UKZN Volleyball Team Jumps to the Top 3 in KZN

UKZN Volleyball Team Jumps to the Top 3 in KZN
The UKZN Volleyball Women’s Team celebrate their achievements at the 2022 KZN Sport Awards.Click here for isiZulu version

The UKZN Volleyball Women’s Team was a finalist in the 2022 KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Sport Awards held at the Durban ICC in October.

The KZN Sport Awards recognise the top achievers in sport in the province in various categories. The UKZN Volleyball Women’s Team was nominated by KZN Volleyball (the provincial federation) for the category Team of the Year. They were amongst the top three sporting teams honoured at the gala dinner. Richards Bay Football Club was named Team of the Year, with Hollywood Bets Tuskers (Cricket) as another runner-up.

Team Captain and UKZN alumnus Ms Reyanka Kisten said the achievement was a dream come true. ‘To see how far this team has come and that all our hard work and commitment to the sport we love is being seen by others and recognised on such a high level is truly unbelievable. Even though we might not have won, to be recognised as one of the top three teams in KZN is a huge achievement.’

She said this was significant for the team and for the volleyball fraternity in the province. ‘This will mean that our team is taken more seriously in the world of sport in KZN. We always believed in ourselves but this nomination allows others to believe in us too. Hopefully, it will prompt people to think of volleyball in a different light and to invest in the sport we love.

‘This nomination is not just for those that are a part of the UKZN Volleyball Club now but for all those that have been part and parcel of this hard-working and thriving club. Without the history and growth of the club we would not be here today. I would like to thank everyone that has been a part of this club since its inception - this one is for you,’ she added.

UKZN Sports Manager Mr Mark Bashe paid tribute to the team for flying the UKZN flag high. ‘We are extremely proud of our women’s volleyball team that has achieved this prestigious nomination for this year’s awards, even though they did not win we are proud of them as they were up against two professional teams in this category,’ said Bashe.

‘The hard work put in by the coaching staff during the South African Volleyball Champs where they emerged as the champions of South Africa paid off. They will be representing the country at the upcoming Zone 6 championships to be held in Zambia in December,’ he said.

‘The department has put in a lot of effort into growing women’s sport and such accolades are a testament that if we have the necessary resources women’s sport will go far as we have seen in rugby, volleyball and football where our teams and athletes have achieved great heights.’

UKZN Senior Sport Officer Ms Roshnee Naicker applauded the team’s achievements. ‘To be a finalist in this category is a huge achievement, especially when selected alongside codes like football and cricket. This has been a golden year for this young team of women volleyball players and being a finalist was recognition of this.’

Naicker noted that the UKZN volleyball teams had had a cracker of a 2022, with the highlight being winning Gold at the VSA Club Champs and qualifying for the CAVB Zone 6 Club Champs in Lusaka, Zambia in December.

She also commended the team for excelling at the Aqua Darshan Premier League (ADPL), a volleyball league sanctioned and supported by Volleyball South Africa. ‘The final tournament of the series was held in October at the UKZN Westville Sports Centre where our Volleyball Women’s Team were crowned Champions of the ADPL 2022 series, achieving this undefeated through the series. The UKZN men took 2nd place in the ADPL Series.’

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Supplied


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Prestigious ASSAf Membership for UKZN Academics

Prestigious ASSAf Membership for UKZN Academics
From left: UKZN Professors Thajasvarie (Anita) Naicker, Kogieleum Naidoo, Deevia Bhana, Yin-Zhe Ma, the University of Johannesburg’s Dustin van der Haar with Asanda Mditshwa, and Rituparno Goswami.Click here for isiZulu version

Five UKZN academics, Professors Yin-Zhe Ma, Rituparno Goswami, Deevia Bhana, Kogieleum Naidoo and Thajasvarie (Anita) Naicker are among 29 of South Africa’s leading scholars and scientists inaugurated as members of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) while Professor Asanda Mditshwa is among 10 young academics admitted to the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS).

ASSAf’s new members are elected by other members annually with the academy prioritising inclusion of the country’s top scholars across a full spectrum of disciplines, emphasising the importance of multi-disciplinarity in its membership cohort. This year’s new members bring its total membership to 659.

Membership of ASSAf honours and recognises scholarly achievement; members voluntarily give of their time and expertise in service of society and are a core asset of ASSAf.

The SAYAS was launched in 2011 to enable South Africa’s young scientists to fully participate in local and internationally relevant research and development agendas by providing a national platform where leading young scientists from all disciplines, including pure and applied science, humanities, social sciences and the arts, can interact, and access international networking and career development opportunities. These academics are below the age of 40, have PhDs, and have achieved excellence in their fields of expertise.

UKZN Vice-Chancellor Professor Nana Poku said, ‘We congratulate all five Professors. Their election as Members of ASSAf cements their stature as among the country’s best scholars. The mere fact that they were elected into the Membership by existing members of the Academy is proof that they also command the respect of their peers. This election of our academics into ASSAf can only bode well for our students and fellow members. We believe that upcoming scholars will draw inspiration from recognising these scholars who continue to inspire greatness.’

Ma from the School of Chemistry and Physics is an esteemed physicist who has been at UKZN since 2015 and has attained the rank of full professor, with more than 100 publications to his name. Originally from China, Ma completed his undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Physics and Astrophysics at Nanjing University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, respectively. He obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge and conducted postdoctoral research at the Universities of British Columbia and Manchester.

Ma’s research focuses on observational and theoretical cosmology to understand the fundamental laws of the Universe and uncover the nature of dark energy and dark matter. He is a member of the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Team (HERA), several working groups for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the Planck science team, and the TAIPAN/6dFGS galaxy survey team.

Goswami from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Sciences is a renowned gravitational physicist who joined UKZN in 2013, having previously conducted research at the Universities of Cape Town and Alberta (Canada) after completing his studies in his native India. He is the academic leader of Research for the School. His research focus includes the study of general relativity, modified theories of gravity, gravitational collapse, and cosmology.

Mditshwa of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Fort Hare and specialised in post-harvest physiology during his postgraduate studies. He completed his MScAgric at UKZN followed by a PhD in Horticultural Science through Stellenbosch University. He also graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education from UKZN with distinction and his commitment to teaching was recognised through the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Department of Higher Education and Training’s Future Professors Programme.

Mditshwa joined UKZN in 2015. His research focuses on novel and non-chemical postharvest treatments for fresh produce to combat the loss of quality during postharvest handling. He holds a Y2 rating from the NRF, has 71 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters to his name, and has supervised 16 postgraduate students to completion, with a further 15 master’s and PhD students under his supervision. He is also a review editor and board member of the Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems journal.

Commenting on joining ASSAf, Bhana of the School of Education and SARChI Chair in Gender and Childhood Sexuality said, ‘To be part of ASSAf, the organisation in South Africa which is the pinnacle for science and scholarship and populated by the most active scholars recognised as leaders in their field, is a great honour and is further inspiration to pursue my research on about what matters to children and young people’s sexual well-being.’

Bhana is respected internationally for her research which seeks to understand how gender and sexuality come to matter in the course of a young life and the implications for sexual well-being, health and gender equality. She has had a substantial impact on the research landscape, growing the next generation of scholars and guiding the direction of further inquiry in the field. Bhana is a B1-rated NRF scholar who was awarded the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)/USAf medal for Social Science and Humanities in 2022.

Naicker is a full professor in the College of Health Sciences. Her research has focused on providing research evidence to understand the synergy of preeclampsia (PE) and HIV infection. It is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 and National Development Plan goals to reduce the global maternal mortality rate, end preventable deaths of newborns and children, end the AIDS pandemic, and reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases. Her current research combines her microscopy and genetic expertise with her academic knowledge in health to understand the synergy of HIV infection and PE and provide evidence for better management of women’s health. Whilst the conceptual framework of PE and HIV infection underpins her work, she has also encouraged work outside this field to incorporate inter- multi and trans-disciplinary science.

Naidoo is Deputy Director and Head of Treatment Research at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and honorary associate professor at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences. Her contribution to HIV and TB treatment spans two decades. She was a lead investigator in several Phase II and III TB-HIV and drug-resistant TB treatment trials and was the lead investigator in CAPRISA’s clinical studies aimed at optimising treatment strategies for TB-HIV co-infected patients, most notably the CAPRISA SAPiT trial, which served as the basis for TB-HIV treatment integration guidance incorporated into several international and in-country guidelines including World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

Words: Christine CuenodMelissa Mungroo and Lihle Sosibo

Photographs: Supplied


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Blind Cricket Makes History

Blind Cricket Makes History
UKZN BELS students who volunteered at the T20 Blind cricket tournament.

In collaboration with UKZN, Blind Cricket South Africa (BCSA) hosted the T20 National Tournament for the first time. The main aim of the tournament was to select the national squad that will travel to India in December for the T20 Blind Cricket World Cup.

Six to eight matches were played daily at different venues. The nine provincial teams included KwaZulu-Natal, Border Lions, Boland, Free State, Limpopo Novus, Northerns, North West (first-time entrants), Western Province, and defending champions Central Gauteng Lions.

Students from UKZN’s Department of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences (BELS) volunteered to act as liaison officers, with each student assigned to a team for the duration of the tournament.

The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Blind Cricket team made it to the semi-finals without losing a match but lost to the Northerns by seven wickets in that match. Old rivals Central Gauteng and Northerns Gauteng met in the final which was abandoned due to bad weather. The teams shared the trophy.

The KwaZulu-Natal Association for Blind Cricket (KZNABC) congratulated four KZN Blind Cricket Team players and two reserves who were selected for the Blind Proteas Team that will represent South Africa at the World Cup in India.

‘It was an honour and my first time to be part of the T20 Local Organising Committee (LOC),’ said BELS lecturer Dr Khumbuzile Khumalo. ‘Working with different stakeholders around Durban and being the ground co-ordinator for all matches played at Kingsmead Oval was an incredible experience.’

She thanked KZNABC for this opportunity and for the certificates of appreciation awarded to herself and the UKZN volunteers.

‘Our BELS volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure their teams received all the necessary assistance. The teams were very happy and we were impressed considering that it was the first time the students had communicated with blind cricket players. We have no doubt that their careers, as sport scientists, are bright,’ she said.

Mr Gift Zungu, KZNBCA, Media and Liaison Officer commended UKZN volunteers who also assisted with social media updates of scores and designed posters. ‘They became part of the blind cricket family. They were strong and did not crack under pressure. We hope to work with UKZN in the future.’

KZNBCA president, Mr Ndumiso Nyawose commented: ‘The students played a significant role as team liaison and we received positive feedback on their involvement. We are truly grateful to UKZN Sports Science (BELS) for their support of blind cricket and disability sports as a whole in the province. We are sure that the relationship will grow from strength to strength.’

Students said that they were honoured to have acted as liaison officers. For some, sports for people with disabilities are close to their hearts as they have family members with disabilities. They added that they learnt a lot and that it was a great opportunity to network.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Alumnus Pens WHO Bulletin Editorial

Alumnus Pens WHO Bulletin Editorial
Dr Kapil Narain.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN alumnus, multi-award-winning youth leader, One Young World ambassador, medical doctor, and activist, Dr Kapil Narain was selected to publish an editorial in the official journal of the World Health Organization (WHO), The Bulletin. The journal is ranked 7th out of 193 journals in the field of public, occupational and environmental health and is amongst the top 2.4% of journals internationally.

The editorial, Strategies for malaria vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic in African countries, focuses on the mechanisms governments and stakeholders can adopt to ensure the successful rollout of the malaria vaccine amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

Since 2021, the WHO has recommended the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine for children in areas of moderate to high transmission. Effective roll-out in Africa can only be achieved if region-specific challenges are overcome. The pandemic exposed stark healthcare inequalities on the continent, with malaria prevention and treatment amongst the health services that were disrupted as COVID-19 took priority.

Narain notes that health systems will need to formulate a short-term action plan for timely malaria vaccine delivery, based on the disease burden. Local social support organisations should be brought on board to achieve this goal. Regular surveillance of the malaria response is also required.

‘I initially submitted this as a perspective, but the academic board elevated it to an editorial. It was an absolute honour as an editorial in an academic journal is usually by invitation, and is written by professors or experts in a field,’ he said.

Amongst his many achievements, Narain has served as a member of the African Youth Front and is the former Chair of the COVID-19 Technical Working Group at the Federation of African Medical Students’ Association.

In 2020, he was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans and was the youngest in the Health Category.

His activism not only includes leading initiatives to tackle the stigma surrounding TB, HIV and mental health but also supporting the struggle for gender equality and raising awareness of the challenges confronting frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He serves on the advisory board for the African Forum for Primary Health Care (AfroPHC) and is the Deputy Chair of the Active Citizens Movement and Chair of the Africa Healthcare Students Summit.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

Photograph: Supplied


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PhD Student’s Paper Published in Prestigious Journal

PhD Student’s Paper Published in Prestigious Journal
Ms Zakia Salod.

PhD candidate in Public Health Medicine at UKZN Ms Zakia Salod has published an article in a Q1 journal, Vaccines.

Her PhD research focuses on the intersection between reverse vaccinology and artificial intelligence.

Salod’s scoping review paper, titled Mapping Potential Vaccine Candidates Predicted by VaxiJen for Different Viral Pathogens between 2017-2021 - A Scoping Review provides an overview of studies published between 2017 and 2021 on potential vaccine candidates for various viruses predicted by VaxiJen, the most popular reverse vaccinology tool. The review included 275 papers that covered vaccine candidates for 64 viruses. Almost half the papers focused on the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The findings are encouraging for the development of new vaccines.

Salod said it was a long road to publication. ‘I worked on the review paper for a couple of months, beginning around December 2021, when I conducted the article search across five online databases.

‘I worked every day, screening 1 033 papers and eventually including 275 articles, writing up the paper, revising it based on supervisor feedback, and going through rounds of extensive peer review feedback from the journal. During the latter part of 2021, I was awarded a scholarship to attend a 10-day African Advanced Vaccinology (Afro-ADVAC) course hosted by the African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE) at the University of the Witwatersrand. The course taught me more about the field of vaccinology and gave me perspective while working on reverse vaccinology research.

‘Reverse vaccinology uses a computational approach to identify potential vaccine candidates to assist vaccine development,’ added Salod. ‘The predicted candidates could be protein sequence(s) or parts of protein sequence(s) of disease-causing organisms, such as viruses and bacteria.’

Salod was inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 to identify a computational method that would aid in vaccine development. She has since been self-studying reverse vaccinology. She hopes that her paper will be used as a guide by vaccinologists to perform experimental validation for the various viruses covered. She noted the need to prioritise SARS-CoV-2 because improved vaccines are required to keep up with the emergence of new variants. ‘Vaccinologists should also conduct experimental validation of the vaccine candidates predicted for the other viruses in this review. If these vaccines are successful, they may provide better protection than traditional vaccines.’

Salod expressed her gratitude to the Almighty, adding that, ‘I strongly believe that conducting medical research is my calling in life, which I am really passionate about.

‘Publication of my research brings me one step closer towards realising my dream of having my medical research shape policy, manifest in the real world, and save patients’ lives. I am also thankful to my PhD supervisor, Dr Ozayr Mahomed for his unwavering support, guidance, and encouragement.’ She also thanked the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and UKZN's College of Health Sciences for funding her research.

Salod holds a Master’s in Medical Informatics, a BCom Honours degree in Information Systems and Technology, and a BSc Computer Science and Information Technology, all from UKZN.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Agriculture as a Social Innovation Tool to Combat Climate Change Issues

Agriculture as a Social Innovation Tool to Combat Climate Change Issues
Scenes from the Swansea University delegation’s visit to UKZN Howard campus and CEAD Building on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Young people across the world are aware of, integral to and active in making significant contributions to address climate change, food production, farmers’ livelihoods and agripreneurship, with South African youth displaying the same willingness. The unemployment rate amongst the youth in South Africa is 46%, compared to the national unemployment rate of 32.6%[1].

Opportunities for youth employment creation exist in the emerging farming sector and bring a new dimension of improving productivity through smart technologies. South African smallholder farmers lack theoretical knowledge, technical expertise and advisory services to enhance adaptation to climate change.

The impact of climate change through increased temperatures and variable rainfall, and the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating existing vulnerabilities at the smallholder level. This threatens the potential for agriculture to address food insecurity, unemployment and inequality, especially among marginalised groups such as women and the youth.

According to UKZN’s Dr Thea van der Westhuizen, Principal Investigator and Project Leader, the youth could be involved in the ‘entrepreneurial actions of growing, marketing and processing at economies of scale, improving productivity and profitability’. The Systemic Action Learning and Action Research (SALAR) project offers a forum where the youth explore entrepreneurial opportunities and select areas of intervention based on multiple objectives.

An innovative collaboration between UKZN, the University of Swansea, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the University of Cape Coast and Liv Agriculture-Liv Village seeks to address this national crisis by creating opportunities for the youth in agriculture. The Innovation for African Universities (IAU) programme, designed and funded by the British Council, aims to advance entrepreneurial developments and research partnerships between universities in Africa and the United Kingdom.

A delegation from Swansea University visited InQubate (UKZN’s technology transfer office), the University’s Ukulinga Research Farm in Pietermaritzburg, and the CSIR in September.

Van der Westhuizen highlighted the significance of entrepreneurial universities as the ‘epicentre in a city and a province,’ and the importance of centring this on the youth. She outlined the project’s approach and methods, which are Shifting Hope Activating Potential Entrepreneurship (SHAPE) through applying SALAR.

‘This project aims to up-skill the youth and potentially narrow the unemployment gap, improve food security systems and address climate change. The overarching aim is to develop a SALAR postgraduate agricultural entrepreneurship curriculum to tackle social innovation within the agricultural sector, youth unemployment and the impact of climate change.’

Van der Westhuizen, who serves as the Academic Leader for Management and Entrepreneurship at UKZN referred to her book on Effective Youth Entrepreneurship - Enablers and Barriers for the SHAPE Entrepreneur Ecosystem Strategy, which ‘co-inspires to really shift hope and activate potential entrepreneurship within an ecosystem through action learning and action research.’

Lecturer in entrepreneurship and innovation at Swansea University’s School of Management Dr Samuel Ebie, emphasised the importance of making an impact in communities and the world. ‘Yesterday we were sharing about the violence, and the riots and the poverty, and we saw the UN’s report on the index of poverty and hunger, in the midst of plenty…. That irony was one of the things that we looked at when we started this project. We set out to make an impact - we knew that we couldn’t change the whole world, but in a little way, we could,’ he said.

Ebie noted the importance of using agriculture as a tool to address climate change, hunger and poverty ‘to make a positive impact and help with youth unemployment, especially within the Black community.’

InQubate Director Ms Suvina Singh highlighted some of the projects currently underway in the School of Agriculture and said the curriculum developed for the SHAPE project will have far-reaching impacts. ‘One of the biggest challenges that we are facing globally is intensive, unsustainable agriculture and the impact that this is having on societies globally in terms of climate change. This curriculum will be an enabling piece of the puzzle that will help us to educate the next generation of farmers in terms of sustainable agriculture,’ she said.

(Pic 1) From left: Dr Samuel Ebie (Swansea University), Ms Luntu Hlatshwayo (UKZN), Dr Thea van der Westhuizen (UKZN), Mrs Suvina Singh (UKZN), Dr Alan Price (Swansea University), and Mr Deven Reddy (UKZN).

(Pic 2) From left: Mr Phila Shozi (UKZN), Professor Sybert Mutereko (UKZN), Dr Samuel Ebie (Swansea University), Ms Thembelihle Dlala (UKZN), Ms Luntu Hlatshwayo (UKZN), Dr Angela James (UKZN), Dr Yemisi Adelake, Professor Steve Worth, Mr Nigel Chiweshe, Dr Alan Price, and Dr Pfano Mashau.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photographs: Sethu Dlamini

[1] http://www.statssa.gov.za/?page_id=1854&PPN=P0211&SCH=72943


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International Partner Week Makes Welcome Live Return

International Partner Week Makes Welcome Live Return
Highlights from the Annual International Partner Week.

UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division hosted a variety of stakeholders for the annual International Partner Week, which was held in person for the first time since 2018.

The programme was jam-packed with activities, chief among which was the Internationalisation Summit on 20 October.

Held under the theme: Reconnecting after Disconnecting: Reimagining Internationalisation Post-COVID-19 and Beyond,the Summit brought various stakeholders together to discuss innovative ways to advance internationalisation. It was attended by senior government officials, researchers, students and senior academics from UKZN and other local and overseas institutions.

Opening the Summit, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences, Professor Busisiwe Ncama, said the University’s internationalisation efforts were negatively affected by lockdown measures but noted that COVID-19 also forced it to be more innovative.

‘We had to seek new ways to create platforms that ensured that our students continued to participate in programmes offered by our partner institutions while ensuring that our international students continued to participate fully in our programmes,’ Ncama added.

Delivering the keynote address, the High Commissioner for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Lovell Francis, reflected on the numerous lessons humankind should have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the understanding that the world is a perilous biological landscape that has not been tamed.

He noted that the pandemic was fought through partnerships and collaborations. ‘The pandemic was an existential crisis that required all hands, on deck - without that, we wouldn’t be here today.’ Stressing the importance of collaborations, he said: ‘The problems we face cannot be solved by people working in isolation. We must collaborate because the problems are too large and too immediate.’

The Summit included five plenary panel discussions with various national and international speakers. The first titled, The Responsibilities of Universities, Government, and other Stakeholders in Advancing Internationalisation in Higher Education, was facilitated by an academic leader and lecturer in the Department of Architecture, Mr Lawrence Babatunde Ogunsanya.

It featured panellists, Dr Corinne Langsfield from Denver University, who recounted how partnerships within her institution had led to enhanced recognition and reputation; Mr Phindiwe Mbhele, Director of Corporate Accounts at the Department of Home Affairs, who spoke on his department’s role in supporting academic exchanges and how it is clearing the backlog of student visa applications which hamper internationalisation; and the Chief Director of University Education Policy and Development at the Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr Mahlubi Mabizela who reflected on the development of the national strategy on internationalisation and ongoing research on the state of internationalisation within institutions. Mr Eric Apelgren, the Head of International and Governance Relations at eThekwini Municipality, examined partnerships between the city and UKZN at national and international levels.

The second plenary session titled, The Future of African Traditional Medicine Post-COVID is Bright through International Partnerships, featured the work of Professor Nceba Gqaleni, Research Professor in African Traditional Medicine and Faculty Member at the Africa Health Research Institute.

Gqaleni highlighted the growth of traditional medicine, the importance of collaborations in developing multi-centre, multi-national studies, capacity building and clinical results.

Cross-Border Education, Online Teaching, Student and Staff Mobility was the focus of the third session, which reviewed an academic exchange programme spearheaded by Professor Thabo Msibi, Dean and Head of the School of Education at UKZN and its benefits for staff who also shared their experiences.

Other plenary sessions included: Administration and Reporting on the Internationalisation of Higher Education; and International Collaborations and Partnerships.

In his closing remarks, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation Professor Mosa Moshabela emphasised the need to move from developing policies to implementing and developing ways to measure their success. He agreed that increased collaboration will advance internationalisation: ‘Going forward into the 21st century, we will not succeed if we try and do things on our own.’

International Partner Week included a range of other exciting activities, including a Ricksha double-decker bus tour of greater Durban and a two-day meeting where delegates visited divisions and research centres within UKZN to discuss possible co-operation in various areas.

The week ended on a high note, with delegates enjoying fine-dining, dancing and entertainment at the Culinary Extravaganza on the Edgewood campus.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Albert Hirasen and Sethu Dlamini


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Judges Impressed by High School Moot Court Participants

Judges Impressed by High School Moot Court Participants
2022 Moot finalists with the judges, Luthuli Museum and UKZN staff.

The participants in the Luthuli Museum/UKZN Schools Moot Court Competition impressed the judges with their excellent advocacy skills.

Hosted by UKZN’s School of Law in partnership with the Luthuli Museum, the annual competition offered Grade 11 pupils an opportunity to be equipped to argue a constitutional matter, in the KwaDukuza Magistrate’s Court.

This community outreach initiative aims to create greater awareness among schools and communities about the justice system, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, to prepare learners from Groutville and Stanger to participate in the Department of Basic Education’s Schools’ Moot competition, and to encourage gifted young learners to consider pursuing a career in Law.

The finalists were Grade 11 Fairbreeze Secondary School students, Ms Thusi Poullinate who represented the respondent and won the competition and Ms Lusanda Ngisu who represented the appellant. They argued a hypothetical case in which a 17-year-old pregnant learner challenged school policy on violation of her rights before judges Mr Rakesh Maharaj (Attorney at Rakesh Maharaj & Co.), Control Prosecutor Mr Masithembe Fanaphi and Magistrate of the Court, Ms Rose Sepang.

Sepang enthused: ‘They performed better than some prosecutors. They are still in Grade 11, but were brave enough to challenge us.’

Maharaj commented: ‘Both finalists spoke exceptionally well and impressed us with their knowledge.’

‘They made clear points and we were able to engage with them,’ said Fanaphi. ‘This kind of setting can be intimidating but they were well prepared.’

Academic in the School of Law Dr Janine Hicks congratulated the participants and acknowledged Street Law students who dedicated 25 hours to conduct training sessions on legal content and court procedures in preparing a team of eight learners to participate in this year’s programme.

‘UKZN has a proud relationship and partnership with the Luthuli Museum, to honour the legacy of Inkosi Albert Luthuli. This programme enables our final-year Street Law students to connect with a passion for social justice issues and provides them with a life-changing opportunity. The Dean of the School of Law has provided a bursary of R20 000 for the winning student, should she opt to study Law at UKZN.’

One of the final-year LLB students who co-ordinated training, Ms Shria Naidu, said ‘The programme has been an enriching learning experience for us too. We hope that we have inspired a lasting passion for legal studies in them.’

Luthuli Museum Public Relations Officer, Ms Zinhle Nyembe, said the annual collaboration with the School of Law works well. She added that the University’s Law clinic continues to play an important role in providing the youth with legal education and motivating them to pursue a legal career.

‘Our Moot Court competition started in 2014 in partnership with UKZN, but for the past three years we were only able to work with one school because of COVID-19. Next year we aim to train more schools for this competition,’ she said.

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photograph: Supplied


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Academic Selected as SA Coordinator for International Survey of Peer Leaders

Academic Selected as SA Coordinator for International Survey of Peer Leaders
Dr Vino Paideya.Click here for isiZulu version

Senior lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Physics Dr Vino Paideya was assigned the role of South African Coordinator by the South African National Resource Centre (SANRC), University of Johannesburg for the National Survey of Peer Leaders which forms part of the broader International Survey of Peer Leaders (ISPL). The national survey is designed to gain a cross-national perspective of how peer leadership experiences are structured and such leadership’s impact on academic performance.

The ISPL is co-ordinated by Professor Dallin Young as the principal investigator from the University of Georgia in the United States (US). The SANRC is co-ordinating the national survey for South Africa. The ISPL is a multi-country survey with countries such as the US, United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, The Netherlands etc, participating. The SANRC office serves as the resource centre for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition and works closely with the “sister” organisation, the University of South Carolina in the US.

Paideya has worked in collaboration with Dr Annsilla Nyar on the ISPL Survey and the SANRC Office since 2017. She also served as the UKZN co-ordinator for the 2014-2015 ISPL that aimed to create an initial national snapshot of the development and experiences of peer leaders in South Africa and abroad. 

The 2022 study, that commenced in January this year, is a more in-depth one. Paideya is contributing to contextualising the South African survey, recruiting academic support participants from the various Higher Education Institutions in the country and supporting each of the institutions in their applications for ethical clearance to participate in the survey.

She described the journey of working with the SANRC Office and international colleagues as an exciting one and looks forward to disseminating the UKZN and cross-national results with other participating institutions in 2023.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied


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Pharmaceutical Sciences Hosts Annual Research Symposium for Honours Students

Pharmaceutical Sciences Hosts Annual Research Symposium for Honours Students
UKZN’s Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences hosts its first hybrid research symposium for honours students.

UKZN’s Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences (DoPS) recently hosted an all-day symposium at the Senate Chamber on the Westville campus. The symposium provided a platform for the Bachelor of Pharmacy Honours students to present their research findings.

The programme facilitated by Research Coordinator, Dr Elizabeth Ojewole started off with a welcome address by Academic Leader in DoPS Professor Frasia Oosthuizen who encouraged students to enjoy the day quoting Nobel Prize Winner Andre K Geim: ‘When one dares to try the rewards are not guaranteed but at least it will be an adventure.’

Guest speaker, Professor David Katerere a Research Platform Chair of the Pharmaceutical and Biotech Advancement in Africa Faculty of Science, at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), presented a keynote speech titled: Pharmaceutical Science that Serves Communities - What Should We Be Doing, where he discussed the importance of research, development and diversification for students in the pharmaceutical sciences. Katerere urged students to explore indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), traditional medicine and biotherapies and also shared details about some life-changing products developed in those sectors.

He highlighted “pharmaceutical crimes” that had taken place around the world and called for laws to be changed in order for research to be translated into policy. ‘A fake Gucci bag does not kill people but counterfeit medicine does that’s why it’s important for individuals who trade in these things to be locked away.’

Noting how pharmaceutical sciences should be used for the good of society in order to fight poverty, malnutrition and inequality, he challenged students to play their part and position themselves to make an impact.

Fourth-year Medical student and Bachelor of Pharmacy graduate, Mr Mohamed Hoosen Suleman said it was an honour to introduce the next generation of pharmacists who will represent UKZN. He remarked on ‘how the University is not a place for teaching and learning but rather a place for the acquisition, regeneration and dissemination of information.’ Sharing his life’s formula of curiosity, passion, persistence and perseverance; Suleman urged students to publish research findings in scientific journals as a means of contributing to policy making and improving the public health system of South Africa.

The judges of the research presentations were Ms Delyne Subrayen, Regional Clinical Pharmacist at Life Healthcare and KwaZulu-Natal Chairperson of the South African Society of Clinical Pharmacy (SASOCP); Professor Fernando Albericio, a full research professor at the School of Chemistry and Physics; Dr Brenda De Gama, academic leader in research in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences; and Ms Elsabe Jones, senior production pharmacist at Cipla Manufacturing in KZN.

Tasked with grading the students on their presentations, Subrayen an alumnus of UKZN commented on how the presentations were inspiring, invigorating, impactful and informative. Albericio encouraged students to push themselves and to travel the world to acquire the skills and experience needed to come back and contribute to the development of South Africa, within their field. De Gama acknowledged the professionalism showcased by students and urged students to be able to translate their findings in order to better the lives of society.

While Jones, an alumnus of UKZN, appreciated the high level of research within the Institution.

In her vote of thanks, Ojewole acknowledged everyone who played a role in making the day a success, including the speakers, judges, guests, supervisors, co-supervisors and students. She expressed her gratitude to the University, the School of Health Sciences management and the DoPS research day committee, for the amazing support that contributed to the success of the symposium.

Nineteen groups presented on the day, while guests and other non-presenting students participated virtually via Zoom.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Ntsika Nduli


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Research Psychology Masters Students Visit HSRC Centre

Research Psychology Masters Students Visit HSRC Centre
From left: Mr Nqobani Zuma, Ms Mbali Phakathi, Ms Banele Ndebele, Ms Emelda Tselana, Mr Tim Hardwick, Ms Nikita Chetty, and Dr Hilton Humphries.

Six Masters in Social Science Research Psychology students and their lecturer Professor Mary van der Riet visited the Human Sciences Research Council’s (HSRC) Centre for Community Based Research (CCBR) in Sweetwaters outside Pietermaritzburg.

The students Mr Nqobani Zuma, Ms Mbali Phakathi, Ms Banele Ndebele, Ms Emelda Tselana, Mr Tim Hardwick and Ms Nikita Chetty were hosted by Dr Hilton Humphries of the HSRC. They were introduced to the HSRC’s research and were accompanied by the CCBR’s community team to visit several projects currently underway in the community surrounding the site. This was a good introduction to conducting applied social science research.

Said van der Riet, ‘The visit developed out of the strong relationship between the Discipline of Psychology (School of Applied Human Sciences) in Pietermaritzburg and the HSRC. Many UKZN alumni have been employed as researchers and even executive members of the HSRC. The Masters Social Science in Research Psychology programme aims to develop professional researchers with a broad range of skills who can design, co-ordinate and manage programmes and interventions. Seeing how the HSRC conducts social and health-related research, exposes students to social science research in action, and develops their professional identity and aspirations.’

Hardwick said he ‘enjoyed getting to see what a research site looks like first hand, as well as interacting with the people who work there who were all really warm and welcoming.’

For Chetty, ‘the opportunity to observe research projects being carried out on a much larger scale was interesting. It was interesting to learn about the different environments in which research work is carried out. It’s not an office and a laptop, but involves being physically active and building relationships with different individuals.’

Tselana added that, ‘learning about the different aspects of research, especially on a larger scale was an eye-opener. I found the various ongoing projects conducted by the HSRC interesting. The lengths the researchers go to collect data and maintain relationships with participants were insightful. I gained more knowledge about the HSRC and the daily life of a researcher which I found helpful as I am nearing the end of the coursework part of my master’s.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Webinar on the CIVICUS Monitor

Webinar on the CIVICUS Monitor
Ms Sylvia Mbataru.Click here for isiZulu version

The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) in UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies hosted a webinar to demonstrate the use of the CIVICUS Monitor. This cutting-edge research tool that was built by civil society provides an overview of key civic space trends in Africa and the world.

Ms Sylvia Mbataru, a human rights and public policy lawyer who is a researcher at CIVICUS explained that the monitor aims to share reliable, up-to-date data on the state of civil society freedoms in all countries. Its interactive world map enables one to access live updates from civil society around the world, track threats to civil society and learn about the ways in which citizens’ right to participate is being realised or challenged.

‘A rating system is used to track the state of a country,’ said Mbataru. The colours represent Open, Narrowed, Obstructed, Repressed, and Closed, so that we have an evidence-based view of a country.’

The monitor provides information on conditions in particular locations. Overall, it reflects that many people live under repressive conditions with few in open spaces. It highlights the repression of the rights of women, workers, the Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community and the youth as well as the violation of people’s right to a clean environment.

Mbataru noted that ‘The most common violations of civic freedom across Africa are attacking and prohibiting journalists from doing their job, repression of protest and censorship.’ She added that there has been some improvement in terms of defenders of human rights on the continent, with several released from prison. However, during elections, restrictions tend to increase. This was seen in Cameroon (2016 and previous elections), Nicaragua (2021 elections), Hungary, Kenya, and Serbia (2020), the United States (2020) and Zimbabwe.

The CIVICUS Monitor can be accessed at https://monitor.civicus.org.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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Study Shows Improvement in South African Children’s Physical Activity

Study Shows Improvement in South African Children’s Physical Activity
Professors Rowena Naidoo and Verusia Chetty (bottom left pic) with collaborators from South African Universities at the International Society for Physical and Health Congress (Abu-Dhabi, UAE).

A study co-led by Professor Rowena Naidoo from UKZN’s Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences found that South African children’s overall physical activity has improved. The recently released Healthy Active Kids South Africa (HAKSA) 2022 report card indicates that it moved up to a B-grade, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, placing the country well ahead of the nearly 50 other nations in the Global Matrix 4.0.

The report card is the 6th in the series since 2007. It is one of 57 country reports from six continents that are part of the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance (AHKGA).

The South African national evaluation was performed in parallel with the global initiative. Naidoo brought together more than 20 academics from eight Higher Education Institutions to reach a consensus on the 10 physical activity indicators that comprise the Global Matrix 4.0.

The global report revealed that modern lifestyles - increased digital screen time, growing urbanisation, and increased automation of previously manual tasks - are contributing to a pervasive yet unequally distributed public health problem.

‘The Global Matrix 4.0 represents the largest compilation of information to date on indicators related to the physical activity of children and adolescents, and the data shows a failing grade,’ said Professor Mark Tremblay, President of the AHKGA and senior scientist at the CHEO Research Institute in Canada.

In comparison with the rest of the world, South African children were in the top 15% for overall levels of physical activity and the top 7% for physical fitness, with fitness moving up from a C grade in 2018 to a B-grade, suggesting that at least 75% of the country’s children are active. However, South African children were placed 45th out of 57 countries with regard to participation in organised sport, and 15th for sedentary behaviour, with insufficient data for active play.

‘South Africa scores well for active travel, coming 10th, with 60% – 66% of children and youth using active transport to and from school and for other journeys,’ noted Naidoo. ‘However, safety remains a concern as pedestrian fatalities are the leading cause of death due to injury in children under the age of 15.’

An innovation introduced by the South African group was to introduce a report card for the same indicators to be completed by high school youth, keeping in mind the UNICEF tagline, “nothing about us without us”. In the first round involving KwaZulu-Natal youth, nearly 70% graded overall physical activity with an A or B, while less than 50% of those surveyed felt that organised sport deserved a similar grade. These scores align with the consensus findings, although 60% of adolescents gave the physical activity environment in schools an A or B endorsement.

Professor Verusia Chetty (Discipline of Physiotherapy) was also part of the team who presented the report card results at the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH) congress in Abu Dhabi (24-26 October). Chetty and her colleagues have proposed a bespoke framework, Re-ACTION, designed to improve the grade, based on a number of identified priorities from the Global Matrix 4.0, lessons learned from other countries, and recommendations from the World Health Organization Global Action Plan for Physical Activity (GAPPA).

‘It is clear that an integrated approach is needed to help to improve South Africa’s indicator scores. The Re-ACTION strategic plan is recommended: Re-Assess at regular intervals, Co-create strategies and solutions, Train educators and implementers, Implement to sustain and scale, Organise adequate resources, infrastructure and policy, and Network, mobilise and recruit stakeholders for sustainability,’ explained Chetty.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photographs: Supplied


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