UKZN Hosts Research Indaba on Disability

UKZN Hosts Research Indaba on Disability
Scenes from the Disability Indaba.

UKZN’s Disability Support Unit (DSU) hosted a virtual research Indaba on disability under the theme: The New Normal: Embracing a Post-Pandemic Inclusive Higher Education Landscape.

Facilitator of the event, UKZN’s Mr Mandla Dlamini, commented on a popular slogan of student leaders that states ‘nothing about us, without us’ and how that was true for the disabled community with the emphasis on disability being a priority for everyone.

Welcoming participants the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Professor Sandile Songca, said the Indaba was a liberating initiative that would contribute to the transformation agenda in Higher Education. Songca saw UKZN as the university of choice for students and staff with disabilities nationally and noted the Integrated National Disability Strategy of South Africa as a policy created to assist people with disabilities to achieve.

Said Songca: ‘Disability is one of the seven focus areas identified by the South African Human Rights Commission within its mandate to promote, protect and monitor the realisation of human rights in South Africa.

‘People with a disability continue to lack access to adequate health services and good education and are at risk of economic isolation with poor prospects of securing employment.’

In a panel discussion titled, Towards Cultivating an Inclusive Higher Education Environment for South African Sign Language (SASL) users, the Disability Coordinator for the Howard College campus, Mr Nevil Balakrishna, spoke about the significance of SASL being included as the 12th official language. Noting the struggles that have taken place for this to be achieved, he questioned to what extent Deaf learners were being prepared to use SASL and transition from Basic to Higher Education; how Higher Education could create a conducive environment to ensure that SASL was respected and embedded in the space; and how institutions could ensure that the teaching and learning experience for SASL users was inclusive.

In response Dr Kate Huddlestone of Stellenbosch University highlighted the need to be aware of the varying individual needs of Deaf learners; the inability to address SASL as a home language during early childhood development; and a lack of written material for the Deaf. Huddlestone called for a linguistic and cultural community to be created for Deaf students in universities for inclusivity to be achieved and for Deaf lecturers to be employed in order for them to be role models for the students.

Mrs Modiegi Njeyiyana also of Stellenbosch University remarked on the struggles of preparing Deaf students with SASL in Basic Education and how this made it harder for them to transition to Higher Education. Njeyiyana commented on the limited career guidance available for Deaf students and a need for them to have linguistic concessions in examinations.

Mrs Martie Miranda of the Higher and Further Education Disability Services Association (HEDSA) questioned whether South Africa was ready to make sign language the 12th official language, noting the many gaps that still exist in both Basic and Higher Education for Deaf students and how the needs of the Deaf can only wholly be fully understood by them. She also asked if Higher Education Institutions were creating spaces that SASL interpreters want to work in.

A language practitioner from the Eastern Cape Legislature Ms Asanda Katshwa examined how COVID-19 exacerbated the challenges of Deaf learners, especially in rural areas. Katshwa urged society to address the injustices of apartheid that impacted the Deaf community which include socioeconomic issues, and access to information. She highlighted the lack of access to vernacular languages for the Deaf and called for parents to play their part in the education of their children.

The keynote address which was delivered by Extraordinary Professor in Education at the University of the Western Cape, Professor Sigamoney Naicker, examined the politics of inclusive education, interrogating why transformation is so slow around the world, and in particular in South Africa as the most unequal country. He explored neoliberalism as one of the hindering factors, as a concept rooted in monetary value.

Naicker discussed the role of universities in capacity building considering factors such as society and culture, the economy, and the conditions and lived realities of the majority.

Using practical examples of the socioeconomic climate in the country he said: ‘In the Western Cape around 40% of the people earn less than R40 000 a year and the implications this has on education, numeracy, literacy, the throughput rate and matric results are that there’s hardly a print culture at home, a development of oral language for young children, and a socialisation into an intellectual culture.’ Theorising why more working-class children fail he said there was a link between salary levels and the relationship that exists between poverty and disability.

Naicker highlighted how society needed to address social ills in order for a better future and how universities should reimagine themselves and the type of narrative they produce, urging the institutions to interact with disabled students about discovering their lived realities and how they have overcome challenges. He said the university needs to take on the lived realities of its community even through its knowledge generation.

In his vote of thanks, Dr Ashley Subbiah, Information Access Officer at the DSU, acknowledged all participants, the facilitator, the organising committee, panellists, the keynote speaker, SASL interpreters from UKZN and Stellenbosch University and management.

He highlighted how the 2020 Disability Indaba which spoke about ‘leaving no student behind’ focused on how ill-prepared Higher Education Institutions were in incorporating the needs of disabled students during the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘However, in the last two years we have learnt about how the DSU can adapt and transform to ensure maximum engagement and participation of students with disabilities in the Higher Education environment. As we transition to a post-pandemic era, we don’t want to lose the knowledge gained which is what motivated us to create this year’s theme.’

Other topics discussed during the Indaba included: Accessibility, Reasonable Accommodation and Social Inclusion for Autistic Students Pre-, during and Post-COVID-19 Pandemic; Experiences of Online Counselling Among Students with Disabilities at the University of Johannesburg During COVID-19 Lockdown in South Africa; Inclusive Teaching and Learning for Social Work Students Living with Disabilities Post COVID-19 Pandemic and many more.

To watch the Indaba, click here.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Images: Supplied

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Honours Student Scoops Prestigious Women in Tech Award

Honours Student Scoops Prestigious Women in Tech Award
UKZN student Ms Nitasha Pillay with her Women in Tech Global Aspiring Teen Award.

Information Systems and Technology Honours student Ms Nitasha Pillay was awarded the Aspiring Teen Award at the fifth annual Women in Tech Global Awards ceremony that took place in Dubai under the Patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum.

The event was organised by Women in Tech, a global non-profit organisation committed to bridging the gender gap and establishing a strong network of women in tech worldwide.

Eight winners from around the world were rewarded for their remarkable contributions to the tech industry.

The Aspiring Teen Award - judged by an international jury of Tech experts - is for an individual whose efforts and actions in technology indicate they have a clear path to a successful future.

Pillay was first a winner in the Women in Tech Africa Awards in Cape Town, going on to receive the global award in Dubai.

‘It was an honour to be awarded the Global Aspiring Teen Award by Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum, who is the first Lieutenant Pilot at Dubai Police Airwing and an inspiration to women around the world. Your gift will make room for you and bring you before great people, always have faith in yourself,’ said Pillay.

She says she aims to use the experiences and knowledge gained through the Women in Tech Global Awards to make an impact in South Africa within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) space.

‘Unemployment and lack of technical skills are major concerns in South Africa. The work we do at the Tech Society UKZN is to empower young people in areas of leadership, STEM and available opportunities. I believe that the heart of true leadership is to serve others and to pick up your fellow brother and sister when they are falling because we rise by lifting others.’

Pillay, who graduated from UKZN with a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and Information Systems and Technology degree earlier this year, was appointed as a Women in Tech South Africa Youth Ambassador during the final year of her undergraduate studies and co-founded the Tech Society UKZN, a new student society aimed at empowering and mentoring students in the field of technology.

She serves as a Social Media and Marketing Community Manager at Women in Tech South Africa, was a project manager of Enactus UKZN, and represented UKZN in the Innovate Durban’s 2021 Youth Innovation Challenge where her team prototyped their own technology aimed at minimising child trafficking, securing them second place and earning her a Zutari Woman in Design award. 

She was also the professional development director for the UKZN’s Golden Key Society on the Westville campus.

Speaking about her trip to Dubai, Pillay says sourcing funding was a challenge. She thanked her family, the Harmony Centre Church, Youth in Harmony, Terence Pillay, Nathan Pillay, JB Travel, Kholeka Tsotsotso and Take Note IT for making her visit possible. 

‘I am here because someone believed in me. My mum, Pam Pillay, sourced a loan to ensure that this young South African Indian girl that has never seen the world, gets to be part of the Global Awards so I was grateful to have had my mum experience the journey with me. It is important to support the dreams of our youth and believe in their potential, you never know what the future holds for them.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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Doctoral Student Represents SARChI Chair on Sustainable Rural Livelihoods at the 21st South African Association of Public Administration and Management

Doctoral Student Represents SARChI Chair on Sustainable Rural Livelihoods at the 21st South African Association of Public Administration and Management
Mr Justice Maluleke delivering his presentation at the 21st SAAPAM conference.

Doctoral candidate in UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance (MIG) and Principal Agricultural Scientist at the Tsolo Agriculture and Rural Development Institute, Mr Justice Maluleke, presented the findings of his research at the 21st South African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM) conference.

The event brought together academics, practitioners and civil society under one roof, with the interface between academics and practitioners of public service and administration - a characteristic of all SAAPAM conferences - clearly evident.

Maluleke said the concept, practice and challenges of a capable state had been a golden thread running throughout the event. ‘Central to the convergence was the importance of capacity building in enhancing the ability of the state to discharge its responsibilities effectively and efficiently.’

Maluleke’s research explored South Africa’s governance and policy implementation processes in the context of rural areas using a case study of food security programmes in the OR Tambo District in the Eastern Cape.

Supervised by Professor Betty Mubangizi, Maluleke’s study highlighted how organisational performance and governance arrangements affected the execution of food security programmes in rural communities already battling challenges of communal land tenure, land degradation, and climate change.

‘The study established that deviation from centrally set procedures and plans due to political influence has adverse effects on the implementation of food security programmes, as does a top-down, rigid approach to programme implementation,’ said Maluleke.

‘Overall, the study concluded a one-size-fits-all approach hampers food security programmes in rural-based municipalities. Specifically, the late delivery of production inputs, the lengthy value chain, overburdened extension workers and a lack of consequence management on the part of senior management, prevents the successful implementation of food security programmes.’

He said poorly resourced communities tended to pool resources in the face of failed public service support, emphasising that nurturing community-based initiatives through targeted state support could be a solution to failing food security projects.

Enhanced planning by the state is identified as one area that also needs attention. The low uptake of statistical data and its utilisation for effective planning remained challenging.

Maluleke said discussions at the conference did not shy away from the fact that the country was showing clear signs of heading for collapse, with weak governance systems and processes highlighted as being at the core of the problems.

‘Scholarly work providing practical solutions is available and should be found and effectively utilised to kick start a journey towards creating a capable state. Certain cities and government agencies had pockets of success and it is possible to find more practical solutions by understanding what motivates those areas of brilliance.

‘The take-home message was that academics and scholars shouldn’t be silent but rather communicate their message to the state while providing workable recommendations to improve public policy implementation. Scholars should be the voice of reason with conference debates unanimous that it cannot be business as usual for academics and scholars,’ he said.

Maluleke added that he was grateful to the National Research Foundation and Mubangizi’s Research Chair on Sustainable Rural Livelihoods, for partly funding his doctoral research which enabled him to attend his first-ever academic conference.

Commenting on the significance of this presentation, Mubangizi said: ‘Building the capacity of public officials working in rural settings and exposing them to contemporary discourse in public service delivery is an important aspect of my research Chair.’

Words: Ndaba Online

Photograph: Supplied

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Prioritise Your Eyes!

Prioritise Your Eyes!
Third-year students test the elderly at KwaMashu Sports Centre.

UKZN’s third-year Optometry students helped mark World Sight Day at an Eye Care Awareness event in KwaMashu, Durban.

The students together with their lecturer Dr Zama Xulu-Kasaba and representatives of the Phumlani Dube Foundation, USAWA, Essilor and other partners, conducted eye screenings at the KwaMashu Indoor Sports Centre.

To honour the global theme, I Pledge to Prioritise my Eyes, the team focused on the eyes of people aged 45 and over with the priority being conditions such as cataracts, retinopathy and presbyopia.

Patients were assessed at the venue and received a pair of reading glasses. Where necessary, they were issued with referral letters for surgical procedures in hospital and/or at the UKZN eye clinic. Members of the community were encouraged to look after their eyes with regular eye examinations advised.

Students enjoyed the experience. Said Ms Minenhle Dube: ‘It was amazing - something of an eye-opener.’ Mr Muhammad Rahmtoola said he was surprised about the delays in sufferers having surgery for cataracts.

Xulu-Kasaba was grateful to other stakeholders for their support, including the UKZN School of Health Sciences for student transport, and the Al Imdaad Foundation for water, walking sticks and wheelchairs.

The organisation of the day and refreshments were provided by the South African Optometry Association and Tekano.

Xulu-Kasaba encouraged communities to use their local optometrists, eye clinics at hospitals and the UKZN eye clinic for regular eye check-ups.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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Sports Day to Celebrate Ladysmith School’s 33rd Anniversary

Sports Day to Celebrate Ladysmith School’s 33rd Anniversary
Dr Khumbuzile Khumalo (third left) presented certificates and gifts to the founder and to the relatives of the co-founders of the school.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’S Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences (BELS) Discipline assisted the Inkanyezi Special School in Ladysmith organise a 123-Awareness and Sports Day to celebrate the founding of the school 33 years ago.

The day began with a march along the main streets of Steadville, led by the school’s drummies, followed by netball, soccer, volleyball and athletics, among other events.

‘Sports and recreation activities are a crucial part of a learner’s growth and development,’ said UKZN’s BELS lecturer Dr Khumbuzile Khumalo. ‘They help holistic emotional, physical, social, mental and intellectual growth. Through participating in different sports, a learner gains skills, experience and self-confidence which help develop personality.’

Khumalo, affectionately known as “KK”, said: ‘My aim is to introduce goalball and blind cricket in the disadvantaged communities with the assistance of KwaZulu-Natal co-ordinators in those sports.’

Principal, Mrs Busiswe Mbuyisa thanked Khumalo for the initiative, declaring the day a success and a special experience for all. ‘Thank you, Dr KK, for the motivation and your dedication in promoting inclusive education and awareness about the different sporting activities for the blind. We are looking forward to the introduction and implementation of those activities.’

The event was supported by the Ladysmith community, the Department of Education, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the South African Police Services (SAPS), and other special schools.

Sponsors were the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF), the Disability Support Unit (DSU) and aQuelle.

Guests and speakers included co-founders of the school Mrs Phumzile Faith Nyembe, Mrs Cherry Mndaweni and Mrs Shedina Zwane, while guests of honour were three former pupils who represented South Africa overseas Mr Smanga Mbatha, Ms Nontobeko Mabizela and Ms Zama Msibi.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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Student Awarded Scholarship to Study in England

Student Awarded Scholarship to Study in England
Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship recipient, Ms Thobile Sibiya.Click here for isiZulu version

College of Humanities student Ms Thobile Sibiya has been awarded the Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in Special and Inclusive Education at the University of Nottingham in England.

‘This scholarship proves that education is vital,’ said Sibiya. ‘It has given me access to a wealth of opportunities and made me realise that the girl who grew up in the village of Paulpietersburg in KwaZulu-Natal can compete with students from other countries. I am certain that I can achieve all my goals. My special thanks go to the Emma Smith Scholarships committee and UKZN for this recognition.’

Looking forward to broadening her knowledge and comprehension of topics relating to inclusivity and diversity, she will examine the concerns of inclusion in Institutions of Higher Education, exploring potential tactics that instructors could implement in the classroom to ensure methods for distributing content are inclusive and diverse, considering the uniqueness and individuality of learners. ‘The UK is known for its inclusiveness in the education spectrum and I’m hoping that the setting and environment there will help me learn more about inclusivity-related issues.’

She believes that scholarships such as the one she was awarded are important for students. ‘No one’s education should be restricted because of their disadvantaged background or lack of income. I’m thankful UKZN provides these opportunities that allow us into a field that advances our academic growth.’

Her advice to students is: ‘Do not give up - instead pursue what you want with all your might.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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College of Humanities Hosts the Mazisi Kunene Memorial Lecture

College of Humanities Hosts the Mazisi Kunene Memorial Lecture
From left: Dr Ismail Mahomed, Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa, Mr Sisanda Shozi, Professor Zodwa Motsa-Madikane, Professor Tomohiro Kambayashi-Ueda, Mrs Mathabo Kunene, Professor Matshepo Matoane, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize and Dr Gcina Mhlophe.

The College of Humanities and the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) hosted the 2nd Mazisi Kunene Memorial Lecture during the 2022 Poetry Africa Festival.

Professor Mazisi Raymond Kunene, who died in 2006, was a UKZN alumnus, a freedom fighter, a poet and the first Poet Laureate of Africa.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize welcomed guests saying: ‘Kunene’s work has relevance beyond African literature and history. Through his interdisciplinary scholarship, he succeeded in articulating African philosophy, worldview, psychology, and international relations.

‘His work resonates well with the vision and mission of UKZN to entrench and normalise the use of African languages which is why we are continuing, in collaboration with the Mazisi Kunene Foundation, to advance the scholarly work of Professor Kunene,’ said Mkhize.

Executive Director of the Department of Leadership and Transformation at the University of South Africa (UNISA) Professor Zodwa Motsa-Madikane delivered the inaugural lecture titled: Emasisweni Kusekhaya Kunene’s African Indigenous Philosophy Lighting the Way into the 22nd Century.

The lecture explored the ideas of Kunene in four areas: the Nguni family, religion, the knowledge enterprise, and land politics from an African philosophical perspective. The discourse advances the standpoint found in almost all of Kunene’s work - the preservation of Africa’s own ideas and knowledge.

Motsa-Madikane explained how Kunene preached the notion that Africa’s heritage was never lost, hence Emasisweni Kusekhaya, and that ‘as Africans we just need to uncover that which has collected dust during the years of colonial hegemony.

‘I chose the title based on the encomium Mazibuye Emasisweni - to underscore the main thesis of this discussion - fundamentally, I align myself with Kunene’s position that Africa has not totally lost her cultural, scientific, religious, and linguistic heritage. It is here with us and not emasisweni,’ said Motsa.

Executive Managing Trustee of the Mazisi Kunene Foundation, Kunene’s widow, Mrs Mathabo Kunene, thanked College academics not only for the memorial lecture but their contribution in editing her late husband’s Unodumehlezi KaMenzi which she describes as amazing because through it she is able to keep the promise she made to him of looking after his manuscripts and keeping his work alive.

She spoke of her frustration at how 16 years after her husband’s passing, the foundation was still battling to get his work into the South African syllabus. ‘Why aren’t books - not just those of Kunene but all African writers - a priority in the South African curriculum?’

The event included a message of support from the Director of the Centre for Creative Arts, Dr Ismail Mahomed; the Executive Director of Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust, Dr Gcina Mhlophe; a student Mr Sisanda Shozi; and Postdoctoral Fellow, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Professor Tomohiro Kambayashi-Ueda.

Also at the event were 60 Grade 11 learners from the Hluzingqondo High School in Amahlongwa where Kunene grew up, was schooled and now rests.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela and Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Sethu Dlamini

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Herbal Bush Tea and its Potential Prospects Focus of Inaugural Lecture

Herbal Bush Tea and its Potential Prospects Focus of Inaugural Lecture
Professor Fhatuwani Mudau.

Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UKZN, Professor Fhatuwani Mudau, used the occasion of his inaugural lecture into the professoriate to expound on his research into herbal teas, especially bush tea (Athrixia phylicoides DC.), and its potential prospects for future industrialisation.

Mudau, who has been researching herbal tea production and the biochemistry of herbal bush tea in South Africa for the past 18 years, focused on its biochemistry, agronomic practices and medicinal properties.

He said bush tea, part of the Asteraceae family, was an aromatic perennial shrub that had medicinal properties and stems up to a metre in length. There were 14 species of bush tea with nine found in South Africa.

‘Bush tea grows in rocky areas, grasslands and forests across South Africa. Traditionally, bush tea has been used in cleansing blood, treating headaches, boils, bad acne, sore throat and loss of voice,’ he said.

Mudau explained that a variety of tribes and cultures in South Africa used bush tea for different purposes. ‘The Vhavenda people use bush tea as an aphrodisiac while Sothos use a strong brew as a calming wash for sore feet. Zulu people in KwaZulu-Natal use dried stems of bush tea to make brooms.

‘Bush tea is rich in non-toxic flavonoids, antioxidants and tannin levels are very low, making it a favourable healthy beverage,’ he said. ‘Moreover, the absence of caffeine is a desirable feature of a healthy beverage. The plants have compounds which have been discovered and characterised for the first time.’

Mudau completed his BSc Agric (Crop Science) at the University of Venda in 1996 and then registered for an MSc at the University of Stellenbosch where he researched citrus nutrition. He completed his PhD in Horticultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria in 2005 and has done extensive research in herbal medicine.

He holds a Master in Business Leadership (MBL) from Unisa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership.

Mudau’s previous lecturing experience includes Vista University, the University of Venda and the University of Limpopo.

In 2006, he was seconded to establish the Limpopo Agro Food Technology Station (LATS) at the University of Limpopo, funded by the Technology Innovation Agency’s defunct Tshumisano Trust. He then joined the Industrial Development Corporation under the Food and Beverages (Now Agro-Industries) Strategic Business Unit - and HealthCare and Education - as a specialist.

Mudau, who is currently supervising eight PhD students in the field of Plant Sciences, has published more than 100 papers in both local and international journals and supervised 48 MSc and M Agric students and 11 PhDs. His H-Index is 24.

Mudau has extensive experience in project development and implementation in Agro Industries, Education and the Health Care sectors. He served on the selection committee of the American Horticultural Science Society for a full term.

Mudau - a C3 NRF-rated scientist - has received numerous awards including the Unisa Chancellor’s Research Award and the best publisher award under the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) research grant for five consecutive years. He was also a National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) award finalist in the Crop Science and Research Output categories.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied

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Social Economy Concept Unpacked at Webinar

Social Economy Concept Unpacked at Webinar
Webinar panellists from left: Ms Kerryn Krige, Dr Simon Taylor and Mr Vikani Funda.

A workshop on exploring the concept of a social economy was hosted by the Regional and Local Economic Development (RLED) Initiative housed at the UKZN Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L).

The webinar event was facilitated by senior lecturer and the School’s Academic Leader in Teaching and Learning Dr Xoliswa Majola, while panel members were:

•    Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship senior lecturer in Practice Ms Kerryn Krige

•    UKZN-EDTEA RLEDI Project Manager Dr Simon Taylor

•    Sivuno Consulting’s Development Planning and Management Practitioner Mr Vikani Funda

In his welcome address, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) Deputy Director, Capacity Building and Institutional Development Mr Patrick Mbokazi said the social economy was a new concept in South Africa making information sharing initiatives, such as the webinar workshop, very important.

‘I met with representatives of eThekwini Municipality and will be also meet with officials from the Umgungundlovu district to take them through the KwaZulu-Natal social economic development programmes we offer through UKZN and DUT which show that people need to be educated about this concept so that they can support us,’ said Mbokazi. ‘EDTEA RLED in collaboration with UKZN decided to host this webinar so that we better understand the concept of social economy to enable our local economic development practitioners from the local sphere of government and the business sector to gain a better understanding of what the concept is all about,’ he said.

Krige shared insights on the social solidarity economy policy for South Africa.

‘The most important question that we always get asked and don’t have an answer for is: What is a social solidarity economy?’ said Krige.

She went on to explain that such an economy existed in a space between for profit organisations and non-profit organisations which represents a range of organisations such as cooperatives, mutuals, social enterprises and associations that exist and are driven by purpose, values and have very strong ethical foundations.

‘It’s about collective action for the collective good. What is important to recognise about the social solidarity economy is that it offers an opposite response to self-interest that is a natural and inherent part of the for-profit side of the spectrum - we see organisations exist solely for social good purposes and benefiting the communities they work in.’

Krige applauded and credited UKZN and EDTEA KZN for leading provincially in deepening the knowledge and understanding about the social economy across the country.

‘It was through these efforts that we trialled and piloted a lot of the research we did in 2019 that allowed us to get an understanding of what the social solidarity economy is. Our response as policy makers is asking what we can do to create an enabling environment for these organisations to be better supported,’ she said. ‘We can do this by improving access to markets, providing advisory services and training programmes, exposing people to networks and addressing the issue of access to resources. KZN holds a very special place in the South African social solidarity economy story because much of what is written in the policy document has been developed, thought through and tested in the KZN context,’ she said.

Taylor gave an overview of the RLEDI Social Economy Development Programme and its achievements to date, while Funda introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship to practitioners and the development planning and management community of practice.

Objectives of Funda’s presentation included helping to enable LED practitioners to assist KZN’s aspiring social entrepreneurs’ development programme applicants in their applications and nomination process as well as to consider reconfiguring their LED initiatives and interventions in the context of social entrepreneurship.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photographs: Supplied

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Rural and Community-Centric Tourism in Focus at Public Lecture

Rural and Community-Centric Tourism in Focus at Public Lecture
Highlights from the tourism public lecture held at UKZN’s Westville campus.

The impact, opportunities and challenges in rural and community-centric tourism were explored during a public lecture hosted on the Westville campus by UKZN and the national Department of Tourism.

Themed: Rethinking Tourism: Opportunities Await in Rural and Community-Centric Tourism, the lecture was attended by key stakeholders, policy-makers, industry practitioners, academics and students. The programme was directed by Mr Septi Bukula, founder and director of Seeza Tourism SME Network - a collaborative network of South African tourism SMEs which focuses on enhancing the domestic and international competitiveness of tourism small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Welcoming participants, UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Professor Mosa Moshabela said he was grateful to the Department of Tourism for holding the lecture at UKZN. ‘We at UKZN embrace opportunities like this because such platforms are crucial for exchanging knowledge. This event also serves as a practical expression of our MOU with the Department of Tourism which has allowed UKZN and other universities to provide research to the Department.’

Moshabela said the lecture was being held at a crucial time when the sector was trying to recover from the effects of COVID-19. ‘Apart from COVID-19 and other diseases, many factors affect our tourism industry. These include, but are not limited to, violence, social instability, and climate change, resulting in natural disasters such as the floods experienced in KwaZulu-Natal. Universities and scientists have a huge role in resolving or attending to these challenges which call on academia to strengthen existing partnerships with the sector and the government while exploring new ones.’

EThekwini Municipality Councillor and alumnus Mr Thanduxolo Sabela welcomed guests to the municipality and province, saying the City and province provide a unique experience that was not found anywhere else, which is why tourism is an integral part of the Municipality’s recovery process.

Deputy Director-General at the Department of Tourism Ms Shamilla Chettiar said academia and the state had a common interest which was to serve the public good. The co-operation ensured the state promoted evidence-based policies and strategies and ‘that our programmes are informed by real-life research and by realities on the ground with the aim being to also grow the next generation of tourism professionals and researchers who are interested in aspects of tourism.’

Deputy Minister of Tourism Mr Fish Mahlalela said with COVID-19, people preferred to move around in smaller groups with a preference for outdoor experiences and rural tourism.

Mahlalela said he regarded the public lecture as a significant event on the tourism calendar because it afforded the Department and sector stakeholders an opportunity to engage and share ideas on critical issues affecting tourism in the country. ‘I am hopeful that the outcomes and recommendations of these discussions will be communicated with relevant implementers to be taken forward. Developing the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan was a response by the sector. The Plan acknowledges the need for targeted, co-ordinated action to mitigate the impacts of the crisis and sets the sector on the most optimal path to recovery, transformation and long-term sustainability. It outlines a set of interventions to ignite the recovery anchored in three strategic themes namely: protecting and rejuvenating supply, re-igniting demand, and strengthening enabling capability for long-term sustainability.’

Mahlalela said responsible tourism was important for the tourism sector in the plan to re-think and re-build the sector in the wake of the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The community-based tourism programme was designed to be a catalyst in realising the mandate of tourism transformation, fostering much needed change in the tourism sector and recalibrating the balance of power between marginalised communities and established business.

‘Let me once again express my heartfelt appreciation to the University of KwaZulu-Natal and all students and academics involved for the sterling work you are doing with the Department for the people of this country,’ he said.

In her presentation titled Rural Tourism: Pathways for Growth and Development in South Africa, UKZN’s Professor Urmilla Bob said reference should stop being made to rural tourism as a niche as it was central to tourism in the country, playing a key role in the recovery process of the Department.

‘It is also naïve in the South African context when we do not fully understand that most of our urban areas have a large rural spatial footprint. Essentially opportunities for rural tourism are in the backyard of our urban spaces if not in urban areas.’

A panel discussion comprising academics, industry entrepreneurs and key role players in the tourism industry was held together with a question and answer session involving the audience. Some of the challenges raised from the discussion were the need for improving roads and infrastructure in the rural areas; more support for entrepreneurs in the tourism sector; and more co-ordinated communication between the department and the youth, especially university students who undertake a variety of research and those that need to access development programmes that are rolled out by the department.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photographs: Langa Mathe

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High Tea Celebrates Women in STEM

High Tea Celebrates Women in STEM
Top students at UKZN celebrate being Women in Science.Click here for isiZulu version

Howard College’s UNITE building was abuzz with beauty and brains as the top STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) female students at UKZN gathered for a celebratory High Tea.

The event, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson under the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing and Design (WiSTEM2D) banner, aimed to inspire and motivate UKZN’s top 100 female STEM students to stay and thrive in their chosen science careers. They spent an uplifting afternoon not only having fun and being spoilt, but more importantly, listening to inspiring role models.

Welcoming UKZN’s new generation of young female scientists, (South African Research Chairs Initiative) SARChI Chair in Waste and Climate Change and champion of the WiSTEM2D programme at UKZN, Professor Cristina Trois, encouraged the students not to be intimidated if they were the only woman at a gathering but rather to thrive and succeed.

Keynote speaker Deputy Director and Head of Treatment at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) Professor Kogie Naidoo told the story of her own personal and professional journey in STEM, from humble beginnings to leading a global hub for HIV and TB treatment and prevention. Naidoo encouraged the students to overcome obstacles, follow their passion and commit to studying towards a career they loved and that would enthral them for the rest of their lives.

PhD candidate in the HIV Pathogenesis Programme at UKZN Ms Zakithi Mkhize spoke of the power of social media to promote a sisterhood of scientists. Her YouTube channel, #BlackGirlScientist has exploded on the social media scene, meeting a need for young female scientists to connect with each other, especially after the burdens of lockdown. Mkhize shared how she actively uses science communication to help others to navigate being a woman in STEM.

UKZN alumnus, media personality and counselling psychologist Ms Rakhi Beekrum spoke of the importance of mental health and of integrating the personal with the professional. She urged the young scientists to make sure that their interests, abilities and aptitudes were aligned as they pursued their studies and future careers in STEM.

Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South African and fellow UKZN alumnus, Professor Nomali Ngobese - now a professor at North-West University - shared how perseverance and commitment ensured that she succeeded to rise above disadvantage to a place where she could give back to society as a food security specialist. Ngobese is passionate about using science and innovation to create an equitable future where every person has access to resources and opportunities.

‘We believe women can be catalysts for creating healthier people, healthier communities and a healthier world,’ said Johnson & Johnson representative Ms Michelle Lang in closing.

* Video link: A short video link showing highlights of the UKZN Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Women in STEM High Tea can be viewed HERE.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Albert Hirasen

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Young Civil Society Debate on Basic Income Grant for SA

Young Civil Society Debate on Basic Income Grant for SA
Young Civil Society Debate participants from left: Mr Andile Mthethwa, Mr Ndumiso Mthalane, Ms Nthuseng Nakin, Professor Francie Lund and Ms Andisiwe Dlamini.Click here for isiZulu version

Should South Africa implement a permanent Basic Income Grant? Will the grant impact positively on poverty alleviation and reduce inequality? How will it be funded? What are the limits of welfare in a South African context?

These were among the questions addressed during a Young Civil Society Debate based on the implementation of the Social Relief of Distress COVID-19 grant to offset the effects of the pandemic on South Africa’s poorest citizens.

Hosted by the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) within UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies, the debate centred on the introduction of a permanent Basic Income Grant (BIG).

The debate was adjudicated by Professor Francie Lund, who chaired the Lund Committee which passed the provision of the Child Support Grant in South Africa.

The team arguing for the Basic Income Grant comprised Ms Nthuseng Nakin, Mr Slindokuhle Mdlalose and Ms Viwe Mafanya, who participated virtually.

The team supported the implementation of the basic income grant arguing that poverty and inequality were widespread in South Africa with 10% of the population owning 80% of the country’s wealth.

They felt the implementation of the grant could reduce poverty by 55%, thus improving the socio-economic situation in areas such as employment, education, health and fighting crime as well as combatting destitution. They also argued that according to Section 27 of the Constitution of South Africa everyone is entitled to social security and adequate social assistance if they were unable to sustain themselves and their dependents.

The team further argued that the grant allowed greater flexibility in the labour market for individuals to decide if they wanted to devote the funds to domestic labour, self-employment or other cultural activities. It further could stimulate the local economy through the multiplier effect and increase purchasing power through the heightened demand for goods and services.

The team argued a basic income support programme could be an effective strategy to safeguard the most vulnerable and give the transition a sense of justice. ‘Whether a person works or not, they should all have access to a small amount of money to cover their basic needs. Despite it being necessary to proceed cautiously, it is felt that a basic income hand-out will usher in a new era of progress and growth. This plan would take care of the necessities of the people, stimulate the economy, and lay the groundwork for tackling unemployment as we reshape our economy to a sustainable and inclusive future,’ they said.

The team arguing against the implementation of the Basic Income Grant comprised Ms Andisiwe Dlamini, Mr Andile Mthethwa and Mr Muziwandile Shezi, who participated virtually.

They suggested that the implementation of the BIG would not make a difference to the alleviation of poverty and inequality as the amount proposed - about R624 - was insufficient to cover basic needs required for daily living.

They argued that if the grant was given to individuals the result would be that households with more family members would receive more money, defeating the aim of reducing inequality.

The team posited that the country could not afford the Basic Income Grant at this point as funding it would mean the possibility of having to take loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as happened with the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant.

Instead of implementing the BIG, the team argued the government should invest in the development of skills through public works programmes, and skills development such as the Presidential Employment Scheme and the overall creation of job opportunities.

‘This will not only mean the generation of revenue through VAT but also through PAYE. Finding a job tends to give people more of a sense of responsibility, rather than being dependent on the government.

Words: Andisiwe DlaminiNdumiso Mthalane and Nthuseng Nakin

Photograph: Supplied

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Humanities Student is National Poetry Slam Champion

Humanities Student is National Poetry Slam Champion
Mr Kwanele Nyembe. Click here for isiZulu version

Honours student in Drama and Performing Arts Mr Kwanele Nyembe was named the 2022 National Poetry Slam Champion during UKZN’s Poetry Africa Festival.

Nyembe, who won a cumulative prize of R22 000, will represent South Africa at the World Slam Poetry Competition in Brazil next year.

Also known as Tory Saint, Nyembe is a Durban-based poet, writer, actor and dancer.

‘There is a lot more work to be done. But today, we celebrate an evening spent with the best poets the nation has to offer,’ he said at the announcement. ‘Gratitude to the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) and UKZN for providing this platform for artists. South Africa has the best poets in the world, and I am grateful to Poetry Africa for reflecting on this established belief. I look forward to retaining the title next year in Brazil.’

CCA Director Dr Ismail Mahomed said: ‘Congratulations to Kwanele. The 2022 Poetry Africa was an incredible success, affirming its position as a most relevant platform that brings poets together from across the world to share, critique and celebrate each other’s creativity. At the same time, the festival is a barometer of how poets read and interpret our social, political and global conditions. Poetry Africa is a dynamic advocate for social justice.’

A jury member for Slam Jam and Head of World Poetry Slam, Dr Philip Meersman of Belgium, added: ‘The use of Kwanele’s voice, the deliberate delivery in (not) using the microphone, the audience interaction, restrained emotions, biblical references together with decorticating the human body into its essence with texts that were harsh as well as blaming and bringing people together, resulted in a well-deserved win.

'Kwanele is a true winner in every sense of the word, capturing and captivating his audience. He is a kind of magic that must be experienced live by the world.’

Nyembe is the co-founder of the Sink or Swim Podcast, a platform that serves as a media outlet for Durban-based performing artists to talk about their work and introduce the world to the people involved. As a performer he has worked with the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria together with Hear my Voice, which curated a virtual series that incorporated creatives from different art sectors, including fashion, literature, music, the spoken word, media, government and academia, for co-learning and adapting to change and support during the peak of the pandemic.

He also performed at the Playhouse Sundowners Poetry and Jazz Show. Beyond this he has shared his work on various platforms such as Word N Sound and Worlds of Words.

He was a winner of UKZN’s Golden Key Poetry competition.

Words: Melissa Mungroo


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Architecture Student Joint Winner of Design Competition

Architecture Student Joint Winner of Design Competition
UKZN student Ms Yolanda Mpanza with PG Bison executive Mr Justin Berry (left) and the company’s Marketing Manager Mr Jason Wells (right).

UKZN Architecture student Ms Yolanda Mpanza was the joint winner of the 2022 PG Bison Education Initiative competition, pocketing R17 500 in prize money.

Mr Daniel November of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) was the other winner, also receiving R17 500.

The PG Bison Education Initiative is an annual design competition aimed at third-year architecture and interior design students around South Africa, which aims to nurture and recognise young talent, introduce students to real-world briefs and products, and encourage creative thinking.

Marking its 30th edition, this year’s challenge was titled Sunbird’s Nest and focused on how sunbirds build their nests. The competition showcased talents from across the country, challenging them to produce a creative design based on a brief written into the third-year curricula of participating educational institutions. The design had to be practical, built in relation to its surrounding context, and inclusive of sustainable living.

Marketing manager at PG Bison Mr Jason Wells said: ‘Their entries showed great promise and addressed most elements of the brief. Congratulations to Yolanda and Daniel, as well as their lecturers and institutions. We encourage education institutions to spend more time on the human aspect of future briefs.’

Mpanza’s design was of a mixed (residential and retail) use housing project. ‘For a space to become a place, it needs to have meaning attached to it and that meaning is attached by the people. I am really happy that I am a winner,’ she said.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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#Mental Health Matters

#Mental Health Matters

In June this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted a virtual launch of its most recent and comprehensive world mental health report to date, titled: Transforming Mental Health for All. What is striking from the report are similarities globally in mental health trends.

The report noted that mental health presentations have escalated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that psychosocial and psychological concerns have become more serious. The most common global mental health presentations, depression, and anxiety were even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be so. The pandemic has also brought into sharp focus, the linkages between socio-economic contexts and mental health. In South Africa, these contexts are highly gendered and racialised.

In his introduction to a WHO report, the Director-General of the organization Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, stated: ‘…we need to transform our attitudes, actions and approaches to promote and protect mental health, and to provide and care for those in need (WHO, 2022, p.v.).’

As we think about mental health during this mental health awareness month, questions around transformation in relation to mental health offer critical points of engagement. Perhaps an apt starting point is the recognition that mental health is a human right. A rights-based approach locates mental health, as a state of well-being of the psychological, emotional, spiritual, and social, within citizenship. A rights-based approach requires that we consider the contexts and conditions that promote mental health and those that increase the risk of mental illness and vulnerability, and that discriminate and marginalise. What individual, personal factors and external socio-economic, political, and historical conditions would promote such a state of mental wellbeing?

In his book, Madness, and Civilization (1961), Foucault argues that the concept of “madness” is a social and cultural construction which determines how “madness” is known and experienced within a given society. Definitions of “madness”, “mental illness” and “mental health” have evolved over the years from a biomedical model definition of individual disease to ones that recognise the complex social, economic, political, and historical intersections embodied in a state of individual wellbeing. Definitions of mental wellbeing and health are increasingly noting the linkages between individual wellbeing and collective wellbeing. Fanon (1961) provides a powerful account of the relationships between social and cultural conditions and mental illness in which systems of oppression (coloniality) are central to the experiences of suffering.

How might we engage with contemporary notions and experiences of mental health and mental illness against this historical and political backdrop, specifically in our South African context?

In considering this question, I draw upon my work as a mental health practitioner with students in our University context. However, the issues that are raised are not specific to students only, but to society in general. Over the past two years, students have been presented with a range of psychosocial and psychological issues. Similar to the WHO report, we have noted an increase in presentations that were related to anxiety, depression, grief, bereavement, and interpersonal relationships. Many students reported feeling overwhelmed and not being able to cope as well as having frequent thoughts of suicide. Indeed, we have witnessed the tragic passing of some students in the past year alone.

When exploring options and support systems, students revealed several barriers to mental wellbeing, including material and structural conditions, access to resources, and inadequate support systems. The marked socioeconomic disparities that characterised the apartheid era and that continue into the current democracy have significant effects on mental health due to the continued hardships that students face.

Marginalised individuals have an increased risk of suffering mental health issues due to experiences of discrimination. Students who recognise that they might benefit from support are sometimes discouraged to disclose this or to access support due to the ongoing stigma around mental illness which is often associated with weakness or a form of escapism, or it is ignored or trivialised.

What changes can we initiate in our spaces to dismantle the stigma around mental illness? What can be done to offer more consistent forms of support? How do we build psychological resilience and strengthen preventative measures?

If we go back to the point of mental health as a human-rights issue, then it becomes clear that dismantling stigma will require ongoing and robust engagement and awareness of mental health and mental illness. Mental health cannot be separated from conversations about social justice and citizenship. More integrated approaches to mental wellbeing, including the strengthening of community-based partnerships, as well as the inclusion of a range of Western-based and African-centred support systems, are essential. However, the starting point is with each one of us.

What are our thoughts about mental health and mental illness? What are our responses to those who may be mentally unwell? What language do we use when we talk about mental health and about persons who might be mentally unwell? Are we aware of our own sense of wellbeing?

Note: UKZN offers free and confidential personal counselling to students on the toll-free line 0800 800 017 during business hours. Students are also encouraged to consult the College Student Support Services webpages which contain more information. The ICAS toll free number is 0800 254 255.

Dr Angeline Stephens is the Manager of Student Support Services in the College of Humanities. She is also an executive member of the Sexuality and Gender division of the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA). Her work is informed by feminist, critical and decolonial approaches to psychological praxis, especially in relation to the intersections of gender, sexuality, violence, and work with marginalised people.

*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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