Humanities Academic Appointed National Social Cohesion Programme Spokesperson

Humanities Academic Appointed National Social Cohesion Programme Spokesperson
Dr Balungile Zondi.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Balungile Zondi of the School of Social Sciences has been appointed as the spokesperson for the National Social Cohesion Programme in the office of the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.

‘The programme aims to mobilise society in its entirety to work together to build a caring and proud society based on shared values and a vision, and to promote and preserve all indigenous cultures and knowledge. It will also develop a Nation-Building Project Management Manual and Toolkit for application by practitioners at all levels, and to convene social cohesion and nation building summits at provincial, local and community level within the next twelve months,’ she explained.

Zondi is tasked with proving a public voice for the programme, communicating information the public wants or needs with regards to the programme and ensuring that the programme objectives are met by communicating with the media and other parties involved in an issue. She will also be writing media statements on behalf of Social Cohesion Advocates, Communities and with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Minister on behalf of Advocates.

Zondi holds a PhD in Anthropology, MA in Policy and Development Studies, Honours in Policy and Development, Honours in Sociology, Degree in Development and Anthropologyas, as well as a Diploma in Population and Demography from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is fluent in isiZulu and English.

Other than her teaching responsibilities at UKZN, she is part of many internal committees at the University such as the Higher Degrees Committee and Community Engagement Committee. She is a recognised external research examiner for local, national and international universities. She is also an emerging writer who has published in the International Journal of Indigenous Herbs and Drugs (IJIHD).

Public policy, development, religion, medicinal plants, implementation and analysis, public participation, migration, globalisation and diaspora studies, migration patterns, decoloniality, indigenous knowledge systems, women and young women issues, gender-based violence, development issues, streetism, local government and democracy, disability, children rights and other related issues, are Zondi’s research interests.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Failures of Land Restitution and Possibilities for the Future

Failures of Land Restitution and Possibilities for the Future
Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC delivers the Dr Phyllis Naidoo lecture at UKZN’s Westville campus.

The struggle for freedom - first from British imperialism and later from apartheid, was a struggle for land.

These were the words of South African lawyer and author, Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, who delivered the Dr Phyllis Naidoo Memorial lecture at UKZN’s Westville campus.

More than 27 years after the new dispensation in South Africa, Ngcukaitobi said the dream for the return of the land has yet to be realised. ‘It has become a shattered dream. This is why a new reality is emerging - not controlled from the centre, but springing from the ground - asking the difficult question of the unfinished business of the revolution. Until and unless there is a confrontation with the negotiated settlement of the transitional period, it is impossible to speak of freedom, of equality, of dignity - values that we cherish.’

Ngcukaitobi reflected on land ownership patterns and government’s efforts to achieve land reform. ‘Not only has the land reform programme been a failure, it has also benefited a small, tiny White land-owning elite. Why then do we have a pro-poor legal and policy framework, but it is producing anti-poor outcomes? Why is the government spending so much money but achieving so little?

‘Much has been written about inefficient institutions, embedded corruption and elite capture, but the structure of land reform has received little attention,’ he said.

Ngcukaitobi looked at the main fixtures of the structure of land reform and revealed that the entire redistribution value chain of land is dominated and controlled by land owners. ‘Land owners have tended to act in their own interests, not the interests of the state or the beneficiaries of land reform.’

He said that the Constitutional Court has placed the blame for the slow pace of land reform at the foot of the state, highlighting the problem of state incapacity.

He cited institutional capacity, lack of skills, overlapping and conflicting claims, inconsistent monetary awards, sometimes insufficient resources, as well as chronic, systematic and endemic corruption as contributing factors. ‘Claimants are corrupt - I’ve seen many. Land owners are equally corrupt - I’ve also seen many. And the state is corrupt - that goes without saying.’

Ngcukaitobi refocused the discussion on the significance of the land restitution programme and those who benefit from it. ‘Land restitution gives dispossession a human face. And that is why a hundred years after the initial act of forced removals, families still celebrate their return to the land. In this sense, restitution is more than the material benefit from the productive use of the land. It is about memory, it is about the affirmation that Black people’s pain matters, it is about the restoration of lost historical identities.’

While delivering his address, Ngcukaitobi paid tribute to the irrepressible Dr Phyllis Naidoo, a lawyer and author who spent much of her life in the struggle against apartheid. ‘Phyllis’s life was made in the crucible of struggle - seeing herself as an oppressed racial group - not an immigrant from India. Her soul, her life was in this country. The country of her birth. The repertoire of love, of longing, of loss ran through her life. It was out of love that she engaged in the struggle for freedom.’

Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation Professor Mosa Moshabela remarked on the wealth of information in the University’s libraries and encouraged students to utilise the resources available on UKZN’s various campuses. ‘I’ve been struck by the richness and the wealth of information that we have on our campuses. As a former student of this University, I thought that I knew the libraries. It’s only now that I am truly discovering the treasure that we have in our collections.’

He implored academia, students and the extended University community to engage in discourses on topical issues ranging from the July unrests to the floods that affected KZN in order to ‘find solutions that are needed to solve our problems’.

‘We know that the problem of land is one that is burning in this country. It’s one that we if do not talk about it, if we do not resolve, it will be difficult for us to move forward. If we don’t resolve it, we will be letting down the generations to come,’ said Moshabela.

The Director of Library Services, Dr Nonhlanhla Ngcobo thanked everyone who helped make the lecture a success.

The Dr Phyllis Naidoo Memorial Lecture is hosted annually by the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre which houses the Phyllis Naidoo Special Collection.

To view the lecture, click here.

To read more about Dr Phyllis Naidoo, click here.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Albert Hirasen


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Riveting Film Drama Closes 43rd DIFF

Riveting Film Drama Closes 43rd DIFF
Scenes from You’re My Favourite Place.

The Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities recently hosted a successful closing night of the 43rd Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) at Suncoast CineCentre, Durban North, with the movie You’re My Favourite Place.

This is the fifth feature film directed by acclaimed and prolific South African director, Jahmil X T Qubeka. It centres around a young girl played by Tumie Ngumla from the roughest part of East London whose life has never been the same since the death of her sister, Anathi. On the last day of their high school careers, Tumie and three friends embark on a life-defining road trip by stealing a taxi and heading to the remote landmark of Hole in the Wall, where Xhosa legend has it you can talk to the dead.

The film is a vastly different canvas from Qubeka’s previous work, and the director refers to it as a merging of his past struggle to come to terms with self in a viciously unfair society with the struggles facing young Black bodies in South Africa today.

‘Through the lens of this feature film, I returned to my home town to examine the reality of youth fighting to redefine themselves amidst the flux of our current dispensation,’ said Qubeka, who is honoured to return to DIFF to premiere his latest work.‘DIFF will always remain my first home as a filmmaker. A refuge for the artistic voices of cinema in South Africa and on the continent. DIFF is a space that truly embodies the celebration of South African film.’

The film’s producer, Ms Layla Swart added: ‘It’s a huge honour to close the Durban International Film Festival as this festival has been an intrinsic part of our journey.’

CCA Director, Dr Ismail Mahomed thanked festival partners, funders and staff for their support while also paying homage to its creators. ‘This has been an inspiring week of films and it has encouraged us to look to grow the festival and take it to greater heights.’

Festival Manager, Ms Valma Pfaff added: ‘The festival celebrates the artistry, hard work and diligence of the filmmakers who give us something to marvel and ponder during these deepest darkest times.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Commended for Initiating Name Change Process

UKZN Commended for Initiating Name Change Process
Clockwise from top left: Ms Palesa Kadi, Emeritus Professor Donal McCracken, Professor Sihawukele Ngubane, Ms Normah Zondo and Dr Gugu Mazibuko.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal recently hosted a webinar to discuss the naming process of University buildings and entities, and chart the way forward for its community to participate and make the process successful.

As part of the broader efforts to continue with the University’s transformation agenda, the webinar titled, Naming the Unnamed Structures and Common Spaces in Terms of National Imperative and Rationale, aimed at supporting social cohesion, diversity and transformation while sending a message of unity to the University community, stakeholders and donor communities.

Panellists included Ms Palesa Kadi, the Chairperson of the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) in the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture who delivered the keynote address; UKZN’s Emeritus Professor Donal McCracken who gave a historical perspective and response; Executive Director: Corporate Relations, Ms Normah Zondo who welcomed the webinar participants; and UKZN’s Head of Performing Arts, Professor Sihawukele Ngubane who directed the programme.

In her welcome address, Zondo said the University is fully mindful that the process of naming the unnamed structures and common places is a delicate process requiring sensitivity, proper consultation and engagement with various stakeholders.

‘Naming our unnamed buildings and common spaces is not just a nice to have but it is part of the broader efforts to continue with our transformation agenda. As UKZN, we pride ourselves on being amongst the most transformed Universities in the country. Our strides towards transformation are already reflected in the names of some of our buildings and common spaces, in the culture of the Institution, and through our culturally diverse ceremonies including the graduation ceremonies.’

In her keynote address, Kadi said place-naming is not different from space-making as names are a reminder of the power once held. She said the ‘truth about our places, names, and place naming as an act of transformation is a complex counter-attack against colonialism.’ She added that the naming process has not been consistent or has been uneven throughout the provinces with some being bolder than others. Kadi said opposition to the renaming process has also been witnessed through legal challenges and protests.

‘The courts have been brought in to preside on the legality of other changes and they definitely look at the process as prescribed in the guidelines. We have observed, in some instances, reversed renaming, citing procedural flaws.’

She further noted how capitalism, dominance and iconic relate to space and place naming. She said a large number of informal settlements are named after struggle icons yet many University buildings and residences are named after corporates with no clear terms or time frames for separation. She said old residences and buildings are mostly named by student leaders after their former students and political leaders.

Moreover, she commended the University for taking this critical step, however reminding participants that universities are an extension of societies and a place of authority where ideas on policy-making and social change are meant to be birthed. ‘But what is comforting with UKZN is the establishment of guidelines and the names bank. A process well appreciated for knowledge management, implemented by SAGNC nationally and the United Nations working group of Names Experts where I am the Chairperson of Dutch and German-speaking countries,’ said Kadi.

When naming buildings, Kadi advised on looking at atrocities associated with the building and sensitivity around the issue of race. She called for more buildings to be named after women, highlighting that, ‘For the past four years, every quarter I have presided over names submitted by respective provinces for recommendation to Minister Mthethwa…in fifteen of the new Durban, only five carried names representing females and these were all related to British royalty. This business judgement rule requires a movement that is so intentional.’

In his response to Kadi, McCracken said it is important, first and foremost, to acknowledge that the country is writing the wrong. He said because South Africa had a negotiated settlement and did not break out into civil war, most people in the White community do not realise that there was a revolution and that we are living in a post-revolutionary situation, and that in a post-revolutionary situation there is change, and that change is inevitable.

‘Name changing is not merely a symbolic thing, it is something that underpins the whole ethos of a nation and it has to happen. There will be mistakes but it is not the fundamental of what has to happen in a country,’ said McCracken.

He said there are three motives that will require a name change. He said it is necessary to correct the spelling of some names and that is a natural process, but that is not always going to happen and people do not have to change them. The second is changing an existing name while the last motive is the new name for new places.

McCracken cautioned against pitfalls but he said South Africa has done a good job with some cities having renamed their street names more than others. He said the country should avoid triumphalism and sectionalism, and it has to have processes and regulations in place. However, he warned against looking at this as an airbrushing exercise or destruction of history. ‘It is a cleansing exercise but it must be a positive cleansing exercise and it cannot be done in the spirit of vindictiveness,’ he said.

McCracken noted that name-change reversal is a reality and names are not permanent. He made local and global examples of names that had been changed and reversed or renamed with the change of political rulers.

He agreed with Zondo that UKZN was ahead when it comes to transformation and said the naming process is a sensible one but urged that the names must have a meaning and relate to the University community.

Responding to naming buildings after donors, he said it is a catch-22 because not naming a building after a donor can sometimes mean no money is received. He advised that the University has to change at least four of its geographically named campuses, adding that the name-change process is necessary nationally and institutionally, and will make South Africa a better place.

Answering questions from participants, Zondo said the University naming committee is aware of the call to rename some of UKZN’s existing names but urged the University community to be patient as this process requires thorough consultations and there are legal aspects that need to be taken into consideration.

African Languages Senior Lecturer, Dr Gugu Mazibuko thanked panellists for honouring the invitation and for their presentations. She also expressed gratitude to participants, the University community, the KZN Provincial Geographical Names Committee, Mr Njabulo Manyoni from the University Language Office who translated the webinar, and alumni for attending.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photographs: Supplied


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The Constitutional Court Should Make a Greater Effort to Tackle Prejudice Against Infertile People

The Constitutional Court Should Make a Greater Effort to Tackle Prejudice Against Infertile People
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The School of Law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is housed in a beautiful old building on the Durban campus. To enter this building, one needs to climb a flight of stairs. For most people, this is no problem, however, not all people are able to climb stairs. People who have lost the use of their legs and use wheelchairs cannot climb stairs like able-bodied people. They need a ramp. I am happy to say that our School of Law’s building indeed has a ramp. So, it is accessible for disabled people. Obviously, this is a good thing. Only an extremely prejudiced person would argue that making the building accessible to disabled people is somehow bad.

Let’s now consider another kind of disability - a disability that, unfortunately, is the subject of much social stigma and misunderstanding: infertility. For no fault of their own, some men and women cannot have children through intercourse. There can be many medical reasons for infertility. People who suffer from infertility are often desperate to have children. This is understandable, as having children is central to most people’s life plans. Children provide meaning to our lives. So, what is the solution? Fertility clinics offer various kinds of medically assisted reproduction to infertile people. A well-known kind of medically assisted reproduction is where the skilled healthcare professionals at a fertility clinic use a man’s sperm cells and a woman’s eggs to create embryos that can then be transferred to a woman’s uterus. This is called in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Now let me relate the story of a brave and determined woman. To protect her identity, I will refer to her as just “Amy”. Amy and her husband tried to have a child, but Amy could not fall pregnant. So, they visited a fertility clinic, which suggested IVF. Amy and her husband’s hopes were high - would they now get the child they had dreamed of? However, after two unsuccessful IVF attempts, the doctor advised Amy that her eggs were not viable. If she wanted to have a child, she would have to use donor eggs - that is, viable eggs donated by another woman.

Amy thought about this long and hard. Eventually, she decided that she wanted to proceed by using donor eggs. She felt that she would love the child - irrespective of whether the child was genetically related to her or not. She and her husband spent weeks and eventually months looking for a suitable egg donor on egg donation websites that were suggested by the clinic. Eventually they found an anonymous egg donor that resembled Amy very closely, and who shared many of her personality traits. Using eggs from this anonymous donor, the IVF treatment then started anew. Again, Amy’s and her husband’s hopes were high - would they this time get the child that they had dreamed of?

After two IVF attempts with the donor eggs, Amy was still not pregnant. And then a further tragedy struck: her husband divorced her. She was devastated, but she slowly rebuilt her life on her own. The one dream that she continued to cling to - that gave her hope and meaning - was that she would someday, with the help of medical technology, become a mother.

After the divorce, she decided to continue with IVF treatment. Only this time, she would use donor eggs and donor sperm. She was determined to become a mother. Over a number of years, she underwent not just two, or four, or six IVF attempts, but a further 14. Sometimes the embryo successfully implanted in her womb and started growing. ‘This time I will become a mother!’ she thought with lots of hope, but each time, the pregnancy ended with an early miscarriage. Eventually, Amy’s doctors did more tests and diagnosed her with an illness that affected her uterus and caused the miscarriages. It was an illness that, like so many others, cannot yet be cured. The doctors advised her that she would never be able to successfully carry a pregnancy herself.

The doctors suggested a possible solution: ‘Why don’t you make use of a surrogate mother? We already have the embryos ready - they are healthy and viable. If you can get a woman who is willing to carry the pregnancy on your behalf, she can act as your surrogate mother.’ Amy was a resourceful woman, and it was not long before she was introduced to Cindy, a woman who already had children of her own, and who offered to act as a surrogate mother for her. A solution was in sight!

Amy would however run into yet another problem - this time a legal one. According to the current law, a “commissioning parent” - that is a person who wants to use a surrogate mother - must use his own sperm (in the case of a man) or her own eggs (in the case of a woman). Amy could not use her own eggs - the doctors had long before found that her own eggs were not viable. After all, that is why she had embryos made using eggs and sperm from anonymous donors - people who had donated to help infertile people like her.

She decided to take the government to court and challenge the existing law on human rights grounds - specifically her right to equality. How could the existing law only allow fertile people - people who can use their own eggs or sperm - to use surrogate mothers, but prohibit infertile people from using surrogate mothers? It simply did not make sense. The High Court found in favour of Amy. However, the 11 justices of the Constitutional Court were divided. While one group was passionately on Amy’s side, a larger group sided with the government. The majority argued that the current law (that requires Amy to use her own eggs if she wants to use a surrogate mother) does not discriminate against infertile people like Amy; they argued that it was Amy’sown infertility that stopped her from having children, and not the law. But does this make sense?

Let’s compare Amy’s case with the example of the School of Law’s building and its accessibility to people who are mobility disabled. If there were a law that banned people from using the ramp instead of the stairs, would this law discriminate against disabled people? Obviously, yes! One cannot defend such a law by arguing that it is not the law that discriminates, but disabled people’s own disability that is to blame. There is a ramp that people with wheelchairs can use to access the building. Similarly, in the case of Amy, surrogacy and donor eggs and sperm give her “access” to the joy of having children. Demanding that Amy should use her own eggs - which she could not because she is infertile - is the same as demanding that people in wheelchairs must use their own legs to climb the stairs!

The fact that the majority of the Constitutional Court sided against Amy was a sad day for human rights and our country. Their argument that the existing law does not discriminate against infertile people like Amy was clearly wrong. The Constitutional Court had the opportunity to help infertile people - people who are often marginalised and ostracised, and who suffer deeply because of their disability. But instead of doing their constitutional duty and standing up against discrimination, the majority of the Constitutional Court told Amy that it was only her own disability - her infertility - that was to blame. This is a disgrace!

This happened in 2015. Now, seven years later, the same discriminatory law is again being challenged in court. It will first be heard in the Mpumalanga High Court, and then come before the Constitutional Court again. Will the Constitutional Court redeem itself and rectify its previous egregious mistake?

The Constitution envisions South Africa as a society that has compassion for all its members. But, how can we claim to have compassion if we allow the law to ban people like Amy from realising their innermost desire to build a family? How can we claim to have compassion if we tell people who suffer from infertility that they must blame their own infertility when we know that medical technology offers solutions that can be used - like donor eggs and surrogacy? This is the same as asking: How can we claim to have compassion if we ban people in wheelchairs from using the ramp at the School of Law?

I call on the justices of the Constitutional Court to right this wrong!

*Donrich Thaldar is a professor of Law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and visiting scholar at Harvard University. Thaldar’s research interests are biolaw and bioethics, with a focus on genomics research and new reproductive technologies. He also has a private law practice where he focuses on strategic litigation in biolaw. He served as legal counsel in several landmark cases in biolaw in South Africa, including the country’s first physician-assisted dying test case, its first case of posthumous conception, and its first case that considered the validity of a known sperm donor agreement.

Photograph: Supplied

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


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Unlocking a New Generation of Physicists Explored in Inaugural Lecture

Unlocking a New Generation of Physicists Explored in Inaugural Lecture
Professor Naven Chetty.Click here for isiZulu version

‘The number of physics graduates is declining rapidly with a consequence of dire shortages in key fields such as biomedical physics, geophysics and medical physics.’

This was the stark picture painted by Professor Naven Chetty during his inaugural lecture held on Wednesday, 20 July 2022.

Chetty, a physicist by profession, chose to focus his lecture on what the future holds for physics education. ‘Shortages of physics graduates will have a deep impact on research and development as well as economic growth,’ he said.

Chetty suggested that the best strategy to increase physics graduates is to strengthen the school curriculum. ‘Interventions are urgently needed at the level of high school for any impact to be felt at tertiary level,’ he said.

‘The tertiary curriculum is also in drastic need of an overhaul which includes wider usage of problems-based learning (PBL), technological learning (TL) and group learning (GL).

‘COVID-19 has provided an ideal platform for much needed reforms in the teaching of physics with greater focus on graduate attributes and increased throughputs,’ he said. 

Himself a product of the former University of Natal (now UKZN) and of UKZN, Chetty gained his PhD in 2009 for research in molecular optics. He started working at UKZN in 2006 as a contract lecturer and moved over to permanent staff in 2010. Since 2017, he has filled the position of Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.

He mentioned several milestones in his career at UKZN of which he was especially proud. These include developing the augmented physics module in 2007 whilst employed as a senior tutor in the newly established Augmented Programme; working as Assistant Dean of Recruitment for the Faculty of Science and Agriculture from 2008-2010, with his primary function being to increase student enrolment into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); serving as the Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning for the School of Chemistry and Physics in 2014; rejuvenating the College’s Access Programme in 2015 with the establishment of the Centre for Academic Success in Science and Engineering (CASSE); being promoted to Associate Professor in 2017; and attaining a full Professorship in 2020.

Chetty sits on many national and international committees in his field of physics as well as in the broader educational field. He is a member of the University’s Senate, Council and Finance Committee. He also serves on the distinguished student and teacher award committees.

Chetty has been a reviewer for the Council for Higher Education from 2016 to date as well as an evaluator on the evaluation review panel at Umalusi since 2018. In addition, he served as an Editor of the Open Physics Journal as well as a member of the various NRF accreditation panels. He is also a reviewer for a variety of journals and an examiner of programmes and theses of many universities in Southern Africa and India.

Chetty has supervised eight PhD and 16 MSc graduates, with two summa cum laude and seven cum laude passes. He has 44 peer-reviewed journal articles and 12 conference proceedings published. Against his name is funding received in the region of R6 million over the past six years, most notably funding for underprivileged students to pursue degrees.

Other notable awards and recognition include a C3 rating from the NRF; the College Distinguished Teacher Award for 2015; and the University Distinguished Teachers’ Award for 2017.

Chetty is recognised as a research scientist and teacher in biomedical and experimental physics globally. He is passionate about growing physics at UKZN.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied


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Missing Data Topic of Statistician’s Inaugural Lecture

Missing Data Topic of Statistician’s Inaugural Lecture
Professor Shaun Ramroop.

Statistics Professor in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Shaun Ramroop, was honoured to present his inaugural lecture on the topic of missing data within the ambit of flexible statistical modelling.

Ramroop’s inauguration to the rank of full professor was held online on Tuesday, 26 July 2022.

He explained that even in a well-designed and controlled study, missing data occurs in almost all research. ‘Missing data can reduce the statistical power of a study and can produce biased estimates, leading to invalid conclusions,’ he said. ‘This warrants the need to review problems and types of missing data, along with the techniques for handling missing data.’

During his lecture, Ramroop illustrated the mechanisms by which missing data occurs, and interrogated the methods for handling the missing data within the ambit of flexible statistical modelling.

‘The classical methods range from complete case analysis (CC), last observation carried forward (LOCF) and mean value imputation, whilst the more modern techniques include Multiple Imputation (MI), Multiple Imputation via Chained Equation (MICE), Inverse Probability Weighting (IPW) and Multiple Subset Correspondence analysis,’ he said, whilst also elaborating on the merits and demerits of the various techniques.

Ramroop - who is based on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus - completed his BSc (Statistics and Applied Mathematics) in 1995 and his BSc Hons (Statistics) in 1996 before being employed as a biometrician in 1997 at the South African Sugar Research Centre in Durban.

His academic journey started when he joined the then University of Natal (now UKZN) as a tutor in 2001. Upon completion of his MSc in Statistics in 2002 with UNISA, he began his PhD studies through UKZN, which was awarded in 2007. In the same year, he was promoted to lecturer, becoming a senior lecturer in 2011. In 2016, he achieved Associate Professorship and was promoted to Academic Leader for Statistics in 2018. At the end of 2020, he was promoted to Full Professor.

One award of which Ramroop is particularly proud is being recognised as one of the top 30 emerging researchers at UKZN in 2010. Another is his Distinguished Teacher Award within the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science which he received in 2015. ‘One of the standout features of Shaun Ramroop is his teaching ability,’ said Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Delia North.

Ramroop has graduated 25 MSc and six PhD students and has published more than 50 papers in accredited journals. His research areas include biostatistics and applied statistics in modelling and analysing business, health, education, environmental, agricultural and social systems. His research has led to the application of novel models which consequentially gives meaningful inference to help the underwriting of policies and extending the existing body of knowledge in those research areas.

Ramroop is actively involved in statistical consultation and was the chief consultant to the Msunduzi Municipality in their 2015-16 living conditions survey. He was also the chief statistician to the greater Sekhukhune District municipality in their customer satisfaction survey from 2012-2015, and the Silulumanzi Water projects from 2013-2016.

‘Ramroop’s standing and recognition as a researcher and academic are evident from the work he performs at a national level for leading, strategic education and research organisations in South Africa. He has the mindset to serve his discipline,’ said North.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN’s Durban International Film Festival Announces Award Winners

UKZN’s Durban International Film Festival Announces Award Winners
Donkeyhead (Best Director Agam Darshi) (left) and scene from No U-Turn (Nigeria).

The Durban International Film Festival, organised by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities, recently announced its award winners during an event streamed live on Facebook and YouTube.

The 43rd edition, an annual calendar highlight, saw audiences attending en masse to enjoy the best of local and international film creation and talent.

CCA Director, Dr Ismail Mahomed said: ‘It was inspiring to be back in cinema but also to see our online audiences tuning in. It shows us that there is still huge enthusiasm from our South African audiences for the festival - both audiences who have been attending for years and new audiences. It encourages us to continue to develop and look forward to DIFF2023,’ he said.

This year’s festival saw the inaugural edition of the Isiphethu Student Film Festival and its first awards for student films. Festival organisers said that festival ‘aims to create a platform and gateway for students to the big festival by exposing them to the role players in the film industry and showcasing their work on the big cinema screen.’

The award for Best South African Student Film went to Where is Mr. Adams? directed by AFDA alumni, Cameron Murray who created the film as part of his honours studies. Best International Student Film went to Mona & Parviz directed by Kevin Biele from Germany.

Synopses and details of the films are available at www.durbanfilmfest.com

Go to https://web.facebook.com/DurbanInternationalFilmFestival?_rdc=1&_rdr to watch the awards.

The 43rd edition of the festival was produced by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts in partnership and with the support of the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture, Avalon Group, and other valued funders and partners.

The full list of the Durban International Film Festival award winners is as follows:

Documentaries

•    Best South African Documentary: Girl, Taken - Simon Wood and Francois Verster

•    Best International Documentary: Wind Blows the Border - Laura Faerman and Marina Weis

•    Special mentions: Music is my Life, No U-Turn and Batata

Features

•    Best South African Feature Film: 1960 - King Shaft and Michael Mutombo

•    Best African Feature Film: Bangarang - Robin Odongo

•    Best International Feature Film: Bantú Mama - Ivan Herrera

•    Best Performer: Clarisse Albrecht for Bantú Mama

•    Best Supporting Performer: Babetida Sadjo for Juwaa

•    Best Cameo Performers: Ricky Kofi Adelayitar and Brimah Watara for Public Toilet Africa

•    Best Screenplay: Ring Wandering - Masakazu Kaneko

•    Best Supporting Performer: Babetida Sadjo for Juwaa

Isiphethu Student Film Festival Awards

•    Best International Student Film: Mona and Parviz - Kevin Biele

•    Best South African Student Film: Where is Mr Adams? - Cameron Andrew Murray

•    Special Mentions: Hourglass House and Woman of No Importance

Shorts

•    Best South African Short: Prayers for Sweet Waters - Elijah Ndoumbe

•    Best African Short: Sixteen Rounds - Loukman Ali

•    Best International Short: Miette - Maude Bouchard, Camille Trudel

•    Special Mentions: Dream Writer, Little Sky

Overall

•    Amnesty Durban Human Rights Award: Batata, Noura Kevorkian

•    Artistic and Bravery: No U-Turn - Ike Nnaebue

•    Best Cinematography: Bantú Mama

•    Best Direction: Agam Darshi for Donkeyhead

•    Audience Choice Award: Amagama ka Nokutela - Zimisele Ngubane and Asanda Sizani

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photographs: Supplied


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Psychiatrist Obtains Discovery Foundation Grant to Strengthen Mental Health Services

Psychiatrist Obtains Discovery Foundation Grant to Strengthen Mental Health Services
Dr Peter Milligan, recipient of the Discovery Foundation Rural Fellowship.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Peter Milligan, a specialist psychiatrist heading the Psychiatry Department at Ngwelezana Hospital, Empangeni, obtained the Discovery Foundation Rural Fellowship Awards in the Institutional category.

This funding will allow capacity building and support of medical officers and other health workers to improve the quality of mental health services provided at the 16 district hospitals in the northern region of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The value of the award is R500 000 and will be paid in one tranche to the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Milligan boasts more than 30 years of experience in public health. His main strategic vision is to work towards integrating mental healthcare into the primary care system.

This grant will cover specialist outreach support to the district hospitals as well as online consultation and training. It will also support the training of medical officers in the district hospitals towards the Diploma in Mental Health programme which will improve the skills and capacity of the district hospitals to manage mental health problems. The project will run over two years.

Said Milligan: ‘I am very excited and honoured to receive this award. Support for rural and district hospital mental health services is a crucial need in our region. The award is aimed at strengthening mental health services in our region cutting across King Cetshwayo, uMkhanyakude and Zululand districts. There is so much work that needs to be done since we have 16 district hospitals that are served by Ngwelezana Hospital in the north region of KZN.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied


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Implementation Science Research Grant for Young HEARD Researcher

Implementation Science Research Grant for Young HEARD Researcher
Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division researchers Professor Gavin George (left) and Dr Phiwe Nota.

Dr Phiwe Nota, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD), has been awarded the Implementation Science Research Grant by the International Paediatric Symposium in Africa (IPHASA).

This is an 18-month implementation science grant which Nota will utilise for research purposes under the supervision of Professor Gavin George Programme leader of the Health Systems Strengthening Programme.

The IPHASA grant process is a competitive initiative and sought to award three early-career researchers in Africa. The other grant recipients are from Uganda and Kenya. The grant awards were announced at the 24th International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada, which took place 29July to 2 August 2022. Nota and George have been working together for the past two years on a monitoring and evaluation programme with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) aimed at the implementation of evidence-informed sexuality and HIV prevention education programmes in schools. They are currently also developing a national framework for the DBE on Learner Support Agents (LSAs) in schools as part of the psychosocial support provision in schools.

Under the IPHASA grant, Nota’s research will focus on the implementation of the Integrated School Health Policy (ISHP), focusing on KwaZulu-Natal schools which requires intersectoral collaboration between the Department of Health, DBE and the Department of Social Development. Nota explained: ‘This research is critical because in many instances, adolescent girls in South Africa do not access the sexual and reproductive health services they need to prevent HIV infection (and other sexually transmitted diseases), unintended pregnancy, gender-based violence, and psychosocial support.’

She added that schools remain important in identifying vulnerable adolescent girls and linking them to the services they need. ‘School-going adolescents spend more time in schools than anywhere else, making schools ideal platforms for reaching this vulnerable population group,’ said Nota.

The South African government initiated the ISHP with the aim of improving the health of school-going children and youth, however, schools, like other service sectors, are faced with an implementation gap where there is often slow adoption or uneven implementation of policy and evidence-based practices as part of routine service delivery, thus stalling the goal of improved learner health outcomes.

Nota’s research will not only focus on the adoption and implementation of the ISHP but aims to provide recommendations to strengthen the coordination, collaboration, and adoption of the ISHP by the school, healthcare facilities and social development services.

The overall objective of the IPHASA grant award is to facilitate the translation of evidence and good practices in the paediatric HIV response for implementation and adaptation across the African continent.

Nota feels honoured to have been awarded the grant and said: ‘It is very exciting to advance the implementation research on paediatric HIV. A long road lies ahead in strengthening the implementation of policy, but research such as this has the potential to bring positive change. I am grateful for the mentorship I received from my supervisor during the grant proposal development and most grateful to God for this prestigious grant award.’

George congratulated Nota on her achievement, saying: ‘The IPHASA Implementation Science award is a huge feather in the cap of Dr Nota. For the past two years, we have been working closely with the South African DBE reviewing health promotion activities within schools. This award will augment the great work already done, and provides Dr Nota with the resources to review how DBE policies are being implemented within schools. The results will provide invaluable information to the DBE in their efforts to improve education and health outcomes among school-going adolescents. I am really happy that Dr Nota won, and I look forward to working alongside her in the forthcoming 18 months.’

This grant includes additional funding for the recipients to attend IPHASA 2023 to present the research findings.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Social Work Discipline Welcomes German Exchange Students

UKZN Social Work Discipline Welcomes German Exchange Students
UKZN and Facchochschule Dortmund University staff and students who are part of the exchange programme.Click here for isiZulu version

Twenty-two students from Fachhochschule Dortmund University in Germany recently visited UKZN’s School of Applied Human Sciences on an exchange programme for two weeks.

The programme is part of the Internationalisation for Building Competencies Project (IFBC) - a partnership between UKZN, Facchochschule Dortmund University, and the University of Johannesburg (UJ), funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

The three principal investigators of the four-year project are Professor Michael Boecker of Facchochschule Dortmund University, Dr Maud Mthembu of UKZN and Professor Tanusha Raniga of UJ.

Dean and Head of the School of Applied Human Sciences, Professor Matshepo Matoane said, ‘This exchange programme dovetails into increased globalisation of education and showcases the strengths of universities for knowledge exchange, skills transfer and cross-border education.’

Executive Director of UKZN’s Corporate Relations, Ms Normah Zondo believes that programmes and partnerships of this nature contribute largely to improving the quality of education and knowledge production within UKZN. ‘Such programmes augur well for our students who get the chance to benchmark against the best practices in the world. Those students who come to us from partner universities also benefit immensely from the University given our stature as one of the top universities on the African continent which continues to produce groundbreaking research in various fields.’

German student, Mr Lorenzo Paciello said: ‘I am excited to learn more about the social work practice in South Africa. This will allow us to learn from each other and grow our skills.’

Ms Ncamisile Masikane of the KZN Department of Social Development also addressed the students about social work practice in KwaZulu-Natal and the various opportunities and challenges, while the Ma’at Institute at UKZN spoke to the social work response during humanitarian crises and pandemics.

UKZN student, Ms Kwena Tlhaku, who previously went to Germany as part of the exchange programme, also gave a personal account of her exchange experiences, saying: ‘This experience was humbling and has motivated me to work harder.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Albert Hirasen 


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College of Humanities Delegation Participate in Historic First World Kiswahili Language Day

College of Humanities Delegation Participate in Historic First World Kiswahili Language Day
Front row from left: Professors Shani Omari Mchepange, Nhlanhla Mkhize, William A L Anangisye and Dr Phindile Dlamini. Back row from left: Professor Aldin Kaizilege Mutembei, Mr Edwell Dzomba, Dr Adventina Buberwa and Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize together with the Dean and Head of the School of Arts, Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa and UKZN Press Director, Dr Phindile Dlamini recently travelled to Tanzania to participate and celebrate in the World’s first Kiswahili Language Day.

Kiswahili is considered one of the top 10 most spoken languages in the world with more than 200 million people in Africa and the Middle East speaking it. Kiswahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union (AU) and of the South African Development Community (SADC).

‘We were invited to participate in the celebrations due to the School of Arts having an existing MoU with the Institute of Kiswahili Studies (IKS) at the University of Dar es Salaam. It was emotional to see people celebrating their indigenous language freely and being proud of their heritage,’ said Hlongwa. ‘The teaching of Kiswahili had begun in 2013 in the College, however, due to factors related to permits for lecturers, it was put on hold. But we have resuscitated the teaching of Kiswahili and it is going strong. The initiative to teach Kiswahili aligns with the vision and mission of the University and therealisation of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.’

Mkhize added: ‘UKZN, as a Premier University of African Scholarship, is proud to be a southern African Institution that teaches a language that forges African identity and unity. The teaching of Kiswahili at UKZN is strengthening the teaching and learning, research and community engagements that the University has built with other institutions in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. It is critical for Pan Africanism and continental integration.’

The delegation then met with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam, Professor William-Andey Anangisye and members of the Kiswahili Institute to discuss further collaborations, research and exchange programmes.

The delegation also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between South African Minister of Basic Education, Dr Angie Motshekga, and Tanzanian Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Professor Adolf Mkenda to formalise the teaching of Kiswahili in South African schools.

‘The College of Humanities has positioned itself to contribute to materials development for schools such as a Kiswahili isiZulu-English Dictionary and for the training of educators to teach Kiswahili. We are excited about taking this forward,’ said Dlamini.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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New Dean Aims at Contemporary Research and Teaching

New Dean Aims at Contemporary Research and Teaching
Professor Serestina Viriri.

Professor Serestina Viriri has taken the helm as the new Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) and his vision is to lead a teaching and research environment that is responsive to the demands and challenges of the 21st century, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the University, and the broader community.

‘With its three core Disciplines of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science driving the 4IR, the School is the engine to transform teaching and learning and research in the University by leading multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research efforts in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES). Keeping up with contemporary education standards is vital in positioning our Institution as a university of choice,’ he said.

Viriri plans to achieve this by focusing on excellence in teaching, research, collaboration and community engagement while cultivating an environment where all stakeholders in the School from academic, professional and technical staff to students flourish and achieve their best.

With above-average research productivity and postgraduate student throughput, Viriri hopes to build on the strength of the School’s research by focusing on both pure and applied research. Furthermore, he intends to focus on turning big data into products, something the School has already pioneered through the initiation of an interdisciplinary programme in Data Science that imparts techniques for interrogating data in a given domain and extracting useful information.

‘I envisage solidifying and consolidating our research as one of our pillars in positioning our School nationally and internationally as well as facilitating the development of innovative service courses for other Disciplines within the University to impart Artificial Intelligence-related skills, Mathematical problem solving, Data Analytics and Computational thinking skills,’ he said.

Viriri is an accomplished Computer Scientist with over 25 years of experience in academia. His research niche is Computer Vision, Medical Image Analysis, Machine Learning, Image Processing, Pattern Recognition, and other areas relating to Artificial Intelligence and Image Analysis. He holds a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science and MSc in Computer Science from the University of Havana in Cuba, and a PhD in Computer Science from UKZN. Viriri is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a National Research Foundation rated researcher.

CAES Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head, Professor Albert Modi congratulated Professor Viriri on his appointment and his responsiveness to achieving the College’s goals.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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Biochemistry Lecturer Contributes to African Scientists Network Event

Biochemistry Lecturer Contributes to African Scientists Network Event
Ms Seipati Mokhosi (11th from left) at the Network of African Scientists for Biosafety, Biodiversity and Health meeting in Kenya.

Ms Seipati Mokhosi, an Accelerated Academic Development Programme lecturer in the School of Life Sciences, attended an event in Kenya designed to link scientists across the African continent and establish a network for responsible science.

The two-day meeting held at Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge led to the founding of the Network of African Scientists for Biosafety, Biodiversity, and Health (NASBIOH), known as the Réseau des Scientifiques Africains pour la Sécurité Biologique, la Biodiversité et la Santé (ReSABS) in French.

Initiated by the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB)’s Executive Director, Ms Mariam Mayet in 2019 after recognising that young African scientists are at the heart of innovation, knowledge creation and therefore a powerful resource for change, the event provided a platform for African scientists and community security organisations to connect and formalise the NASBIOH. The programme included discussions on science, politics, power, technology, food, agriculture, healthcare, genomics, policy and regulation, technologies and human rights, and genetic modification.

‘The aim is to establish a network of African biodiversity and health scientists on the continent who are concerned about this and who will set the agenda and build a repository of science done in Africa over decades to preserve Africa’s greatest source of strength and wealth: her biodiversity,’ said Mayet.

‘One of the main issues related to the growing and emerging trends has been the use of genetic editing tools and techniques on the continent, and how responsive corporate science and scientists are to the current issues of Africa,’ said Mokhosi.

This includes assessing African needs beyond low-cost and mass production scaling in market feasibility analyses and ensuring that the technology needs of small-scale African farmers are ranked in the assessment criteria.

These discussions arose from the ACB’s work with civil society and non-governmental organisations on biosafety issues. These organisations have called for more local research on concepts brought into Africa from abroad for testing, such as genetically-engineered mosquitoes and genetically modified seeds.

Mokhosi said the network’s mission is to support the influence, dissemination, and promotion of science that benefits Africans at multiple scales. Furthermore, NASBIOH is committed to being proactive in setting Africa’s research mandate and managing research activities with data analytics capacity being brought onto the continent. This includes recording experiments for monitoring and accessibility of information. The network’s approach would be evidence-based while considering responsible approaches to science and the ethics of research in Africa by working with civil society and creating room for debate.

‘This sense of dialogue between scientists in Africa should be an agency. We have such diverse strengths on this continent, but we need to be conversing with one another,’ said Mokhosi.

‘The meeting and network have taken an African-centric approach recognising that Africa has what it needs to solve its own challenges - thanks to its resources, environment and people.’

Mokhosi believes initiatives like NASBIOH are suited to UKZN’s goals in building African scholarship to ensure that the continent is on the cutting-edge of science and can develop its own resources, expertise, knowledge and capacity.

‘By improving African scholarship and academic freedom, we can move the agenda forward with a clear, united mandate benefitting the wellness, health, and preservation of African biodiversity,’ she said.

Having always been passionate about researching brain disorders and pursuing an academic career, Mokhosi’s research for her PhD involves the use of inorganic nanoparticles in crossing the blood-brain barrier for neuro-therapy for gene delivery. It is her long-term goal to establish an interdisciplinary neuroscience research unit, and she hopes to further expand her knowledge of this complex field by working with NASBIOH.

In her role as part of NASBIOH, she hopes to explore how science impacts Africa, and how university curricula can align with these issues in order to encourage young African scientists to solve Africa’s unique problems.

Mokhosi said joining this affirming network aligns with her lifelong mission to see Africa freely express itself in its scientific development, and she is looking forward to contributing as NASBIOH builds its resources.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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DIFF Screens UKZN Students’ Films

DIFF Screens UKZN Students’ Films
Students at the Isiphethu International Student Film Festival Shorts live screening.

The inaugural Isiphethu International Student Film Festival (IISFF), the first South African international film festival dedicated to student films, was launched during this year’s Durban International Film Festival (DIFF).

The Durban International Film Festival is hosted by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) under the College of Humanities.

IISFF aims to create a platform and gateway for students to the festival by exposing them to the role-players in the film industry and showcasing their work on cinema screens. It also aims to educate, empower and up-skill young aspirant filmmakers, bolster their confidence, and share information that is relevant to the industry.

Said IISFF manager, Mr Sakhile Gumede: ‘The IISFF wants to encourage the development of new ideas and globally showcase those emerging filmmakers who produce quality work. The films include fiction, documentary, and animation from all continents, making it a true reflection of what is being created globally.’

The festival took place primarily online, with 37 virtual film screenings and a selection of eight films that screened at Suncoast CineCentre, Durban, on Wednesday, 27 July 2022.

Four of the films were from UKZN students and alumni: Ghroza by Mr Siyabonga Chico Nhadevele, Revolt by Mr Qhawe Ndlovu, The Shadow Creatures by Mr Clayton Lyle Flanagan, and The Detective by Mr Mvelo Zimu, an alumnus and intern Graphic Designer based on the UKZN Westville campus.

Zimu’s project is short animation of how a brilliant detective suffers deep trauma after losing his best friend, who is also a policeman, during a bank robbery shooting.

‘The experience of being at a film festival was overwhelming, I was standing alongside big-name filmmakers. My film was an honours project with no film making expertise, nevertheless, the experience was very rewarding: the treatment was five-star, the experience insightful, not to mention that I had a chance to network with very interesting people and got to know the ins and outs of the film industry in South Africa,’ he said.

The IISFF also hosted two awards, the Best South African Student Film was won by Where is Mr Adams? directed by Afda alumnus, Mr Cameron Murray who created the film as part of his honours’ studies while the Best International Student Film went to Mona & Parviz directed by Mr Kevin Bielle from Germany, which the jury called ‘the perfect short film.’

Special mentions in the student category went to Hourglass House for being a beautiful film that is not easily forgotten and A Woman of No Importance for not just being another migrant story.

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Supplied


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Essilor’s Engagement with UKZN Optometry

Essilor’s Engagement with UKZN Optometry
Essilor visits UKZN Optometry students.Click here for isiZulu version

Essilor, an international optical company, visited UKZN Optometry students to introduce the company for possible future collaborations and also gave away gifts.

Mr Peter Jones, Essilor’s KwaZulu-Natal regional sales director, held a presentation about the company as a whole to approximately 140 students. The initiative was held at the University’s Senate Chamber, Westville campus, with third and final-year students.

Through the visit, Essilor South Africa aimed to celebrate the years of collaboration that exist between UKZN and the company. Students were given “memoirs” (gifts) as a, so said Jones, ‘remembrance of the interaction, the importance of collaboration between yourselves as professionals and ourselves as a professional service supplier company.’

In 2021, Essilor International and Luxottica International merged their entities to form EssilorLuxottica as one body-corporation across the world. Commenting on the merger, Jones said: ‘The intention was to create a good basic business that can offer a holistic, broad spectrum of products to the optical industry.’

EssilorSA specialises in lenses and instruments, 90% of their lenses are produced locally. Jones highlighted the importance of the relationship between optometrists as professionals and themselves as suppliers in engaging feedback. He said: ‘The feedback we get from you and the feedback we give to you is crucially important in the manufacturing and development of lenses and frames as we are moving forward into the future.’

Dr Naimah Ebrahim Khan, School of Health Sciences Optometry academic leader, was grateful to host EssilorSA and for the generous offer to students, especially those in third-year, saying: ‘They go to hospitals and meet many patients, for that they need proper uniforms which is quite expensive in addition to all that they need.

EssilorSA has been extremely generous throughout the years with UKZN Optometry, they have come through when we needed funding and equipment, and when we had specific students who had debts, so we are very excited to extend this collaboration’. Every third-year student received a pair of scrubs whilst those in final-year received jackets. The scrubs and jackets were branded with UKZN and Essilor logos.

The initiative and gifts were well received among students. Third-year student, Ms Aparna Ramsookmohan, said: ‘It’s quite exciting to get another pair of scrubs and I didn’t know so much about Essilor before as one of the bigger names but now we got to know about the company and how international they are.’

Mr Pallo Nteke, a final-year student, was happy that he was getting a jacket; while Ms Taitem Wagner, another final-year student said: ‘This was a great initiative to give us jackets, it’s awesome, we love looking professional and these just add to that.’

Words: Zama Khoza

Photographs: Albert Hirasen


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UKZN Academic Co-Presents Keynote Address at an International Conference

UKZN Academic Co-Presents Keynote Address at an International Conference
Dr Trishana Ramluckan.

Dr Trishana Ramluckan, Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Law, co-presented a keynote address with Dr Brett van Niekerk (Durban University of Technology) and Mrs Noëlle van der Waag-Cowling (Stellenbosch University) at the 21st European Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security which was a hybrid conference hosted by the University of Chester, UK.

Their keynote was titled: Multidisciplinarity and Multistakeholderism for Cyber Resilience of Emerging Economies: Lessons from Cyber Challenges and was based on the lessons learned from their involvement with local and international cybersecurity competitions, including winning an international cybersecurity competition in 2021 and judging in other competitions.

Internationally, there is increasing focus on multistakeholder engagement to counter increasing cybercrime and nation-states perpetrating or backing major cyber-attacks. Responses to major cyber-incidents need to have multidisciplinary components including law, crisis management, political as well as socio-economic considerations. Examples include managing the social implications of the Transnet cyber-incident in 2021 which had a negative impact on farmers and exports.

The importance of cybersecurity competitions and exercises for skills development through experiential learning, as well as preparedness for cybersecurity incident responders to be able to engage and work effectively with others from different disciplines were key take-aways that were discussed. Often misunderstandings, shortcomings, or unexpected complexities in an incident response plan can be identified during exercises, which provides an opportunity to improve before an actual crisis occurs.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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CCS Webinar Examines Struggles to Decolonise Queer Movement in Zimbabwe

CCS Webinar Examines Struggles to Decolonise Queer Movement in Zimbabwe
Mr Samuel Matsikure.

The UKZN Centre for Civil Society recently hosted a webinar that investigated lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, (questioning), intersex, asexual, and (agender) (LGBTQIA)+ Rights and Movements, titled: Struggle to Decolonising Queer Movement in Zimbabwe.

The webinar unpacked queer history and politics from many regions that have inspired and influenced African queer politics and exhibited their commitment to self-organisation motivated by a desire to change the narrative, environment, politics, and rights of LGBTQI people in Zimbabwe.

The event was facilitated by Dr Danford Tafadzwa Chibvongodze, UKZN Post-Doctoral Fellow: Centre for Civil Society of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies featuring Mr Samuel Matsikure, Human Rights Activist and Programmes Manager at Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Life (LGBTQI) association in Zimbabwe.

Said Matsikure: ‘I’m excited to see some developments, for many years, girls were the only organisation that focused on LGBTQI issues which in a way was quite challenging when you must try and address and give space or services for quite a diverse group of people within limited resources,’ he explained.

He revealed that there were various gay and lesbian groups organised in different spaces although they were criminalised by law under criminal qualification and Dutch law which introduced some of these provisions, however, when it came to independence, most of the underground groups were predominantly White and the Black community was almost invisible.

‘When LBGTQI engagements took place, Black people would not be allowed or charged for entry as they were poor with little to no resources to prohibit the Black gay, bisexual men or trans people out of those spaces,’ he added.

However, there have been developments amongst more emerging groups that have helped to refocus on certain things that are pertinent in the movement, especially in relation to policy and law reform, since these members of the community had previously had difficulty enforcing the movement

Furthermore, the movement has grown since new organisations have emerged over the past decade, and existing strategies have been put in place which recognise the need for educational programmes within the community to steer away from patriarchal and self-stigma issues.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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ISFAP Beneficiaries Honoured in Award Ceremony

ISFAP Beneficiaries Honoured in Award Ceremony
ISFAP honours graduates and undergraduates at an awards ceremony.

Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP) celebrated the achievements of graduates and undergraduates enrolled as beneficiaries in their programme at an award ceremony recently.

ISFAP, which was established as an answer to the “Fees Must Fall” campaign, opened its doors to students who fall in “missing middle” category in 2016 by funding scarce skills degrees. The “missing middle” are those students who come from households earning more than R350 000 but less than R600 000 annually and are financially strained, but yet don’t qualify for government funding.

The programme headed up by ISFAP programme co-ordinator, Ms Sinegugu Khuzwayo, started in 2017 at UKZN with its first cohort of Health Sciences students. ‘We are proud of all of the Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy students funded by ISFAP who have graduated and are currently doing their community service in various public hospitals nationally,’ said Khuzwayo.

Alumnus, Ms Londeka Ntombela, who is now a qualified occupational therapist serving her community service in Nkandla, said attaining her qualification would not have been possible without her ISFAP bursary. Ntombela, who was recognised for her student dedication during the programme, said: ‘I was part of the first cohort of students and in the beginning, it was very challenging but we were just appreciative of ISFAP’s helping hand. Throughout my years of study, I received immense support from qualified professionals, from the many structures of this bursary. I also got to make a lifelong friend through ISFAP and I’m very grateful to have started off my career without any student debt.’

Handing out awards, ISFAP Regional Manager, Mr Lindelani Ntuli remarked how lucky students were to be recipients of the bursary. Acknowledging UKZN as one of the top achieving institutions (academically) in the country, he said: ‘As funders, we are impressed by your positive academic results because our sustainability lies hugely on your results’.

Mr Siphesihle Mdlalose a fourth-year Medical student who received an award for excellent academic achievement said he was grateful to ISFAP for their generosity in funding his studies as a returning student who had completed his master’s previously. Mdlalose, who comes from a middle-class family where both of his parents are teachers, explained the hardship of attaining funding when you are classified as the “missing middle”. ‘When I applied for the ISFAP bursary, I was just looking for academic funding but ISFAP did more than I could have ever asked for: they provided me with a laptop, an allowance for prescribed books, a monthly stipend and accommodation.

‘Having everything taken care of has really helped and all I have to do is provide them with the bare minimum of academic results.’

Ms S’thembokuhle Maphanga, a third-year Pharmacy student who also achieved well academically, said ISFAP assisted her in the most pivotal time of her life as a first-year student manoeuvring the COVID-19 pandemic, university life and personal issues at home. She commented on ISFAP’s wrap around programme which includes financial assistance, academic support in the form of mentors and tutors, and mental health services through professional counselling. ‘I can now confidently say that I am stronger mentally and ready to tackle the world and its challenges. ISFAP, together with Ms Sinegugu Khuzwayo have made it so much easier for me to prioritise my academics by making sure that everything else is taken care of.

I hope to one day be able to give back to my community and change people’s lives, just as you have mine. Thank you ISFAP,’ she said.

Remarking on the values of ISFAP in embracing humanity and the efforts to plough back to the community, Khuzwayo highlighted the importance of not looking at the programme as just a transaction, but rather as a way to put forth the effort in supporting it in reaching new heights.

One such student, Mr Tsepho Chauke, a sixth-year Medical student commended ISFAP for enabling students to give back to the community through its community outreach programme. He said he was motivated to support upcoming students within the ISFAP programme by becoming a mentor and tutor. ‘I wanted to play a role in making it easier for other students to conquer because ultimately, we all want to graduate, give back to our communities and advance our families.’

Students were also treated to an introduction of a financial literacy programme that will include webinar trainings over the next six weeks covering topics such as the realities of “Black tax”, the importance of multiple streams of income, improving awareness of financial concepts and encouraging good financial behaviour, improving the ability to identify debt traps, and encouraging a culture of financial planning and saving.

Closing off the event, Ntuli encouraged students to attend the financial literacy programme as a victim of bad financial management himself. He commented on South Africa’s pool of high unemployment and urged students to find their purpose and passion in life in order for them to sustain themselves.

He thanked the students for attending and more over for attaining their great academic results. ‘Continue aiming to do well because good academic results mean more funding.’

Applications are now open to students looking for funding to study a scarce skills degree through ISFAP, to apply click here.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Albert Hirasen


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DSRA Hosts House Committee Inductions

DSRA Hosts House Committee Inductions
House Committee inductions hosted by DSRA.

UKZN Department of Student Residences Affairs (DRSA) hosted a House Committee (HC) Induction for the Howard College and the Medical School campuses.

The training aimed to capacitate the newly elected HC members of 2022/2023 on their roles and responsibilities within the committee. The training session was held at Shepstone Building, Howard College, under the theme: Inspiring Innovation.

The HC is the sub-structure of the Student Representative Committee (SRC) within the DRSA. HC members serve as the mouthpiece for students living in a particular residence and work closely with the Residence Assistant (RA). One of the key duties for HC members is to implement programmes that motivate and improve the daily lives of students living in residence.

Ms Qhamo Gumede, Residence Life Co-ordinator and student development practitioner, emphasised the important role the HC members have to play in facilitating student development programmes that address challenges in residence such as mental health, gender-based violence, suicide and many others. ‘The goal for us as DSRA is to develop students holistically through various projects implementation, we all know that issues faced by students in residences are the reflection of the issues experienced in the broader society,’ said Gumede. She further urged the HC to be innovative, do thorough research on the fundamental challenges faced by students and not focus entirely on the allocated budget for their residence.

Students come from different backgrounds and deal with issues that affect them physically, emotionally, mentally and academically. The HC members were equipped on the structure of the organisation and where to go for assistance by Dr Bhekani Nzimande. ‘The organogram is important. As HC members, we have to know where to go in case we come across challenges.’ 

The Department of Student Residences Affairs Head, Mr Nhlanhla Mthombeni, spoke on the mission and vision of the Department. ‘The mission and vision is very simple for me: we want to produce a conducive living and learning environment for our students,’ said Mthombeni, adding that ‘students need to know how to contain their emotions when dealing with issues, but be able to find solutions.’

Dr Mabuyi Gumede, Residence Life Officer, touched on the role of residence life in supporting the ‘educational mission of the University through implementing residence life programmes.’ These programmes aim to promote learning outside formal classrooms. ‘They are meant to promote the holistic growth and development of students in residence,’ she said.

Mr Sanele Mthembu, Student Governance and Leadership Development Officer at the Medical School was the guest of honour. He addressed the HC members on the leadership qualities required. ‘Do what the people want, but do it in a manner that capacitates your people rather than leads them backwards,’ he said. He also commented on personal accountability saying: ‘We need to take accountability for our lives as leaders so that we are able to lead by example.’

Different leaders within the department addressed various issues and recommendations for students. Mental health, GBV, and suicide are among the concerning challenges students come across in their respective residences. The DRSA aims to address these issues through their programmes with the help of HC members.

Words: Zama Khoza

Photograph: Sethu Dlamini


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