forefront of progressive movements and places of power. She said she entered the Challenge to showcase the work of her organisation and to encourage the UKZN community to be agents of change.

UKZN’s Inspiring Impact Challenge is an annual competition aimed at identifying change makers who are part of the University community by giving them an opportunity to showcase their organisation and compete for awards. The Challenge enables participants to expand their networks and build relationships and partnerships with various stakeholders.

Commenting on her organisation’s biggest achievements Mazibuko said: ‘The foundation has received great support from the public including various businesses, organisations and communities. Through our innovative strategies to raise capital and achieve financial sustainability, we have received a number of sponsorships and donations. This allowed us to increase the number of staff members, which contributes to addressing the issue of youth unemployment in South Africa.’

Mazibuko said she was very proud to have placed second, ‘I feel very honoured to have received this prestigious award. It has contributed significantly to the growth of PMF, and our drive to continue impacting more lives. It has also expanded our network as a foundation, and we have committed ourselves to collaborating and engaging with various organisations to implement innovative and impactful solutions in communities.’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied


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Changing the Education System One Learner at a Time

Changing the Education System One Learner at a Time
Founder of Teach Me and Inspiring Impact Challenge winner, Ms Gabriella Khawula.

Ms Gabriella Khawula, the founder of Teach Me, a tutorial programme aimed at disadvantaged primary school learners was the winner of the Inspiring Impact Challenge 2021.

The Challenge is part of an annual UKZN campaign that recognises and profiles the impact of alumni and students who have taken up initiatives that inspire greatness.

Khawula, a BCom Marketing and Supply Chain Management alumnus, heard about the Challenge from a friend and was immediately drawn to enter because of the impact of her non-profit organisation.

Teach Me was established to close the gap between private and public school education. It offers tutoring in Mathematics and English for Grades 1-7 in public schools. The programme also teaches learners entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy, farming skills and coding.

Having already assisted around 200 learners, Teach Me prides itself on ‘changing the lives of disadvantaged learners and giving them equal opportunities at no cost’. Said Khawula, ‘It’s not easy but we are constantly striving to make it possible because we know that nothing is impossible.’

As the winner of the first Inspiring Impact Challenge, Khawula walked away with a R20 000 cash prize to assist her organisation in reaching more learners. She said, ‘I am proud that what I am doing is appreciated. Winning the competition means that nothing my team and I have done has been in vain, and that we need to continue doing good no matter what.’

Commenting on the organisation’s vision, Khawula said: ‘My dreams and aspirations for Teach Me are to help disadvantaged learners throughout South Africa and then expand to other countries. I want to see the pass rate for learners and schools improve until the minimum is increased back to 50%. I want to see learners grow and take on the world, as opposed to just depending on South Africa for opportunities, and I want to see the rate of unemployed graduates decrease by exposing learners to skills and knowledge that can help them branch out into unpopular career fields.’

She added that her challenges include always leading, even on bad days, with the biggest challenge being the COVID-19 pandemic which took a lot of time, patience and open communication to overcome.

She acknowledged that her qualification assisted her in understanding the different factors that come into play when building an organisation and being a visionary.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied


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Applied Chemist Gains Distinction Despite Diabetes

Applied Chemist Gains Distinction Despite Diabetes
Applied Chemistry cum laude graduate, Ms Mariam Hajee.

It was a proud moment for Ms Mariam Hajee when she was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Chemistry, cum laude.

UKZN’s BSc Applied Chemistry degree is more structured than the generic BSc as it specialises in chemistry’s application in industry. The degree covers a wide range of chemistry from organic, inorganic and physical to environmental analysis as well as material sciences.

Hajee’s love for chemistry meant that this degree was a natural choice. ‘In Grade 12 when we were introduced to organic chemistry I realised that chemistry is all around us and I wanted to learn more about the subject and how it is applied in real life,’ she explained.

‘Chemistry is involved in our everyday lives, from the food we eat to the clothes we use and manufacturing processes. It is important as new technologies enrich our lives by producing new solutions to problems,’ she said.

Hajee has her sights set on master’s study at UKZN in the future. ‘UKZN is rated number three in South Africa and the School of Chemistry and Physics has the best laboratory facilitates to ensure that students gain sufficient practical knowledge to use in the world of work. This makes the University a natural choice for me,’ she said.

She thanked her parents, who always believed in and motivated her even when she doubted herself. ‘I am a diabetic and sometimes I believed that I was restricted due to this condition; however, I have proven myself wrong!’

A homebody, Hajee enjoys building puzzles and spending time with her family when not pursuing her studies.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied


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Accelerated Academic Development Programme Bears Fruit

Accelerated Academic Development Programme Bears Fruit
UKZN academics (from left) Drs Siphiwe Mqadi, Zoleka Ncoyini and Edmore Ntini.

Three emerging academics who were part of UKZN’s Accelerated Academic Development Programme (AADP) have graduated with their PhDs.

Dr Siphiwe Mqadi graduated with a PhD in Accounting, Dr Zoleka Ncoyini with a PhD in Agrometeorology and Dr Edmore Ntini with a doctorate in Sociology.

The AADP is an initiative to transform the academic sector and improve representation at UKZN through the accelerated development and promotion of emerging academics. It targets young or aspiring academics with no or limited experience but the potential and interest to pursue an academic career. Candidates are expected to register for a doctoral degree and complete it within five years of their tenure.

Mqadi an Auditing lecturer in the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance said he ventured into academia because of its appeal and his desire to study further. ‘An opportunity to study for my Master of Science in International Accounting and Finance at the University of Liverpool in Europe presented itself and I grabbed it with both hands. Upon my return in 2012, UKZN was the obvious choice to pursue my interest in academia, as I was born and bred in Margate, south of Durban.’

He revealed that losing both his parents during his studies was extremely hard and required exceptional strength and mental readjustment. He said that his qualification has opened various doors in academia and he plans to expand on his research and publish more articles in accredited journals.

Mqadi thanked his supervisors Professor M Mkhize and Dr B Nomlala for their guidance and support and acknowledged Professor Sibanda, Dean and Head of the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance for being his sounding board and giving him a push in the right direction. He also thanked his siblings.

Lecturer in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Science, Ncoyini said that her passion for research led her to a career in academia and that, as a research-led institution, UKZN is the place for her to grow. She added that, while she enjoyed learning new concepts and methodologies, her PhD journey was an emotionally-draining roller-coaster ride. Her plans for the future include being more involved in practical research activities and seeing her research findings and recommendations implemented by communities: ‘I’m interested in research that will uplift poor South Africans, shift their thinking and eventually change the narrative.’

She thanked her family for their support and her colleagues and supervisors Professor Clulow, Professor Savage and Dr Strydom: ‘I will forever cherish the way they welcomed me and taught me everything relating to Agrometeorology.’

Ntini a Community Development lecturer in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies and a trained teacher said his interest in creating and imparting knowledge attracted him to academia. ‘UKZN provides me with the space to teach, supervise research, publish and contribute to the University’s various forms of community engagement.’

His achievements include supervising 45 honours and postgraduate diploma students as well as four master’s students and publishing 15 articles in South African Post Secondary Education (SAPSE) accredited journals. He plans to step up his rate of research and publication output as well as graduate more master’s and PhD students.

Ntini thanked his colleagues in the Department of Community Development; his PhD supervisors Professor Radhamany Sooryamoorthy and Professor Oliver Mtapuri; Dr Muzi Matse the Head of Department, and Professor Ernest Khalema, Dean and Head of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies for their trust and unwavering support.

He added, ‘All credit goes out to the departed, living and yet to come members of our lineage, and a special thank you to my family for the encouraging and homely atmosphere that prevailed throughout my PhD journey.’

Commenting on the academics’ achievements, Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu, Director for Human Resources Development, said: ‘I congratulate all the AADP colleagues that have achieved this important milestone of completing their PhDs. The journey continues, and I wish you success in your careers, and encourage you to use your PhDs as a stepping stone towards building a successful publication career. The University will continue providing support and development programmes to see you rise through the academic ranks; utilise them and drive your own success towards being an impactful academic.’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied


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PhD Candidate Scoops Best Oral Presentation Award at World Congress of Audiology

PhD Candidate Scoops Best Oral Presentation Award at World Congress of Audiology
Mr Mukovhe Phanguphangu who is currently undertaking his PhD studies at UKZN.

Alumnus and PhD candidate in the Department of Family Medicine, Mr Mukovhe Phanguphangu won an award for the Best Oral Presentation at the 35th World Congress of Audiology held in Warsaw, Poland in April.

He presented three research papers in the form oral presentations, two of which were from his master’s dissertation which he completed at UKZN.

‘Based on my presentations and the social impact of my research, I won the Best Oral Presentation,’ he said.

The award is one of the highest honours in the field of hearing health as this biennial research convention brings together global leaders in the field from 150 countries. There were around 150 oral presentations at this year’s congress. Adjudicators judged the presentations in terms of clarity of speech, language use and engagement with the audience, the content and the social impact and scientific responsiveness of the research within the field of audiology and paediatrics.

‘My first presentation from my master’s study which explored the feasibility of using smartphone apps to detect early hearing loss, was chosen as the best presentation,’ added Phanguphangu. The study found that children aged five to 12 living with HIV were able to reliably self-administer hearing screening tests, enabling early detection of ear diseases and intervention before their negative impacts develop.

Phanguphangu’s second presentation was based on his individual research that explored Speech and Hearing Therapy students’ experiences of online teaching and learning during COVID-19 lockdowns. The findings showed that while students were issued with data packages and ICT devices, most lived in rural areas and struggled with poor connectivity and unconducive conditions for studying.

The third presentation was also from Phanguphangu’s master’s dissertation, and focused on methods to estimate the prevalence of ear disease and hearing loss in children living with HIV. The study found that 38% of children living with HIV had hearing loss while 49% had some form of ear disease, highlighting the need for routine ear and hearing monitoring of these vulnerable children to enable timeous detection and intervention.

Phanguphangu is currently working on a doctoral project in Family Medicine under the supervision of Professor Andrew J Ross in the School of Nursing and Public Health. His study is exploring the feasibility of decentralising paediatric hearing healthcare to primary healthcare centres, which are the first point of healthcare for more than 80% of South African children.

Phanguphangu was born in Mukula, outside Thohoyandou, Limpopo and completed his undergraduate training at the then Medical University of Southern Africa (MEDUNSA) in 2012. After qualifying, he worked at various state hospitals in Limpopo and Gauteng Provinces. He graduated with his master’s degree summa cum laude at UKZN in 2021. Phanguphangu is a Golden Key Member and was selected as one of the 100 Young Mandelas of the Future in 2018 and one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young Influential South Africans in 2019 for valuable contributions to paediatric healthcare and visionary leadership in healthcare in South Africa.

He is a founding member of the newly formed Africa-Asia Coalition project which aims to map best practices in hearing health in Africa and Asia. The project includes researchers from South Africa, India, Brazil and Nigeria. Phanguphangu believes that it will foster international collaboration to improve access to hearing healthcare.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Forensic Criminologist in the Making

Forensic Criminologist in the Making
Mr Shivay Chetty at his Graduation ceremony.

Visual impairment has not stopped Mr Shivay Chetty from pursuing his dream of becoming a criminologist.

Chetty who graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science degree majoring in Psychology and Criminology and Forensic Studies from UKZN, was born with Retinitis pigmentosa - a disorder that causes progressive loss of vision.

Throughout his tertiary studies, Chetty functioned with only 10% vision and made his way to lectures with the use of a cane and help from his peers as well as staff from the Disability Support Unit (DSU). He recalled his very first day on campus: ‘I struggled to find my way to lecture venues. I got lost a lot but would always find my way.’ He added that he does not regard his disability as a disadvantage, ‘An eyesight problem isn’t the end of the world.’

His advice to other students facing similar challenges is, ‘Don’t think that you can’t make it in life. Look at the world differently and think of how your disability can be of benefit to you.’

Chetty said his parents and sister are his source of strength. They encouraged him to continue with his studies, motivating him to enrol for an honours degree.

He is passionate about criminology and hopes to work with the police in the field of forensic criminology.

Words: Sejal Desai

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan


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Physiotherapist Awarded Medical Degree Summa Cum Laude

Physiotherapist Awarded Medical Degree <em>Summa Cum Laude</em>
Dr Sarisha Mothalal flanked by her parents, Mr Bijay Mothalal and Mrs Sujana Mothalal.

Dr Sarisha Mothalal graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) summa cum laude with an overall pass of 80%.

In her pursuit to become a Medical doctor, Mothalal obtained a Bachelor of Physiotherapy cum laude from UKZN in 2015 and completed her community service at Appelsbosch Hospital. The same year, she reapplied to the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine and was accepted.

‘I feel happy and content. This achievement came as a surprise but am very excited that my hard work paid off. I know that I have a long way to go but I’m glad that I’m heading in the right direction. Once I have completed my internship and community service, I intend to further my studies by entering the registrar programme and specialising. I love being challenged and always strive to be a better version of myself so I can deliver the best patient care possible,’ she said.

While studying Medicine as a full-time student, Mothalal worked as a part-time physiotherapist in the private sector. This was challenging but kept her on her toes and paid her fees. She is grateful to her supportive parents who have been her pillar of strength and guiding light throughout.

The 30-year-old is currently doing her internship at General Justice Gizenga Mpanza Hospital in KwaDukuza rotating in General Surgery and thoroughly enjoying it.

‘My physiotherapy complements my job as an intern doctor and will ensure that my patients receive holistic care. Hard work and perseverance is what I live by. I believe in lifelong learning and bettering the lives of those around me.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied


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Student and Professor Join World of Contradictions Programme in Germany

Student and Professor Join World of Contradictions Programme in Germany
From left: Mr Lindoh Shabane, Professor Rozena Maart and Professor Goolam Vahed.

Social Sciences student Mr Lindoh Shabane has been awarded a doctoral scholarship from the University of Bremen, Germany in the Contradiction Studies programme. Contradiction Studies is a new interdisciplinary programme located in the broader School called “World of Contradictions”.

Professor Rozena Maart is an international Research Ambassador for the University of Bremen (a position she accepted in January 2020), and more recently, prior to Shabane’s application, was appointed one of three Mercator Fellows to the World of Contradictions programme.

She sent out a call for the scholarships across the country and met with students online to discuss the programme and offer insight into the many ways in which “contradictions” have been articulated by various scholars in the past decade. Maart has written on contradictions, especially with regard to philosophy and decoloniality, which along with critical race theory, has earned her national and international recognition.

The Contradictions Studies programme has 12 University of Bremen teaching staff and three internationally appointed Mercator Fellows. The Fellows travel to Bremen to participate in workshops, seminars and PhD training. The Bremen team received 5 million euros (R90 million) for the first four-year term of the programme from the German Research Foundation (DFG), which is renewable upon completion of the first cohort of PhD students.

Shabane first met Maart while he was a first-year student attending a colloquium she organised on the contribution of Steve Biko. ‘Professor Maart made such an impression on me that during my second-year I decided to take a course she was teaching in Gender Studies. After that, I regularly attended her Critical Race Roundtable sessions,’ he said.

‘Professor Maart’s course introduced me to Black existentialism and African phenomenology and broadened my perspective on ideas I was already familiar with such as Black Consciousness and decolonisation. Her novel and short story collection are the works I credit the most with my understanding of the complexities of intersectionality. Her literary take on the intersections of patriarchy, race and violence are the horizon from which most of my ideas emerge,’ he added.

Shabane completed his master’s degree summa cum laude. Maart describes him as ‘a disciplined and committed young man, who is mature beyond his 24 years.’

On the question of discipline and what he could share with students who come from humble homes like his, Shabane noted that it is not easy to sit in front of a computer for hours. ‘It can be tiring to read the same book over and over again, especially if you feel that you don’t understand it. Sometimes, it can feel like shouting in the void, as though you keep writing your dissertation and something keeps swallowing your words and you end up not seeing the progress you’re making.’

Shabane speaks like a true scholar of the process of writing and observes that ‘it is never pretty but, in the end, it is worth it. Hard work carries the potential for greatness. Discipline and consistency are a huge factor for success. Do not despise small beginnings.’

Asked how he learnt about the call for the PhD scholarship, he explained, ‘One afternoon I texted Professor Maart to congratulate her on her appointment as a Mercator Fellow in the Contradictions studies programme. She told me that the applications for doctoral positions were still open. I had little time to prepare. A few days later I participated in a Zoom meeting held by Professor Maart with several South African and one Namibian student. She walked us through the application, and interview process, if we were to be shortlisted.’

Maart was not permitted to write reference letters for any of the students. From nearly 200 applicants, 12 were shortlisted, including Shabane. He will receive a monthly grant of R30 000 and the programme assists international students with accommodation.

Shabane will join Maart and the other Contradiction Studies staff and Mercator Fellows for a retreat in the north of Germany as the programme starts in early June this year. Maart believes that he will continue to make UKZN and South Africa proud. ‘Lindoh’s work is on African phenomenology and I am looking forward to seeing him grow and prosper,’ she said. He will be joined by an international cohort of students undertaking a broad range of research in contradiction studies.

Shabane thanked Professor Goolam Vahed, his master’s supervisor and Dr Jonathan Chimakonam, for allowing him to lean on his ideas when formulating his concept note on African phenomenology. He also thanked his family, friends and Maart for their support over the years.

Maart is a recipient of the 2016 Philosophy Born of Struggle lifetime achievement award as well as the Nicolas Cristóbal Guillén Baptista lifetime award, named after the Cuban poet and political activist, for her work in literature and philosophy, which was bestowed upon her by the Caribbean Philosophical Association (CPA) in January 2021.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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How is the Evolution of Technology Affecting the World of Work?

How is the Evolution of Technology Affecting the World of Work?
Professor Gurpreet Dhillon.

The Future of Work, As I See It was the title of a webinar hosted by UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance. It was presented by Professor Gurpreet Dhillon, an honorary professor in the Discipline of Information Systems and Technology. Dhillon is the G Brint Ryan Endowed Chair of Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity at the University of North Texas, USA.

Dhillon shared insights on how technology has fundamentally changed the nature of work, and how the “connected” live, work, interact, and socialise. His experience working in many countries has shaped his perspectives on the changing world of work which he shared with the enthusiastic audience. He focused on the evolution and prevalence of the infonet (information network) organisation, the velocity of technological change and how the nature of work has evolved recently.

‘The number of devices we have connected in 2022 is twice the human population and there are 0.5 billion machine-to-machine connections. These are mostly concentrated in the developed world meaning that, depending on the type of job that you currently hold, chances are high that your job may be automated. Automation, virtualisation, and AI are here and the reality is that we are moving into an uncertain future. We need to be prepared.

He elaborated that while automation replaces jobs in some industries, it will lead to growth in others. Dhillon also shared insights on how the change in the nature of work is leading to changes in the traditional work model.

‘When our parents started working, the traditional model of work which still exists to some extent in many countries was that you went to college until you were 25, established your first career between the ages of 26 and 31 and had one career until retirement.’

He noted that this model has been transformed and it is anticipated that by 2030, it will no longer exist.

‘In just eight years from now, it is likely that you will get your first education by the age of 25. Then technology and others things will change, leading you to have your first career between of ages 26 and 31, and probably switching careers between the ages of 33 and 36. You will go back to school for your second education between the ages of 37 and 39, have your third career between 40 and 49, then probably take a year off and have your fourth career between 47 and 55. Then you will probably go back to school to educate yourself, have your fifth career and go all the way until after 75. In the United States, the retirement age is constantly going up which means people are working longer.’

Dhillon listed routine production services such as blue collar and supervisory jobs, in-person services which are simple repetitive tasks done on a person-to-person basis and symbolic-analytic services which are problem identifiers, problem solvers and strategic brokers such as research scientists, design engineers etc., as the three jobs of the future.

‘The capacity to earn and do things is going to be higher in the symbolic-analytic services and not so much in the routine production and in-person services. The future is going to be one of lifetime learning, mentorship more than hard skills. You are going to be retraining and rediscovering yourself, suffer burnout and remain in that cycle. The question is, which of these three categories do you want to be in or where do you want to counsel people to be?’ he asked.

In her closing remarks, Dr Upasana Singh, Academic Leader of the Discipline of Information Systems and Technology thanked Dhillon for sharing his insights, especially in the academic space as the topic generated much interest and engagement. A follow-up forum where these matters are expanded upon and discussed is being planned.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Image: Supplied


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UKZN Distinguished Teacher Earns PhD

UKZN Distinguished Teacher Earns PhD
Celebrating academic excellence are (from left): Mr Gary Quilling (husband), Dr Rosemary Quilling and her mother Mrs Mary Mey.

Dr Rosemary Quilling’s passion for teaching information systems and technology (IS&T) culminated in her being awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education by UKZN in May.

Supervised by Professor Wayne Hugo, her study was entitled: Higher Education (HE) Teachers’ Use of Social Computing in their Teaching: The Case of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Quilling is a senior lecturer in the Discipline of Information Systems and Technology at UKZN. Her study explored the reasons why HE teachers use or do not use social computing (Web2.0) applications in their teaching. She said that studies of social computing used usually only explore the factors impacting use rather than systemic, context-based explanations of how patterns of use or non-use have developed over time, and are instantiated and shift in specific instances.

Quilling noted that the doctoral topic she selected impacted her journey as she conducted her study at UKZN during turbulent times when the majority of HE teachers had no extrinsic motivation to explore the use of social computing in their teaching. She said: ‘The context was challenging, complex and in a state of systemic flux; providing sufficient reasons for teachers to choose not to innovate in teaching. When the study data was produced, the Institution had experienced an institutional merger (eight years prior), reorganisation into a College structure (within a year) and was plagued by annual student protests related to student access.’

In the midst of the challenges Quilling was recognised by UKZN as a Distinguished Teacher in 2016 in recognition of her ability to demonstrate innovation and excellence in the areas of curriculum development, teaching methodology and assessment methods. In the same year, she was awarded the National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award by the Council on Higher Education and the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa. These awards bear testimony to the quality and rigour of the teaching she brings to her lectures. She has shared her innovative teaching techniques with peers in national and international conferences and through research articles in accredited academic journals.

Quilling is pleased about her academic achievement which she will use to contribute to the transformation of the curriculum and even more importantly, to inform the systemic imperatives in Higher Education Institutions as a result of rapidly changing technological advances.

In 1986, she was the first member of her family to earn a university degree and she has made history once again by being the first to be awarded a PhD. Her other qualifications included the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Geography, Bachelor of Science Honours in Geography (with distinction) and a Master of Commerce in Information Systems and Technology (summa cum laude).

Dean and Head of the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, Professor Stephen Mutula congratulated Quilling: ‘The conferment of a PhD degree on Rosemary is significant not only to the Discipline of IS&T but also to the entire School in many ways. Firstly, she will join the growing number of staff with PhD degrees who are able to mentor and develop emerging academics. Secondly, she will now be able to supervise at PhD level and help enhance the School graduation throughput and research productivity. Thirdly, there is a clear correlation between possession of a PhD and the quality of teaching and research that an academic is engaged in.’ He added that the School looks forward to Quilling’s continued contribution to excellence in teaching, research and engaged scholarship in the School.

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Albert Hirasen


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Rural Education Initiative Earns Student Third Place in Inspiring Impact Challenge

Rural Education Initiative Earns Student Third Place in Inspiring Impact Challenge
Rural Education Development founder and third runner-up in the Inspiring Impact Challenge, Ms Philisiwe Dlomo.

Ms Philisiwe Dlomo a fourth-year Law student at UKZN placed third in the Inspiring Impact Challenge 2021.

Dlomo who hails from the village of Mbulwane in Greytown identified the need to address the lack of sports development, information, resources and socio-economic issues facing the youth in rural areas. She founded Rural Education Development, a non-profit organisation that empowers the youth through sports, arts and educational programmes.

Dlomo who saw the call for the Challenge on UKZN’s Facebook page said she applied because of the constant need for funding to keep her organisation running. A UKZN graduate already, with her first degree a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Politics and Philosophy, she said her qualification had empowered her to better understand societal behaviour.

A former mentor for the Youth Managers Foundation - an organisation that develops leadership skills amongst the youth as agents of change - Dlomo said was inspired to start her own non-profit in her community after being involved with high school learners.

Since its inception, Rural Education Development has worked with the Department of Social Development in Greytown to empower the youth with skills; assisted five students to apply and to register at Higher Education Institutions; and conducted four programmes in sports, arts and education. It plans to branch out into agriculture projects around the area.

Dlomo listed funding, a lack of experience, being indecisive and juggling her organisational work and her studies as some of the hurdles.

‘I’m grateful for placing third in the Challenge. For the organisation and I, it wasn’t about the prize, but rather about being recognised and appreciated for our efforts in transforming our rural community.

‘As a young person running a non-profit, I have learnt to seek help from a mentor or people who are in the same space or that share the same interests. I have also mastered how to accept and learn from my mistakes,’ she said.

The Inspiring Impact Challenge is an annual campaign aimed at profiling UKZN alumni and students and providing them with the platform and support to pursue their initiatives whilst “Inspiring Greatness”.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied


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Graduate Beats the Odds

Graduate Beats the Odds
Mr Luyanda Khoza at his Graduation ceremony held on the UKZN Westville campus recently.Click here for isiZulu version

Born and raised in the rural town of Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Luyanda Khoza who is paraplegic overcame adversity to graduate from UKZN.

A medical mishap at the age of six rendered Khoza paralysed from the waist down but this did not discourage him from living a “normal” life. After matriculating, Khoza went on to enrol at UKZN with the support of a National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary.

He was disappointed that he did not manage to matriculate with a sufficiently high academic performance score to enter his first choice of study which was Pharmacy but grateful that he achieved enough to enrol for an access programme that would lead to a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree (Extended curriculum - BSS4) majoring in Psychology, Criminology and Forensic Studies.

The access programme caters for students from disadvantaged educational backgrounds. Khoza says the additional year helped him transition from his rural schooling background to university life and learning with technology. For example, he had never used a computer before then.

Although the odds were stacked against him, Khoza said he was grateful for every opportunity and ready to work as hard as his non-disabled peers. ‘I never had the mindset of being a person who needs special treatment. I was the only learner with a disability in my primary and high-school. I had to do what the other kids did. I pushed myself to live as everyone else did.’

He said he couldn’t find the words to describe what it was like to not only graduate but also receive support from the audience who cheered and ululated as he was capped.

A role model to his younger brother and sister, Khoza said he was humbled by the challenges he has faced throughout his life. ‘I could be bitter about my situation but that would only hold me back. I will never allow anything to stand in the way of achieving my dreams.’

He added that he didn’t expect to enjoy Psychology as much as he did and is currently studying for an honours degree. 

Words: Sejal Desai

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan


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Obstetrics and Gynaecology Annual CME Update

Obstetrics and Gynaecology Annual CME Update
Keynote speakers at the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Annual CME Update.

The Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology’s Annual Continuing Medical Education (CME) Update covered a range of relevant topics.

Head of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Professor Hannah Sebitloane, welcomed guests to the event. Dr Sudhir Prithipal delivered an address on preterm labour. He noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15 million women are exposed to preterm labour each year, resulting in the deaths of a million babies. Preterm labour is the leading cause of morbidity in children under five and the main cause of neonatal mortality in South Africa.

Dr Nomandla Tsibiyane focused on antileptic treatment (AED) in women of reproductive age. She highlighted the importance of a detailed history and clinical assessment in choosing the most suitable AED, factoring in reproductive aspirations. These patients should also receive folic acid supplements to ameliorate cognitive and neural tube defects.

Dr Rajesh Gangram motivated for all patients undergoing an intimate examination to be offered a chaperone or invited to bring a relative or friend to the consultation.

‘Teenage pregnancy and abortion rates have decreased in many countries since the 1990s. Worldwide, complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth are the second highest cause of death among women aged 15 to 19,’ said Head of Family Planning, Dr Mala Panday.

Physician, Dr Farhana Paruk presented on the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. ‘This silent disease is under-recognised and is not a priority in middle- to low-income countries. The disease burden is increasing in Africa as the population ages and early screening to identify high risk patients is of the utmost importance,’ said Paruk.

Dr Tasnim Ebrahim, an obstetric intensivist, focused on the management of critically-ill obstetrics patients. She urged health professionals to upgrade their skills to recognise critically ill patients so as to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.

Urogynecologist Dr Muzi Khumalo discussed postpartum incontinence, a common ailment that presents as postpartum urinary retention or obstetric anal sphincter injury. An effective way to manage it is to avoid intrapartum over-distention of the perineum, and encourage urination by six hours.

Dr Shivani Chirkut from the Medical Protection Society, focused on the impaired practitioner. She quoted Fiala (2004: 2925-2926), ‘It’s time to give mental illness a name, a face, a story. Only in doing so will the stigma lose its power.’

The ‘Dos and Don’ts of Hormonal Replacement Therapy’ were discussed by Dr Noluyolo Sigcu, a reproductive health specialist. She highlighted that hormonal therapy is ideal for the management of vasomotor symptoms in a peri-menopausal woman. However, it is not recommended as a sole or primary indication for coronary protection in women of any age.

‘Sustainable Development Goal 5 (including women’s health) has to be at the centre of efforts to address the reversal of development gains and inequalities in digital access. Policies and programmes that value women and girls must be put in place. There needs to be focus on early inclusion in research of pregnant and lactating women,’ said epidemiologist and co-founder and Associate Scientific Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim.

The event ended by recognising those in private practice who support the Discipline and the handing out of long service awards. A lucky draw was held for R1 000 Woolworths vouchers sponsored by PPS Insurance. The prize of a Nutribullet blender went to Sebitloane, who plans to place it in the departmental kitchen for communal use.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Photograph: Supplied


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Webinar Explores Hieroglyphics and Coptic Scripts as African Innovations

Webinar Explores Hieroglyphics and Coptic Scripts as African Innovations
Dr Kiopkoeech Araap Sambu, Kass Media Group CEO and Vice-President.

As part of Africa Month celebrations, the College of Humanities in collaboration with the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) hosted a webinar on Hieroglyphics and Coptic Scripts as African Innovations, presented by Vice-President and CEO of the Kass Media Group Dr Kiopkoeech Araap Sambu.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize said, ‘This lecture is timely for Africa Day and forms part of our inaugural College lecture series. It marks a significant milestone towards the African continent controlling its own past. We must position the continent as a significant role player for knowledge production. We must engage in ancient Egypt and ancient manuscripts to understand our past. This lecture is a launchpad for UKZN to introduce Egyptology.’

NIHSS Chief Executive Officer Professor Sarah Mosoetsa added, ‘This conversation is an important continental dialogue in which we can display pride in our languages because it offers a true account of our past so that we can take our histories forward.’

‘Egyptian religion is most intriguing and exciting and there are volumes upon volumes of literature on it,’ said Sambu, who discussed these varied sources and has come up with findings that call for a total re-look and re-evaluation of African religious systems.

Sambu encouraged UKZN students to learn, take courses, do research on and use the ancient scripts of Egypt known as Coptic and Hieroglyphics. ‘Knowledge of these ancient scripts will facilitate further deeper research into the African past; a past whose greater knowledge about Africa is unpalatable to much of the West but which will build Africans’ pride in their own past and, therefore - this is very important - in their own present,’ he said.

He demonstrated that the Egyptian scripts ‘are truly of African origin, a fact which has been hidden from the African all these years. Importantly, these African scripts gave birth to what we call Western alphabets.’

Sambu presented linguistic comparisons between Indo-European languages and Semitic languages, comparing them to the Egyptian language and the Kalenjiin African language. He described ‘ancient Egypt as the earliest known of Black people’s very own heritage.

‘One only needs to take a look at the drawings and carvings of the ancient Egyptians by those same ancient Egyptians. It depicts their own general physical appearance of being the darkest-skinned of the sub-Saharan people. If that is not enough, the lingering impression will remain until one recalls some of the Kalenjiin-sounding names of some Pharaohs of ancient Egypt such as Tutankhamun, Amasis, Chephren, Cheops, Psamtek, Psamis and more.’

Sambu also documented the views of the specialists and authorities who have been ignored or forgotten. He presented linguistic, mythical, and material connections referring to facts about ancient and modern African architecture.

In closing, senior lecturer in the School of Arts (African Languages) Professor Gugu Mazibuko said, ‘This lecture is a call to action to re-invest in indigenous knowledge, heritage, history, religion and languages. It also aligns with UKZN’s mission and vision to be the Premier University of African Scholarship.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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