Seven Community Scholars Based at CCS this Year

Seven Community Scholars Based at CCS this Year
The 2014 group of CCS Community Scholarship Initiative (The Dennis Brutus Initiative) Scholars.

Seven community scholars have joined UKZN’s Centre for Civil Society (CCS) this year in an effort to educate and uplift communities to make a difference in society and uphold the fires of activism.

The CCS aims to advance socioeconomic and environmental justice by developing critical knowledge about, for and in dialogue with civil society through teaching, research and publishing.

Hence, the CCS Community Scholarship Initiative (The Dennis Brutus Initiative) was created to involve participation from members of civil society organisations and movements in Durban allowing for exchanges between CCS academics and researchers and local civil society organisations.

This initiative ensures that theoretical understandings of the concept “civil society” are underpinned by practical experiences and that civil society organisations linked with the CCS have an opportunity to participate in evolving formulations of theories on civil society and use them in their own environments.

‘The CCS Community Scholarship Initiative allows for community scholars to participate in CCS public lectures and seminars and to undertake research within their communities,’ said postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre, Dr Shauna Mottiar.  ‘Courses relating to participatory video making and audio archiving are also offered.’ 

‘Community scholars are therefore capacitated to undertake community development and strengthen their activist skills. The scholars have utilised these opportunities to interrogate their own particular challenges and disseminate this knowledge in various ways.’

The initiative is funded by the CS Mott Foundation with the following seven community scholars being based at CCS this year: Mr China Ngubane: Co-ordinator; Ms Vanessa Burger: Environmental Activist – Durban; Ms Smitha Deonath: Environmental Activist, EarthLife Africa – Merebank; Ms Thuli Hlela: Community Activist – Valley of a Thousand Hills; Ms Gcina Makoba: Recycling Project – Inanda;  Mr Molaudi Sakake: UKZN Student Activist – Howard College and Mr Sizwe Shiba: Community Activist – Umlazi.

Asked about their experiences as Community Scholars, Makoba said: ‘Being a community scholar, one learns a lot. By talking with others at the CCS, we’ve come to realise our challenges are almost the same - we see the perspectives of others and continue being active in our communities. We might have democracy now but I will continue being an activist for the betterment of the next generation.’

Sakake said: ‘The spirit of activism will stay alive but we hope to work towards the eventual destruction of activism. People have a voice through us, the community scholars. We give a voice to the voiceless, the excluded and the unrepresented. To not do anything is not an option. And we will continue to be active in our communities.’

The CCS also has a Community Scholar Volunteer Column which two UKZN students, Ms Caitlin Kawagachi and Mr Lindo Deyi, are part of.


-          Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Hosts the Eskom Tertiary Education Support Programme

UKZN Hosts the Eskom Tertiary Education Support Programme
Grant holders attended the Eskom Tertiary Education Support Programme (TESP) feedback session held at UKZN.

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science hosted the Eskom Tertiary Education Support Programme (TESP) at the UNITE Building on the Howard College campus.

TESP started in 1991 as a joint venture in the electrical energy technology area between Eskom, the National Energy Council and the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The focus of the programme was initially the development of human resource and expertise in: a) electrical energy systems, b) industrial electronics or power electronics, c) electric machines, machine control and drives and d) industrial control systems and measuring techniques.  Over the years the scope of the TESP has grown to include other areas relevant to Eskom’s long-term viability and customer satisfaction.

TESP visions included:

•  Assisting tertiary education institutions to develop future Science, engineering and technology skills to meet South African needs;
•  Establishing and supporting centres of excellence appropriate to South African needs;
•  Supporting research projects that increase the intake of students in science, engineering and technology;
•  Creating and maintaining collaborations between academia and funding institutions.

TESP grantholders from all over South Africa met at UKZN to present at the report-back meeting.

The Chair of the Organising Committee of (SAUPEC 2014), Dr Akshay Kumar Saha of the School of Engineering and his team ensured the meeting was efficiently and professionally hosted.

Saha said: ‘TESP is an invaluable programme that develops and support students, academics and researchers across South Africa. As a grantholder myself, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Eskom TESP for their total commitment to the advancement of researchers, academics and students in the area of science, technology and engineering.’

The project leader for the Insulating Oils and Materials Research Group at UKZN, Mr Ajay Bissessur, said: ‘The Insulating Oils and Materials Research Centre set up in the School of Chemistry and Physics has grown from strength to strength in terms of research output, student enrolment, projects undertaken and publication outputs.  TESP funding has certainly been the backbone of this initiative and no words are enough to express my gratitude to Eskom for their excellent efforts toward this project via Eskom TESP funding.’

UKZN has about 20 grantholders who have been supported by TESP.

The programme was officially opened by the Eskom TESP Chairperson, Mr Yashin Brijmohan, who said: ‘TESP has provided an enabling platform for Industry University collaboration in areas of learning and research. The Programme has shown excellent results in terms of its outputs, which is based on the value of trust, relationship building, and collaborative focus on productivity. I acknowledge the committed individuals in academia and industry for the success of this programme.’

-          Leena Rajpal


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MRC and info4africa Host Community Forum on Social Grant Protection

MRC and info4africa Host Community Forum on Social Grant Protection
From left: Ms Jubilee Westergaard, Ms Evashnee Naidu and Mr Bele Jerome.

The erosion of the social security system in South Africa was the theme of a presentation given by UKZN alumnus Ms Evashnee Naidu at the recent Medical Research Council (MRC) and info4africa forum.

The full title of her talk was: “The Erosion of the Social Security System due to Recent Amendments and its Impact on ARV Adherence and Applications for the Chronically Ill”.

The forum, hosted jointly by the MRC and info4africa, takes place on the last Tuesday of every month at 491 Peter Mokaba Road.

Naidu is the Regional Manager for Black Sash in KwaZulu-Natal, a veteran human rights organisation which has existed for 58 years advocating for social justice in South Africa. Black Sash is based in all nine provinces across the country with a strong physical presence in four.

Her talk informed and raised aspects of a very critical nature in terms of the grant system in South Africa. Problems such as rejections for grant applications and unlawful deductions have arisen from new processes that were implemented and are now seriously affecting applications for grants.

Naidu took her audience through the process of applying for a grant at a South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) office and how a person was required to fill out a form, present the required documentation, get interviewed and have finger prints and voice recognition recorded so that within 24 hours, their details could be processed and their grant application - for older citizens, children, foster care or disability - submitted for approval.

According to Section 27 of the South African Constitution: ‘Everyone has the right to have access to social security.’ If a grant is rejected, the applicant has the right to approach SASSA for a reconsideration of their application which is an internal SASSA process. The application for reconsideration must be made within 90 days of receiving notification of the rejection of the application.

If the application is not approved at the reconsideration stage, there is a further 90 days in which to apply for an appeal to the Independent Tribunal against the decision of the Reconsideration Panel.

Naidu explains that each of these phases take 90 days, adding up to a lot of waiting time for applicants. She says the waiting can be so long that ‘with around 60 000 applications being  back-logged from about 2006 to March 2010, some people with chronic illnesses who have applied for grants have died before receiving any money.’

The Social Assistance Amendment Act, 2010 and its accompanying regulations have also had a critical impact on people applying for disability grants. Naidu explains that ‘because of the staggering levels of rejections, clients choose not to even go to the appeal phase because of the time delays. The sad reality is that most of these clients are diagnosed with HIV and are chronically ill.’

Naidu said, ‘It was found that post the re-enrolment process, unlawful and illegal deductions were coming out of beneficiary’s accounts, which only created further chaos. People who were going to withdraw grant money from their accounts found amounts missing with deductions having taken place without their permission. Chunks of money are being taken from the impoverished and disadvantaged in society. We’ve been following this up around the country and what’s happening is scary.’

Black Sash and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) have been attempting to address these problems, having raised beneficiaries’ issues, causing SASSA to agree to investigate in June 2013.

In November 2013, the Department of Social Development (DSD) was asked by Black Sash to fast track implementation of SASSA’s payment systems to make it easier for beneficiaries to access their money. With a public meeting having been arranged in January this year with the National Treasury, Public Protector, National Credit Regulator and civil society partners, Black Sash and those invited, committed to take this serious issue forward.

‘Black Sash also made a verbal submission to the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry: National Credit Amendment Bill [B47-2013] in February 2014, with regard to reckless lending and overspending and how this is linked to the aspect of illegal and unlawful deductions from grant beneficiaries’ accounts. They will be meeting with the Minister of DSD to address these issues further,’ said Naidu.

People wanting to check on the progress of their grant applications should contact SASSA at Tel 0800 601 011. Those with problems can also use the Black Sash Help lines on www.blacksash.org.za

-          Zakia Jeewa


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Bottom-Up Innovation Vital in Healthcare

Bottom-Up Innovation Vital in Healthcare
Dr Jeeshan Chowdhury.

Rhodes Scholar, Dr Jeeshan Chowdhury, argued the case for ‘bottom-up innovation in healthcare’ during a lecture at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.

Chowdhury is the co-founder of Hacking Health and is in his final year of Medical School at the University of Alberta after completing a DPhil studying Health Information Technology at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

The full title of his presentation was: “Clinician-led Development of Digital Health: The case for bottom-up innovation in Healthcare”.

Chowdhury began his research training at NASA where the challenge of human spaceflight sparked his interdisciplinary approach to develop innovative solutions. He has since worked throughout the technology pipeline from designing experimental hardware diagnostics to the implementation and assessment of commercialised software platforms. He recently launched his own digital start-up, Listrunnerapp.com, a point of care collaboration tool aimed at improving rounds and handovers for clinical teams.

Hacking Health, established by Chowdhury in 2012, is a social organisation which brings innovators and healthcare experts together, aiming to assemble solutions to front-line healthcare problems through the use of up-and-coming technology. By working with public hospitals and universities, the people at Hacking Health are able to use digital innovations to solve problems which occur at a grassroots level within the community.

‘While technology has advanced rapidly over the last 20 years, healthcare has not,’ said Chowdhury. ‘The flow of the healthcare system has increased, along with the rise in healthcare costs, yet technology in comparison, has had a rapid decrease in cost efficiency. This paradoxical scenario between the two aspects of healthcare and technology raises the fundamental question: How does one introduce IT to a system that has utilised more traditional methods that date back to the 1960’s?’

Chowdhury explains that top-down approaches to modernise healthcare have failed within the healthcare system due to the dictating use of technology and that in a complex bureaucratic system, by promoting a bottom-up approach, problems which happen on the ground and affect doctors and patients can be addressed directly.

Utilising a method called a Hack-A-Thon, a hacking marathon, engineers set themselves a challenge to achieve results to a particular dilemma within 48 hours. These Hack-A-Thons get clinicians, patients, developers, designers, entrepreneurs and doctors to all work together and combat a particular problem head on.

Chowdhury said within healthcare it was important to notice the larger perspective outside of the healthcare system. In order for something to be more efficient, logistics and information management needed to be considered important as well as the clinical practices. The advantage of fusing the two was the collection of crucial data from the front line.

Listrunner, one of Hacking Health’s successful digital ventures, is an application which was created as a safe and secure way for clinical teams of doctors to share notes, tasks and vital information about their patients between shifts. With numerous transitions between doctors in the healthcare system, there is a high risk and vulnerability associated with patients and their information. The application allows for a smoother flow of information between doctors who are able to assist patients effectively when provided with all the vital information necessary which is stored on Listrunner.

Chowdhury said there was a need for efficient IT in healthcare and Hacking Health’s growth had been enormous, with the organisation having spread to 25 cities in two years. Listrunnerapp.com’s software is being used in Alberta, Canada and is currently undergoing a trial in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.

-     Zakia Jeewa


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UKZN Students at SAMEA Conference

UKZN Students at SAMEA Conference
Postgraduate students Mr McCarthy Honu-Siabi (left) and Mr Uduak Johnson with their Supervisor, Dr Desiree Manicom (centre).

Two postgraduate students from the School of Social Sciences, Mr Uduak Johnson and Mr McCarthy Honu-Siabi, presented papers at the 4th Biennial South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA) Conference in Johannesburg.

The Conference, focussing on monitoring and evaluation, was hosted by SAMEA, the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the national Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).

The opening address titled: “Meaningful Evaluation: Improving Use and Results, was given by Mr Collins Chabane, Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation”.

Johnson and Honu-Siabi, who are members of SAMEA, were awarded the internationally competitive Emerging Evaluator Scholarships to attend pre-conference workshops and to present their papers - co-authored by Dr Desiree Manicom - at the event.

Manicom supervised Johnson’s masters thesis and is currently supervising Honu-siabi’s masters thesis.

Johnson’s and Manicom’s paper titled: “Lessons from the NGO Sector to the Public Sector: Determining the Usefulness of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) through a Better Conceptualization of its Purposes”, received a merit award certificate for the Best Conference Paper submitted by an emerging evaluator.

-           UKZNDabaOnline


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Kubhekisiswa Indima Yokuhlanganyela Ekuqinisweni Kokuthuthukiswa Komnotho Wasekhaya

Kubhekisiswa Indima Yokuhlanganyela Ekuqinisweni Kokuthuthukiswa Komnotho Wasekhaya
uDkt Stanley Hardman ethula isifundo eSikoleni SezamaBhizinisi NobuHoli.

UDkt Stan Hardman oyi-Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, wabelane ngombono wenhlangano yakhe wokuThuthukisa uMnotho weTheku esifundweni ebesibanjelwe Esikoleni SezeBhizinisi nobuHoli.

Lesi sifundo ebesiqanjwe ngokuthi: “Indima yokuhlanganyela ekuthuthukisweni komnotho wasekhaya”, siqhakambise indima emqoka edlalwa ukuthuthukiswa komnotho wasekhaya (Local Economic Development) ekuthuthukiseni umnotho nokukhulula osomabhizinisi ukuze bakhulise umcebo wabo baphinde bakhe namathuba emisebenzi.

uHardman uhlaziye inqubomgomo nokuyimiphumela elindelwe uma kubhekwe ukwenyuswa  kwezinga lokwenza ibhizinisi ngendlela esezingeni eliphezulu nelungile okuyinselelo ephoselwe abafundi abaneziqu kulo mkhakha wezoMnotho nobuHoli ukuba bahlanganise ucwaningo lwabo nombono womphakathi wezamabhizinisi wedolobha iTheku.

‘Umphakathi wosomabhizinisi unombono wokuthuthukiswa kwamabhizinisi anomfutho futhi azosebenza isikhathi eside. Isigaba sokuthuthukiswa komnotho wasekhaya siyisigaba esibalulekile enizosibheka ezifundweni zenu futhi sizovusa imibuzo yocwaningo nezinhlelo zemisebenzi ezizohambisana nokuthuthukiswa kwamakhono nezemfundo. Kumele sibheke kwezomnotho ukuthi izinguquko zenzeka kanjani,’ kusho uHardman.

Inkulumo yakhe ibuye yabheka ukwakhiwa kwamathuba okufaka izimali ukuze kutholakale inzuzo, ukuhlanganyela kwezinhlangano kwezamabhizinisi nezidingo zokuthuthikisa umnotho ukuze kunikwe abafundi isithombe esigcwele mayelana nokuxhumana kwalokho abakufunda ekilasini nokwenzeka ngaphandle.

Umfundi weziqu zeMCom obemele i-South Africa-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry KwaZulu-Natal  njengomele isifunda iKwaZulu-Natal, uNksz Yvonne Iyer, uthe lesi sifundo sikhanyise izingxenye ezehlukene zokuthuthukiswa komnotho wasekhaya (LED).

‘Inkuluma kaDkt. Hardman ikhanyise isidingo sokuthi thina njengosomnotho sifundisane amakhono anhlobonhlobo okwenza ibhizinisi. Kumnandi ukubona indima edlalwa yisigungu ekuhlanganyelelni namabhizinisi nokubona ukuthi singena kuphi njengabafundi ekwelekeleleni idolobha ukuze lifeze umbono walo,’ usho kanje.

Click here for English version

-          Thandiwe Jumo


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Launch of Innovative Entrepreneurship Programme

Launch of Innovative Entrepreneurship Programme
Shape founder Ms Thea van der Westhuizen (far right) and eThekwini Municipality representative Ms Khosi Sithole (second right) informing students about the entrepreneurship opportunities.

The need for an innovative teaching and learning program which stimulates academic and creative thinking was evident by the overwhelming turnout at the launch of the Shifting Hope, Activating Potential Entrepreneurship (SHAPE) programme on the Westville campus.

The initiative which is the brainchild of College of Law and Management Lecturer and doctoral student Ms Thea van der Westhuizen and her supervisors, Professor Kriben Pillay and Professor Shahida Cassim. The launch attracted more than 200 students who were interested in the 50 scholarships up for grabs through the SHAPE project.

SHAPE was awarded with the University Teaching and Learning Office’s “Teaching Innovation and Quality Enhancement Grant”, which enables the initiation of the program. SHAPE’s core team consist of Professor Shahida Cassim, Dr. Ziska Fields and van der Westhuizen, with several active post-graduate student team SHAPE – all from the College of Law and Management.  SHAPE is a nine-month teaching and learning programme in which second-year students learn how starting a business is not only about a business plan but also about opening one’s heart to our own values, growing our self-motivation and self-confidence. Having an open heart might help to develop students’ mind to keep on going even after failure. The program consist out of three phases where students will spend three months on campus where being exposed to various creative classroom excesses which aims to open hearts to innovation and increased levels of entrepreneurial self-confidence. During the second phase of the program, students will be placed in the business environment of the project’s sponsors, eThekwini Municipality and the Durban Chamber of Business and Industry, where they will intrapreneurially explore ways of starting a business. The last phase of the program will equip both student entrepreneurs and business professionals to potentially start-up a business.

In her address, van der Westhuizen challenged students to explore their entrepreneurship potential and take advantage of opportunities that the College of Law and Management offer to support its students.  ‘SHAPE hopes to help students to develop business dreams aligned with South Africa’s National Economic Development Vision. The program explores various systems approached where the capacitation of South Africa’s youth is key. Moreover, the fundamental to national mundo-systems development, is capacitating micro-systems. Where the mico-system is an individual’s heart and heart’s dreams while functioning within a variety of multidimensional and multi-lateral systems.”  Hopefully students will leave UKZN with a good academic qualification and an own business in development.

A strategic partnership between the Municipality and UKZN will see the Municipality’s Business Support Unit based at the University for two hours a week while the project is running. This will allow students easy access to mentors who will nurture their business skills. The Units representative Ms Khosi Sithole said this was the first initiative they were involved in as partners to increase collaboration between the business sector and academia.

‘It is our responsibility to ensure there is access to information and sharing of skills between SMMEs, business and students as they all play a vital role in growing the economy. That is why we are delighted to work with UKZN initiatives such as these and we are hoping to collaborate on other mutually beneficial programmes to enhance the spirit of entrepreneurship in KZN,’ said Sithole.

Thandiwe Jumo

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Skydive Dream Comes True for a Community Member With Cerebral Palsy - Thanks to UKZN Students

Skydive Dream Comes True for a Community Member With Cerebral Palsy - Thanks to UKZN Students
Mr Daniel Ncgobo (centre) with his family and Occupational Therapy friends.

Thirty-year old, Mr Daniel Ngcobo of Durban, who has athetoid cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound, has completed a quantum sky dive fulfilling a dream of his … and it was all made possible through the support of Occupational Therapy (OT) students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Westville campus.

The 4th year students from the Discipline of OT wanted to do something to repay Ngcobo for regularly visiting their Department and talking to them about his illness - so they organised a raffle raising enough money to cover the costs of the jump.

Ngcobo did his jump through the Eston Skydiving Centre.  After a thorough on-the-ground briefing, he was airborne with his quantum colleagues and took that big leap of faith out of the aircraft with them.

‘Wow! I had a really great day!’ said Ngcobo. ‘The experience was better than good! I want to do this every year!’ Ngcobo says he has dreams and goals of working, getting married, being more independent and most recently – skydiving!

He says people with disabilities get very little exposure in the media and it is important to raise awareness about that. ‘Facilities for disabled people are limited as well so it would be nice if others were more understanding towards people with disabilities. If I can get a therapist to understand a disabled person’s predicament they will be able to learn and grow and become better therapists.’

Occupational Therapy student, Ms Dominque de Klerk, said: ‘The Discipline was inspired by recent turn of events from NEKnominations into RAKnominations (Random Acts of Kindness) and ChangeOneThing on social media, hence we decided to follow suite and make someone’s dream come true.

‘We told Daniel that this was from us to him for being the most inspirational speaker our class has ever had. He genuinely brings such a different perspective to disability and in turn, will make us all better therapists one day. He deserves it.’

Community Module Co-ordinator, Ms Helga Koch, said the initiative had been good for the Discipline. ‘It makes them a collective part of something bigger… we are trying to teach our students that they can dream, and dream big.’

UKZN’s Discipline of Occupational Therapy nominated Occupational Therapy departments in South Africa and abroad, as well as Red Bull, to now move forward and complete their own RAK nomination.

-          Zakia Jeewa


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Senior UKZN Academic participates in ANC Public Debate

Senior UKZN Academic participates in ANC Public Debate
Professor Cheryl Potgieter delivers her address at the ANC Public Debate on Job Creation.

UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, was part of a panel at the ANC’s Public Debate on Job Creation held at the University’s Westville campus.

Potgieter’s expert opinions and knowledge presented from an academic standpoint were well received by the audience, fellow academics and ANC members.

The topic of the debate - part of an ongoing series held monthly by the ANC to allow public discussion on its policies and programmes - was: “Is attainment of six million jobs in the next five years possible?”

Also on the panel were ANC Secretary-General, Comrade Gwede Mantashe; KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Mr Senzo Mchunu; Businessman, Mr Moses Tembe; and Mr Lindani Dhlomo from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda).

Potgieter argued that creating six million jobs should not be a pipe dream and it was important to set goals to achieve the target.

Referring to one of her favourite Russian Psychologist Lev Vygotsky she said: ‘Vygotsky differs from mainstream Western psychologists in that he argues that development isn’t necessarily step by step. The child with support can jump a whole range of steps and achieve set goals.

‘My thinking in relation to the Government’s ambition of creating six million jobs is similar. Set goals, set a vision and provide the policy framework and resources for infrastructure development, healthcare and education.’

Emphasising the important role institutions of education provide, Potgieter said: ‘The Higher Education sector, and most definitely UKZN, is responding to the National Development Plan and other key policy documents to increase the pool of critical thinkers to take up job opportunities and to be the creators of jobs.’

She pointed out that jobs and education were the answer to reducing poverty. ‘In Higher Education, we need to produce and develop curriculum that creates critical thinkers - graduates who are professional and entrepreneurial, committed to social justice and building a better society. We also want graduates to support the creation of a non-racist, non-sexist, non-homophobic society.

‘If we graduate students who do not have this commitment, even if we have millions of jobs, we are not going to be able to move our country forward.’

Mantashe said the ANC was committed to making the creation of six million jobs a reality. ‘We will institutionalise long-term planning, co-ordination and integration; mobilise all sectors, more especially the private sector; force local procurement; accelerate the role of the catalytic sector, focus on youth unemployment and seek to promote investment and access to credit.’

Businessman Mr Moses Tembe said the goal had to be to reach the target of six million jobs. ‘We should be investing in human capital, increasing the pace in business and going back to the values of Ubuntu.

Agreeing with Tembe on the human capital investment issue, Potgieter said women should be given support and skills to become small scale farmers, entrepreneurs and creators of jobs instead of just providing for the household - and it was the responsibility of universities and graduates to make that happen. ‘Graduates should be taught to cultivate the potential of each individual in the wider community. “Each one Teach one”.’

‘Education has a duty to inspire future responsible leaders who can manage and guide organisations for long term sustainable success as well as teach graduates to tackle real world issues such as the facilitation of job creation.’

Potgieter used the example of job creation and entrepreneurship by two university graduates Chris and Andrew Brown, Co-founders of The Daily Buzz, an upmarket and specialty chain of coffee bars servicing the corporate workplace. They won the 2013 Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year title in the annual Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year Competition.

‘A university graduated them with the critical skills to be entrepreneurs, to contribute to the ideology of social justice and to create jobs for themselves and others. We cannot only be looking to the Government; we need to do it as partners.’

Potgieter said Government needed to provide the scaffolding for education as well as the infrastructure, security and health which make the creation of good jobs possible. ‘The devil is in the detail and the devil is in the execution. Higher Education, business, and public sector need to operate together as partners - together we will move South Africa forward and together we can make South Africa a better place.’

-          Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Students Get to Grips with isiZulu

UKZN Students Get to Grips with isiZulu
Ms Anastasia Courtelis (left) and Ms Sinead van Niekerk.

UKZN students and good friends Ms Anastasia Courtelis and Ms Sinead van Niekerk are excited to be learning isiZulu as first year students. Both are keen to master the language and use it in everyday life.

The University has made isiZulu language classes a requirement for all students entering UKZN in order to promote “nation-building” and to bring “diverse languages together”.

‘I feel isiZulu will benefit me as there are a large number of people in our country who speak isiZulu,’ said van Niekerk. ‘Learning the language will give me the opportunity to communicate to such people in their mother tongue and I will also be able to learn more about the different people of our country.’

Van Niekerk had taken basic isiZulu classes for two years at her primary school and being friends with many different people who speak both isiXhosa and isiZulu, she had often attempted to say a few words in isiZulu. ‘I have always been eager to learn either isiXhosa or isiZulu but I have never really been taught to speak it besides the two years in primary school.’

Her friend Anastasia, on the other hand, had never spoken the language. ‘I’m struggling with it but I guess I just have to put my head down and work. I find it difficult to learn the vocabulary because it is very different to English and the pronunciations of the words are difficult to grasp. But I’ll get there.’

To assist in learning both students have opted to communicate in isiZulu with friends and isiZulu-speaking people during lecture breaks. ‘I have also started watching SABC 1. I heard they have the translation from isiZulu to English at the bottom right of the screen,’ said Courtelis.

Van Niekerk added: ‘I think it is a good idea for UKZN to introduce isiZulu, as it will bring many different cultures together as more people will be able to communicate with one another. It will make it easier for us to get better jobs as being able to speak an indigenous language is a great advantage as it means we will be able to work with a number of different people.’

The two students suggested special evenings arranged by UKZN where isiZulu speakers and those who speak other languages pair up and converse to practice the language and to see where their weaknesses lie.

-          Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Welcomes New Head of Language Planning and Development Office

UKZN Welcomes New Head of Language Planning and Development Office
Dr Langa Khumalo.

Dr Langa Khumalo has been appointed Director of UKZN’s Language Planning and Development Office (LPDO).

Khumalo read for a PhD in Linguistics at the University of Oslo in Norway, completed his MPhil in Linguistics at Cambridge University in England and did an MA and BA Honours at the University of Zimbabwe. He is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society and a recipient of the Commonwealth Scholarship.

He believes the role of the LPDO is to assist all sections of the University to embrace and foster functional bilingualism through the promotion of the equitable use of the English language and isiZulu as provided for in the University Language Policy. ‘It is something that cannot happen overnight and it requires careful expert planning,’ said Khumalo. ‘As an office we want to be the centre of excellence in the promotion, development and the scientification of indigenous languages with specific reference to isiZulu,’ he added.

‘Our objectives are very clear: first, we seek to promote the development of isiZulu to be a language of administration, teaching and learning, research and innovation while accentuating the role of English as a primary academic language.

‘Second, we promote, facilitate and oversee the adherence to the statutory provisions in the development of technical terminology in isiZulu. Third, we monitor and render quality translation, editing and interpreting services to the entire university community and finally, we are in the process of developing a Zulu national corpus and Zulu term bank as important reservoirs for the development of robust Human Language Technologies (HLT) and for posterity.’

Khumalo was seconded from the School of Arts in the College of Humanities where he taught in the Linguistics Programme, and views his new position as ‘a challenge that extends my academic boundaries’.

‘It has exciting prospects seeing that among other things we will be building a Zulu national corpus and a Zulu term bank. I look forward to working with a whole gamut of stakeholders that include the Department of Arts and Culture, PanSALB, KwaZulu-Natal universities, the Publishers, Provincial government, among others.’

Looking at the broader South African context, Khumalo believes there is a need to review the status and role of African languages in South Africa. ‘Language is a very powerful tool that can be used in the advancement of a people but if used recklessly has the potential of destroying society.

‘A careful plan should be put in place in order to raise the profile and role of the African languages from “village languages” to languages that can express modern ideas, languages that are used equally without hindrance to achieve social cohesion.

‘As communicative tools African languages should be used by anyone to advance knowledge without any ideological prejudices. To get there we need expert corpus planning. To get there it will definitely take time. There are languages that are endangered in this country, the Khoisan languages, and we must be alive to that reality and do everything to preserve them.

‘It is, after all, provided for in the Constitution. Again we must deploy our expertise to document and preserve these endangered languages. A university is an institution that cannot shake off that responsibility,’ said Khumalo.

Khumalo joined the UKZN in 2009 as a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow after having taught at the University of Zimbabwe and served at the same institution as a Senior Research Fellow and Research Leader of the Ndebele Lexicography Unit at the African Languages Research Institute. He has also been a guest researcher at the University of Oslo and a Senior Mellon Fellow at Rhodes University.

He is married to Gloria and has four children. ‘I support Chelsea FC and love our favorite family programme Who Wants to be a Millionaire.’

-          Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer


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UKZN Academics Attend Crop Improvement Workshop in India

UKZN Academics Attend Crop Improvement Workshop in India
Delegates of the 4th International Workshop on Next Generation Genomics and Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement, held at Hyderabad, India.

UKZN’s Professor Hussein Shimelis and Professor Pangirayi Tongoona attended the 4th International Workshop on Next Generation Genomics and Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India.

The workshop was organised by ICRISAT in collaboration with the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the Government of India, and the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Grain Legumes and CGIAR Research Programme (CRP) on dryland cereals.

Next generation sequencing and high throughput genotyping technologies in plant breeding were discussed at the workshop which was attended by more than 150 delegates from 20 countries.

Shimelis and Tongoona supervise doctoral students in collaboration with Dr Rajeev Varshney of ICRISAT. These students are actively applying advanced genomics tools for their pigeonpea molecular breeding to improve yield and abiotic stress tolerance.

-          UKZNDabaOnline


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UKZN Co-Hosts Southern African Power Engineering Conference

UKZN Co-Hosts Southern African Power Engineering Conference
Delegates at the Southern African Universities Power Engineering Conference, held recently at UKZN.

UKZN and the Durban University of Technology hosted the Southern African Universities Power Engineering Conference (SAUPEC) at the UNITE Building on the Howard College campus.

The Conference brought together practising engineers, academics, students and others with an interest in electrical power and energy.

It is a well-established gathering which allows professionals and students in power engineering and related fields in Southern Africa to present their research work and network with top researchers in their fields.

Included among the topics were Condition Monitoring, Decision Techniques for Planning and Design, Distributed Generation, Electricity Economics, Markets and Tariffs, Electrical Machines and Drives, Energy Efficiency, High Voltage Engineering, Load Modelling and Demand Side Management,  Maintenance and Asset Management, Microgrids and Smart Grids, Power Electronics, Power Engineering Education, Power Generation, Power Quality and Reliability, Protection and System Automation, Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Systems, Rural Electrification and Transmission and Distribution Networks.

The Conference, opened by UKZN’s Professor Cristina Trois, featured an inspirational keynote speech by Eskom’s Divisional Executive, Transmission, Mr Mongezi Ntsokolo.

This was followed by the traditional and well organised SAUPEC gala dinner at the UNITE Building.

About 82 papers were presented at the Conference. The sessional Chairs included well established researchers across South Africa including Dr Rudy Pillay Carpanen and Mr Andrew Swanson  of UKZN, Professor Ken Nixon of the University of the Witwatersrand, Professor Gary Atkinson-Hope of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Professor Hendrik Johannes Vermeulen and Professor Maarten Kamper of  the University of Stellenbosch, Professor Willie Cronje and Dr John van Coller of the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr David Pentz of the University of Johannesburg, Professor Tony Britten of Eskom, Ms R Tshipa, and Mrs Kehinde Awodele  of the University of Cape Town.

‘Each session included excellent presentations that sparked lively discussions,’ said van Coller while Kamper stated that the Conference was well organised and attended by delegates across South Africa.

Kamper said the papers presented were of a good standard and similar views were echoed by Vermeulen.

Carpanen said: ‘The excellent guest speaker from ESKOM Mr Ntsokolo explained the current status of infrastructure and future plans of the utility. The Conference papers received were of good quality and this shows that there are excellent research projects being undertaken by universities in South Africa.

‘In the session that I chaired on power electronics, there were some interesting applications such as audio amplification, flexible AC transmission systems and reduction of EMI.

Dr Akshay Kumar Saha of UKZN’s School of Engineering said: ‘The 2014 SAUPEC Conference gave students, researchers and academics an opportunity to present their research findings and establish new linkages with other collaborators.’ The sessions were well attended with a great deal of audience participation.

-          Leena Rajpal


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“Talk Left, Walk Right” Strategy Common in South African Social Policy, says UKZN Academic

“Talk Left, Walk Right” Strategy Common in South African Social Policy, says UKZN Academic
Professor Patrick Bond.

Development Studies and the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) recently hosted a seminar led  by the Head of the CCS Professor Patrick Bond looking at what he terms the “tokenistic” extension of state welfare, in contrast to the bottom-up commoning of services – the best example of which is the delivery of AIDS medicines.

According to Bond, South Africa’s welfare state expansion is said to be one of the leading “social democratic” achievements of the post-apartheid era. ‘However, the tokenistic features – including a neoliberal (fiscally-austere) context, the extension (not transformation) of apartheid’s inheritance, and commercialisation of state services – mean the deeper crises of society and economy are not being effectively mitigated, in spite of alternative strategies of decommodification pursued by civil society activists.’

He said South Africa was the world’s most unequal large country, according to the Gini Coefficient, with more than 10 000 protests recorded by police annually over the past 15 years. Its political leaders included many who were formidable revolutionaries, trained in exile in Moscow at the Lenin Institute or in the fires of internal struggles where conflicts over social reproduction were as important as any component of the freedom struggle.

‘These men and women did service to the cause of justice in the most liberatory sites of struggle across Africa. Many were anti-apartheid heroes, jailed and tortured from the 1960s until 1990 when most prisoners were released. They came to power on the back of one of the world’s greatest international solidarity movements, which in turn had been inspired by the near-revolutionary situation in the townships and workplaces of apartheid South Africa.

‘That is why it is so ironic that the policies adopted by the African National Congress leadership, including the extension and tweaking of apartheid-era social welfare policies, are consistent with the neoliberal economic regime that came to rule the world at the time they took power in 1994. In addition to the Government’s greatly intensified reliance upon cost recovery – now extending even to the sole megacity’s highways using a controversial e-tolling system – the state maintained what can be termed tokenistic welfare policies.’

According to Bond, who in 1994 was a final Editor of the Reconstruction and Development Programme and Drafter of the new Government’s first White Paperthe neoliberal “cost recovery” dogma has to be reconciled with state subsidies, and hence a tokenistic approach to policy offers subsidies based mainly upon capital grantswhile insisting upon full payment for the operating and maintenance costs of a state service.

‘As a result, the “free basic services” policy adopted in 2001 provides a bare minimum (eg 50 kiloWatt hours of electricity or six kilolitres of water per household per month), and then allows service providers to charge extremely high rates for subsequent consumption, resulting in unaffordability and disconnections. It represents a strategy for “talking left” while “walking right” – or more precisely, “turning the tap right”, disconnecting those unable to pay.’

In his discussion, Bond set out some of the seminal experiences in the extension of the South African government’s social policy after 1994 – including the oft-praised social grant to elderly people – and he contrasted these with activist initiatives informed by a more robust decommodification logic.

‘For accessing AIDS medicines and water – and many other decommodification agendas – the South African commoning cases are both inspiring and useful. But likewise, South Africa is also instructive for assessing how to avoid tokenistic welfare policies that might have a rights-talk empowerment disguise but that do not take forward the broader liberatory politics so urgently needed in many other spheres of social policy,’ said Bond.

-          Melissa Mungroo


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