Graduate Explores Teachers’ Experiences of Learner-on-Learner Physical Assault in Schools

Graduate Explores Teachers’ Experiences of Learner-on-Learner Physical Assault in Schools
Mr Sindile Khani graduates cum laude with a Masters degree in Criminology and Forensic Studies.

A thrilled Mr Sindile Khani recently graduated cum laude with a Masters degree in Criminology and Forensic Studies from UKZN for his analytical study of teachers’ experiences and perceptions towards learner-on-learner physical assault in schools.

Khani’s research, conducted among learners in 12 high schools in the Umlazi Township, investigated teachers’ perceptions regarding the nature and extent of school-based violence, and perceived causes of learner-on-learner physical assault.  It also aimed to establish from teachers what they believe could be done to better manage physical violence.

Khani believes that by understanding the educational personnel perceptions and experiences about learner-on-learner physical violence at schools, intervention strategies can be developed to promote effective management of school-based violence in conflict-troubled schools, thereby contributing to the maintenance of school safety.

One of the major themes that emerged from the study was the need for capacity and developmental programmes for learners. ‘Educators in Umlazi believe that extra-curricular activities are needed to keep learners busy, to deter them from deviance and violence.

‘Educators also believe in the importance of enforcing the school code of conduct and the application of consistent disciplinary measures. To be effective, the enforcement of disciplinary measures needs to be constant when dealing with violence at schools,’ he said.

According to Khani, managing violence in schools requires a multi-level approach that does not only address the behavioural issues of learners. ‘To create schools free of physical violence requires the participation of all the stakeholders involved, which include the learners themselves, the educators, the school management team, the school governing body, the community and the authoritative bodies within the communities.’

Khani is currently pursuing postgraduate studies in monitoring and evaluation at the University of Stellenbosch. ‘My plan is to develop an evaluation study for my PhD to assess the effectiveness of the Department of Correctional Services Programme[s] to curb levels of recidivism. I believe taking this extra year to learn evaluation designs will enhance my research interests.’

Offering advice to other students, Khani said: ‘Researchers are defensive about their work and don’t take kindly to criticism, but what I have learned at UKZN is that your fellow scholars want to see you do well. Whether it’s the colloquiums, or student conferences or even your supervisor, try to learn from other people. Also, talk about your work with fellow scholars. Research doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.’

Melissa Mungroo


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Masters Graduate Research Examines Fashion as Socio-Cultural Communication about South Africa

Masters Graduate Research Examines Fashion as Socio-Cultural Communication about South Africa
Ms Nonduduzo Ngcobo graduates cum laude with a Masters degree in Social Sciences.

Ms Nonduduzo Ngcobo graduated cum laude with a Masters degree in Social Sciences for her research titled: “Fashioning Meaning: The Graphic T-shirts of Butan Wear and Magents Lifestyle Apparel as Socio-Cultural Communication about South Africa”.

‘A study of fashion might seem trivial - after all, fashion is often thought of as the fickle pass time of the image obsessed,’ said Ngcobo. ‘Academics once also took this stance, with early fashion theorists often engaging with the study of fashion as the leisure activity of the wealthy.

‘However, contemporary academic studies view fashion as a means of articulating social status, belonging and personal expression.’

Her dissertation explored the graphic T-shirts of two South African brands Butan Wear and Magents Lifestyle Apparel, to expand this notion.

Ngcobo argued that clothing can be analysed as a fashion designer’s narrative about the lived reality of their consumers. An analysis of the T-shirts revealed that both brands balance their consumers’ needs and personal creativity in designing shirts that serve as representation of their clients’ social reality.

‘Both brands use the fashion system as a channel and their garments, media and design as a message  conveying meaning about social realities of the collective identities that exist in present day South Africa. Butan Wear, a street-wear brand synonymous with South African hip-hop culture, draws from global and local hip-hop and popular culture in creating T-shirts that are reflective of their consumers’ zeitgeist,’ said Ngcobo.

‘The brand amalgamates global and local hip-hop culture in the production of the shirts that serve as narratives about South Africans negotiating their identity in a contemporary globalised country. Magents Lifestyle Apparel, a ready-to-wear label referring to clients as Konscious Warriors, create T-shirts that draw from ideological narratives without being overtly political.

‘The brand’s creative use of colours and witty phrases that accompany their depictions of South African struggle veterans serve as narratives of how the past influences the construction and maintenance of identity in post-apartheid South Africa,’ said Ngcobo.

She advised other students to work hard and thanked her family, friends and supervisor, Dr Lauren Dyll, for their support and guidance.

Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Staffer Graduates with BA Honours Degree in African Languages

UKZN Staffer Graduates with BA Honours Degree in African Languages
Staff member Mr Sizwe Hadebe graduates with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree.

Born in the small village of Mafakatini in Pietermaritzburg, College of Humanities staff member Mr Sizwe Hadebe rose up above all the challenges and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree.

Raised by his mother after his father died when he was five-years-old, Hadebe matriculated at Ngcedomhlophe High School and enrolled at UKZN going on to graduate with a Bachelor of Social Science degree.

Having a keen interest in languages and linguistics, he then chose postgraduate studies in African languages in order to become a linguist.

‘After UKZN started promoting previously disadvantaged languages such as isiZulu followed by the introduction of the bilingual policy of teaching and learning in isiZulu and English, I decided to do my research on the topic.

‘I saw it as an opportunity to do postgraduate studies thereby increasing the number of academics producing knowledge about African languages, contributing to their defence and promotion,’ he said.

Plagued by constant financial difficulties, Hadebe was grateful last year when he managed to get a job working in the College of Humanities Student Funding Department. ‘I now support my family. My mother is not working anymore and receives a meagre pension but I am able to assist her financially.

‘I thank my line manager Miss Constance Dube for giving me the opportunity to work at Student Funding and to showcase my work ethic and communication skills. Also thanks to my mother for her never-ending support and love,’ said Hadebe.

He believes that education is important. ‘Young people need to know that education is the key to unlock the door of success and to enrich your mind. It does not matter where you come from; when you are educated anything is possible.’

Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Staffer Graduates with PhD for Study on Suicidal Behaviour

UKZN Staffer Graduates with PhD for Study on Suicidal Behaviour
Dr Sarojini Naidoo graduated with a PhD in Psychology.

Lecturer in the College of Humanities Dr Sarojini Naidoo graduated with a PhD in Psychology for research which investigated suicidal behaviour in the South African context.

Naidoo, who has been interested in the field of suicidology for many years, says there is not enough research on suicide in South Africa even though suicide rates continue to spiral, particularly among younger people. ‘The World Health Organization estimates that more than 800 000 people die by suicide each year, with 75% of these deaths occurring in low and middle income countries, such as South Africa.’

Naidoo’s research tested a relatively new theory of suicidal behaviour. Using psychiatric outpatients from state hospitals and private psychiatry and psychology settings, she tested the hypotheses of the Interpersonal-Psychological theory of suicidal behaviour (IPTS). This is a promising new theory but had not been tested in the South African context previously. 

‘This theory basically answers the question of why not everyone who has suicidal thoughts or feelings engages in a suicide attempt,’ said Naidoo. ‘It proposes that millions of years of evolution have sharpened our instincts for self -preservation. A person with suicidal feelings must therefore be able to overcome this instinct, that is develop an acquired capability for suicide, in order to engage in a lethal suicide attempt.’

Using regression analyses, Naidoo found evidence for the main hypotheses of the theory which are that a) when a person’s interpersonal need to care for and be cared for by others is thwarted to the point that they feel hopeless about the situation changing, they are likely to experience suicidal ideation; and b) in the presence of fearlessness about death and increased pain tolerance (i.e. an acquired capability for suicide), this suicidal ideation is likely to result in a high risk suicidal attempt.

‘The implications of these findings are that in order to prevent or reduce suicidal ideation, practitioners must target patients’ feelings of interpersonal alienation as this is a dynamic state that can be modified through interventions such as counselling,’ said Naidoo.

‘In people’s homes and at schools, families and educators should be alert to feelings of interpersonal alienation of those around them. On a more practical level, the means to engage in a suicide attempt, such as firearms, can be restricted.’

Naidoo was awarded a Doctoral Sabbatical grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) allowing her to take some time off teaching to focus on her PhD. ‘I am immensely grateful to them for the grant.’

Naidoo thanked her family, friends and supervisor. ‘The collegial approach of my supervisor, Professor Steven Collings, was amazing with his statistical knowledge and ideas to refine the project which made a huge difference to my work. I also had incredible support from my friends and family - I think it’s difficult to do work at this level without that kind of support.

‘I am now looking at non suicidal self-injury, also known as self-harm behaviour, among adolescents. This behaviour, which includes surface cutting, scratching etc. with no suicidal intent, whilst appearing to be a seemingly innocuous developmental phase that troubled adolescents go through, may lead to an acquired capability for suicide over time, as these adolescents may gradually desensitise to pain and the fear of dying. Over time and in the presence of suicidal ideation this desensitisation could lead to increasingly lethal suicidal behaviour.’

Melissa Mungroo


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Mkhize Twins Graduate with Bachelor of Social Science Degrees

Mkhize Twins Graduate with Bachelor of Social Science Degrees
Twins Andile and Anele Mkhize graduated with Bachelor of Social Science degrees.

Twins Andile and Anele Mkhize of Isipingo, who graduated with Bachelor of Social Science degrees, say it is their biggest ever academic achievement.

‘We are so happy to graduate together,’ said Andile. ‘We have worked hard, always helping each other out. It’s a great feeling to know that I’ve done this with my sister by my side.’

Said Anele: ‘Life has this funny way of always ensuring that we do things together… and this degree has been no different. We now want to pursue our postgraduate studies together.’

The twins have been fascinated with Psychology from an early age, both choosing to study for a degree in the profession. ‘We want to help people. There’s no greater joy than being able to help,’ said Andile.

They thanked their family and friends for the ongoing support and encouragement and advised other students to work hard, stay motivated and do postgraduate studies.

Melissa Mungroo


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PhD Examines Implications for Social Work in Displacement and Cross-Border Migration

PhD Examines Implications for Social Work in Displacement and Cross-Border Migration
Social Work Lecturer Dr Dorothee Hölscher graduates with a PhD in Social Work.

Experiences of displacement and cross-border migration in South Africa and their implications for social work’s commitment to social justice were examined by lecturer Dr Dorothee Hölscher for her Doctorate in Social Work.

‘The phenomena of displacement and cross-border migration highlight pertinent injustices under conditions of globalisation and neoliberalism. Social work is entangled in these injustices,’ said Hölscher.

Hölscher conducted a multisite ethnographic study while practising as a social worker in a refugee services organisation and participating in the responses of a local church to the mass displacement of foreign nationals during South Africa’s first xenophobic pogroms.

Cross-border migrants participating in her study shared pervasive experiences of exclusion, exploitation, deprivation, powerlessness, violence, and “Othering”. According to Hölscher, members of the church community and practitioners of care in both sites were witness to some of the injustices experienced by the migrants. In those situations that facilitated face-to-face encounters, the response was one of solidarity and care.

She found a general disregard for the structural nature of the injustices experienced by the migrants. ‘Practitioners and community members also disregarded their own implication in these injustices. In the absence of any sustained and political response, there was a tendency to reify the economic, political, social, and cultural conditions surrounding these encounters. When expectations towards successful interventions were not met, cross-border migrants tended to be blamed for their situation, apt to be framed as undeserving of help.’

She also found that members of all participant groups – cross-border migrants, practitioners of care and members of the church community – shared a range of negative emotions pertaining to their surrounding social injustices. ‘Together, there was a tendency to re-enact historical scripts for relationships between members of different races, classes, and nationalities in post-apartheid South Africa. These scripts were structured further by a well-established welfare discourse around service provider/service user relationships.’

Hölscher believes there is a need for targeted, yet multifaceted interventions in the field of social work with cross-border migrants alongside continued efforts to mainstream feminist relational/ethics of care approaches and their compatibility with other ethical approaches.

‘Attention to emotion and affect should not be seen simply as an end in itself, but also be regarded as an important means to revitalise social work as a political practice. The ideals of care, participatory parity and dialogical forms of engagement can usefully guide such endeavours. The formation of communities of practice to provide safe spaces for mutual support, debate and ways of responding to pertinent social injustices under difficult circumstances, should be explored,’ she said.

Hölscher thanked her family, friends and supervisors for being her support system saying: ‘After a long study such as this, there are bound to be more people than I could list, and to whom I owe my appreciation for their contribution, friendship and support. I would like to express my wholehearted gratitude to them.’

Melissa Mungroo


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Sexagenarian graduates with National Professional Diploma in Education

Sexagenarian graduates with National Professional Diploma in Education
Mr Musawenkosi Mpungose graduated with a National Professional Diploma in Education from UKZN.

His face beamed with pride and a broad smile crossed his face as he was called onto the stage at a recent UKZN Graduation ceremony held at the University’s Westville campus.

At that moment, the 63-year-old Mr Musawenkosi Mpungose realised his dream of graduating with a National Professional Diploma in Education.

Mpungose had been the oldest in his class, but that did not deter him. Instead it spurred him on to do his best.

His journey to graduation was not an easy one. He enrolled for the three year diploma in 2008, but financial constraints forced him to put his studies on hold.

‘I repeated some of my modules due to financial difficulties and therefore it took me many years to finish, but that didn’t discourage me but instead pushed me to work hard. And even though I was the oldest in class, I realised that age does not matter,’ said Mpungose.

He explained that while he was initially daunted by the presence of younger students in class, he later realised that he could use their experiences and vice versa.

‘Being at university really changes your view about the things around you. You gain knowledge and you also meet different people who also make a meaningful contribution in your life.’

Mpungose is a Grade 6 teacher at St Cyprian Senior Secondary School, where he teaches English, Technology, Life Skills, Natural Sciences and isiZulu.

‘I love working with children and helping them see the potential in themselves and encouraging them to make education their first priority.’

He thanked his family and friends for their encouragement and support. ‘I would like to thank my family and friends for supporting me, without their support I wasn’t going to make it, but their words of wisdom and motivation kept me going’.

He advised students, especially mature students, to never be discouraged. ‘Be career driven so that you will achieve your goals in life.’

Nomcebo Mncube


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Bachelor of Social Work Degree ‘Passport to Independence’ for UKZN Staffer

Bachelor of Social Work Degree ‘Passport to Independence’ for UKZN Staffer
UKZN staff member Ms Zola Chonco graduates with a Bachelor of Social Work degree.

College of Humanities staff member Ms Zola Chonco graduated with her Bachelor of Social Work degree, seeing it as a passport to her independence.

'I am overjoyed. I have needed independence for a long time and this is the first step towards having the ability to provide for my daughter and I. God has been good, I truly am so blessed.’

Chonco is passionate about helping people and community upliftment. ‘I want to be the help - I never had - for young women. I believe I have a purpose and that everything is working together to help me attain my goals. For now, I will do my best where I am and be an asset to the University.’

Her undergraduate years were tough but also enriching. ‘There were times I wanted to give up, but knowing I had a daughter who depends on me kept me going. Being part of the Social Work class at UKZN, I learned so much about the world around me as well as how to deal with my own life challenges.’

Chonco experienced financial difficulties and battled with depression. ‘I wouldn’t have got through these years without the Student Counselling office and support from friends and family. As a student, you need to provide for yourself as well as cope with the workload with life happening at the same time. It is never easy but we have to persevere.

‘Being able to take good care of my daughter drives me all the time. I am fortunate that friends and family have helped me financially, emotionally and by just being there for me when things got tough.’

Chonco, who worked part-time throughout her studies, is now employed full-time in the School of Applied Human Sciences.

‘It is a wholesome and enriching environment with opportunities for students to grow as individuals and as professionals. I support anyone who wants to study at UKZN as it has helped shape me into the woman I am today.’

She had this advice for other students: ‘God is real!  Never give up. Persevere and be resilient in everything you do. It sounds like a cliché but it is the truth and if you keep your head down and focus on the work, you will overcome and get that degree. Fun and good times follow later.’

Melissa Mungroo


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Research into School Violence and Prostitution Results in Social Science Degrees

Research into School Violence and Prostitution Results in Social Science Degrees
Ms Thandanani Ngidi (left) and Ms Nomakhosi Sibisi who graduated with degrees in Social Sciences.

Ms Thandanani Ngidi and colleague Ms Nomakhosi Sibisi have been awarded Honours and Master’s degrees respectively in Social Sciences.

Ngidi got her degree for research she did on migration, urbanisation and adolescent prostitution, while Sibsi attained her qualification for a study on school violence in South Africa.

Ngidi identifies adolescent prostitution as one of the most crucial debates of contemporary social discourse. She established a causal link between migration, urbanisation and adolescent prostitution, exploring arguments that support claims connecting urban cities with deviant behaviours, which become rampant among adolescent girls, resulting in some of them becoming prostitutes.

Drawing on the tenets of lifestyle exposure and routine activity theories, settlements of rural-urban dwellers were described as settlements of decadence breeding various crimes as well as being locations where youngsters became involved in deviant behaviour.

Ngidi also noticed a new form of prostitution, which involved young girls, especially higher institution students, being lured by older men (blessers).

She said: ‘The improvement of urban settlement social conditions, provision of employment opportunities and tackling large scale poverty will reduce the rate at which young girls engage in prostitution and consequently curb the spread of HIV infections.’

Said Sibisi: ‘Over the past year many authors focused on how school violence affects learners and their capability to perform well at school, ignoring the fact that educators are also affected by school violence.

Sibisi’s study examined the effects of school violence on educators - those directly and indirectly affected by violence within a school, those who have witnessed incidents of violence at school and those who victims of violence within the school.

‘This research was conducted at Fairvale Secondary School in Wentworth in Durban. Wentworth is well known for gang-related violence and its high crime rate. Learners from this area reported behavioural problems due to the community they live in,’ said Sibisi.

Her research findings reveal that ‘a school does not exist in a vacuum but it is part of broader society. Schools situated in an area with a high incidence of violence are more likely to have incidents of school violence. Educators suffer from a number of different psychological and physical effects due to their exposure to violence on a regular basis.'   

Melissa Mungroo


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