UKZN Student Brings Home Bronze Medal at the World University Games

UKZN Student Brings Home Bronze Medal at the World University Games
Mr Osman Ghoor, FISU World University Combat Games bronze medal holder.Click here for isiZulu version

Mr Osman Ghoor, a Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting student, recently competed in the FISU (International University Sports Federation) World University Combat Games held in Samsun, Turkey.

Ghoor - who participated as an individual in the Kumite 75kg category and as part of team South Africa which won bronze - said: ‘This is honestly a huge achievement as the South African Karate team has not received a medal for the past 15 years. I hope to continue winning medals, Inshallah, and to make my country proud.’

Ghoor started his karate journey at the age of four, inspired by his father who introduced him to the sport and motivated him to pursue it further. With over 19 years’ worth of experience, Ghoor is now on his third Dan black belt, which he credits to his father, Mr Ahmed Ghoor. ‘All my training is prepared by my dad who is also my coach and I owe all my achievements and success in karate to his guidance, strategies and knowledge,’ he said.

Ghoor began his preparations for this competition over a year ago and qualified for the University Sports South Africa (USSA) karate trials which were held in July this year. He noted the intensity of his training sessions which take place twice a day from Monday to Friday and include sparring, speed, strength and plyometric training.

As a Prestigious Sports Scholarship recipient, he thanked the University for sponsoring his trip to the World Combat Games and allowing him to make his Institution proud. ‘I am very honoured to be a part of UKZN as I was only able to achieve this and bring the bronze medal home because of the University’s support and belief in me. Thank you UKZN!’

Although Ghoor, who was focused on the tournament, did not get a chance at sightseeing during his 10-day stay in Turkey, he did get to enjoy some baklava and turkish delight.

His plans for the future include completing his qualification as a chartered accountant and winning a gold medal at the World Karate Federation - being the first ever South African to hold the title.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied


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Optometry Kits Worth R750 000 Donated to Optometry Discipline

Optometry Kits Worth R750 000 Donated to Optometry Discipline
Gift of the Givers and Care Sisters Network donates Optometry kits to UKZN’s Optometry Discipline.

The Gift of the Givers Foundation, in partnership with the Caring Sisters Network (CSN), have donated 25 Optometry kits valued at R30 000 each to the Optometry Discipline to loan out to students who cannot afford to buy their own.

The donation process, which was overseen by UKZN Foundation’s Donor Relationship Manager, Mr Tebelo Kokoropo, was initiated by Academic Leader in Optometry, Dr Naimah Ebrahim Khan due to the growing number of Optometry students over the years.

Seeing the need for the kits, the Discipline put out a call to the community requesting assistance. ‘Students need this because we saw the difference between those who had the equipment to practise, resulting in them performing better than the students without,’ said Ebrahim Khan.

‘Gift of the Givers and CSN came out to visit and they saw the need and understood the type of equipment we needed which included the eye chart, trial case and frame, diagnostic set, occluder, pupillary distance ruler, prism bar and hard contact lenses.

‘Their contribution went above and beyond monetary value as they also helped us source the best equipment and delivered it on to campus, so we are beyond grateful!’ she said.

Gift of the Givers Operations Director, Mr Muhammad Rayhaan Sooliman, said the donation marks the start of an exciting partnership between CSN and the Discipline and sets the tone going forward.

CSN and Islamic Medical Association (IMA) Durban Chairperson, Dr Yasiera Mahomed Suliman, who assists UKZN by availing the IMA clinics as training spaces for students, said she was aware of the students’ needs. Being in the field, she said it was impossible for students to train without this equipment which is why she decided to lend a helping hand.

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, Gift of the Givers Founder, remarked on how his family has a special attachment to the University - having also studied at UKZN. He said: ‘We need to give back to where we come from because to build this country, we have to help those children who aren’t progressing because of a lack of opportunity so that they can change their lives.

‘There’s only one way to fix this country, and that’s if we work together as one to make it better,’ Sooliman added.

He noted some of the projects his foundation has been involved in, including their R3 million donation to UKZN’s Medical Student Fund which supports up-and-coming doctors with historical debt - a project founded by the Dean and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Ncoza Dlova.

Ms Priyanka Jugdeo, third-year Optometry student noted how the initiative has a real impact. ‘When we are out on external clinical sites or for assessments, it really helps if everyone has their own equipment to take out the added stress of time,’ she said.

Mr Zamokuhle Vilana, fourth-year Optometry student highlighted how this will aid many students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and who have not been fortunate enough to receive funding. ‘It’s hard to do an assessment without having practised, it’s also a hindrance to borrow equipment because not everyone has the same brand, so the specifications are different.’

The Dean and Head of School of Health Sciences,Professor Khathutshelo Percy Mashige, commented on how students in the Discipline have been battling to get the basic equipment required to do their training. ‘Without the equipment, students are unable to gain the requisite skills needed for them to go out there as competent clinicians and service the community,’ he said.

Mashige added, ‘I’m over the moon that the Gift of the Givers and CSN have been able to assist in such a swift turnaround time. We thank you, as this will go a long way in assisting our students with their training.’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Albert Hirasen


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ULPDO Spreads Deaf Awareness

ULPDO Spreads Deaf Awareness
From left: Ms Samukelisiwe Ndlovu (SASL winner), Dr Ashley Subbiah (Disability Unit), and Mr Khumbulani Mngadi, Director (Acting): ULPDO.Click here for isiZulu version

The month of September saw South Africans commemorate Heritage Month and Deaf Awareness Month.

The University Language Planning and Development Office (ULPDO) used this opportunity to raise awareness for South African Sign Language under the theme: SASL Matters: Towards an Inclusive and Mindful Society. This theme seeks to promote South African Sign Language SASL within the University community.

This was done by sharing a SASL flyer with a message of support to the university community throughout September 2022. The Office reiterated its support of the SASL as the 12th South African official language. This stance was also portrayed on the SASL flyer for the 2022 academic year.

The ULPDO also ran a special competition for the University community. Students and staff were requested to send videos with messages of support to the Deaf community using SASL. All videos were shared on the ULPDO website. The best message of support received a book voucher, ULPDO publications, a memory stick, as well as a UKZN-SASL t-shirt.

The ULPDO would like to thank SASL competition winner, Ms Samukelisiwe Ndlovu and all participants for sharing beautiful messages of support.

‘Hello everyone. I hope you are all good. My name is Samke. Happy Deaf Awareness Month. Let us spread love through sign language. Communicating with sign language is essential. Love you all!’ said Ndlovu’s winning message.

Words: Tholakele Zungu

Photograph: Njabulo Manyoni


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Thin Film Polymer Solar Cells as an Alternative Source of Renewable Energy Explored in Inaugural Lecture

Thin Film Polymer Solar Cells as an Alternative Source of Renewable Energy Explored in Inaugural Lecture
Professor Genene Tessema Mola.

Opportunities and Challenges of Thin-Film Polymer Solar Cells (TFPSC) in Contributing Towards the Realisation of Cheap Renewable Energy was the topic of an inaugural lecture presented by UKZN Physicist, Professor Genene Tessema Mola.

Conducting polymers have attracted tremendous research interest in the last three decades because of their potential application in the area of flexible photonic and electronic devices.

Mola explained that TFPSCs are a highly sought area of application with a view to producing lightweight and flexible solar panels.

‘The energy band structure of the donor and acceptor molecules in the preparation of polymers blend bulk-heterojunction (BHJ) solar absorber medium is of great importance to the overall performance of polymer solar cells,’ said Mola. ‘However, the limitation in tuning the energy band structures of fullerene molecules poses significant challenges to the progress in BHJ polymer solar cells.’

Mola said that in an attempt to cater for these challenges, the small molecules non-fullerene acceptors (NFAs) came into the TFPSC research space, raising the possibility of altering the optoelectronic properties of the polymer molecules.

‘The use of plasmon metal nanoparticles has also contributed to ease some of the limitations of polymer molecules,’ he said. ‘This brings polymer solar cells closer to the realisation of full-scale commercialisation.’

Mola is a full professor in the Discipline of Physics, based in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus.

He received his BScs and MSc Physics degrees from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and his PhD from the University of Bonn in Germany (2003). Mola has served on the faculty of several academic institutions including Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and the National University of Lesotho. He joined UKZN in 2011.

His research area is Experimental Condensed Matter Physics and he has received various research grants. He has supervised over 41 postgraduate students, of whom 11 are PhD graduates. He is currently supervising five PhD, one MSc and one honours student.

Mola has published over 125 research articles in several highly reputable journals. He is a member of several professional societies such as the International Solar Energy Society (ISES), European Physical Society (EPS), Material Research Society (MRS), African Material Research Society (AMRS), as well as the Ethiopian Physical Society (EPS). He has served as Director for the Material Sciences Programme at Addis Ababa University, as Physics Department Chairman at Alemaya University, and as an Academic leader at UKZN.

Mola is an associate editor and editorial board member for several internationally renowned journals and has conducted a number of plenary talks and invited presentations at international conferences. He has reviewed a number of research articles in high-impact journals, many research proposals and over 20 PhD theses.

He was named as one of UKZN’s top five cited researchers in 2018 and was recognised as a top 30 productive researcher for 2019 and 2020. He has held an NRF C2 rating since 2019.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied


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Saving the Environment - Using the Little Things

Saving the Environment - Using the Little Things
Professor Johnson Lin.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s Professor Johnson Lin is fascinated with the little things.

As a microbiologist, his main focus of research is on environmental microbiology and bioremediation, and he used the occasion of his inaugural lecture to share his insights into this area.

‘Advancement in science and biotechnology have progressively aided mankind through exploration and use of natural resources,’ said Lin. ‘Unfortunately, some of these interventions may instigate environmental effects which impact human health.’

In recent years, molecular techniques have been utilised in exploring the potential applications of microbial enzymes. Lin explained that natural bioremediation is an ecologically sound tool that encompasses the usage of biological processes to reduce or remove pollutants through biochemical solubilisation or mineralisation, thus contributing to saving the environment.

‘Evidence emanating from the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills reveal microbes playing significant roles in restoring ecological health,’ he said. ‘Hydrocarbon degrading microbial isolates possess the potential for innovation in many applications.

‘Combinations of advantaged molecular techniques, molecular modelling together with artificial intelligence potentiates bioremediation for commercialisation and environmental health that can be demonstrated in plastic degradation,’ he said.

Lin is a full professor at UKZN’s Discipline of Microbiology which is housed within the School of Life Sciences (College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science).

He received his BSc degree from the National Tsing Hua University of Taiwan in 1984 and his PhD in 1992 under the supervision of Einstein Professor J H Wang from the State University of New York, Buffalo, USA. 

Lin underwent postdoctoral training on the structure and function of the reverse transcriptase of HIV-1, under Professor J Coleman in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University, before moving to South Africa in 1995 and joining the then University of Durban-Westville (now UKZN) as a senior researcher in June 1996.

In 1997, he moved to the University of Zululand’s Biochemistry and Microbiology Department. In 2003, he was appointed as an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at UKZN and was promoted to Full Professor in 2020.

Lin has successfully supervised 11 doctoral and 19 master’s students, mentored six postdoctoral fellows and published 121 research articles in national and international peer-reviewed journals. He is currently supervising five PhD and three MSc students.

He is an editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Biochemistry Research from 2007, a member of the Editorial Board of Water SA, and a member of the Advisory Board of the International Journal of Biotechnology since 2013. He is a reviewer for more than 20 high-impact factor journals and has served as a member of the Scientific Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Conference for Environmental Integration for several years. He constantly reviews funding proposals or rating applications for the National Research Foundation (NRF), Water Research Council (WRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC).

Lin has been an invited speaker at several international conferences in the United States, Singapore, Taiwan and South Africa. He was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Taipei, Taiwan, in 2010 and was appointed as an Adjunct Professor at the Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China, from 2015 to 2020. 

He has held an NRF C2 rating since 2007.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied


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Walking for Better Mental Health

Walking for Better Mental Health
UKZN staff and students walk for better mental health at Durban’s North Beach.

Hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal Mental Health Advocacy Group in partnership with civil society organisations such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), the annual Mental Health Walk was held recently on Durban’s North Beach and attracted hundreds of participants including UKZN staff and students.

The event, which was initiated in 2016, is the brainchild of UKZN psychiatrist, Professor Suvira Ramlall and clinical psychologist, Mr Suntosh Pillay.

Said Ramlall: ‘The recent COVID-19 pandemic was more of a mental health pandemic than a viral one: not everybody was infected by the virus but everybody was affected mentally, socially, emotionally, financially and spiritually. KZN citizens had to cope with this mental burden in addition to the devastating impact of the floods and civil unrest. This year’s Walk was therefore especially important to create awareness of the importance of mental health for our overall health and wellbeing. The Walk and Fair are deliberately designed to promote awareness and share knowledge about simple practices that are not resource dependent that each individual can adopt to invest in their wellbeing.’

‘Attendees had opportunities to learn Zumba, simple physical exercises, yoga and meditation at the event which attracted over 700 attendees from all walks of life; private, public and NGO sectors; and age groups from six months to 77 years! The event also sends out a strong message that citizens should not wait for or rely on government initiatives to promote mental health - “this has not been forthcoming despite the need identified globally during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Communities must unite and work together to promote mentally healthy lifestyles and seek help early for symptoms and signs of mental distress.#KZN’sBestWalk. #NoHealthWithoutMentalHealth,’ said Ramlall.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN and SAS Extend Teachers4DataAnalytics Across SA - and Africa is in Their Sights

UKZN and SAS Extend Teachers4DataAnalytics Across SA - and Africa is in Their Sights
From left: Dr Danielle Roberts, Professor Delia North, Ms Nombuso Zondo (UKZN); Mr Andre Zitzke (SAS); Professor Albert Modi (UKZN); Professor Christine Franklin (University of Georgia, American Statistical Association Ambassador); Mr Lethani Ndwandwe, Professor James Allison (NWU); Dr Julia Keddie, Dr Humphrey Brydon, and Professor Renette Blignaut (UWC).

‘UKZN is very well respected nationally and internationally with regard to providing cutting-edge training for the data age!’

These are the words of UKZN Statistician and former Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Delia North, who is passionate about upskilling young South Africans. Data analytics in particular is her thing.

With North at the helm, UKZN has partnered with global analytics leader SAS (the world’s largest privately-owned software company) and two other South African universities to launch her brainchild, the Teachers4DataAnalytics programme. This programme is a teacher training initiative that aims to reach hundreds of teachers and provide them with the knowledge and tools to inspire their students to pursue careers in data analytics.

‘I want to bring data to life in South African classrooms,’ she said. 

North has been highly influential in statistics education in South Africa for close to two decades and has played a seminal role in defining the statistics content of the school curriculum since it was first introduced in 2002.

Under her guidance, UKZN has introduced a suite of Data Science qualifications including a BSc degree, a postgraduate diploma and a master’s programme. The University is rapidly being recognised in the industry as the place to go to study and plan for a career in data analytics as all its offerings are fully SAS endorsed.

North pointed out that despite one-third of South African university graduates and almost 60% of the youth failing to find jobs and meaningful employment, a massive skills shortage in the technical sectors persists. With economies digitalising rapidly, creating roles for entrants with data analytics and statistical skills, North became increasingly concerned that school learners locally were largely unaware of the existing and emerging potential vocations that can offer them exciting and gainful employment opportunities and future-proofed career paths. She reached out to SAS, and the rest - as they say - is history.

Mr Andre Zitzke, Manager: Global Academic Programmes in Africa for SAS and a close colleague of North said: ‘We are exceptionally proud of and excited about the Teachers4DataAnalytics programme as this is the first programme of this nature, scale and size focused on secondary school teachers and learners in South Africa.

‘The aim is to empower teachers with the knowledge and tools to be better placed to reach more students, encourage their curiosity and provide them with exposure on practical applications behind the curricula in STEM subjects, so that learners become more informed on the careers available to them in the digital and data driven age.’

For the Teachers4DataAnalytics programme, North invited Professor Christine Franklin, a world-renowned expert and leader in teacher training, to optimise the uptake of statistical concepts at school level and produce a booklet that would guide teachers in their training. SAS® DataFly was the software of choice as innovative use of this versatile software allows teachers to use SAS DataFly despite constraints and realities of teaching in less affluent schools.

Having been launched at UKZN on 13 August to enthusiastic acclaim by local teachers, North and SAS are now taking the programme to the Universities of the Western Cape and North-West to train local teachers in those provinces.

The training workshops, planned and presented by Ms Nombuso Zondo, a lecturer in the Statistics sector of UKZN, will culminate in a SAS DataFly poster competition for teachers, whereby they can use SAS’s DataFly technology to bring statistics to life in a data exploration exercise. Winners of the poster competition will be announced at the annual conference of the South African Statistical Association in November. Dr Danielle Roberts, a Statistics lecturer at the Institution, has designed a website and will be co-ordinating the poster competition for teachers.

North’s long-term vision is to expand the project across the continent to help connect schools, universities, industry and government in creating a data analytics talent pipeline for a digital future. Feedback on this cross-Africa initiative will be shared at the World Statistics Congress in Ottawa, Canada in July 2023.

‘Any initiative that exposes learners to the enhancement of career opportunities in line with the needs of the modern workplace should be pursued with great focus. Teachers are “change agents” who can have a fundamental influence in this regard,’ she said.

North is no stranger to running outreach projects that advocate awareness for studying STEM - and data analytics - in particular. Her hugely successful Women in Analytics and Dudes in Data initiatives aimed at Grade 11 school learners have led to a rapid uptake of high-quality data science students at UKZN. 

‘We have shown our feeder school pupils that data is everywhere and top-class training is available right here in their backyard!’

Said North: ‘STEM provides graduates with elevated employment opportunities. Having top-end data analytics skills during the 4th Industrial Revolution gives them a huge advantage. With our specialised data science degrees and brilliant and dedicated faculty, UKZN is the place to be!’

Words and photograph: Sally Frost


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Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture Opens Poetry Africa Festival in Durban

Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture Opens Poetry Africa Festival in Durban
Poet, Mr Sandile Ngidi delivers the 8th annual Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture.

The Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities recently hosted the 2022 Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture.

The lecture was launched in 2015 as a collaboration between the College of Humanities, South African History Online (SAHO), and the National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS).

‘The annual Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture celebrates and highlights the extraordinary work of this literary legend, public intellectual and defender of social justice,’ said CCA Director, Dr Ismail Mahomed. ‘He was one of South Africa’s finest poets who was known for his writings in both English and isiZulu. It is a highlight in our festival programme and offers a dialogue with the younger generation of poets to find inspiration and leadership from veteran poets and to further interrogate their own work to build and reshape the country.’

Professor Sihawukele Ngubane of the School of Arts added, ‘This lecture series honours the legacy of Gwala and we are proud as a University to keep his memory and contributions to the isiZulu literary works alive.’

The keynote speaker was poet, journalist, communication specialist and literary translator, Mr Sandile Ngidi who commemorated the vision and spirit of Gwala for justice, equality, and light. Ngidi addressed the following questions: Why are we hurting ourselves and embracing stubborn emblems of blood and hate again? How long has the sun been gone? How long have we lost words that heal and give hope to her famished rhythm?

‘Poetry provides the possibilities to undergo deep introspection and to fight injustices, poverty and inequality. By sharing parts of ourselves through literary works, we give different perspectives and insights into societal problems and possible solutions,’ said Ngidi.

He first encountered Gwala’s work as a student at the former University of Natal (now UKZN) citing that the poet’s work was his most treasured item as it related to Black consciousness. ‘Gwala’s work appealed to me not only because of its political nature, but as a great literary work from a proud Black man. His poetry also taught me about the Black condition under apartheid. Reading Gwala’s poetry gave me a new language that was radical and bold.’

Ngidi noted that Gwala understood cultural identity. ‘He put art into action for the liberation struggle. Looking at the South African landscape now, Black pain and suffering are generally left to the occasional politician. We need to find that liberation language and Black Consciousness because it mobilises and unites us as South Africans to fight against poverty, inequality and injustices.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Rogan Ward


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Inaugural Lecture Explores Anthropological Knowledge and Virtual Communities

Inaugural Lecture Explores Anthropological Knowledge and Virtual Communities
UKZN academic, Professor Vivian Ojong.Click here for isiZulu version

Dean and Head of the School of Social Sciences, Professor Vivian Ojong delivered her virtual inaugural lecture titled: “Territories in Flow and Flux”: Anthropological Knowledge and Virtual Communities."

Said Ojong, ‘The phenomenon of migration continues to take twists and turns in contemporary times. Coupled with new technologies, human movements continue to be reshaped in novel ways and this has implications for anthropology as a discipline, particularly for the anthropological method. Perhaps one can toy with the idea of virtual societies which are emerging out of the technological interaction of migrants who share common interests and identities.’

According to Ojong, ‘mobility continues to reshape anthropological discourse although it appears to engender greater freedoms,’ in which her major critique centres on the globalisation of inequality which is characteristic of the present migration trends. These are affected by technological developments which have heightened the degree of surveillance and has implications for inclusion and exclusion.

Ojong says that if the modern anthropologist’s duty is to study people and their relationships everywhere, the transnational connections and virtual communities which people are part of should be interesting perspectives that need to be understood.

‘Anthropology also plays a significant role in the analysis of the culture of migration, the challenges thereof and its effective utilisation for the development of humanity. As advancement in technology is reducing the world to a global village, the global movement of people is taking on new dimensions,’ she said.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Teaching and Learning Induction Workshop for Class Representatives

Teaching and Learning Induction Workshop for Class Representatives
The College of Law and Management Studies hosted an induction workshop for Class Representatives.

The Teaching and Learning Unit within the College of Law and Management Studies (CLMS) hosted an online induction workshop for 27 class representatives.

The aim of the workshop was to prepare the College’s class representatives who were elected at the beginning of this semester for their important duty as they serve as an important link between students and academics.

Professor Msizi Mkhize, CLMS Dean: Teaching and Learning, urged the class representatives to always remember that their key responsibility is to bridge the communication gap between academic staff and students, and should therefore ensure that they are proactive and diligent in raising and dealing with issues impacting teaching and learning.

‘As class representative, you are expected to gather negative or positive feedback from students and escalate it to appropriate module lecturers, discipline and academic leaders of teaching and learning and the Dean and Head of School,’ he said.

Speaking from a Quality Promotion and Assurance (QPA) perspective - which plays a role in ensuring quality and improvement in the core functions of teaching and learning - consultant, Dr Thabile Mthombeni highlighted the importance of class representatives participating in the end-of-semester reflections. The reflections are conducted by gathering feedback from students on programmes through experience surveys and module evaluations at the end of each semester.

‘We administer these evaluations, process and analyse responses received and compile them into reports. This benefits students as it gives them a platform to express their views and learning experiences. Lecturers also benefit because it helps with improving the design and development of a programme,’ said Mthombeni.

In her address, Student Support Services Acting Manager, Ms Ishara Maharaj explained the services offered by the Department and the important role it plays not only in the students’ academic success, but their personal development and mental wellbeing.

‘In terms of our services, we provide counselling, coaching and psychotherapy. We provide a safe space for students to talk about their challenges and look at how they can cope better. We know students tend to adopt dysfunctional coping mechanisms and as psychologists, we guide them with healthy coping mechanisms,’ she said.

In closing, Mkhize concluded with an announcement that the College will issue class representatives with certificates recognising their service at the end-of-semester reflection workshop.

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Image: Shutterstock


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An Insight of Court Proceeding for Law Students

An Insight of Court Proceeding for Law Students
Third-year and final-year students who participated in the Court Shadowing Programme.

Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) recently hosted its inaugural court shadowing programme.

SLSJ is a South African student organisation dedicated to protecting human rights, preventing discrimination and promoting social justice and the rule of law. The society was formed in partnership with students of various South African universities with the aim of transforming legal education and access to justice.

The practical legal experience initiative was supported by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and saw 60 third and fourth-year Law students shadow court proceedings at the Durban Magistrate’s Court. SLJS Chairperson, Mr Masivuye Ndamase said the experience provided valuable insights for the students who aspire to pursue a career in the judiciary.

‘The experience is of great value for Law students as it gave them an opportunity to experience the reality of being a judge or a court magistrate so that they gauge if they are suitable for this legal profession. We had initially planned to have 100 students participate in this programme, however, the court could only grant us three days but we plan to run this initiative throughout the semester so that every student can get a chance to participate,’ he said.

Regional Magistrate and Administrator of the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (SAC-IAWJ), Ms Pearl Andrews applauded the organisation for being proactive in its pursuit and further encouraged students to participate in similar opportunities.

‘Such programmes are important in supplementing students’ theoretical knowledge and offer an insight into how the law works in practice. This helps students understand the work of the court, the nature of the services offered by judicial officers and the role of the court in dispensing justice,’ she said.

For third-year student, Ms Sarisha Harrysharan and final-year student, Mr Nhlanhla Notha, seeing law in action was different from what they had seen on TV shows. 

‘This experience provided me with an opportunity to learn about court manners and procedures that must be followed for an effective court operation. It was amazing to see how a prosecutor critically analysed statements from witnesses,’ said Harrysharan.

Notha added that having a realistic perspective of court procedures will be valuable in shaping his legal career: ‘The court’s judges and attorneys provided us with important wisdom pertaining to the vital qualities that we as Law students must acquire or develop on a daily basis so as to succeed in the future as young aspiring lawyers.’

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele and Thandiwe Jumo

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Academics Present Research Findings at 1st International Conference on Disasters

UKZN Academics Present Research Findings at 1st International Conference on Disasters
Professor Betty C Mubangizi (left) and Dr Londeka Ngubane.

A multidisciplinary team implementing a project on the Interplay Among Vulnerabilities, Livelihoods, and Institutional Dynamics in the Context of COVID-19 recently presented their work at the First Disaster and Risk Management Conference at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

The conference took place from 1 to 4 October 2022.

The project team comprised Professor Betty Mubangizi NRF/SARChI Chair on Rural Livelihoods in the School of Management, IT and Governance; Dr Londeka Ngubane from the School of Applied Human Sciences; Dr Andrew Okem from the School of Life Sciences; Dr Jabulani Nyawo from the School of Management, IT and Governance; Dr Sokfa John from the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Mediation in Africa and a former postdoctoral fellow at UKZN; Dr Ibrahima Barry from the University of Nantes in France; and Mr Niyi Adekanla from AIDLINE Research in Nigeria.

The study used Matatiele Local Municipality (MLM) and Winnie Madikizela Mandela Local Municipality (WMMLM) as case studies. The two municipalities have a limited revenue base due to high poverty levels, their innate susceptibility to tornadoes, protracted droughts, land degradation, and high reliance on state grants.

The Sustainable Livelihood Framework underpinned their study. Using surveys and in-depth interviews, the study offered an understanding of the intricacies surrounding the effects of COVID-19 in the two rural municipalities. The municipalities’ ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic was tested because several COVID-19 response mechanisms, such as basic hygiene, communication, and transportation, fall under the purview of these resource-constrained municipalities.

A unique aspect of this study, and one which fits with UKZN’s emphasis on community engagement, was that a portion of the research team was made up of non-academic partners from both municipalities. Mr Momelezi Mbedla, the then mayor of MLM; Mr Luvuyo Mahlaka, WMMM Municipal Manager; and Ms Sissie Matela of Environmental and Rural Solutions comprised the non-academic partners in the study.

The study’s non-academic collaborators were kept updated through routine reports at community gatherings. To further strengthen the community participation strand of this project, the research team trained 25 fieldwork assistants on the fundamentals of research ethics and how to use the KoboToolbox app in surveys. The municipal partners discussed the potential benefits of training fieldworkers for the municipalities’ efforts to collect data for their integrated development plans.

At the conference, Mubangizi and Ngubane spoke on behalf of the research team, unpacking the effects of COVID-19 in rural contexts and the COVID-19 coping strategies used by residents of the two rural municipalities. The research - which anticipates publishing additional papers and policy briefs from the project - has already published a scoping review on Rural Vulnerability and Institutional Dynamics in the Context of COVID-19 in the Journal of Disaster Risk Studies (DOI:10.4102/jamba.v14i1.122).

The research was funded under the Africa Rapid Grant Fund which aims to assist knowledge creation on the expanding variety of scientific topics regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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SAEF Lecturers Lend Helping Hand to Kids MBA

SAEF Lecturers Lend Helping Hand to Kids MBA
From left: SAEF lecturers Mr Mohamed Suleman, Dr Jessica Goebel and Dr Michelle Hatch, and (right) Grade 8 students preparing for Kids MBA pitches.

Lecturers within the UKZN School of Accounting, Economics and Finance (SAEF) recently completed community service work with KHULA Education on the Kids Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme.

KHULA Education is a foundation committed to improving the quality of education in rural KwaZulu-Natal and aims to develop children’s business, entrepreneurial skills, leadership potential and lateral thinking through this programme.

SAEF lecturers, Dr Michelle Hatch, Dr Jessica Goebel and Mr Mohamed Suleman assisted Grade 8 students with finessing their business plans and preparations for their final MBA pitching competition where winning teams from each school received R2 000 seed funding to implement their small business ideas. Hatch, who initiated this participation said this learning engagement did not only benefit students but as lecturers, they also gained a genuine perspective of the challenges faced by children from rural backgrounds.

‘I would repeat the experience in a heartbeat. It gave me hope for the future of our country and left me a bit frustrated afterwards thinking how much harder our government should be working to support our school children,’ said Hatch.

Ms Deborah Heustice, KHULA Education Director, said the programme was launched earlier this year. Grade 8 students from three participating schools, Amoibe Secondary, Shiyane High School and Gadeleni Secondary School in the uMzinyathi District received one lesson per week. They were able to discover the beginning and running of a business through discussions, brainstorming and presentations.

Said Heustice: ‘This course teaches essential business development and management skills to our in-school youth, giving them tangible homegrown scenarios to discuss and debate. The course was not tested in traditional exams, but rather in a real-life “Dragon’s Den” pitch to the local business community.’

One of the trainee teachers, Ms Snethemba Majozi, who assisted with preparing and delivering weekly lessons said: ‘What is important and very useful is that Kids MBA supports the Economics and Management Sciences curriculum. I'm also learning a lot of new things from this course that I didn't know about it and I believe learners are also taking this very seriously.’

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photographs: Supplied


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Supply Chain Academic Actively Producing Research

Supply Chain Academic Actively Producing Research
Mr Alexander Samuels.

School of Management, Information Technology and Governance academic, Mr Alexander Samuels is actively publishing research in the field of supply chain management.

During the month of September, Samuels presented at the Business Management Conference in Cape Town; the 5th Annual NWU Teaching and Learning Conference 2022: Digital Transformation in Higher Education held in Gauteng; and the 1st Joint Annual International Conference 2022 (JAIC 2022) held in Windhoek, Namibia.

‘It’s been a busy year with conferences especially traveling both nationally and internationally. My papers are on the focal area of total quality management, procurement, logistics, suppliers selection criteria, service delivery and operations management. Currently, I am pursuing my PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the field of Supply Chain Management,’ said Samuels.

In relation to his doctoral research, Samuels addresses the sustainable supply chain management practices of the eThekwini Municipality in becoming a future smart city.

His paper titled: An Analysis of the Quality Management System on Water Management Practices at eThekwini Municipality explores the accessibility of water supply to consumers in the eThekwini Municipality region.

His other paper titled: An Assessment of Water Management Practices within the KwaZulu-Natal Region, South Africa, examines the amount of rainfall and water supplied to the eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa, and reports the remedies that it has in place to overcome these constraints.

‘This area of research has become an interesting phenomenon to address within the eThekwini Municipality. As much as there are challenges, research investigation has shown that South Africa is currently adopting practices and transitioning into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I look forward to working with my colleagues as well as Professor Micheline Naude and Dr Patmond Mbhele on various academic work, as there is a lot more to add to the body of knowledge within supply chain management,’ he said.

Apart from presenting his research, Samuels is currently collaborating with academics from the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand, and Tshwane University of Technology on the writing and publishing of supply chain management textbook chapters. He is extensively involved with curriculum development at various public and private Higher Education Institutions as well as being an examiner, internal and external moderator for assessments and examinations.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied


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Humanities Academic is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University

Humanities Academic is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University
Professor David Spurrett speaks about Hostile Scaffolding at the University of Wollongong.Click here for isiZulu version

Professor David Spurrett, academic within the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC), recently spent a month as a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

During his visit, he attended and presented a paper at the renowned Philosophy of Biology at Dolphin Beach (PBDB) conference, travelled to Wollongong to give an invited talk, and made a presentation on the regular Philosophy Talk series at ANU.

His PBDB talk developed analogies and complementarities between the notion of extended behavioural phenotypes and the literature on extended cognition, arguing that both can learn from each other. The Wollongong invitation was an opportunity to present a talk on Hostile Scaffolding which is the subject of an ongoing collaboration with UKZN master’s student in Philosophy, Mr Ryan Timms, who is also being supervised by Spurrett.

The key claim in this work is that external structures can sometimes exploit and manipulate one agent’s cognitive processes for the benefit of another. While at Wollongong, Spurrett was also able to discuss an ongoing collaboration with Dr Nick Brancazio on embodied cognition, clothing and gender. Towards the end of the visit, Spurrett gave a talk entitled: Time and the Decider on problems that arise when idealised theories of decision are assumed to apply in detail to what happens in brains over short time-scales.

Spurrett said, ‘It was a tremendous trip, both enjoyable and productive. ANU has one of the best Philosophy departments, and I’m grateful to the Research School of Social Sciences there for hosting me, and especially to Professor Kim Sterelny who championed my visit. I hope to visit again.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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