Inaugural Lecture Focuses on Work being Done to Reduce Maternal Mortality in SA

Inaugural Lecture Focuses on Work being Done to Reduce Maternal Mortality in SA
Professor Anita Naicker with her family at her Inaugural Lecture.

Increasing research evidence on HIV-associated pre-eclampsia aetiology, enabling evidence-based clinical and programmatic guidance for the better management of the disease and the consequential reduction of maternal mortality in South Africa, was the subject of an inaugural lecture at UKZN.

The lecture was given by the Academic Theme Leader for Body Form and Function within the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, Professor Thajasvarie Naicker, who spoke on work being done to save pregnant women and their babies.

‘HIV infection and hypertension in pregnancy are among the top three leading causes of maternal deaths in South Africa,’ said Naicker.

Naicker has been driving research in the area of placental research and chairs the UKZN group in that field and has received recognition from the International Federation of Placental Associations for her work on pre-eclampsia. 

She is an established researcher recognised by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa with a number of national and international grants. This has fostered the growth of the niche area of hypertension in pregnancy and microscopy and thus supports the research ethos of UKZN in the priority niche areas of maternal health and infectious diseases.

The translation of laboratory-based research evidence into clinical effectiveness by her team covered the transcytosis of HIV across the placenta; decreased functional placental efficiency; absence of lymphatic drainage in the placenta; body mass index and Adipokine baseline for future reference in South Africa; the predictive value of angiogenic factors (sFlt-1/PlGF ratio) for the diagnosis of early onset PE, and the spectrum of paediatric HIV-related renal diseases in KwaZulu-Natal.

Naicker obtained her PhD in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and her MMedSci degree from the Department of Medicine. Her research productivity adjudged from publications and conference throughput is extensive. At postgraduate level, Naicker supervises four postdoctoral fellows and has successfully graduated 25 masters and doctoral students in the last few years.

Naicker, who has published 16 papers since last year, is a reviewer for the NRF, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and several international journals and in addition serves on journal editorial boards.

The College of Health Sciences Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Rob Slotow congratulated Naicker and thanked her for making a meaningful contribution to the health profession and academia.

‘Becoming a professor is not a project but an achievement earned over years of hard work and dedication.  Thank you for contributing to knowledge that can help people work better in the health profession.’

Words by: Nombuso Dlamini

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Audiology Team Building Event a Great Success

Audiology Team Building Event a Great Success
The Discipline of Audiology staff at a team building event.

Academics and professional support staff at the School of Health Science’s Audiology Discipline participated in an interactive outdoor team building event at the Emoyeini Lodge in Camperdown, aimed at improving staff efficiency and communication.

The activities were held in accordance with the College of Health Science’s communication strategy and UKZN’s REACHT campaign.

Acting Academic Leader, Ms Seema Panday, said her team welcomed the exercise and the workshop helped stimulate and improve communication as well as increase trust and collegiality among staff.

‘While the activities may have looked like fun and games, they were designed to improve communication skills, leadership, trust, and to promote healthy relationships,’ said Panday.

Staff were divided into two teams - a Red Team and a Purple Team - with members competing in mind stimulating games such as match puzzles, riddles, jigsaw puzzles and climbing.

These activities required all the participants to showcase proper planning abilities and the formulation of good strategies. Both teams were committed and there was a high level of competition.

The exercise enabled Audiology team members to share, explore, clarify and re-define their relationships as they sought to improve some of the skills needed in the execution of their duties.

REACHt stands for Respect, Excellence, Accountability, Client Orientation, Honesty and Trust – six core values based on uBuntu which formed the basis of the team building workshop.

The workshop was facilitated by Team Attitude which provides training, development and team building.

Words by: Nombuso Dlamini

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School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences Presents Research Day

School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences Presents Research Day
PhD candidates, Mr Benjamin Chimukangara won the first prize with his oral paper whilst Ms Samantha Anderson took the first prize for her oral poster presentation.

UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (LMMS) in the College of Health Sciences recently hosted a Research Day on the Westville campus.

This event provided students with an opportunity to present their latest research work thus promoting collaboration and fostering a research ethos within the School.

The event was well attended by academic and support staff, and students.

PhD and masters candidates shared details on their research work with a record number of abstracts being submitted and evaluated by the selection committees in each of the themes in the School.

Organiser of the event and Research Academic Leader in the School Dr Michelle Gordon thanked everyone who helped make the programme run smoothly and Professor Kriben Pillay, who captivated the audience with his magic show.

Gordon also thanked the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB) for hosting the event as well as the LMMS postgraduate office for co-ordinating the day.

PhD candidates, Mr Benjamin Chimukangara won the first prize with his oral paper whilst Ms Samantha Anderson took the first prize for her oral poster presentation titled: OGG1 Ser326Cys polymorphism is associated with HIV and influences low birth weight and pre-term birth susceptibility, within South Africa.

Words by: Lihle Sosibo

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Specialist Physician’s Doctoral Work Earns Gold Award

Specialist Physician’s Doctoral Work Earns Gold Award
Dr Somasundram Pillay (third right).

UKZN’s Dr Somasundram Pillay won first prize in the category of Outstanding Achievement at the 2017 Minister of Health Services Awards (MASEA) for innovation in his PhD work on Improved Regional Diabetes Care.

On top of this achievement, Pillay was runner-up in the 2017 Board of Health Funders (BHF) Titanium Awards announced in July.

‘Both the MASEA and BHF Titanium Awards are highly sought after.  It is exciting to receive recognition for my work in improving diabetes care in resource-limited settings,’ said Pillay.

Pillay, who is a Specialist Physician and Head of Blue Firm Internal Medicine at Edendale Hospital, hopes his successful blueprint for improving overall diabetes care will be rolled out in clinics in KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of the country. He has served in the health sector for about 20 years with his passion being to help improve diabetes care in developing countries. He enjoys being able to make a difference in the lives of public care patients and assist in decreasing the burden diabetes puts on them and their families.

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) remains an ever-present threat both to patients and the economies of countries.

‘We know from studies that HIV infection and antiretrovirals increase the risk of developing DM which increases the risk of developing TB. This vicious cycle needs to be broken - better diabetes control provides hope in that area,’ said Pillay.

‘We have also found that the majority of DM patients in KwaZulu-Natal are diagnosed and have treatment at their local clinic and at district level. Emphasis needs to be placed at this level on the education of clinicians and nurses education in the management of DM.’

Pillay says that his research project started in 2012.  ‘My innovation has been shown to improve overall diabetes care at resource-limited diabetes clinic level. This improved diabetes control will lead to decreased complications and in turn to decreased economic costs for the country. It improves both service delivery to the individual patient and decreases economic drain on the country.’

Words by: Lihle Sosibo

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UKZN Academics Speak at Genetics Congress in Durban

UKZN Academics Speak at Genetics Congress in Durban

Several UKZN academics delivered presentations at the 17th biennial Congress of the Southern African Society of Human Genetics held in Durban in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

They included Academic Leader of Research in the School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Colleen Aldous;

Professor Miriam Adhikari, who has dedicated all her life to paediatrics and genetics research, and Professor Richard Hift.

The four-day congress attracted genetics and genomics scientists, and healthcare specialists from all over South Africa and the rest of the world.

Addressing the congress, Chairperson of the Southern African Society for Human Genetics (SASHG), Dr Zané Lombard, said Ubuntu was an engrained part of the South African social fabric and it was therefore fitting that the theme of the congress was Ubuntu Genetics.

‘This congress marks the 30th anniversary of our first SASHG Congress and will surely add value in understanding our community and patients and should also inspire us to find new ways in which we can work together for the better of our communities,’ said Lombard.

Said Aldous, who was the SASHG Chair of the Congress’s organising committee: ‘Whether you are a scientist, nurse, counsellor or doctor, the bottom line is that it is the patient who we should be trying to provide the best care for. This conference intends to remind us researchers and health care practitioners that it is the patients and their families who need care the most.’

Items discussed at the congress included genetic testing, genetic diagnosis and counselling, genetics in prenatal settings, molecular genetics and pharmacogenetics.

In the last three decades, the study of genetics has played an increasingly important role in helping explain events in human history. Studies have provided conclusive information that helped answer challenging questions, such as the Out of Africa migration of modern humans.

The studies have also helped to establish Africa as the birthplace of anatomically modern humans.

Words by: Lihle Sosibo

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Law Students get Involved in Community Upliftment

Law Students get Involved in Community Upliftment
Activities on the go during a student community outreach initiative at the Ubunye Centre for abused and raped women.

In honour of Women’s Month, members of the Community Service Committee of the Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) in Pietermaritzburg visited the Ubunye Centre for abused and raped women in Pietermaritzburg.

This initiative was in association with the Law students’ constitutional literacy programme during which copies of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa are handed out and efforts made to educate community members about their rights and how to exercise them.

Also on the agenda was the #1000HappyPeriods campaign which helps at least 1 000 females with sanitary products which forms part of the focus on the right to access proper healthcare.

‘The aim of the visit was to empower the ladies and make them feel special. We feel it is vital for people to know their rights, especially vulnerable groups such as women and children,’ said Mr Mluleki Msomi, who is the Chairperson of the SLSJ UKZN Pietermaritzburg branch.

Msomi said the initiative was supported by members of the SLSJ team and the University community as well as sponsors including Thabela Catering & Hire (Pty) Ltd who provided refreshments, Merck Pharmaceuticals and nursing staff from Grey’s Hospital who donated clothes and blankets.

He added that the event was a great success, saying similar community outreach initiatives were planned by the SLSJ team for later this year.

To make a donation to the cause contact: Mr Mluleki Msomi at

Words by: Reatlehile Moeti

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Three Doctors’ Pact recalled at Memorial Lecture

Three Doctors’ Pact recalled at Memorial Lecture
Dr Kreesan Naicker, Mr Mthetheli Xuma and Ms Roshan Dadoo re-enact the signing of the 1947 Three Doctors Pact.

‘What I learnt from my father was your conscience, was your politics,’ said Ms Roshan Dadoo, the daughter of Dr Yusuf Dadoo, speaking at the annual Phyllis Naidoo Memorial Lecture on UKZN’s Westville campus.

Yusuf Dadoo of the Transvaal Indian Congress was a signatory to the Three Doctors’ Pact signed in 1947 which sought to unite Africans and Indians in the struggle against the apartheid regime. The Pact formed the basis of united action in the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Freedom Charter. 

The other two doctors who signed the pact were Dr Alfred Xuma of the ANC and Dr Monty Naicker of the Natal Indian Congress.

‘The spirit of non-racialism was about building unity across gender, race and class,’ said Roshan Dadoo.

‘It was remarkable that activists, including our fathers and grandfathers, brought this about during apartheid given the oppression and brutality with which the regime tried to keep people apart.’

Speaking at the same event, Mr Mthetheli Xuma, representing the Xuma family, cautioned against the domination of a race and emphasised the importance of equality. ‘The colour of anyone’s skin must not be used to marginalise people, both Black and White,’ said Xuma.

He appealed to all present to promote non-racialism in order to build a prosperous South Africa. ‘At this juncture, our country is characterised by three challenges – unemployment, poverty and inequality.’

Dr Kreesan Naicker said his father, Dr Monty Naicker, was born in 1910, the year that the then ruling party legalised ‘racism, national oppression and class exploitation of the Black majority.

‘African, Indian and Coloured people found themselves voiceless and voteless in the land of their birth,’ said Naicker.

He said when the Pact was signed, ‘society was deeply segregated. It took these leaders to look beyond these barriers to develop an alternative vision.’

Looking at the current climate in the country, he said: ‘South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world.

‘Today, in the wake of racial tensions, we have seen xenophobic violence and unwarranted stirring up of emotions by some people who lead us through generalisations in racial and ethnic terms.

‘Our colonisers were deviously clever in introducing their divide and rule polices, knowing full well that there would always be this distrust and animosity between groups.’

He referred to the following quotes from his father, which he felt were relevant in today’s political climate in South Africa:

  1. ‘We must mobilise all our strength to seek a better life. We are after all sons and daughters of South Africa. All we want is to live as free citizens in a free society.’
  2. ‘There comes a time in the life of people when the opinion of the common people jumps ahead of those few who are in control, and the man in the street becomes wiser than the politician.’

Treasurer-General of the African National Congress, Dr Zweli Mkhize, reflected on Phyllis Naidoo’s role in the struggle and emphasised the importance of veterans as ‘they embody the spirit of what it meant to sacrifice, to struggle, to build this movement - particularly in the issues of non-racialism, non-sexism, freedom, democracy and peace’.

The theme of this year’s Phyllis Naidoo lecture, hosted by the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre, was advancing the platform of non-racialism and marking the 70th anniversary of the 1947 Three Doctors’ Pact.

*Phyllis Naidoo, who died in 2013, was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Bronze for her lifetime contribution to the struggle for gender equality, non-racialism and a free and democratic South Africa.  She also received an honorary doctorate from UKZN for her stellar role in the struggle for freedom in South Africa.

She was in exile in several countries including Lesotho and Zimbabwe. Her ardent opposition to the death penalty and campaigns to support South African political prisoners are well documented.  She was also a legal adviser to ANC President Oliver Tambo. 

Her letters and papers running into several thousand items were donated to UKZN and are among the University’s prized collections.

Words by: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph by Arushan Naidoo

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PhD Scholarship and Internship for Masters Candidate

PhD Scholarship and Internship for Masters Candidate
Mr Shadrack Mutembereza.

School of Accounting, Economics and Finance (SAEF) postgraduate student Mr Shadrack Mutembereza has received an internship and PhD scholarship at UKZN’s Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD).

This was made possible through the intervention of the SAEF Macroeconomics Working Group (MWG) and HEARD.

Candidates for the internship programme are recruited for a period of a year and are allocated to the HEARD programme in the following specialist areas: disability, health and livelihoods; gender equality and health; health governance and finance, and health systems strengthening. Trainees are guided by senior researchers to sharpen their research and policy analysis skills in an environment that strives for excellence in learning.

Mutembereza is currently completing his master’s degree and is working on a paper that aims to study individual health mobility among adults in South Africa. The research work, the first of its kind in South Africa, is being supervised by Economics Lecturer, Dr Josue Mbonigaba.

‘The dissertation aims to examine the problem of health inequality in South Africa. I started off by investigating if health mobility is different amongst diverse groups of individuals. Then in an attempt to understand the health inequality; I investigated the cause of these differences,’ said Mutembereza.

Speaking at the scholarship award ceremony, the Head of Research at HEARD, Dr Kaymarlin Govender, said his organisation will continue working with MWG and SAEF to mentor and develop young scholars for a career in applied health research.

‘HEARD is committed to developing young and talented graduates from Africa to take a leadership role in advancing the health agenda on the continent,’ he said.

‘Mentorship activities will include guidance on developing academic papers, exposure to international research projects and instruction on conceptualising PhD research through our Doctoral training program,’ he added.

Speaking on behalf of MWG, Professor Harold Ngalawa thanked HEARD for supporting the group’s research initiatives, which include reducing the financial burdens of students thus helping them concentrate on their studies.

‘I am grateful to HEARD for the opportunity, particularly the internship because it will help me to expand my potential. It is a life time opportunity for me and I will take full advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as possible,’ said Mutembereza.

‘I am grateful to the Macroeconomics Working Group for negotiating with HEARD for this internship and the PhD scholarship,’he added.

Words by: Sibonelo Shinga and Harold Ngalawa

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Wonder Woman Science Student is on a Mission to Save the World!

Wonder Woman Science Student is on a Mission to Save the World!
Ms Refilwe Mofokeng is a PhD Science student addressing social issues.

To show support for National Science Week (5-12 August) and National Women’s Day (9 August), the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science is honouring its Wonder Women in Science in a series of articles. The women are considered passionate, pioneering and persistent heroines who are “making waves in the field of science”.

This week the spotlight falls on UKZN doctoral student Ms Refilwe Mofokeng:

Ms Refilwe Mofokeng is a socially conscious scientist on a mission to make the world a better place by educating people about what they can do to save the world. She believes that prevention is better than cure so goes out of her way to promote conservation education.

Her love for science started in high school when she saw a salt bridge experiment. As she watched electrons move from an anode to a cathode, she realised how science can change the world, highlighting the need for initiatives such as National Science Week, which inspire the next generation of scientists.

‘I enjoyed science in school and I wanted to impact the world in a positive way,’ she said. This led her to UKZN’s School of Life Sciences, where she studied marine and estuarine ecotoxicology, examining acute and chronic toxicity as well as synergistic relationships between contaminants and microplastics.’

At UKZN, Mofokeng found time to advocate for social causes and was presented with the Erasmus Mundus Award and the Nelson Mandela Scholarship to study in Italy and The Netherlands. She has chaired a student chapter of the Global Business Roundtable, and is a non-executive Director of the Durban Partnership Against Plastic Pollution (DPAPP).

For years, she worked on solving hypothetical problems in the laboratory but she yearned to find solutions to real world issues close to her heart. With this in mind, she established the Refilwe Mofokeng non-profit organisation which is involved in school food-garden projects, beach and harbour clean-up projects and motivational speaking. The organisation believes in empowering the community to #GetInvolved. 

Mofokeng says her image of a scientist had been ‘an old man with crazy hair and thick glasses’. However, her perception changed when she learned about the following scientists:

·        Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Mathaai of Kenya

·        UKZN Associate Professor, Dr Ursula Scharler

·        Professor Nokuthula Kunene of the University of Zululand’s Department of Agriculture

‘These are some of the women in science who have held their own and have inspired me,’ she said.

Mofokeng believes that inspiring greatness means to bring people to an awareness where they are able to realise their full potential. She advises budding female scientists to believe in themselves and support each other. ‘Believe that you are enough, and if we help and support each other, then we as women will be enough,’ she says.

She says science education in South Africa is not where it should be. ‘There is a clear disconnect between science in schools and science in tertiary institutions. Therefore, it is important that the government works together with experts to bridge the gap.’

Mofokeng still has a lot that she wants to achieve, such as completing her PhD at UKZN, continuing her conservation efforts and educating people on the sustainable usage of natural resources.

Whether she is saving our oceans, feeding school kids or empowering communities, Refilwe Mofokeng is making a difference in the world.

We asked Mofokeng to create a “super hero profile” for herself based on the following questions:


What super power would you possess and why?

  To be super-fast so I have the time to explore all the ideas in my head.

What would your theme song be?

  I Was Here by Beyoncé, because I want to leave my mark on the world.

Who would your best buddy be and why?

  My mother because she is not afraid to tell me the truth, even when it is something I don’t want to hear.

Where would your secret hide-out be?    

 Stuck deep in the pages of a good book.

What is your “kryptonite” (weakness)?

       Time management.


* Each week in August, the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science has featured an article on its “Wonder Women” in Science. To read all the articles, visit:

Words and photograph by: Sashlin Girraj

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PhD Candidate’s Research Focuses on Solar Power Feasibility in KZN

PhD Candidate’s Research Focuses on Solar Power Feasibility in KZN
UKZN PhD candidate Mr Sabelo Ngema.

A PhD candidate at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership is currently working on a project for Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal involving solar power being attainable in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr Sabelo Ngema’s research - titled: Renewable Energy Supply: Overcoming the Barriers to Promote Renewable Energy in South Africa - seeks to address the issue related to the impact of energy generation in climate change and global warming as well as finding solutions to issues preventing solar power being a sustainable source of energy to balance the demand and supply system for electricity.

Ngema’s interest in the topic stems from him observing the unemployment rate in South Africa and the resources the country possesses to introduce and implement renewable solar energy as a sustainable and vital source of energy. ‘KwaZulu-Natal has the potential to produce solar energy because of its warm weather conditions and this will result in saving money and the atmosphere dilapidation by greenhouse gases.’

He said solar energy would increase economic productivity and reduce endemic poverty and improve the quality of life and job creation for the continent’s rapidly growing population.

Ngema does, however, state that due to the limited capacity to generate solar energy and shortage of skills, it is difficult for renewable energy to be consistently produced and that solar supply currently does not reach energy generation level requirements as the constraints that exist disinterest suppliers.

At the end of this project, Ngema will be able to provide possible solutions on how to use solar energy optimally which will reduce the demand for electricity off the grid and hopefully encourage local manufacturing companies to manufacture solar panels and other related solar power components.

‘Government should provide support for research and development of the solar industries to increase the capacity locally for incoming solar researchers and specialists,’ he said. ‘The country needs to create employment through industry establishment.’

Words by: Reatlehile Moeti

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Students March against Gender-Based Violence

Students March against Gender-Based Violence
UKZN’s South African Medical Students Association organised a march against gender-based violence.

A march to create awareness about gender-based violence and to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women was organised recently by the South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA) at UKZN.

Participants gathered at King Dinuzulu Park and marched to the Durban City Hall where deputy-convenor of the march and Deputy Chairperson of UKZN-SAMSA, Mr Kumeren Govender and his team handed over a petition to eThekwini’s Deputy Mayor, Ms Fawzia Peer.

Addressing marchers, Peer said there were still those who preyed on defenceless women. ‘Women are being abducted and forced into sex slavery which is the most inhumane thing one can ever imagine.’

‘Research shows that every six hours in South Africa, a woman is killed by her intimate partner,’ said Peer. ‘We have to question ourselves if our legal framework and by-laws are sufficient to address gender violence issues and their grassroots causes. We need to make the city of Durban safe and friendly for all who live in it, especially women.’

Women empowerment activist Mrs Shameen Rajbunsi applauded SAMSA and other role players for organising the march. ‘Today we see young men belonging to SAMSA supporting women and this gives us hope that there are real men out there who understand the worth of a woman and who respect women simply because they are human.’

‘One life lost is one too many,’ said UKZN’s SAMSA Chairperson, Mr Kapil Narain. ‘We are tired of hearing about gender violence all the time in KwaZulu-Natal and it is time we take action  and make men aware that gender-based violence has no place in our society.’

The event was supported by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), the South African Medical Association, the eThekwini Municipality, She Conquers, the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) and UKZN.

Words by: Lihle Sosibo

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Debate on Decolonising Research and Teaching and Learning in Health Sciences Sphere

Debate on Decolonising Research and Teaching and Learning in Health Sciences Sphere
Decolonisation, Dignity, and Humanisation within the sphere of Health Sciences was debated at a recent conference.

UKZN’s College of Health Sciences (CHS) recently hosted a conference under the topic: Decolonisation, Dignity, and Humanisation, with the aim of encouraging a discussion on the question of decolonising African Research and Teaching and Learning in the sphere of Health Sciences.

This gathering was hosted in partnership with the South African Medical Research Council; UNISA’s Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit, and UNISA’s ISHS Transdisciplinary African Psychologies Programme.

‘A relevant curriculum without borders is exactly the attitude and approach we need when it comes to the Teaching and Learning arena,’ said Dean of Teaching and Learning at CHS, Professor Sinegugu Duma, who officially opened the proceedings.

‘Institutions of learning should start focusing on serving human knowledge rather than theory – curriculum decolonisation is a stern call that is worth deliberating on.’

The meeting gave academics, professional services staff and students an opportunity to have an open debate on how they perceived decolonisation in the academic context in the field of Health Sciences.

‘There is a whole lot of rich indigenous knowledge that does not form part of the Basic and Higher Education curricula, due to the historical marginalisation and devaluation of African experiences.  This cognitive injustice can be corrected by initiating conversations between different knowledge traditions, on an equal basis,’ said former Dean and Head of the School in Applied Human Sciences, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize.

Mkhize is also former President of the South African Humanities. He specialises in language and instruction, has been involved in isiZulu terminology development and translation for psychology and other Social Sciences disciplines.

Professor Kopano Ratele of the Institute for Social and Health Sciences at Unisa, spoke on:  What Does Decolonisation Have to do with Dignity and Humanising Research, Teaching and Learning?

Ratele, also a researcher in the South African Medical Research Council/Unisa Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit, is perhaps best known for his work on men and masculinity, specifically in relation to violence, race, and sexualities.

Professor Nyna Amin from UKZN’s Discipline of Curriculum Studies based her talk on: Decolonising end of life care curriculum and covered possibilities and pitfalls in teacher education, medical education, gender and dialogue analysis.

 Words by: Lihle Sosibo

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Olunye Usuku Lwamahlaya Nomculo We-Jazz e-UKZN

Olunye Usuku Lwamahlaya Nomculo We-Jazz e-UKZN
Isizinda i-Centre for Jazz and Popular Music eSikoleni sezobuCiko sibe nomcimbi wamhlaya nomculo we-jazz kuleli sonto.

Click here for the English version

Isizinda i-Centre for Jazz and Popular Music (CJPM) esiyingxenye yeSikole sezobuCiko yethule isiqephu sesthathu ochungechungeni lwemibukiso yomculo we-Jazz ohambelana namahlaya. 

Lo mbukiso oyimizuzu engama-90 ubuye ngezinkani emva kwezicelo eziningi zokuthi ubuyiswe futhi uqoshwe ngqo ku-DVD.

Onguthisha e-UKZN futhi abuye abe usomahlaya u-Mo Vawda, obephethe uhlelo wangena emkhakheni wezamahlaya eminyakeni embalwa edlule lapho ayeba nemibukiso esezingeni eliphezulu, amahlaya ahlanzekile nolwazi lokulingisela abantu abanhlobonhlobo. Kungaba ukukhuluma ngezigemegeme zokuba udokotela (kwezezibalomidanti), impilo yomshado, ukuhlala eNingizimu Afrika, noma ukuvakashela phesheya, lena yindoda yeSulumane eziqhenyayo futhi eba ngundabuzekwayo ngesisivinini kulo mkhakha.

‘Umbukiso ubalule izehlakalo zasezweni nangempilo yasekhempasini,’ kusho uVawda. ‘Ukhuluma nentsha nabadala ngamahlaya nomculo we-jazz. Umbukiso futhi unengxenye ethokozisayo lapho kunomculo wokunandisa.’

Obekuhamba phambili kulombukiso, u-Troy Tesla ukhulume ngezihloko ezisematheni embukisweni wakhe awethula yedwa: U-Afrika. Imibukiso eyesekayo ibihlanganisa usomahlaya waseThekwini u-Kamz Govender, nozibiza ngo ‘fresh Prince of Umbilo’ u-Bob Perfect, no-Kwanda Radebe ogqame emkhakheni wamahlaya emva kokuphumelela imincintiswano i-Durban Young Guns Comedy Showdown ne-Next Comedy Generation ngonyaka wezi-2015 nowezi-2017.

Umculo obunandisa ubuhlanganise abafundi base-UKZN abebeholwa uthisha wabo wephimbo uNkz  Thulile Zama, lapho beqhulule izingoma ezinhlobonhlobo ezisukela kumculo we-jazz kuya kwezabanye abaculi kanye nezasekhaya bephelezelwa umdlali wepiyano u-David Smith.

UZama, ocula phambili eqenjini labesifazane bodwa le-jazz i- Heels Over Head, uphinde ahole iqembu i-Makeba Tribute Band edlala izingoma zika-

Mama Africa ezweni lonke.

Amagama ngu: Melissa Mungroo

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Double Accolade at Mzantsi Jazz Awards for UKZN Lecturer

Double Accolade at Mzantsi Jazz Awards for UKZN Lecturer
Award-winning Jazz Lecturer Mr Sibusiso “Mash” Mashiloane.

UKZN Music Lecturer Mr Sibusiso “Mash” Mashiloane recently won two awards for his debut album, Amanz’ Olwandle, at the inaugural Mzantsi Jazz Awards in Johannesburg.

Mash won Best Jazz Album by public vote and Best Contemporary Jazz Album, decided by a jury. Nominees in his category included Nduduzo Makhathini, Dumza Maswana, Africa Plus and Bongani Radebe.

The Mzantsi Awards recognise excellence in jazz music in South Africa.

Humbled at winning the two awards, Mashiloane will release his second album, Rotha – A Tribute to Mama, on Sunday 27 August during a performance in SABC’s M1 Studios in Durban at 4pm which marks the start of his launch tour.

Tickets are R150 and can be obtained through and at Pick n Pay.

The album is a tribute to cherished and influential figures, experiences and memories in Mashiloane’s life but most importantly salutes his mother, Ms Rotha Mashiloane, who passed away exactly a year ago on 27 August 2016, while he was in studio recording the album.

Rotha is an acoustic traditional jazz collection which radiates South African heritage sounds and universal jazz influences. He describes the album as ‘mostly sharing Coltrane’s harmonic movements with African influences within the melody and, most notably, references to South African tribal and spiritual sounds.

‘This is a very special album for me because it contains my first compositions after I had enrolled at the Natal Technikon. Most of the songs on the album are more than 10 years old.  The arrangements, rhythms, melodies and harmonic structures are therefore a reflection of my years at both Natal Tech and UKZN,’ said Mashiloane.

‘These are songs I would play with my “Unlocked Keys Band” and the audiences loved them. Recording the album was not an easy task for me; I wanted to hear the music as I composed it many years ago, which was difficult considering the influences and the maturity I have accumulated. The good part is that 90% of the musicians who feature on the recording are musicians I used to play the music with,’ he said.

Mashiloane holds a Master’s degree in Jazz Performance (cum laude) from UKZN. He has performed nationally and internationally with an aim to become an integral part of the South African and international jazz scene.

His performances are inspired by funk, hip-hop, gospel and traditional South African music.

Mashiloane’s goal is to grow talent, teach and organise live music performances with his students, focusing on South African composers. This is in line with his current PhD studies which focus on local music.

Words by: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph by: Black Lotus Photography

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UKZN Academic Treats Learners to Exciting Astronomy Workshop

UKZN Academic Treats Learners to Exciting Astronomy Workshop
Learners from Seven Hills Primary School with their Principal Mr R Gareeb (left) and UKZN’s Dr Nadaraj Govender.

Learners from Seven Hills Primary School in Montford, Chatsworth, enjoyed a science and solar system astronomy workshop presented to them by Physics Lecturer in UKZN’s School of Education, Dr Nadaraj Govender, as part of Mandela Day.

In a bid to motivate learners and encourage them to be passionate about Science, Govender visits schools regularly.

Grade 6 and Grade 7 pupils heard about building solar system models, practical astronomy and chemical rockets as well as watching a video on the solar system.

The youngsters asked interesting and inquiring questions about celestial objects, while hearing about future journeys to Mars.

‘Learners at school often do not interact with scientists coming from their own community, especially in their classrooms, so visiting them at school bridges this gap,’ said Govender. ‘Being at the schools allows learners to have role models and to keep up with current issues in science.

‘Learners are able to ask questions that are answered at their level of understanding. For us, as educators, it keeps our feet on the ground, making us more aware of the realities of today’s classrooms where social issues are becoming paramount,’ said Govender.

School Principal Mr R Gareeb, also a Science teacher, said he was highly impressed by the workshop.

Gareeb, who is keen to establish a modern Science laboratory at the School, thanked Govender for coming back to his alma mater where he was a top learner 47 years ago!

The workshop ended with a chemical rocket experiment using recycled materials in which the various science processes involved were explained to the young folk.

Govender’s research work involves teachers, students and learners discussing connections in science, culture and indigenous knowledge.

‘Currently I am engaged in exploring local community farming practices and future visits to schools will involve creating school projects related to home gardening, the environment and sustainable development,’ he added.

Govender donated solar system model kits to the School.

Words by: Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Developing New Medicines to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

UKZN Developing New Medicines to Fight Antibiotic Resistance
UKZN’s Team which is developing New Medicines.

UKZN’s Novel Drug Delivery Unit is designing and manufacturing several new medicines to fight antibiotic resistance under the leadership of Professor Thirumala Govender and her team which includes post-doctoral Fellow, Dr Rahul Kalhapure.

The team’s recent achievements include the successful filing of a patent application in the United Kingdom, winning a national competition for publishing their pharmaceutical research results, and having several articles on effective medicines published in high quality journals

Govender and her team, including Dr Chunderika Mocktar, Dr Sanil Singh, Dr Sanjeev Rambharose, Professor Mahmoud Soliman and several postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, are focusing on the development of innovative pharmaceutical formulation materials and nanodrug delivery systems as solutions to overcome challenges with current dosage forms (such as tablets and capsules) in which antibiotics are administered to patients.

Govender says even if new drugs are developed, their efficacy in the patient can be affected if they continue to be administered in conventional dosage forms, thus creating a major research area.

‘Various types of advanced and new generation nanodrug delivery systems such as nanomicelles, nanoplexes, and polymersomes with superior materials and architectural designs have been prepared by our team and have shown superior activity against sensitive and resistant bacteria.

‘We have just completed a proof-of-concept study where we designed and synthesised a novel type of lipid which is a material capable of forming “intelligent” nanoparticles to release an encapsulated antibiotic drug to a specific change in body conditions at infection sites.’

The team’s study has been accepted for publication in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, a leading international journal in drug delivery. 

‘This nanoantibiotic medicine shows potential to target and release an antibiotic specifically at an infection site, maintain effective concentrations for extended time as well as decreasing exposure to other healthy sites and beneficial bacteria in the body,’ said Govender.

She said a medicine that administers a lower dose but exposes bacteria to higher concentrations for longer exposure times, can improve the destruction of resistant bacteria, decrease resistance development, decrease side effects and administration frequency and improve patient compliance. 

This can lead to improved treatment of various diseases associated with bacterial infections and can thus save lives.

The project is being undertaken together with the following national and international collaborators: the University of Witwatersrand, Tohoku University (Japan), the University of Iowa (USA), the Mumbai Institute of Technology (India) and Concordia University (Canada)).

The project is funded by the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the South African National Research Foundation, the UKZN Nanotechnology Platform and UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.

Govender, who completed a PhD in Nanotechnology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, is currently Professor of Pharmacy in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Head of the Drug Delivery Research Unit and Head of the NanoHealth Pillar of the UKZN Nanotechnology Platform at UKZN.

In recognition of her scientific expertise in pharmaceutical technology, Govender is currently appointed as an Expert Evaluator on the Medicines Control Council of South Africa for the quality evaluation of new medicines for regulatory approval.  She is also a past Vice-Chairperson of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences of South Africa.

Words by: Nombuso Dlamini

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School of Law Researchers Co-Edit Class Action Litigation Handbook

School of Law Researchers Co-Edit Class Action Litigation Handbook
Ms Sarah Pudifin-Jones and Professor Max Du Plessis.

UKZN’s honorary Research Fellow Professor Max du Plessis and Ms Sarah Pudifin-Jones have been recognised for their pivotal role and involvement in co-editing and contributing as authors to the book Class Action Litigation in South Africa, which was recently released by Juta Publishers in July 2017.

‘The book, which is the first of its kind in South Africa, aims to provide practical guidance in relation to the complex and countless questions associated with the implementation of private class action lawsuits from a judicial, procedural, economic and social perspective while offering the reader first-hand exposure to lessons learned from international experts,’ said du Plessis.

‘Encompassing contributions from all over the world, and straddling the fields of law, economics, social justice and politics, the handbook offers valuable insights into class action litigation from local and international experts and will be a valuable and ground-breaking addition to the legal libraries of judges, practitioners, academics and students,’ added Pudifin-Jones.

Pudifin-Jones, who is an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa says that the project followed her involvement in the silicosis class action against gold mines where mine workers have sued South African gold mining companies such as AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony after contracting silicosis, an incurable disease caused by inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks.

‘I acted in the silicosis matter for Motley Rice, an American law firm which funded and provided consultancy services to some of the mineworkers who instituted the class action against the gold mines, and without whom the legal action could not be brought.  Class action litigation, as you can imagine, is expensive and complex to run,’ she said.

Having acted as counsel in class action litigation matters such as price fixing in the bread industry, du Plessis believes the book will aid and become a practitioner’s guide, provide study-material for students, and be a resource for international and local academics and practitioners with an interest in comparative philosophies of in the subject of collective redress for civil damages.

Words by: Sibonelo Shinga

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Searching for the Cosmic Dawn

Searching for the Cosmic Dawn
Dr Cynthia Chiang.

Cosmology, the study of the origins and evolution of the universe, is an exciting area of research that addresses some of humanity’s oldest questions. It is an area of research that consumes Dr Cynthia Chiang, a Senior Lecturer in UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science and a member of its Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU). 

How did the universe begin?  How has it evolved?  What is it made of?  To answer these questions, Chiang, whose research focuses on instrumentation development and data analysis for observational cosmology, has travelled to some of the most remote corners of the world in order to build specialised telescopes that have access to the clearest skies. 

In a recent public lecture delivered at UKZN’s Science and Technology Education Centre, Chiang elaborated on her trip to Marion Island in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean.

Chiang’s presentation focused on PRIZM, a specialised radio telescope that aims to study the period of the universe’s history known as the “cosmic dawn”, which was when the first stars ignited.  PRIZM consists of two radio antennas that were deployed to Marion Island in April this year.  Observations are continuing throughout the austral winter. 

Chiang gave a fascinating account of how the PRIZM instrument was built, the unique adventures and challenges of doing science from the Roaring Forties, and a sneak preview of what her scientific team has learned from the PRIZM observations so far.  Chiang was accompanied on her trip by Astrophysics PhD students Mr Liju Philip, Ms Ridhima Nunhokee and Mr Heiko Heilgendorff.

‘In our quest to capture uncontaminated data, we selected Marion Island as the location for the telescope as it is separated from the nearest continental landmasses by 2 000km and is one of the most radio silent locations in the world,’ explained Chiang.

‘We had only three weeks to get everything up and running. In spite of high winds, rain and mice (with a penchant for nibbling through high-tech equipment) we succeeded in deploying two new antennas on the PRIZM telescope observing at 70 and 100 MHz.

‘Marion Island is a fantastic new location for radio astronomy, and we’re very excited to see the data from our year of observations.  The telescope worked beautifully thanks to the input from the whole team, especially the students who participated in the voyage and who relentlessly braved the long hikes and harsh weather to get the science done!’

Exploring Marion Island as a new place for low frequency astronomy is exciting as the island may actually provide the best place to observe ultra-low frequencies (10 MHz). If researchers can get to those low frequencies, it would be possible to start looking back to an earlier time in history.

Dr Chiang received her BSc degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002 and her PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 2009. She has worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University and also spent one year working at the South Pole as a winter-over scientist.

She has a lifelong addiction to tinkering and solving puzzles, and is delighted her job allows her to pursue both of these every day.

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Hermannsburg High School Again Wins WESSA Enviro-Quiz at UKZN

Hermannsburg High School Again Wins WESSA Enviro-Quiz at UKZN
From left: Ms Cynthia Dibben with Hermannsburg High School’s winning team, Christel Bruggemann, Paul Tönsing, Luke Hayward, and Jarmin Claassen.

Hermannsburg High School has won the annual WESSA Environmental Quiz for the fourth consecutive year!

With more young people becoming involved and concerned about the future of the natural world, particularly with regards to the protection and preservation of the environment, the annual Enviro Quiz held on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus is always an enlightening experience.

Twelve enviro quiz teams from Mpumalanga, Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal competed for the floating trophy during a challenging, informative and fun-filled evening.

The Enviro-Quiz covered a variety of topics including general knowledge on wildlife, indigenous knowledge, conservation legislation, biodiversity, symbols used in conservation, significant eco-current affairs, botany, and zoology, among others.

In second position behind Hermannsburg was the East Griqualand Schools team followed by St Charles College from Pietermaritzburg.

2017 marks the fourth year in a row that Hermannsburg High School has taken the trophy home.

The winning team was presented with book prizes as well as book vouchers sponsored by WESSA and UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, who organised the event.  Host for the evening was Dr Matthew Akerman of UKZN’s School of Chemistry and Physics.

After the quiz, teams visited WESSA’s Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve near Howick to enjoy adventure activities such as rock-climbing, field-work studies, bird-watching and nature study.

Words by:  Nokuthula Mavimbela

Photograph by:  Swasti Maney

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Inaugural Lecture Portrays Personal Journey in the Field of Drug Discovery

Inaugural Lecture Portrays Personal Journey in the Field of Drug Discovery
NRF A-rated Scientist Professor Fernando Albericio with his students after his inaugural lecture into the UKZN professoriate.

NRF A-rated Scientist, Professor Fernando Albericio, says health is possibly one of the most ‘magical’ words associated with the development of the human being.

Albericio, a Research Professor in the School oAf Chemistry and Physics, was delivering his inaugural lecture at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership on the Westville campus into the UKZN professoriate.

‘From the most ancient societies to the present, restoring or improving social health and wellbeing has been a major pursuit,’ said Albericio.  ‘Although the use of traditional medicines, based mainly on the use of natural products treated with simple manipulations, continues to be common in some communities worldwide for the treatment of diseases, the last century has witnessed the birth of the pharmaceutical industry.’

Albericio argued that the pharmaceutical industry was perhaps one of the most intriguing sectors of industry.  ‘Large investments are required,’ he explained. ‘The full cost involved in launching a new drug in the market is about US$ 1 billion.  And even taking into account these investments, only a few drugs reach the market every year, for example, only 22 in 2016.’

In his lecture, Albericio posed the question of what role academia should play in the field of drug development, and in society as a whole, and attempted to provide some answers based on a lifetime of personal experience.  Albericio is deeply involved in the development of what he calls ‘the third mission of the University’, namely, the transference of knowledge and technology to society.

‘I consider myself as a representative of the “New University”, which allows me to combine teaching and research with a strong vocation for the transfer of knowledge from such research to society. I think I perform basic research, but with a goal to become transformative,’ he said.

Albericio joined UKZN in 2016 as a research professor after an international career in academia and industry.  He was a Full Professor at the University of Barcelona, where he received his PhD in Chemistry in 1981; a Principal Investigator at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine-Barcelona; founded several biotech companies and sits on the Board of Directors of several foundations and companies.

He is a member of the Steering Committee of UKZN’s Science and Technology Innovation Park (STIP) and is also international co-ordinator of two networks: RedEmprendia and AfricaEmprende, which aim to extend academic entrepreneurship to Iberoamerica and Africa.

Albericio’s major research interests cover practically all aspects of peptide synthesis and combinatorial chemistry methodologies as well as synthesis of peptides and small molecules with therapeutic activities, mainly in the field of cancer and infectious diseases.  His research group is involved in the development of new strategies for drug delivery and for diagnostics. In collaboration with UKZN Health Sciences academics, he is developing a new family of peptides with antimicrobial and anti-tuberculosis properties.

‘I think that UKZN is a perfect place to carry out interdisciplinary research, due to the quality of students, researchers, and technological instrumentation,’ said Albericio.  ‘During all these years, first collaborating, and then being part of the team, my experiences at UKZN have been extremely positive.’

Albericio is passionately enthusiastic about his students and explained that his goal was ‘to work even harder towards contributing to increase the quality of research at UKZN, trying always to educate the next generations of South African scientists who will contribute to the scientific and economic development of South Africa’.

He has supervised 68 PhD students, published over 850 papers, filed more than 55 patents, and has co-authored four books. He is Editor-in-Chief of several scientific journals and on the editorial boards of several others.

Said acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Professor Albert Modi: ‘Professor Fernando Albericio is a chemist of honour.’

Words and photograph by: Sally Frost

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DST National Women in Science Award for UKZN Scientist

DST National Women in Science Award for UKZN Scientist

UKZN Scientist and researcher, Professor Colleen Downs, is the second runner-up for the 2017 Distinguished Woman Researcher Award in the category of Natural (Life and Physical) and Engineering Sciences presented as part of the National Women in Science Awards (WISA) by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Downs - the South African Research Chair in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape - said: ‘I am very grateful for this recognition.

‘I hope I have made a difference in encouraging young people to pursue science as the world needs it to correct many of the wrongs us humans have done to it.  I hope I have instilled in them the desire to be curious and to persevere with their work.  And I hope that young women realise they can persist with science and still do all the other roles they have to do,’ said Downs.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UKZN, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, said: ‘We at UKZN are exceptionally proud of the achievements of Professor Downs. Her continued efforts to strengthen the body of research emerging from the University of KwaZulu-Natal are applauded and she should be honoured for playing in the league defined by the Women in Science Awards.’

The announcement of the awards was made at a glittering ceremony in Johannesburg as part of the DST’s celebration of Women’s Month.

WISA recognise and reward excellence, and profile notable female scientists in South Africa as models for younger generations.  The theme for the 2017 WISA is: Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work, which is the 2017 priority theme for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).

Following the ceremony, Downs and other women scientists joined Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor for a dialogue on the 2017 WISA theme. SABC 2 television’s Morning Live show broadcast the event.

Downs has been part of the School of Life Sciences at UKZN in Pietermaritzburg since 1994, and is consistently rated the top-published female researcher at UKZN. Recognised nationally and globally for her work in biology, particularly in terrestrial vertebrate ecology, she has more than 264 international peer-reviewed publications to her name, is featured on popular platforms and has supervised more than 80 postgraduate students. She is part of research initiatives such as the Durban Research Action Partnership (D’RAP).

She is a Fellow of the International Ornithologists’ Union, a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, and recently received the 2017 highly acclaimed National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 Award for Research Capacity Development. She was awarded the Zoological Society of Southern Africa Gold Medal in July 2017 for her outstanding achievements in zoology in southern Africa over a number of years. Downs is also BirdLife South Africa’s Honorary President.

Downs, whose work over the years has included research on animals varying from hadedas to Nile crocodiles, acknowledged her postgraduate students for their contributions to her extensive, interdisciplinary research portfolio, which has been especially focused on how changing land use affects biodiversity and ecosystem health. It includes an investigation of the urban ecology of various species and their persistence. Important conservation issues for Downs in this sphere are anthropogenic environmental change and changing land use as well as climate change.

Downs chairs the Cape Parrot Working Group and has contributed to the annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day for 20 years.

She is passionate about science education and encouraging citizen science, and values opportunities to rally support for the protection of the various species she works on.

Words by: Christine Cuénod

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Launch of Student Chapter of Association of Muslim Accountants and Lawyers

Launch of Student Chapter of Association of Muslim Accountants and Lawyers
The Association of Muslim Accountants and Lawyers-Student Chapter executive members with School of Law Lecturer Ms Munirah Osman-Hyder.

The Student Chapter of the Association of Muslim Accountants and Lawyers (AMAL-SC) held its official launch on UKZN’s Howard College campus in Durban.

AMAL is a non-governmental organisation established in 1984 while the SC is a non-exclusive, multiracial and dynamic student body that seeks to enable legal as well as accounting students to further their career paths by empowering students and facilitating access to holiday work, community service, articles, seminars, among other benefits.

The launch comprised a meet-and-greet interaction between the executive team and everyone attending.  Participants included representatives from the Student Representative Council (SRC), SLSJ, Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA), as well as several lecturers from the School of Law and a representative from the Accounting Discipline on the Westville campus.

The successful event comprised an information desk, an address conducted by the President of the AMAL-SC, Ms Zaynura Jehan Dolley followed by refreshments.

Words by: Zaahirah Bassa

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Young Girls Lead Awareness March in Rural KZN

Young Girls Lead Awareness March in Rural KZN
Women marching against gender-based violence in their community of Khethani in Winterton.

Taking a stand against gender-based violence, a group of girls and young women from Nthathakusa High School in the rural community of Khethani in Winterton, led a march to raise awareness about violence against women in their community in support of Women’s Month.

The group – known as Leaders for Young Women’s Success (L4YWS) – was created to form a part of a project by UKZN and McGill University in Canada to encourage girls and young women to be both “knowers and actors” in contributing to policy dialogue related to sexual violence. The group was recruited into the project in 2015 as both participants and co-researchers.

The project is titled, Networks for Change and Well-being: Girl-led ‘from the ground up’ policy making to address sexual violence in Canada and South Africa. 

Around 150 people, mostly girls and young women but including mothers and grandmothers, a representative from the local Mayor’s office, UKZN project staff members and some senior South African Police officers, participated in the march.

Afterwards, they gathered at a community hall to engage in dialogue and seek collective solutions to the issue of gender-based violence.

The march was organised with the support of the Okhahlamba Local Municipality.

Networks for Change and Well-Being is a six-year research project (2014 – 2020) aimed at understanding sexual violence against girls and young women from the perspectives of girls themselves and on developing interventions to address sexual violence in this community.

The work uses participatory visual methods, including cellphilms (short films made with a cellphone) and other video productions, photography, and digital story telling in order to reach and engage audiences.

Principal Investigator Professor Relebohile Moletsane of UKZN says sexual violence is a key issue affecting girls and young women in schools, families and communities.

‘Our research findings indicate that sexual violence is rife in rural communities. We are also seeing another kind of violence emerging, which involves girls being forced into early marriages and some being abducted.’

Moletsane says it is crucial that the voices of girls and young women are heard and that they are recognised and supported as leaders in their communities. 

Words by Sejal Desai

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UKZN Biokineticist Receives International Recognition for PhD Study

UKZN Biokineticist Receives International Recognition for PhD Study
Dr Takshita Sookan.

UKZN Biokineticist Dr Takshita Sookan received an early career researcher award for her poster presentation at the 2017 International Symposium on Exercise and Immunology (ISEI) in Coimbra, Portugal.

The poster was based on one of her PhD manuscripts titled: Resistance Training Reduces T Helper-2 Cytokine Level but not Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in HIV-Infected Individuals Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy.

‘The goal of this research is to advocate for exercise as medicine and to provide sustainable interventions to decrease the burden on health care systems,’ said Sookan. ‘Scientifically based lifestyle interventions can improve the health of all South Africans, including those with HIV.’

The oral and poster awards for young investigators were an opportunity for young scientists to have their work recognised by their peers and established senior researchers in the field.

Themed: Training Your Immune System for Health and Performance, the ISEI biannual symposium brings together experts in all fields of exercise and immunology to present and discuss state-of-the-art research and emerging conceptual and technological advances.

Said Sookan: ‘It was a privilege to be able to attend and present at the symposium, I had the opportunity to interact with researchers who are pioneers in this field. It was an honour to receive acknowledgement of my work from these researchers. None of this would have been possible without the support of my collaborators and supervisor.’

Sookan plans to present other findings from her PhD study at the College of Health Sciences symposium as well as at the South African Sports Medicine Association Conference later this year.

Academic Leader in the Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences (BELS), Dr Rowena Naidoo, congratulated Sookan, ‘The Discipline encourages and supports staff to present their research at local and international conferences.’

Sookan is a lecturer and research co-ordinator in the BELS Discipline. Her future research will look at other cardiometabolic diseases using exercise as medicine.

Words by: Nombuso Dlamini

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