“On the Couch” with UKZN Living Legends

“On the Couch” with UKZN Living Legends
From left: Professor Busisiwe Ncama, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Health Sciences; Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma; Professor Miriam Adhikari; Paediatrician, Dr Mahendra Mackanjee; Professor Malegapuru Makgoba; and Professor Ncoza Dlova.

Who are UKZN Living Legends? They are alumni and friends of UKZN recognised and acknowledged in their living years for having made impactful contributions to better the lives of all South Africans through research, teaching, community engagement and policy development work.

These were the words of Professor Ncoza Dlova - Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine and creator of UKZN’s Living Legends awards - at the presentation of the accolades to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Emeritus Professor Malegapuru Makgoba and Emeritus Professor Miriam Adhikari.

Dlamini-Zuma, a medical doctor by profession hails from the town of Bulwer in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. She developed a passion for education being inspired by her father - a primary school teacher - who often expounded this maxim: Girls must have an education so they don’t remain in toxic relationships and should be financially independent.

‘Mum and dad also ensured that all my brothers were responsible at home, assisted with all the chores and also cooked. We grew up being taught that education is a great equaliser,’ said Dlamini-Zuma, who was inspired to study Medicine by Dr Sydney and Dr Emily Kark, founders of the Pholela Community Health Centre near Bulwer in the 1940s. The Karks initiated the first community-oriented primary care model and are widely recognised as one of the 20th century’s most original, inspirational and influential leaders in social medicine.

Said Dlamini-Zuma: ‘The couple taught us how to protect our water sources, grow vegetables and conduct outreach programmes at schools providing vaccinations. They had advanced ideas about preventative medicine and as a result, hospitalisation numbers decreased. They also created community waiting wards for women with complicated pregnancies and as a result maternal mortality rates decreased. I grew up in an environment in which the Karks encouraged children in the area to study Medicine.’

Dlamini-Zuma has served as national Minister of Health, Minister of International Relations and Cooperative Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs as well as Minister in the Presidency.

Makgoba, UKZN’s former Vice-Chancellor and Principal, thanked his parents for encouraging him to have a passion and love of learning so he could understand and enjoy the world. His message to Medical students in the audience was: ‘Learn your identity as a doctor during your training. Learn to also compete and be excellent. Above all else, ensure that you are driven to change the world - that goal that should be embedded in your ideals and vision during your life’s journey.’

Makgoba was the first Black Nuffield Dominion Fellow at the University of Oxford in England where he completed his DPhil degree in Human Immunogenetics in 1983, having graduated with a Medical degree from the then University of Natal. Makgoba and his team were among the first to appreciate the importance of lymphocyte adhesion and these observations have helped shape the evolution of the field.

Growing up in a rural area, Makgoba recalled as a seven-year-old boy catching birds by using a plant that stuck to their feathers preventing them from flying. ‘I used the same concept to identify a substance that would stick to molecules to understand lymphocyte adhesion. Our work achieved in 1988 has since been cited 23 000 times. The importance of antigen-nonspecific adhesion to T cell antigen-specific recognition laid the foundation for the understanding of immunology and immunopathology.’

Both Dlamini-Zuma and Makgoba thanked their former mentor, Emeritus Professor Edward Barry Adams - who was founding professor of Medicine at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine - for inspiring them and also paving a way for both to study at UK universities.

Adams is best remembered for instilling in his students an enduring recognition that acquisition of skills in eliciting and interpreting signs and symptoms was fundamental to good clinical practice.

Adhikari is an emeritus professor in Paediatrics at UKZN and a pioneer of neonatal training in KZN, involving the introduction of milk banks to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as a member of the team which discovered tuberculosis in infants.

Adhikari and her team set up KZN’s first renal transplantation units.

She was also recognised by the KZN Government for her contributions to teaching Nursing staff the importance of managing mothers and babies. Many of the systems she implemented between the 1980s and 2000s were a catalyst for the systems in use currently.

Dlamini-Zuma’s final words to doctors in the audience were: ‘Revolutionary doctors are needed in the world. A doctor heals one patient at a time but as a politician you can affect many lives through policy change. It is important to understand politics to understand your patients better as both are intertwined.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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History-Making Performances by UKZN U20 Rugby Teams

History-Making Performances by UKZN U20 Rugby Teams
UKZN’s U20 Championship Rugby team (left) with trophies won this season.

UKZN’s U20 A and B rugby teams made history this season by winning almost every award on offer in the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union League.

The A team won the Frank Norris League, and the Basil Medway Knockout Cup while the B team won the Kings Park Challenge League, and the DW Wylie Cup.

Added to all that head coach Naseeb Abrahams was named KZN’s U20 Coach of the Year.

UKZN forwards coach Gavin Mc Arthur said the season started off with a lot of planning and preparation which laid the foundation for the success enjoyed by both sides. ‘A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this season and we achieved what no other club has been able to do in the history of the U20 Division in KZN.’

Commenting on the players he remarked on how everyone in the squad contributed to the team in their own way by trusting and buying into management’s plan. ‘In our eyes the players are all stars, as it would not have been possible to achieve all of this without them.

‘What makes this achievement even more memorable is the brotherhood that was cultivated within the team - we came from different backgrounds but stood together as one from the onset, living our motto: “one for all and all for one”!’

Mc Arthur listed sufficient sponsorship as one of the biggest hurdles faced but this was overcome by everyone putting the team first.

Acknowledging the University for giving the team an opportunity to represent it on the rugby field, Mc Arthur thanked UKZN’s Manager for Student Health and Sports, Mr Mark Bashe and UKZN’s Rugby Sports Officer, Mr Ben Vutha for always being available to assist. He also thanked head coach, Abrahams, backline coach Luke van As, team manager Wandile Shelembe, the medical team comprising of Renato da Costa and Nondumiso Ndebele as well as the committee, medical staff, parents and supporters.

Said Mc Arthur: ‘Ultimately, thank you to each and every player who put their bodies on the line this year - we really appreciate it and we know it was tough but, in the end, it was all worth it.’

The team will retain most of the players for next season with the goal being to defend titles won in the U20 leagues and be champions again in 2023.

Captains for the A side, Jarryd Nicholls and Mthomboyolo Buzani, who provided excellent leadership both on and off the field, acknowledged the hard work, commitment, discipline and consistency of the players, coaches, parents, supporters, and management.

Nicholls highlighted the importance of always setting the tone for the games early to avoid playing catch up, while Buzani noted how this was ‘only the beginning of a formidable reign for UKZN’s U20 rugby teams.’

The U20 B side captains, Mr Taariq Osman, Mr Lizwe Chilli and Mr Donovan Dauth, agreed that the team had amazing individuals who worked tirelessly for the good behind the scenes. Said Osman: ‘The team spirit this season was amazing and we are grateful for the support. It wasn’t always easy but we pushed through and now we are champions!’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Andile Ndlovu


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“Tireless Champion of Health in Africa” Honoured by UKZN

“Tireless Champion of Health in Africa” Honoured by UKZN
Professors Ncoza Dlova and Mike Sathekge (left) unveil the new name in the presence of Professor Mayosi’s close family.Click here for isiZulu version

The College of Health Sciences has renamed its L7 lecture venue on the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine campus in Durban in honour of Professor Bongani Mawethu Mayosi.

Mayosi was Professor of Medicine and Head of the Department of Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town at the time of his death in 2018. A UKZN Medical alumnus, he trained in internal medicine and cardiology in Cape Town and worked as a Nuffield Oxford Medical Fellow in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford in England from 1998 to 2001.

In her welcome remarks at the renaming function, Professor Ncoza Dlova, Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine and a close friend of Mayosi, mentioned to the audience of family, friends, former classmates of Mayosi as well as UKZN staff and students that the renaming was in honour of the memory of a man of outstanding intellect who was an exceptional cardiologist, scholar and a tireless champion for health in Africa.

His research interests included genetics of cardiovascular traits, treatment of tuberculous pericarditis, and prevention of rheumatic fever. He had an A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) which considered him to be among the ranks of leading international researchers.

In 2017, a research team he led made international headlines for identifying a new gene that is a major cause of sudden death due to heart failure among young people and athletes. Mayosi’s involvement in the research included spending 20 years monitoring a South African Durban-based African family affected by this disorder. ‘This is a testimony to his tenacious pursuit of pioneering research that helps save lives,’ said Vice-Chancellor of UCT, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

Professor Mike Sathekge, head of the Nuclear Medicine Department at the University of Pretoria and Steve Biko Academic Hospital and close personal friend and mentee of Mayosi, unveiled the new name of the lecture venue. In his presentation, Sathekge said: ‘Bongs was a selfless mentor with a sense of responsibility for others. He always aimed to transform the lives of others, planting in our students these principles and values to ensure they succeeded. His motto in life was: Lift as You Rise.’

Said Mayosi’s brother Mr Sipho Mayosi: ‘Though he has passed on, his legacy remains with us and we still hear his words of encouragement all around us.’

In 2017, Mayosi was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honours in the fields of health and medicine, awarded to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. His numerous accolades include election to the Fellowship of the World Academy of Arts and Science (2013); South African Medical Association/Bonitas Medical Fund Merit Award for Health Research (2013); National Science and Technology Foundation - BHP Billiton Award (2012), and the National Research Foundation Award for Transforming the Science Cohort in South Africa (2011).

In November 2009, former President Jacob Zuma awarded him with South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe in Silver, for excellent achievements in medical science.

He was the President of the College of Physicians of South Africa; Chairman of the National Health Research Committee; Vice-President of the Pan African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR), and Chairman of the Rheumatic Fever Council of the World Heart Federation.

In closing, Sathekge said: ‘Mayosi left a remarkable legacy through his contributions to medical research, academic medicine and the development of others. He will always be remembered for these words: “It is not enough to take the consultant post and continue where your predecessor left off. Each one of us was created to make a special contribution to the world. The next hill to climb is how this can be realised in your own life so that you can transform the lives of others”.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photographs: Supplied


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TE Madiba Colorectal Unit Launched at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban

TE Madiba Colorectal Unit Launched at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban
Professor Thandinkosi Madiba’s wife Mrs Puseletso Madiba (fifth from right) with the recently renamed TE Madiba Colorectal Unit staff at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban.

Madiba was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth but that didn’t stop him being ambitious. He achieved so much in life and my goal is to emulate him.

These are words spoken by Dr Ines Buccimaza about the late colorectal surgeon Emeritus Professor Thandinkosi Enos Madiba at the official naming of the Professor Thandinkosi Enos Madiba Colorectal Unit at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban (IALCH).

‘He was an excellent teacher and a mentor,’ said Buccimaza, who remembered Madiba as a trail-blazer and a staunch supporter of surgical research.

Madiba founded the Colorectal Unit which was officially named after him at an event attended by his family, former colleagues and representatives of the Department of Surgery’s Collateral Unit.

UKZN’s General Surgery HOD Dr Boitumelo Phakathi said: ‘Prof Madiba established the Colorectal Unit against all the odds, so naming it after him is truly a great honour and also ensures that his legacy lives on.’

Madiba was a Professor of Surgery at UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine and the Head of the Colorectal Unit at the Albert Luthuli Hospital, and a Fellow of the College of Surgeons of South Africa and the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.

He had a distinguished career in research, took an active interest in research ethics and was the founder of the Colorectal Cancer and Stoma Support Group as well as the UKZN Surgical Society. He played an active role in the official structures of the University and the Medical School, contributing to policy and strategy formulation.

Madiba left a legacy of high-profile achievement despite the struggles of life under apartheid in South Africa, especially the institutional harshness suffered by those born outside the privilege of race and material comfort. Standing up to and overcoming several medical debilities that would floor many others, was an indication of his fortitude, resilience and determination. This doggedness was matched by his academic pursuit and the achievements that followed throughout his life.

In 1987, having attained a Fellowship in Surgery, Madiba was appointed as Consultant Surgeon/Lecturer at the King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban, launching a career as an academic surgeon that earned him warm recognition far and wide.

In 1996, he became the first Black KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) graduate to be awarded an Associated Professorship for academic excellence at the then University of Natal and was subsequently promoted to full professorship.

Madiba’s research achievements have been recognised by UKZN and the National Research Foundation. He has published extensively as reflected by the variety of book chapters, reviews, editorials and Forum articles he wrote. He had 113 peer-reviewed articles published and served as a reviewer for several international and national journals. When he retired in 2015, Madiba was a moderator for the Fellowship of the College of Surgeons (FCS) examinations held by the College of Surgeons of South Africa (CMSA).

An enthusiastic teacher, Madiba was awarded the Distinguished Teacher Award at UKZN in 2008 while further recognition of his academic status was provided when the eThekwini municipality awarded him Living Legend status in 2011 and UKZN awarded him Emeritus Professorship upon his retirement.

In addition to his interest in colorectal surgery, Madiba’s publications reflect a leaning towards general surgery.

Always well mannered, soft spoken with a measured tone, civil and professional in his functioning, Madiba displayed quiet authority. He played an active role in policy formulation and strategic planning during the re-structuring of the Medical School and pursuit of the transformation agenda.

Beyond the University, Madiba held leadership positions in the Association of Surgeons of South Africa, the Surgical Research Society of South Africa, CMSA and the Colorectal Society of SA.

Madiba’s achievements have been remarkable and inspirational to many.

Head of the Specialised Surgical Unit at IALCH, Mr Frank Anderson spoke fondly about his relationship with Madiba, ‘He was an architecture of his specialisation - I helped him with the building of the unit.’

Dr Sandile Tshabalala: HOD, Department of Health in KZN, said Madiba was a humble person. He recalled meeting him when he was CEO of Ngwelezana Hospital. ‘I asked him for a meeting and he called on me instead of me going to him!’

‘I am here to honour the greatest surgeon of all time,’ said Professor Thifhelimbilu Luvhengo of Wits University and Head of Surgery at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. ‘I stopped everything to come here. I wish we could have just 10% of Madiba to help make sure this is a better South Africa,’ said Luvhengo.

Said an emotional Mrs Puseletso Madiba: ‘My husband taught us everything but not how to bear the pain when he left.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Mandisa Shozi


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Leading Mycologist Delivers Guest Lecture at UKZN

Leading Mycologist Delivers Guest Lecture at UKZN
Professor Anne Pringle (front row, fourth from left) with staff and students from UKZN and the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research.

Professor Anne Pringle, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Departments of Botany and Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, visited UKZN to deliver a guest lecture on invasive mycorrhizal fungi as part of her Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Pretoria’s Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute.

Pringle, who was raised in Southeast Asia and West Africa, completed her studies at the University of Chicago and Duke University. She secured a fellowship at the University of California, joining Harvard University before moving to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Pringle has given over 100 invited talks all over the world and has received several awards recognising her excellence in teaching and research. A past President of the Mycological Society of America, her work has been featured in publications including The New York Times.

Co-ordinated by an honorary researcher at UKZN and the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research Dr Bernice Bancole, Pringle’s presentation gave students and researchers in agriculture, forestry and plant pathology insight into mycorrhizal fungi and their role in enabling the growth of certain plants, and in themselves becoming an invasive epidemic.

‘In nature, most plants don’t grow alone, they grow with all sorts of fungi, some associated with their roots,’ said Pringle.

‘It is important to understand the different kinds of mycorrhizal fungi because the kind of plant you are growing associates with different kinds of fungi,’ she said. ‘There is a broad kind of specificity and it matters to understand an ecosystem or forestry site.’

Pringle described the rise of experiments using growing plants with and without mycorrhizal fungi, with these organisms generally leading to better and larger growth, pointing out that this field of inquiry has not been a focus of research for scientists in southern Africa, despite non-indigenous ectomycorrhizal fungi being introduced from Europe to South Africa to help the growth of pine trees in plantations.

Pringle spoke about global patterns of ectomycorrhizal fungi introductions, with the majority occurring in the southern hemisphere.

‘People don’t think about these kinds of fungi when they’re investigating invasive species.’

Despite the abundance of Earth’s biodiversity being microbial, Pringle pointed out that people often do did not address microbes unless they were perceived as being pathogenic. She added that when fungi provided benefits, people did not pay attention to their presence, until rare instances where fungi caused detrimental effects, for example through poisoning.

Pringle discussed invasive mycorrhizal fungi in Colombia, specifically the European Amanita muscaria that has shifted hosts to associate with the country’s unique, endemic Q. humboldtii oak trees, as well as with pine and acacia introduced for forestry. She noted that planted forests were correlated with fungal introductions and some were invisible invaders with impacts that had not been addressed yet.

‘Organisms are moving and biodiversity is being re-shaped at an unprecedented rate, and one of the grand challenges of our time is to understand that,’ she said, pointing out that this included human movement.

She also highlighted the role evolution plays in biodiversity reshaping itself by expounding on the ecological niche of the death cap mushroom and modelling work that has enabled the prediction of the equilibrium that allows it to survive in new environments. Her research team has used genome sequencing and basic biology to understand the natural history and biology of the deadly fungus originating in Europe and now taking root all over the world.

Pringle raised the question of how movements of organisms are stopped practically, pointing out that mycorrhizal fungi continue to be bought and spread through additive products for soil and she described techniques to avoid this, particularly for the planting of trees in cities where techniques such as whole soil transplants were being used.

‘Fungal introductions lead to invasions - the spread of mycorrhizal fungi is historic but it is also ongoing, and the mycorrhizal biofertiliser craze is an easy buzzword,’ said Pringle. ‘There may be viable alternatives and it is time to start the conversation and move beyond plants and animals and disease as all-important and think about biodiversity as a whole.’

A variety of Pringle’s presentations are publicly available on ibiology.org

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod


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Education Academic Receives Prestigious Research Award

Education Academic Receives Prestigious Research Award
Professor Michael Samuel who was recognised for his contribution to education research.Click here for isiZulu version

Professor Michael Samuel of the School of Education has been honoured with a research recognition award from the South African Education Research Association (SAERA).

The award is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding, distinctive contribution to education research.

Said Samuel: ‘I dedicate this award to all those fellow travellers on the journey of academic scholarship: each of you has helped me shape my thoughts, my research arguments and my resistance to ritualistic educational research. I was fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues, staff and students who helped disrupt our complacency with performativity cultures that value only superficial transformation goals. My joy is supporting young scholars to blossom into assertive academics.’

This award has ‘affirmed my campaign for a deep transformation that spans not only nationalistic democratic agendas but also questions how we position ourselves in developing a southern scholarship in dialogue with our international partners.

‘My soon-to-be 90-year-old dad has inspired the fabric of educational interests from my early years within our home and family,’ said Samuel. ‘His pride is embedded in our recognition of the family’s decades of educational struggles, which this award affirms. Hopefully, other scholars will be inspired to strive to contribute to excellence in distinctive scholarship.’

Samuel has served as a curriculum designer of innovative masters and collaborative doctoral cohort programmes locally and internationally.

He developed a research tool called The Research Wheel to assist the development of collaborative supervision in postgraduate education. He has also been a member of the Ministerial Committee on Teacher Education assisting in the development of national teacher education policy in South Africa. He has also served as Dean of the Faculty of Education at UKZN. His research interest focuses on teacher professional development, Higher Education, life history and narrative inquiry.

His book: Changing Patterns of Teacher Education: Policy, Practice and Prospects, documents the status of teacher education nationally at the time of the new democratic era.

Another of his books, Life History Research: Epistemology, Methodology and Representation has inspired several studies of professional development in education and the health sciences.

Another book: Continuity, Complexity and Change: Teacher Education in Mauritius, explores the challenges and possibilities facing a small island in negotiating its presence in global and international discourse of comparative Higher Education and teacher education.

His 2016 book Disrupting Higher Education Curriculum: Undoing Cognitive Damage, explores options for imaginative redirection of Higher Education curriculum design.

He is also the recipient of the Turquoise Harmony Institute’s National Ubuntu Award for Contribution to Education.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Alumnus Nominated for Community and Human Rights Africa Award

Alumnus Nominated for Community and Human Rights Africa Award
UKZN graduate, Dr Sanele Gamede who is up for a community impact award.

College of Humanities alumnus, Dr Sanele Gamede is a nominee in the category: Hajiya Gambo Sawaba Community Impact Award in the Community and Human Rights (CAHR) Africa Awards in Nigeria.

The award recognises an individual with the most visible impact on community development, including infrastructure, training, growth of women entrepreneurs, youth graduates and other positive impacts.

The CAHR platform also encourages businesses to take extraneous steps to correct anomalies of engagement in communities, mostly extractive communities.

Gamede who is a founder of Make a Mark Africa Youth Developmentworks as a lecturer and career coach. He is known for his involvement in the community where he creates space for young people while empowering, mentoring, and finding solutions for some of their challenges.

He was surprised by the nomination. ‘Having worked in various countries to make a difference in youth development, I have no idea who nominated me but it is exciting and humbling. To win this award would mean a lot, not only for my brand but also for the people who I have been working side-by-side with to make a difference,’ said Gamede.

Through his programme, the Free Mentorship at the Park Programmehe ensures young people are provided with free life, business and career coaching, and mentoring. He hosts group meetings once a month to discuss a variety of life, business, and career topics, bringing many young people together to educate and share their experiences.

The goal of his network is to create a platform where young people can exchange ideas, share success stories, and form new relationships that are beneficial to them now and in the future. Through these sessions, he promotes unity, ubuntu, love, and caring among young people.

You can join the programme as a Mentee or a Mentor in your local area through the links below:

Mentee: www.makeamarkafrica.com/join

Mentor: www.makeamarkafrica.com/partner

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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Eminent Physicists Deliver Lectures in Durban

Eminent Physicists Deliver Lectures in Durban
Clockwise from top left: Dr Sally Frost, Professors Thomas Konrad, Yin-Zhe Ma, Luca Gammaitoni, Mogens Hogh Jensen, Angelo Vulpiani, Erik Aurell, Neil Turok, and Armita Nourmohammad.

UKZN hosted Nobel Symposium Outreach Seminars delivered by renowned international physicists whose work is changing the landscape of scientific research and advancement in various fields.

The presentations were part of the Nobel in Africa Nobel Symposia Series initiated by the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS).

The UKZN seminars formed part of a national public outreach programme that bookended the Predictability in Science in the Age of AI symposia series held in the Western Cape by STIAS with Stellenbosch University under the auspices of the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences with funding from the Knut & Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

Aimed at communicating science to a wider audience, the symposia presented an opportunity for South African and African academics and members of the public and private sectors to come together in a celebration of science and exploration of breakthroughs in the field happening on an international level.

With Nobel Symposia usually closed sessions for scientific deliberations and debate, these were the first Nobel Symposia to be hosted outside Scandinavia on behalf of the Nobel Foundation, bringing leading scientists to Africa and to institutions, including UKZN, to contribute to nurturing the next generation of scholars and intellectual leaders on the continent.

The symposia held at UKZN were convened by Professor Yin-Zhe Ma from the School of Chemistry and Physics and benefited from support from the National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Science. The programme for the three-day visit included school visits, laboratory tours on the UKZN campus, and even a jazz interaction evening.

‘This is one of the largest high-level delegations to visit our University and the Durban community after the COVID-19 pandemic, which is of course very exciting,’ said Ma.

The hybrid symposia series kicked off with presentations from Professor Neil Turok and Professor Armita Nourmohammad. Turok is the Higgs Chair of Theoretical Physics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Emeritus Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. He is also the founder and Board Chair of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, while Nourmohammad is an assistant professor of Physics at the University of Washington and an affiliate investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the United States.

Turok focused on fundamental theories of the universe and new explanations for the cosmos’s extraordinary symmetry on large scales, for the nature of the dark matter and the role of dark energy, as well as predicting the fluctuations that seeded the formation of galaxies.

Nourmohammad spoke about her research on machine learning approaches to learn interpretable models of protein micro-environments, explaining that proteins are the machinery of life facilitating the key processes that drive living organisms and that their structure and interaction with their environment is determined by the physical arrangement of amino acids. This work is important for understanding the physiological process of adaptive immunity to protect the body against pathogens.

An evening symposium featured lectures from Professor Mogens Hogh Jensen and Professor Angelo Vulpiani of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Rome respectively.

Jensen, a former President of the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters and current Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, spoke about complexity in science, giving fascinating examples of the complex phenomena that abound in nature, from ice crystals to ocean flows that express in beautiful patterns. By applying chaos and fractal theories, Jensen explained how these complex phenomena, behaviours and patterns can be understood in terms of simple physical and mathematical systems. He explored complexity in science and society from chaos and fractals to the phenomena of turbulence and avalanches, networks - including those on social media platforms - proteins and genetics, social science, and economics.

Volpiani, who delved into the realm of forecasting what he called a natural motivation for science and practical applications, explored the concepts and methodologies underlying forecasting, specifically methodologies based on first principles and those based on data. He suggested that data, while increasingly abundant and open to analysis, was not a replacement for scientific modelling for making predictions of value for science and society.

The final symposium comprised presentations by Professor Erik Aurell and Professor Luca Gammaitoni. Aurell is Professor of Theoretical Biological Physics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and Gammaitoni is the Director of the Noise in Physical System Laboratory at the Physics Department of the Università di Perugia in Italy.

Aurell spoke about the fluctuation-dissipation theorem, saying the theorem could be seen as a limit of equalities that hold far from thermodynamic equilibrium, termed fluctuation relations (FR) and is used as a data analysis tool. He elaborated on a famous FR and described a paradigm where FRs are derived from time reversals in classical open systems. He explained that FRs are a simple consequence of many physically relevant models, and covered the limits of this paradigm, also touching on recent developments, FR experimental applications, and open questions in the field.

Gammaitoni focused on the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to introduce a new method for modelling physical systems and predicting the future. He emphasised the important role of fluctuations in modelling physical systems, discussing the big data ‘paradise’ that contains all the information needed, if the right questions are asked to extract the information. He also spoke on the consequences of using physical models to identify the right questions, in fields from AI applications to computing and space-time.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Albert Hirasen and supplied


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AORC Commemorates Ombuds Day

AORC Commemorates Ombuds Day
The African Ombudsmen Research Centre hosted a webinar on Resilience, Respect, and Resolve to celebrate Ombuds Day.

The African Ombudsmen Research Centre (AORC) on UKZN’s Howard College campus recently hosted a webinar to commemorate Ombuds Day under the theme Resilience, Respect, and Resolve.

This day - first celebrated in 2018 - continues to be recognised every year on the second Thursday in October, transcending sector and political boundaries and highlighting the importance of work done by the Ombudsman across the globe. Goals of the day include educating the public about Ombudsman’s role and encouraging their programmes’ use while uniting the profession and connecting with communities.

The webinar also aimed to enhance the knowledge of the Ombudsman and staff about the United Nations (UN) Resolution, Venice Principles and the OR Tambo Declaration on Minimum Standards for an effective Ombudsman Institution.

Ombudsman of Wallonia and of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in Belgium Mr Marc Bertrand; Venice Commission attorney, Ms Caroline Martin; and former Ombudsman of Namibia Mr John Walters discussed how the role of the Ombudsman could be strengthened, protected and promoted.

The UN resolution represents a strong endorsement of the key principles of Ombudsman institutions, including independence, objectivity, transparency, fairness, and impartiality. Bertrand reminded the Ombudsman and staff of the adopted resolutions identifying the role of the institutions in promoting and protecting human rights.

‘Reading them, one can see the will of the General Assembly to support Ombudsman institutions, and to encourage countries to take initiatives to strengthen them where they exist,’ he said.

Martin, who has been involved in adopting the Venice Principles by the Venice Commission, highlighted some of the 25 principles around the theme of the day and encouraged their use to promote and defend institutions.

‘They play a key role in protecting existing Ombudsman offices facing threats, providing guidelines for the improvement of current Ombudsman offices and setting a template for new offices where none is present.’

The webinar concluded with Walters speaking about the principles of the OR Tambo Declaration followed by a discussion on the four key principles.

‘Both government and the Ombudsman must keep these principles alive by complying fully with them. The principles of the UN Resolutions and the OR Tambo Declaration are not self-executing; they call on the state to act. Failure to act compromises the effectiveness of the Ombudsman,’ said Walters.

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Image: Supplied


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Taking Education to Youngsters in Rural Areas

Taking Education to Youngsters in Rural Areas
UKZN postgraduate students who provided educational outreach for high school learners.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN postgraduate students from the College of Health Sciences who are also fellows at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) visited Sibanesihle High and Ngcedomhlophe High in the Mafakatini area of the uMgungundlovu Municipality to conduct a community outreach programme.

The students involved were Ms Noluthando Mazibuko-Motau, Ms Nomusa Zondo, Ms Thando Maseko, Ms Senamile Ngema, Mr Lungelo Ntuli, Ms Nonsikelelo Ndlela, Ms Sibongiseni Masondo, Ms Bongeka Mabaso and Ms Silindile Ngubane.

The aim of the outreach project was to inform and raise awareness among learners about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the risks associated with an early sexual debut, and teenage pregnancy.

Speakers at the event were all positive about the outcome:

Ms Noluthando Mazibuko-Motau said: ‘Our programme was a huge success with about 600 students from Ncedomhlophe High and 200 from Sibanesihle High attending. My talk focused on teenage pregnancy, where I emphasised the importance of abstaining from sex and the consequences of being a teenage/adolescent mother. I also spoke to the learners about the research conducted by postgraduates at CAPRISA.

Ms Nomusa Zondo said: ‘My talk informed learners about my research at UKZN/CAPRISA, which is on understanding how biological factors affect pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) effectiveness in African women. We hope to continue with this outreach programme, as it is essential to share our research findings and continually educate the public about scientific advances in diseases that directly affect them.’

Mr Lungelo Ntulispoke to scholars about Human Papillomavirus(HPV) infection - a common STI among young adolescent girls - and HPV prevention in young boys and girls.

Ms Thando Maseko said, ‘The overlap and the devastating effect of TB and the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa represents one of the most significant public health challenges. My talk aimed to inform the learners about TB, cellular immune responses in TB/HIV co-infection and the importance of adhering to treatment.’

Ms Senamile Ngema said: ‘As someone interested in TB, drug-resistant TB and treatment, my talk focused on the knowledge of the disease and crucial steps one needs to take if/when symptomatic and exposed, and the importance of TB treatment completion. I think it is about time that the scientific community goes out to various communities to share the knowledge they have generated and gained so that the next generation has a better understanding of health issues such as HIV and TB.’

Ms Sibongiseni Masondo told young girls about behavioural factors contributing to HIV and the risks that intravaginal products may have on genital inflammation. ‘Girls must know the risks of douching and intravaginal products because of the harm they pose to genital health.’

Ms Nonsikelelo Ndlela covered information regarding the common causes and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV). ‘I believe that awareness about BV is very critical, considering that it increases the risk of HIV acquisition in young women.’

The students were accompanied by Mr Patrick Mdletshe, CAPRISA’s Head of the Community Programme. ‘CAPRISA remains committed to fighting HIV/AIDS, TB and STIs in communities and seeks to empower young women to protect themselves against HIV infections. The School-based programme, led by the fellows, was a robust, friendly dialogue about pertinent issues as well as encouraging learners to work hard in school,’ said Mdletshe.

‘Progress in HIV prevention is only possible when there are platforms for dialogue like this to facilitate learners’ knowledge in making informed decisions,’ said Sibanesihle Principal, Mr A Ngobese.

Words: Noluthando Mazibuko-Motau and Thando Maseko

Photograph: Lwazikazi Sibisi


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University Community Rallies Behind Computer Literary Course for Campus Management Services Staff

University Community Rallies Behind Computer Literary Course for Campus Management Services Staff
Scenes from the week-long CompLit4U training on the Howard College campus.Click here for isiZulu version

Greatness was inspired among 40 Campus Management Services (CMS) staff members who completed a CompLit4U basic computer literacy course on UKZN’s Howard College campus. This is a story of community at the University.

The CompLit4U course was created by co-ordinator of STEC@UKZN Dr Tanja Reinhardt and public relations officer in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Mr Sashlin Girraj with the goal being to equip often overlooked staff members with basic computer skills.

The project was trialled in 2019 on the Westville campus with 10 staff members trained during the first phase and 12 in the second phase. The project was then put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Lliane Loots of the School of Arts read about the 2019 trials and thought the course would be beneficial for cleaners working in her building. Loots organised with Reinhardt for the course to be run at the Howard College campus, later establishing that about 40 staff members were keen to do the course.

Because of the numbers of aspirants, Girraj and Reinhardt realised they could not run the course on their own and asked for help from the University community.

Supporters soon came on board to make things happen. LAN Manager Mr Sibusiso Shezi, offered his facility as the training venue, while Cleaning and Cartage Manager, Ms Lorna Strydom, arranged for CMS staff to attend the training during work hours so that they would not miss their transport home.

‘It is important for each employee to be developed to achieve their potential,’ said the acting Director: Human Resource Development (HRD), Mr Michael Cloete, who covered the costs of notes, USBs and meals for participants.

Ms Mpume Khumalo of the Information and Community Services Division (ICS) organised for interns Mr Prince Dlamini and Mr Malusi Mbongela to work as demonstrators for the course, while additional volunteer demonstrators included Mr Qiniso Nzuza, Mr Thembelani Khumalo, Mr Samkelo Njiva, Ms Wendy Mngadi and Ms Bonginhlanhla Ndlovu.

Held for two hours a day, the week-long course covered topics such as hardware vs software, how to use MS Word and save a document, how to use a web browser and perform a Google search, and how to read and send emails. Staff also completed a series of practical exercises and were awarded certificates of attendance at the end of the week.

The course was designed to be a launch pad for staff on their journey towards becoming computer literate.

Special thanks go to all supporters and volunteers. The power of community prevailed at the University because those involved in making the course happen wanted to be part of the advancement of their own members. With the support of HRD, ICS and CMS more courses are planned for next year.

View pictures from the training here

Words: Sashlin Girraj

Photographs: Sally Frost, Sashlin Girraj and Qiniso Nzuza


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Humanities Academic Delivers Lecture Series at US University

Humanities Academic Delivers Lecture Series at US University
UKZN academic, Dr Joseph Rukema (fifth left) at Morgan State University in the United States.

Senior lecturer in the School of Social Sciences Dr Joseph Rukema was recently a visiting professor at Morgan State University (MSU) in Maryland in the United States where he presented a faculty lecture series and was a guest speaker.

Rukema also met with the Student Advisory Committee to discuss possible collaborations between UKZN and MSU for research and the exchange of information. The visit was additionally an opportunity for him to network and share information.

Contributing to the MSU module on the Sociology of Oppression, Rukema provided an African perspective on the “lived experience of colonialism in Africa”. He discussed the historical background of colonialism on the continent, demonstrated how colonialism has shaped contemporary Africa, and examined challenges and prospects on the continent.

Rukema also participated in the module Race and Ethnic Relations, sharing an African perspective on the topic while hearing from his American counterparts about race and ethnic relations.

As a guest speaker, he discussed experiences of rainforest people (commonly known as pygmies) in the Great Lakes region in gaining access to university education. Prospects, challenges, possible intervention and conducting research on pygmy communities were highlighted.

He also attended a talk at Loyola University in Maryland on Black educators and school reform while at the Freedom Church in the USA, he participated in a community programme on “manhood” where he shared his experience and research on “manhood management” from a migrant perspective in South Africa.

‘My visit to the US was enjoyable and productive,’ said Rukema. ‘My thanks go to Professor Omari Jackson of Morgan State University for hosting me, the entire management team of MSU and the many other universities I visited. I also thank the School of Social Sciences and its Dean, Professor Vivian Ojong, for creating an enabling environment for academic growth.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Aerotropolis Institute Africa Delivered Route Development Masterclass at UKZN

Aerotropolis Institute Africa Delivered Route Development Masterclass at UKZN
Delegates at a short course on regional airports.

The Aerotropolis Institute Africa (AIA) held its first post-COVID-19 short course the route development masterclass in Durban at UKZN’s Westville campus with a focus on regional airports.

The AIA - an emerging professional institute created through a joint venture between UKZN and the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) - contributes to the body of knowledge on aerotropolis and the mainstream aviation industry through a series of annual short courses.

AIA Project Coordinator Ms Ntandoyenkosi Khoza and Professor Henry Wissink (AIA Project Manager) ran the course which addressed four key themes over two days: the legislative and policy environment; route development and airline negotiations for regional airports; airport economics and management, and secondary and regional airports in South Africa.

Said Wissink: ‘The aim of the masterclass is to provide practitioners involved in airports, airport cities, and aerotropolis planning and implementation with insights and knowledge from leading experts in the field of the airport and Aerotropolis-related route development processes and benefits of route development.’

The course, delivered by presenters from different aviation and related industries and government, also focused on the integration of international, national and regional route development challenges and dynamics following the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the need to promote regional tourism.

Manager of the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Airport in Ulundi Ms Michelle Green-Thompson, said the AIA masterclass was an excellent opportunity to network with colleagues in the industry and to see how the aviation industry had shifted since the pandemic.

‘The information shared by presenters was invaluable,’ said Green-Thompson. ‘The idea that airports have to change their focus from being only operational to also being instrumental in the marketing and building of their sales funnel, affirms that as Ulundi Airport we are thinking and working in the right direction. Regional airports have to evolve with the needs of the traveling public we serve. I look forward to more courses and engagement from the AIA,’ she added.

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photograph: Supplied


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Challenges Faced by African Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Scholarship Investigated

Challenges Faced by African Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Scholarship Investigated
Highlights from a public lecture delivered by Saleem Badat, Research Professor in the Humanities Institute.

Various challenges that must be met and interventions necessary for African arts, humanities, and social sciences scholarship to thrive and overcome their subordinate position in global scholarship were examined during a public lecture at UKZN.

The lecture by Research Professor in the Humanities Institute Professor Saleem Badat was titled: Contesting Global North Hegemony in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS) Knowledge-Making: Research On, For, With, In, and of Africa.

Badat highlighted that the critical actors and agents of renewal, development and transformation must be African scholars, universities, national states, and pan-African institutions.

He argued that the AHSS must cultivate and sustain institutional capacities for educating and scholarship; promote innovative decolonial curriculum and pedagogic initiatives; build postgraduate programmes that produce outstanding graduates; support research institutes, centres, units, programmes and projects, and strengthen scholarly collaboration, networks, and publishing.

Given the increasing critique of the structure of the knowledge domain by Global South scholars, Badat further argued that efforts to erode Eurocentric epistemic domination should be first and foremost to decolonise knowledge, and advance epistemic justice. These, he says, are necessary for African scholarship to flourish.

Badat said scholars, universities, and research institutions in the Global South and those in the Global North should forge appropriate strategies and tactics that systematically challenge, erode, and overcome Global North hegemony in knowledge-making in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

He believes that while this is an enormous task, it is both critical and necessary. ‘Undertaking this work is about much more than geographic or social location. It is fundamentally about thinking, researching, and writing from a decolonial epistemic location.’

The challenge for universities seeking to become African was to build new academic and institutional cultures that genuinely respect epistemological differences and diversity and social justice in knowledge-making. ‘We need thoughtfully designed and implemented undergraduate programmes taught by dedicated scholars that enable our students to graduate with the capability to think theoretically and imaginatively, gather and analyse information with rigour, critique and construct alternatives, and communicate effectively orally and in writing.’

Another requirement Badat raised was creative scholarship that deconstructs ‘the standard narratives based upon the universalisation of parochial European histories, provincialising ideas that are based on European experiences but universalised globally, reconstructing global narratives on the basis of the empirical connections forged through histories of colonialism, enslavement, dispossession and appropriation, and building counterhegemonic understandings and uses of Eurocentric concepts such as human rights, the rule of law, democracy, and socialism.’

In his concluding remarks, Badat said: ‘Alongside co-ordinated efforts, there is always scope for “everyday acts of resurgence” by scholars, universities, and other actors who are committed to an equitable new global knowledge order and new social order.’

The lecture is based on a forthcoming chapter in Abdoulaye Sounaye and Kai Kresse (ed.) (2022) Thinking the Re-Thinking of the World. Berlin: ZMO-Studies volume 43.

The full lecture can be viewed on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPUEE19DB4o

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Albert Hirasen


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Good Support for 2022 UKZN Soccer Championship League Finals

Good Support for 2022 UKZN Soccer Championship League Finals
Pixley residence - UKZN Soccer League Champions 2022.

Sixteen men’s teams and eight women’s sides competed in the annual soccer championships hosted by UKZN Sport on the Howard College campus fields.

Soccer committees organise soccer leagues which mainly constitute of students residing in the University residences during the year and only the Top 4 teams from the leagues qualify to take part in the champions league at the end of the year. The competition allows young players to showcase their talent to football scouts who usually attend.

Mr Zwelithethindaba Sapula UKZN’s Sports Administration, who co-ordinated the tournament, said: ‘The aim of the tournament is to unearth talented players who may have not been seen during squad trials. We invited Golden Arrows and Tongaat representatives to scout for players on the day.’

Sapula congratulated the participating teams and their campuses for their commitment and dedication as they sponsored the tournament from residence league fees.

The Pietermaritzburg campus won the women’s section with Howard College runner-up and Edgewood third.

The men’s final was between John Bews (Howard College) and Pixley (Edgewood), with Pixley being crowned the 2022 UKZN League Champions.

A large crowd of supporters from all the campuses attended the action-packed day.

A special thanks went to the following people for their support: Corporate Relations, sports officers and head of departments for assisting in University processes, Finance Department, Department of Student Residences Affairs (DSRA) and Local Organising Committee (LOC) which was mainly the soccer committee members and the volunteers some of who were the newly appointed sport interns.

Sapula also thanked everyone involved for making the tournament a great success and commended spectators for their good behaviour.

Words: Zama Khoza

Photograph: Langelihle Mathe


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Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court Competition Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court Competition Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Moot Court Competition finalists (from left): Mr Tarun Sham, Mr Ndumiso Mlaba, with Mr Adrian Bellengere (middle), Ms Ayanda Dlamini and Mr Travus Louw.

For the past 50 years, the annual Ellie Newman Memorial Moot Court Competition has witnessed some of the best emerging legal minds among UKZN’s fourth year LLB students deliver legal arguments in front of esteemed judges from all spheres of the legal fraternity.

Celebrating the milestone anniversary this year with a maritime theme, the competition featured finalists Mr Tarun Sham, Mr Ndumiso Mlaba, Mr Travus Louw and Ms Ayanda Dlamini who displayed their legal prowess before Honorary Professor of the Law School, Dr Justice Malcolm Wallis; Honourable Justice Jacqui Henriques of the Durban High Court, and Executive for Maritime and Econometrics at the Moses Kotane Institute Dr Langa Dlamini.

Announcing Dlamini as the winner, the judges commended the four finalists for their commendable arguments and sharpened advocacy skills which will play a major role when they embark on their legal professions.

‘We liked the manner in which the finalists presented their arguments and the way they addressed the court. They obviously had taken lessons from their mentors on how to advance submissions,’ said Justice Wallis, adding that the high level of skill displayed by all the finalists made it difficult to choose the winner.

Dlamini says winning this year’s competition was an assurance sign she has been looking for in her Law career.

‘I have faced uncertainty and doubts as to my suitability to be an individual within the legal profession,’ said Dlamini. ‘I believe my performance in the Moot Court was good and I walked away from the experience determined to still improve as there is so much more I can learn.’

The Dean and Head of the School of Law, Mr Adrian Bellengere, said mooting was regarded by the School as an essential component of a well-rounded legal education and an important stepping-stone for entry into the legal profession. It is compulsory for all final-year students.

‘This year we were privileged to have the Honourable Dr Justice Malcolm Wallis - the winner of the inaugural Ellie Newman Moot Competition in 1972 - as one of the presiding judges in the Moot Court,’ said Bellengere.

The semi-finalists and four finalists received certificates and awards for their participation.

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photograph: Albert Hirasen


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Preservation Needs Symposium and Workshop

Preservation Needs Symposium and Workshop
Guests gathered outside the E.G. Malherbe Library.

UKZN hosted a two-day Preservation Needs Symposium and Workshop at the E.G. Malherbe Library Conference Room on the Howard College campus recently.

Mrs Nellie Somers, Campbell Collections Head and programme director, shared her excitement and delight for the resumption of the symposium since its hiatus following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Mr Alexio Motsi, Head of Preservation Management Services at the National Archives and Records Services of South Africa (NARSSA) spoke about the disruption caused by the national lockdown to preservation attempts as well as workshops and trainings. Unpacking his topic: Preservation Needs Assessment, he spoke about ways of ensuring proper care of archive and library materials; also stressing their importance and digitalisation. ‘Whatever form archives are received in they must be preserved in their original format,’ he said.

Ms Minenhle Jali, UKZN Law Library Information Officer, spoke about collections care, the associated challenges, as well as her experience in this area. ‘Temperature is key in library preservation. Preservation management should be constantly practiced by all information storing agencies,’ she said.

Mr Nazim Gani, Head of Alan Paton Centre at UKZN touched on disaster response as well as infestation in collection studios as a part of collections care and its challenges, after which he made way for Mr Theophile Denys de Bonnaventure, Manager of Memorist SA, who focused on conservation and the digitalisation of heritage collections as well as the best practices for the conservation and digitisation of paper-based heritage collections.

Asked about her opinion on the importance of preserving historical specimens and archives for future generations while also maintaining South African history, Bergtheil Museum’s Ms Palesa Dlamini said: ‘History makes us understand and conceptualise the present. This is why it’s crucial to preserve our artifacts, specimens and archives so that this information is readily available.’

Mrs Mary Minicka, Head of Preservation at Western Cape Archives and Records Service, focused on library disaster management, stressing that disasters can be anticipated and planned for.

Dr Rakesh Goordeen, UKZN Occupational Medicine Consultant, said ‘occupational health is the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical and mental wellbeing of human beings,’ adding: ‘COVID-19 brought back the importance of ventilators which is the most critical aspect of pest control.’

Somers then introduced the next speaker Mrs Margarida Fernandes, Preservation Officer Fine Arts and Heritage Stuttaford Van Lines, who covered the topic of collections care, handling, transportation and digitisation of archives while also sharing her experience in setting up in house digitisation workshops.

Dr Isabelle McGinn, lecturer and Objects Conservator at the University of Pretoria, focused on collection care as an integral part of heritage practice, saying: ‘There are several documents which assist a museum in controlling the care of its collections to promote their longevity.’

Dr Christina Potgieter Curry, Principle Technician and Collections Manager of the Bews Herbarium at the UKZN School of Life Sciences shared her experience on integrated pest management, urging attendees to practice good housekeeping and building maintenance.

Delivering her vote of thanks, Dr Roshini Pather, Portfolio Head: Information Systems, said no programme can be successful without team effort, thanking organisers and attendees for making the symposium a success.

Words: Langelihle Mathe

Photograph: Hlengiwe Khwela


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UKZN Hosts Quaternary Research Conference in St Lucia’s Wetlands

UKZN Hosts Quaternary Research Conference in St Lucia’s Wetlands
Delegates visiting Cape Vidal during the SASQUA mid-conference field excursion.

UKZN hosted the 23rd Southern African Society for Quaternary Research (SASQUA) biennial conference in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal’s iSimangaliso World Heritage Site.

About 60 delegates from China, Germany, France, Israel, Spain, the United States, Madagascar, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa attended the event at the St Lucia Ecolodge. A significant number of the participants were women and early career researchers.

SASQUA was formed in the 1960s to create a forum for Quaternary research, a field of study that examines the environmental conditions and prehistory during the Quaternary period of the last 2.6 million years to better understand global change problems and the processes that will influence the planet’s future. The society encourages and advances southern African Quaternary research through meetings, publications, promotion of the field to young scientists, assisting research funding organisations, engaging with universities and museums, and supporting authorities on salvage and conservation operations.

UKZN’s Dr Jemma Finch of the Discipline of Geography was the organising chair and co-host, assisting SASQUA president Dr Lynne Quick of the Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha.

‘It was a privilege for our lab to host the SASQUA community here in KwaZulu-Natal, and particularly in the St Lucia area, where we were shown geological evidence of Quaternary processes such as sea level fluctuation, dune formation, and discussed the evolution of the lake itself,’ said Finch.

The programme boasted a line-up of plenary speakers including Dr Tyler Faith of the University of Utah in the United States, the South African Research Chair in Stable Isotopes, Archaeology and Palaeoenvironmental Studies Professor Judith Sealy of the University of Cape Town, and the South African Council for Geoscience’s Dr Hayley Cawthra.

Faith spoke about the Last Glacial Maximum at the Western Cape’s Boomplaas Cave. The cave is an archaeological site that has enabled reconstruction of palaeoenvironments to enhance understanding of human adaptations and environmental changes in southern Africa’s Cape Floristic Region.

Sealy spoke on stable isotopes and palaeoenvironments in South Africa and her research group’s work measuring naturally occurring variations in the ratios of stable light isotopes to investigate past diets and environments, while Cawthra discussed the South African ecoregion of Mpondoland, focusing on the region’s geological history and the role of seascape geology and giving insight into the Mpondoland Paleoclimate, Paleoenvironment, Paleoecology, and Paleoanthropology Project - a public participation initiative studying human adaptations to coastal environments.

In addition to informative presentations on global palaeoclimates, environments and vegetation, the programme included a hippo and croc boat cruise along the St Lucia Estuary, a conference dinner under the stars at the St Lucia Ski Boat Club, and a mid-conference tour of the eastern and western shores of Lake St Lucia in open game vehicles.

Delegates also visited geological formations at Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks, as well as the Makakatana overview under the guidance of local geologist Dr Greg Botha of the Council for Geoscience as well as enjoying several game sightings and breaching whales.

Awards for the best student oral and poster presentations went to Ms Gemma Poretti of the University of Cape Town and Ms Jean Baverstock of UKZN respectively.

Dr Manu Chevalier of the University of Bonn hosted a one-day post-conference training workshop on quantitative climate reconstruction from proxy data using the Climate REconstruction SofTware (crestr) package.

The conference received sponsorship from DLD Scientific, Separations, the South African Journal of Science, and UKZN.

Twelve early career researchers, including four students and postdoctoral researchers from UKZN, were sponsored to attend by the GENUS Centre of Excellence for Palaeosciences and the International Union for Quaternary Research’s Submerged PalaeoLandcapes of the Southern Hemisphere project.

Organisers celebrated the participation of a dynamic and engaging student body while participants complimented the conference on being interactive, diverse in its research focus, and providing a positive opportunity to share ideas with an interdisciplinary and international group of scientists.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Brian Chase


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Small-Scale Farmers’ Adaptation to Climate Change Focus of Agricultural Symposium

Small-Scale Farmers’ Adaptation to Climate Change Focus of Agricultural Symposium
Presenters and participants during presentations and workshops at the Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium.

UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science partnered with The Adaptation Network to host the fifth Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium at the University’s Ukulinga Research Farm.

Focusing on the theme of Small-Scale Farmers and Climate Change Adaptation, the three-day event incorporated the annual Southern African Adaptation Colloquium and featured a variety of presentations from technical issues to topics involving agronomy, water resources management, innovative technologies, sustainability and farmers’ experiences.

First hosted in 2016, the symposium demonstrates theoretical and applied research carried out at UKZN’s Ukulinga Research Farm for the scientific community, agribusiness sector and farming community which facilitate the formation of relationships with agribusinesses and skill development and knowledge transfer for the benefit of emerging and current small-scale community-based farmers.

The event, supported by the Howard Davis Farm Trust based in Jersey through the UKZN Foundation, honours the educational legacy of Durban-based businessman TB Davis whose endowments enabled the building of UKZN’s Howard College in the 1930s in memory of his son killed in action during World War I.

More than 200 delegates attended, representing a wide range of interested stakeholders including academic staff and students from UKZN and Mangosuthu University of Technology, small-scale farmers, civil society organisations, agribusiness and farming organisations.

At the opening of the symposium, The Adaptation Network co-chair Ms Charissa da Costa said: ‘The Adaptation Network recognises that small-scale farming is the catalyst for maintaining livelihoods in vulnerable and disadvantaged families and communities. We are excited to engage with others who are also passionate about promoting awareness and implementing activities that empower communities to innovate and adapt to climate change.’

A member of the Adaption Network, UKZN’s Farmer Support Group (FSG), helped to organise the symposium, making it possible for the attendance of small-scale farmers who displayed their produce.

The opening keynote address was delivered by Group Executive for Research and Development at the Water Research Commission (WRC), Professor Stanley Liphadzi who spoke about the knowledge, education and the impact of a research-informed institution.

Liphadzi emphasised that research and innovation should link with teaching and stakeholder engagements for relevant solutions and their implementation.

‘Agriculture is a risky business, especially when you bring in issues of climate change, and it’s important that research supports such a risky business. The knowledge that UKZN produces is important and we are grateful to the Howard Davis Farm Trust for supporting this important event to connect students to farmers and industry,’ he said.

On the second day, UKZN’s Professor Julia Sibiya spoke about the role of plant breeding research and development innovations in strengthening the adaptive capacity of African small-scale farmers to climate change.

‘Information on climate is essential to optimise the different agricultural practices and daily operations that take place on the farm, from water use to fertiliser application to cultivar selection and planting dates,’ said Sibiya.

The main proceedings were facilitated by honorary research fellow Mr Duncan Hay and honorary associate professor Steve Worth over the two days, with presentations ranging from the academic to the entrepreneurial and social.

Delegates engaged with exhibits from smallholder farmers and initiatives including LIV Business and TruHealth while several posters provided insight into academic research and the history of the Ukulinga Research Farm, the Howard Davis Farm Trust, and the Adaptation Network.

There were presentations from key partners of the University at Ukulinga and in research more generally, including the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute, the Institute of Natural Resources, and the Fuze Institute. Round table discussions also took place.

The main proceedings concluded with an engaging presentation by Ms Sibongile Mtungwa of the Women’s Leadership and Training Programme, accompanied by agroecology farmers from the Hlokozi and Centocow districts who described issues affecting their livelihoods, including climate change, urging closer collaboration between academia and farmers.

The third day of the event comprised a policy messaging workshop facilitated by the Adaptation Network that interrogated the key themes explored at the Symposium, provided opportunities for group engagements, and discussed how outcomes could feed into policy and be implemented for improved climate change adaptation.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Hosts National Development Plan State Capacity Conference

UKZN Hosts National Development Plan State Capacity Conference
Highlights from the NDP State Capacity Conference.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies, in partnership with the Department of Public Services and Administration (DPSA), hosted the National Development Plan (NDP) and State Capacity Conference at the UNITE Building on the Howard College campus.

The conference theme was: Reflections on State Capacity and Government Performance Through the First Ten Years of the National Development Plan.

The NDP is designed to strengthen democracy by ensuring South Africa has a functional government and a capable state.

Opening the conference, Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said: ‘The conference theme calls us to reflect and act towards bringing dignity to the lives of our people. As an institution of higher learning, we are cognisant of the scourge of helplessness and despondency on our campuses and have initiated intervention programmes to ensure that the experience of our students and subsequent learning is of value to the current socio-economic context; anchored within a decolonial praxis and transformative agenda borne of our struggle for liberation.’

Khalema highlighted the establishment of several strategic partnerships with government departments to address and support students and staff through establishing collaborations in student support, professional training, and knowledge sharing. ‘A student chapter of the Built Environment was established with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and we hope the initiative and others will enable us to comprehensively support and nurture the learning by our students.’

KZN Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube said: ‘Our partnerships are not only ensuring that the curriculum offered in universities responds to the economy and skills needed by the KwaZulu-Natal province but also to partner with the University and the National School of Government (NSG) in the skilling, reskilling and upskilling of public servants.’

Dube-Ncube noted that there was a shortage of capacity across all spheres of government, leading to the uneven implementation of policies. ‘To be able to lead a state that is capable of playing a developmental and transformative role, the public service must be immersed in the development agenda and insulated from undue political interference. These factors must interact together in one direction to achieve the NDP goals, and transformation of our country at all levels,’ she said.

In addressing this challenge in KZN, Dube-Ncube said all municipal officials had been audited for skills and the audit revealed training needs for senior managers among others, financial management, strategic capability and leadership, risk management, change management, policy development, and monitoring and evaluation.

DPSA Deputy Minister Dr Chana Pilane-Majake reflected on professionalising the public service sector through effective innovation ideas, strategies and implementation to build a capable state with credible capacity for service delivery. ‘We need to build partnerships that are aligned to our theme of building social innovation partnerships for a capable developmental state,’ she said.

Acting Public Protector Ms Kholeka Gcaleka said the Public Protector Act was being amended to ensure that the office’s remedial actions for wrongdoing were implemented.

School Manager Ms Nonhlanhla Dlamini added: ‘The conference was exceptionally important in the area of professionalisation within the public sector which public institutions belong to. It was wonderful to see recognition of ethical and dedicated lifelong service of professional staff within government. I would like to thank the organisers, especially UKZN lecturer Dr Isaac Khambule, the logistics team from both DPSA and UKZN, and all other participants for attending and making contributions.’

The conference brought together a variety of stakeholders working in the field of state capacity and government performance, including academics, researchers, public servants and government leaders.

The full conference proceedings can be viewed on YouTube below:

DAY 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIKwH_ZNxuE&t=19654s

DAY 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEMuvVCxyxY

DAY 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBIkSzypp-s

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Albert Hirasen


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Training Workshop on Developing Teaching Portfolios and Teaching Files

Training Workshop on Developing Teaching Portfolios and Teaching Files
Professor Msizi Mkhize presenting to academics who attended the training.

The Teaching and Learning Unit within the College of Law and Management Studies (CLMS) hosted an online training workshop on teaching portfolio and teaching file development to academics of all ranks within the College on 3 November 2022.

The workshop was facilitated by the College Dean of Teaching and Learning, Professor Msizi Mkhize accompanied by the College Teaching and Learning Committee, and aimed to guide academics on the structure, design and construction of a Teaching Portfolio which is used for evaluating teaching in academic promotions, recognising excellence and fulfilling the University Education Induction Programme (UEIP) requirements in order to support their personal and professional growth.

Speaking on the requirements for compiling this portfolio for evaluation, Mkhize said, ‘You need to have evidence of work done as an appendix and when we evaluate these portfolios, there are core areas and elective categories that apply to all candidates that we look at. We cannot evaluate if there is no evidence in the core areas of the approach to education, methods used for teaching and postgraduate supervision, methods of assessing students’ work and performance as well as peer evaluating of students’ and candidates’ teaching.’

Continuing with his presentation, Mkhize said teaching as a Key Performance Area (KPA) in the Performance Management System (PMS) for academic staff is evaluated not only by an evidence-based Teaching Portfolio but the Teaching File is also intended to promote greater consistency in the evaluation of teaching as a KPA across the University. It primarily evaluates teaching related to the coursework module.

‘The Teaching File is merely a tool to assess if all the teaching and learning activities have been undertaken and consequently carried out adequately. The evaluation for this file also has specific core criteria and electives where candidates are allowed to choose two,’ explained Mkhize.

When assessing this file, Mkhize said expectations differ as per academic level and shall be considered in both contracting and evaluation of each criterion, with higher expectations at the higher rank levels.

‘The Teaching File is aligned with the Teaching Portfolio as required for academic promotions, and thereby supports academics in their application for promotions. All academics must make sure to update their files each year,’ he said.

The workshop training was well received by academics who were unsure how to improve or get started with their portfolios. Getting feedback from one of the attendees, a lecturer from the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance (SAEF), Ms Janet Bruce-Brand said, ‘At the end of the day, the student is the client and we need to make sure that students find our teaching clear and easy to understand. Thank you for this session today as I had no idea how to put a teaching portfolio and file together.’

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Image: Supplied


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