Master’s for Municipal Official Despite Health Setbacks

Master’s for Municipal Official Despite Health Setbacks
Ms Ntombizodwa Mdluli (centre) celebrating her academic achievement surrounded by members of her family.

Ms Ntombizodwa Mdluli, the Integrated Development Planning (IDP) Manager at Umhlathuze Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, overcame ill health to graduate with a Master of Public Administration degree from UKZN.

Mdluli, a mother of four, says during her studies she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer which led to depression and then twice contracted COVID-19 which delayed the completion of her degree. 

‘Throughout my degree I was in and out of hospital battling to meet submission deadlines - without the help and support of my doctors - in particular my gynaecologist and my psychiatrist - my family, friends and colleagues, I wouldn’t have made it through.’

The Role of Traditional Leadership in Integrated Development Planning: A Case Study of uMhlathuze Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal Province, was the title of her thesis supervised by Professor Purshottama Reddy of the Discipline of Public Governance.

She said her research was triggered by her experience as an IDP practitioner responsible for managing and co-ordinating the development and implementation of IDP as well as to monitor the implementation of an IDP Process plan in line with the municipal budget. Most important was co-ordinating and ensuring the involvement of all stakeholders in the IDP process, including Amakhosi.

Commenting on her rationale for her topics she said: ‘In my years of doing IDP I didn’t fully understand the role and the contribution of Amakhosi towards the development and implementation of IDP in a municipality. I had seen the “us” and “them” approach towards development and that troubled me and encouraged me to dig deeper into the causes of the walls between the work of Amakhosi and those of councillors and to what extent contributions by Traditional Authorities are embraced.’

Hence, the study participants included Amakhosi, ward councillors and communities from the traditional authorities. The study findings revealed that gatekeeping and politics, lack of coordination, communication and community mobilisation for public consultations and participation, disputes over land ownership, and the ambiguity of roles and responsibilities were some of the limitations identified as major hindrances towards traditional leaders’ effective participation in the integrated development planning process at UMhlathuze Local Municipality.

The study further indicated that the government had not succeeded in empowering the institution of traditional leadership. The lack of budget, poor infrastructure resources, and minimal skills development were among failures by the government in developing traditional leadership institutions.

The study concluded that traditional leadership was a critical stakeholder for effective service delivery to the Municipality as they understood their role in the integrated development planning process.

‘I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor P S Reddy, for his guidance, patience, motivation, enthusiasm, and vast knowledge on this research project. His advice and constructive criticism were invaluable throughout.’

She says Reddy’s passion for research had inspired her and together they produced a paper presented at the IIAS-EUROMENA Conference in Rome in June 2022. The duo is awaiting feedback from the Journal of Public Administration about the work being published.

Mdluli is currently converting her dissertation into two research papers to be presented at the IASIA 2023/2024 Conference. One of the papers will be used as a proposal for her PhD project. ‘I see myself as a future research specialist, assisting other students, especially the young and underprivileged, and enlightening them about the joys of research.

‘My children have been a source of my strength throughout my studies. I thank them and am grateful for their exceptional support - they pushed, motivated, and encouraged me to complete this project. Even when I was concerned for my life, they ensured I ate properly and took my meds and had sufficient rest. Four years down the line, it can only be God’s hand at work!’

Proud of Mdluli’s achievement Reddy said: ‘Despite having health setbacks, Zodwa completed her dissertation - she was very motivated and focused.’

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal

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Mentorship Training on Westville Campus

Mentorship Training on Westville Campus
Participants at the mentorship training for its residence-based mentors.

The DSRA-Residence Life Office on UKZN’s Westville campus hosted mentorship training for its residence-based mentors.

It is hoped that the training given will assist the Residence Life Office in addressing immediate and intermediate socio-academic issues troubling students in their residences.

The training was structured around four major themes - principles of mentorship, characteristics of mentors, implementation process, study skills and time management.

Residence Assistant Ms Nomfundo Ndlovu was the facilitator and the programme began with an evaluation of the understanding of students about the characteristics of good and weak mentors.

Mr Kwanele Xulu, a master’s student and an Academic Mentor in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, facilitated a session on the Principles of Mentorship.

‘Mentorship must develop the ability to navigate new waters rather than making mentees depend on mentors who should serve as guides not as fountains of answers,’ said Xulu. ‘Self-management is the vital skill that a mentor should have - it is important that mentors take care of themselves before serving others.’

Dr Bongumezi Mbatha facilitated a session on the characteristics of successful mentorship, including the role of mentorship in a student’s socio-academic life. Mbatha shared some of his experiences as a person from a rural background who had difficulty in adjusting to the city and a demanding academic routine, identifying what he believes are vital characteristics of a successful mentorship and the role of mentees in the process.

An Academic Development Officer (ADO) in the Department of Physiology, School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Science, Ms Asiphaphola Ludidi, facilitated a session on the implementation process of a mentorship programme, stressing the importance of mentor-student relations. The discussion centred around the strategies mentors might employ in establishing respectful, cordial and socially sustainable relationships with their mentees, and vice-versa.

Ms Mbalentle Mbuyeleni, a peer academic mentor in the College of Law and Management Studies, spoke on study skills and time management, saying that besides intellect, time was the second most important asset for an individual. Mbuyeleni also led a discussion on study skills.

Residence Assistant Mr Anele Ntozake concluded the event by summarising other residence mentor skills in line with residence rules.

Reflecting on the training, a third-year Biological Sciences student Ms Amahle Mbongwa, said: ‘I have learned that I need to be a good guide to students through listening, being approachable, non-judgemental and displaying good self-management.’ Another mentor, Mr Sandile Gabuza, a third-year Computer and IT student, said: ‘The characteristics of mentorship are very important and include qualities such as being honest, upholding confidentiality, being supportive, non-discriminative, responsible and a leader.’

The overall organiser of the event and DSRA Residence Life Officer Mr Syanda Ndlovu thanked the Residence Life team for planning the programme. He concluded saying they hoped to equip mentors and students with skills to become foundations and fountains of wisdom for students in residences.

Residence Life Coordinator Ms Lerato Khoali said part of the Residence Life Office’s responsibilities was to equip students with the skills they did not get to actively learn in class and develop them.

‘It is through residence mentorship and academic support that mentees experience a sense of belonging and being connected and improve their study habits as well as their academic performance,’ added Khoali.

Words and photograph: DSRA Residence Life Office

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Spotlight on Forensics Linguistics During Two-Day Workshop

Spotlight on Forensics Linguistics During Two-Day Workshop
Delegates at UKZN’s workshop on forensics linguistics.

UKZN’s University Language Planning and Development Office (ULPDO) hosted a two-day forensic linguistics workshop at UKZN’s Howard College campus.

Facilitated by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Professor Monwabisi Knowledge Ralarala, the workshop explored forensic linguistics - a relatively new field of study in Africa which offers the potential of a pioneering research initiative in South Africa and beyond.

Ralarala, a Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust alumnus and the 2017 recipient of the Neville Alexander Award for the Promotion of Multilingualism, defined forensic linguistics as the interface of language and the law.

‘If I were to broaden the definition, I would define forensic linguistics as the use and application of linguistic evidence and language practice to legal processes and matters with the primary purpose to provide viable solutions to such complexities, thus promoting access to justice,’ he said.

Topics covered included police interviewing and sworn statements; reliability of linguistic analysis; expert witness credibility; admissibility of linguistic evidence, and bias and discrimination. Arguably, these often-contested aspects of forensic linguistics highlight the importance of careful and transparent application of linguistic analysis in legal proceedings to ensure access to justice, fairness and impartiality in the administration of justice.

Ralarala said promoting such an initiative at selected institutions of higher learning - UKZN included - served to ‘catalyse forensic linguistics to catalyse new and niche areas of scholarship in ways that could foster interdisciplinary collaboration and offer important possibilities for research and postgraduate study.

‘To this end, the intellectual work in this new discipline may include but is not limited to, the study of legal texts, the linguistic study of the legal process and investigative linguistics. With this brief background, it is apparent that forensic linguistic research is highly interdisciplinary, involving disciplines such as linguistics, psychology, criminology, policing and law, to mention a few,’ he added.

Ralarala explained that this research is making headway in assisting with ‘improving access to justice and ensuring that the constitutional mandate for language rights and practice are practically implemented and realised in multilingual societies such as South Africa.

‘Already, the work is contributing to civil society and helping to build a research corpus through ground-breaking research at UWC. This interdisciplinary research is poised to improve the current legal system and understanding of multilingualism. Collaborative relationships are in the pipeline with a view to strengthening ties with researchers mainly in South Africa and on the African continent,’ he said.

Director of the ULPDO Mr Khumbulani Mngadi reflected on the highlights of the workshop. ‘It brought us new partners, including the KZN SAPS and the KZN Department of Justice - this bodes very well with our new strategy that values community engagement,’ said Mngadi.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Professor Sandile Songca emphasised the importance of delving into the arena of forensic linguistics while welcoming delegates from SAPS, the Department of Justice, KZN Municipalities, language practitioners, and UKZN staff and students to the workshop.

ULPDO’s Mr Njabulo Manyoni was the programme director and UKZN lecturer and linguistics specialist Dr Muhle Sibisi delivered the vote of thanks.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Njabulo Hadebe

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STEC@UKZN Captivates Primary School Learners with Engaging Science Workshop

STEC@UKZN Captivates Primary School Learners with Engaging Science Workshop
Young learners testing a solar-powered fan they made during the workshop.

The Science Technology Education Centre at UKZN (STEC@UKZN) conducted a three-day outreach workshop at SM Jhavary Primary School in Durban with the aim of promoting science education and fostering strong relationships with schools.

Led by Dr Tanja Reinhardt and supported by interns Mr Samkelo Njiva and Mr Thembelani Khumalo, the three-day workshop provided an immersive learning experience for youngsters through fun and exciting activities tailored to their respective grade levels.

The workshop started with a day filled with exploration and creativity. Grade R learners got involved in a captivating colour activity, allowing them to discover the world of colours and develop their sensory perception. Meanwhile, Grade 1 learners took part in a Lego workshop, enabling them to unleash their imagination and hone their fine motor skills as they recreated patterns using the Lego bricks, sound and motion. The hands-on activity encouraged creativity while laying the foundation for understanding engineering principles. Grade 2 learners delved into the world of coding, being introduced to basic coding concepts. Through interactive activities, the youngsters got to grips with problem-solving and logical reasoning, enhancing their computational thinking abilities.

The highlight of the second day was an exciting journey of scientific exploration in which Grade 3 and Grade 4 learners focused on volcanos, engaging in hands-on experiments and demonstrations to understand the dynamics of volcanic eruptions. This interactive experience allowed them to witness the power of nature while expanding their scientific knowledge. Grade 5 learners got the chance to programme a Light Emitting Diode (LED) light that turned itself on in the dark and changed colour. This activity aimed to stimulate their logical thinking and problem-solving abilities while igniting their interest in the fascinating field of computer science.

The final day was dedicated to the wonders of the solar system. Grade 6 learners were exposed to a solar system activity, where they explored the planets and celestial bodies in our universe. This engaging session provided them with a deeper understanding of our cosmic surroundings. Meanwhile, Grade 7 learners participated in a solar modelling activity, and built a solar-powered fan. This practical exercise encouraged critical thinking, research skills, and effective communication, as they showcased their knowledge and creativity.

Principal of SM Jhavary Primary School, Mrs A Maharaj, thanked UKZN saying the workshop had also benefitted teachers who were able to expand their knowledge of science. Maharaj said the practical applications of the workshops had empowered learners to address community issues such as load shedding by learning about renewable energy sources.

The workshop served as a source of inspiration for young learners, showing that pursuing a career in science is possible regardless of an individual’s circumstances. By exposing students to various scientific concepts and engaging them in hands-on activities, the workshop instilled a sense of possibility and ambition, encouraging learners to explore scientific disciplines further.

Words: Siphesihle Owen Shezi

Photograph: Thembelani Khumalo

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Passion for Local Government Earns Researcher Master’s Degree

Passion for Local Government Earns Researcher Master’s Degree
Ms Doli Ngema celebrates her Master of Public Administration degree.

Ms Doli Ngema’s passion for local government culminated in her being awarded a Master of Public Administration degree.

Working under the supervision of UKZN expert in Public Governance, Professor Purshottama Reddy, Ngema’s dissertation was titled: An Assessment of Integrated Development Planning (IDP) in Mtubatuba Local Municipality, with Particular Reference to the Somkhele Rural Area.

Deputy Director at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Ngema understands that local government is the closest form of government for the public and she believes in its potential to empower and provide sustainability for the livelihoods of communities. ‘This government is at the forefront of service delivery, addressing the immediate needs of communities,’ she said. ‘It is particularly significant to me because it brings about positive change in people’s lives, particularly those residing in rural areas. Encouraging rural communities to participate in the development of their local areas and take control of their lives are crucial.’

The focus of Ngema’s study was on evaluating the development and implementation of the IDP in a rural area in Somkhele under the Mtubatuba Local Municipality. The study examined the views of the municipal officials who participate in the IDP process as an instrument for developmental local government that responds to the requests of its people as well as the views of councillors, traditional leaders as well as community members in the execution of IDP. The study paid particular attention to how these programmes and projects are identified, implemented, and managed.

Ngema’s study revealed there were varying responses regarding IDP implementation in Somkhele. Some of the study participants believed that the Municipality was not doing enough to carry out the successful IDP projects in Somkhele whereas the majority of the study participants, including officials, local councillors and some representatives from the community believed that the Municipality was doing well in executing IDP projects in the area.

The study found that the Mtubatuba Local Municipality is endeavouring to undertake IDP projects aimed at fostering transformation and progress in Somkhele, based on gathered evidence.

At the HSRC, Ngema is responsible for providing strategic financial and administrative support to the Inclusive Economic Development Research Programme. This encompasses contract administration, and proposal development, with specific reference to the development of budgets, forecasts of expenditure and management systems for multi-year projects in partnership with various African, European and international organisations.

Ngema is currently working on a chapter of a book with Reddy, investigating the role of the Ingonyama Trust in local governance, traditional leadership and land management in KwaZulu-Natal.

Grateful to her supervisor, Ngema said: ‘Professor PS Reddy’s expertise in the field of local government has enabled me to acquire substantial knowledge and experience. His invaluable guidance and support were instrumental in helping me navigate the complexities inherent in local government which greatly benefited my entire course of study.’

Reddy congratulated Ngema on her achievement and commended her for being an excellent student who was very co-operative and hardworking.

Proud of her accomplishment, Ngema said: ‘The self-discovery and the insights into my capabilities have left me feeling motivated. I anticipate that this degree will enhance my work performance by applying the newly acquired knowledge and expertise.’

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal

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Summa Cum Laude Achievers Celebrate Outstanding Achievements

<em>Summa Cum Laude</em> Achievers Celebrate Outstanding Achievements
Clockwise from top left: Ms Orisha Kanaye, Ms Tamanna Nundkoomar, Ms Shezay Govender and Ms Nokuphiwa Ngema.

Four Bachelor of Commerce degree graduates are celebrating their summa cum laude degree successes!

They are Ms Orisha Kanaye and Ms Tamanna Nundkoomar (Bachelor of Commerce Honours degrees in Information Systems and Technology) and Ms Shezay Govender and Ms Nokuphiwa Ngema (general BCom degrees).

Kanaye, having already kick-started her career as a Business Consultant at BSG - a prominent South African consultancy specialising in business and innovative technology solutions - had a clear vision of her undergraduate majors.

‘I realised I had a passion for technology and saw all the opportunities it presented.’

Supported by her family, Kanaye plans to further her studies and complete her master’s degree, aiming to carve a niche for herself in the corporate world.

‘I am fortunate enough to have landed a position in an amazing company that offers me a lot of opportunity to grow and succeed. So, having a solid academic background will definitely help me moving forward and aspiring for more,’ she said.

Nankoomar discovered her passion for the technology industry during an introductory programming module in her second year.

‘I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself looking forward to learning new concepts. The more time I spent learning the more I developed an interest in the technology industry,’ she said.

This led her to pursue an honours degree, a challenging yet rewarding experience that demanded dedication and hard work. Completing the degree provided Nankoomar with practical knowledge of everyday technology, reinforcing her belief in the advantages of holding a qualification in the technology field.

‘Seeing the outcome of all the work I put in was one of the most satisfying things about this degree. It has given me a lot of practical knowledge about the technology we use every single day. I think having a degree in the technology field is a great advantage right now,’ she said.

Looking ahead, she plans to pursue her master’s degree or MBA to further excel in her career and establish herself as a woman in tech.

Raised in the small township of Mondlo in Zululand, Ngema decided to merge Economics with Information Systems and Technology. 

‘This qualification was definitely not an easy one for me - it took a lot of hard work, late nights and sacrifices, but knowing how and what to prioritise in my life helped me get through.’

Her passion for economics, technology, and innovation motivated her as well as her lecturers in first year. ‘They taught the content so well that I fell in love with it,’ said Ngema.

She gave her mother credit for her success. She said, ‘I wouldn’t be here today had it not been for her and the moments she believed in me when I couldn't believe in myself.’

Currently pursuing her Honours degree in Economics, she hopes to use her incorporated skills in a space where technology and economics are accepted as the key drivers of economic growth.

She also plans to give back to the youth of her community. ‘I aim to be in a position where I can provide computers to children from disadvantaged backgrounds and teach and introduce them to technology in order to better equip them for this constantly growing automated world. I believe it is an essential skill missing in most rural schools.’

Growing up with a keen interest in economics and finance at high school, for Govender choosing her majors was a “no brainer”. 

‘Having this degree is worthwhile as it will enable me to learn skills that will prepare me for the duties of a job in the real world,’ she said

Govender, now pursuing her Honours degree in Finance, said her study journey had been filled with joy and tears.

She lost her mother in her second year. ‘My mom was so proud when I got accepted to study at UKZN and was looking forward to the day I graduated. I used this as motivation whenever I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed with the workload. However, it was definitely a rewarding experience,’ she said.

Ngema and Govender are both members of the Golden Key International Honour Society which identifies 15% of the top achievers in a discipline.

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photographs: Rajesh Jantilal

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Volleyball Round-Up

Volleyball Round-Up
UKZN teams won gold and bronze at the KZN Winning Nations Opening Volleyball Tournament.

UKZN Volleyball is off to a great start in 2023 with our senior female teams scooping gold and bronze podium finishes at the KZN Winning Nations Opening Volleyball Tournament.

To add to the team’s growing list of accomplishments, UKZN Volleyball players won four out of five special awards at the tournament. Keshnee Moodley, our libero (defensive specialist) secured the Best Defensive player award; Carla Parsons, one of our middle players, was the Best Attacker; Nontsikelelo Sithole the Best Setter and team captain Busisiwe Maposa the Most Valuable Player.

The Senior UKZN 1 male team was knocked out in the quarter-finals, playing 2022 Gold medal Volleyball South Africa (VSA) Champs, Predators Volleyball Club. Our boys, with a fairly new team, placed exceptionally well, but lost 2 - 1 to Predators.

Maposa congratulated her teammates on their performance at the tournament. ‘It feels great to have won our first tournament this season. We’ve put a lot of work into it; with Coach Marcie Harold reminding us along the way to keep pushing hard because after winning every tournament last season - especially the VSA Champions Cup 2022 - every team is looking forward to beat us!’ 

Said Maposa: ‘Last year was a special year as the UKZN Women’s Volleyball team made history and became the first team from KwaZulu-Natal to win the prestigious VSA Champions Cup! To maintain that winning streak we needed to work extra hard and stay humble. It’s nice to know our hard work is still paying off and we are doing well as a team once again this season.

‘We should keep working hard and pushing ourselves. Let’s keep playing for each other, trusting one another and enjoy this season while doing our best. As Coach Marcie says: “Let’s dig deep and keep doing good things”.’

UKZN Sports Manager Mr Mark Bashe paid tribute to the team for once again flying the UKZN flag high. ‘We are truly excited with the achievements from our ladies Volleyball team as they won the KZN Tournament. As the current South African Club Champions, our UKZN ladies team continues to thrive and produce provincial and national team players. We will continue to support them as they reach greater heights in the volleyball arena,’ said Bashe.

Maposa, a UKZN Education student who works as a volleyball coach in schools and the UKZN Volleyball Academy team, spoke about highlights during the games. ‘For me the special moment in the tournament was when our third UKZN female team - our juniors - were playing against the Liberte VC junior team. It was amazing to see the support from the whole UKZN Volleyball family from the men, to the women and our amazing parents, who are always there supporting UKZN Volleyball. The atmosphere and passion of our junior girls, who fought hard and won that game, was phenomenal!’

The UKZN volleyball teams are made-up of a variety of players - from high school juniors to UKZN students, UKZN alumni players and senior club members. To find out more about joining the team, or supporting our teams at their games, check out our Facebook page UKZN Volleyball Club and follow the teams' activities on Instagram @ukznvolleyball

Words: Raylene Captain Hasthibeer

Photographs: Supplied

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UKZN Professor Publishes Book on Global Sociology

UKZN Professor Publishes Book on Global Sociology
Professor Radhamany Sooryamoorthy.

Professor in the School of Social Sciences within the College of Humanities Radhamany Sooryamoorthy has published a new book: Sociology Global: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, which examines the discipline of sociology as it is applied in a variety of countries.

Sooryamoorthy’s research focuses on trends in sociology; broad and general fields, subfields and research areas; prominent, flourishing, emerging and/or declining sociological fields; the origins of sociological knowledge, and geographical regions and countries.

He outlined features of his book, drawn from a large canvas of research, including the fact that it provides students, researchers, and practitioners with a solid foundation for studying sociology.

The book examines characteristics of global sociology in terms of language, research methodology, disciplinary backgrounds, interdisciplinarity, and authorship; the relationships between the country of affiliation of authors and research areas; the effects of gender of the author, and its interrelationships with the discipline, department, research areas and collaboration.

In an endorsement of the book, Professor Mohammed Bamyeh of the University of Pittsburgh in the United States said: ‘Sooryamoorthy has produced an excellent, highly readable and necessary survey of sociological research around the world in a way that pays serious attention to voices from the global south.

‘His statistical analysis of a wide range of journals and data bases reveals major trends in sociological knowledge as well as factors that influence it in various locations, making this an indispensable resource for anyone interested in global social knowledge structures, problems, contributions, and fortunes.’

‘I hope that this book with a global perspective on sociology will facilitate an understanding of sociology in any region or country,’ added Sooryamoorthy.

The book is available from Anthem Press in the UK and US ( and at most bookstores.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied

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IT Enthusiasts Graduate Cum Laude

IT Enthusiasts Graduate <em>Cum Laude</em>
Cum laude achievers (from left): Ms Prinee Moodley, Ms Nitasha Pillay, and Mr Shridhar Singh.

UKZN Tech enthusiasts Ms Nitasha Pillay, Mr Shridhar Singh and Ms Prinee Moodley graduated with cum laude Bachelor of Commerce Honours in Information Systems and Technology degrees.

Pillay said her results were achieved through an unwavering determination not only to achieve personal excellence but also to inspire and empower others to pursue their passions with equal fervour and to strive for excellence.

‘I love the space of technology and marketing,’she said. ‘I enjoy mentoring students, teaching young people about tech, developing young leaders, and equipping them with skills to succeed. My goal is to invest in the development of our youth in South Africa and create a legacy of leadership that extends far beyond,’ she said.

Currently a Digital Consultant at KPMG under the Emerging Technologies Division, Pillay founded the Tech Society for UKZN students while pursuing her studies for which she has received both local and international awards.

‘I was also an ambassador for Women in Tech South Africa, and a peer academic mentor and a class representative. I received the Women in Tech Africa Award in Cape Town and also the Aspiring Teen Women in Tech 2022 award from Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Marwan Al Maktoum in Dubai. In between flying, public speaking, being a tech ambassador, mentoring and empowering students and women, I had to submit assignments, write tests, attend job interviews and work on my research,’ she said.

Having advanced skills in Artificial Intelligence (AI), software and game development, Singh said his degree had not only broadened his knowledge but had opened doors for him in the world of work.

‘I was offered full-time employment as a software developer at Geotab Africa before my degree was finalised. The leadership and development skills I have obtained through this degree allow me to be a valuable asset to my company in the short time I’ve been there - heading up my own projects and analysing critical functions of existing ones. Hopefully, I will one day secure a dream job as a Senior Software Developer,’ he said.

While studying at UKZN, he had the opportunity to lead a development team collaborating with RunWithIT to develop the first prototype, Pet Ecosystem for South Africa and deploy it on Azure Servers. ‘I also led other development efforts, one of which was a class-wide application demonstrating stages of software developments through various iterations.’

Singh, who also holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Computer Science and Information Technology, is currently pursuing his master’s degree, with aspirations of ultimately attaining a doctorate.

Currently employed as a Business Consultant for BSG, a business and technology consulting company, Moodley aims to use her recently acquired qualification to meet the industry's ever-evolving demands and skill requisites within the realm of technology.

‘In five years, I’d love to be a true expert in my field with lots of successful experience. I want to grow into a more senior business analyst role that includes leading a team of my own. IT is an innovative career field, so if you are constantly imagining ways in which things could be better, you are probably a good fit for an IT career.’

She said her motivation in studying IT stemmed from the profound realisation that acquiring IT skills allowed an individual to positively impact the lives of others. Passing with flying colours is a significant stride forward for her as it positions her to inspire and empower young women who seek to carve their paths in this field.

‘Achieving cum laude is one of my biggest achievements and it was obtained through sheer determination and hard work. I always made sure to put my best effort in whatever work was assigned to me and to help others where I could,’ she said.

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photographs: Rajesh Jantilal

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Symposium on Intersectional Stigma and Access to HIV Services for Young Key Populations in the SADC Region

Symposium on Intersectional Stigma and Access to HIV Services for Young Key Populations in the SADC Region
Delegates and members of the research team.

The symposium on Exploring the Influence of intersectional stigma on Access to HIV Services for key populations living with HIV in the SADC region hosted by UKZN’s Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) from 3-5 April shared the results of current research and planned future steps for a three-year research project funded by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) HIV secretariat.

The research and intervention study on stigma and adherence to antiretroviral treatment (ART) among young men-having-sex-with-men (MSM) and transgendered populations is a collaboration between HEARD and the Universities of Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, together with community organisations and networks of MSM and transgendered populations. Professor Govender indicated that communities disproportionately affected by HIV frequently experience stigma and discrimination due to their race or ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, substance use, and engagement in sex work, among other identities and social positions. This three-country study with sites in (Malawi: Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mangochi, Mzuzu; Zambia: Chipata, Lusaka and Solwezi; Zimbabwe: Bulawayo, Harare, Masvingo, Mutare) is collecting data on the experiences of people living with HIV with the aim to mitigate the effects of stigma and improve ART uptake and adherence. The results based on this fourth-year study will inform guidelines for improved intervention design and quality of care across the SADC region. The study is led by HEARD colleagues: Professor Kaymarlin Govender, Mr Russell Armstrong and Dr Patrick Nyamaruze.

The exploratory phase of the study was completed in June 2022, with the project successfully engaging 158 young men who have sex with men and transgender individuals. Participants shared their experiences of living with HIV and taking ART in settings where stigma and discrimination are linked to sexual orientation and gender identity, and HIV status, which have significant, negative effects on their quality of life. Through questionnaires and in-depth interviews, the project generated a rich and comprehensive data set on intersectional stigma and its influence on young people’s choices and behaviours.

At the recent symposium in Durban which was attended by more than 35 delegates (members of MSM and Transgendered communities, representatives of ministries of health, representatives of key populations networks and service providers, and representatives of the SADC secretariat), the researchers presented the findings of the first phase and deliberated on their implications for further phases of the study. Insights from the attendees, including service providers will be of immense value in guiding and informing activities going forward. The symposium concluded by setting out an action plan for activities in the three countries over the period 2023-2024. It is expected that the study will provide evidence-informed guidance to assist stakeholders working in similar settings across the SADC region to improve the uptake and retention on ART, and health outcomes for young key populations.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied

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International Student Graduates in Traditional Attire

International Student Graduates in Traditional Attire
International student, Ms Sebongile Tshabalala showcases her culture during graduation.Click here for isiZulu version

Ms Sebongile Tshabalala showcased her culture as she walked the stage in her traditional Basotho attire to receive her Bachelor of Social Science Honours degree in Public Policy.

Tshabalala danced her way across the stage during the Humanities Graduation ceremony, treating guests and fellow graduands to glimpses of her traditional dance, which was greeted with cheers and applause.

Tshabalala, who is originally from Lesotho, said it was important for her to attend her Graduation ceremony in traditional attire. Studying at UKZN had been a childhood dream of hers and she wanted to represent her country during this special occasion.

She decided to further her studies to honour the memory of her grandmother who passed away in 2021 and the journey was not all smooth going as she experienced personal issues at the beginning of her studies but ultimately overcame them through determination and perseverance.

‘Now that I have obtained my honours degree, I plan to pursue a master’s degree and then I will go out into the corporate world. I am doing my Masters in Public Policy so I see myself practising as a policy analyst and also being an academic - I want to be a professor and to represent my country,’ said Tshabalala.

UKZN graduations are a time not only for celebrating academic achievements but are also a platform where the different cultures that exist within the institution are showcased. A number of international students graduated during the recent Graduation ceremonies, with some proudly carrying their country flags with them on stage.

Words: Sinenhlanhla Mkhwanazi

Photograph: Sethu Dlamini

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Talent Wins Games but Teamwork Makes Champions!

Talent Wins Games but Teamwork Makes Champions!
School of Engineering staff enjoyed their Sports Day.

UKZN’s School of Engineering held its annual team-building sports day at the Old Mutual Sports Hall on the Howard College campus.

The event, attended by participants from the five Disciplines and the School office, was co-ordinated by Mr Alan Naidoo and Ms Wendy Janssen.

‘We felt we should incorporate a fun run followed by a few games where staff are required to work together to complete the tasks at hand and compete against other Disciplines,’ said Janssen.

Four teams participated, starting with a quick warm-up that included war cries followed by the 2km fun run/walk. After returning from the run, participants sat in their teams and prepared for the challenges with each one revealed only two minutes before they started.

The first challenge was an egg and spoon race which was followed by a three-legged race with a difference. The co-ordination required for this challenge was crucial to prevent team members from falling over each other as they built a train with other members involved as well. The teams completed a total of eight challenges, with the “build-it” challenge being the highlight as it involved three different tasks in one. The day ended with a tug-of-war.

Dean and Head of the School of Engineering Professor Glen Bright officially welcomed staff and congratulated them on their participation. School Manager Mr Ronal Thakurpersad and Public Relations Manager Dr Sally Frost handed out the prizes.

First prize was won by the School Office with Principal Administration Officer and team captain on the day Ms Thobeka Mbunjana, holding the trophy high. ‘It was fun. People were happy and united in their team efforts. I saw many people encouraging their fellow team members, which was good,’ said Mbunjana.

The day ended with refreshments and ice-cold beverages followed by lunch.

‘This year’s sports day was a great success,’ said Janssen. ‘Everyone was a good sport and each team was a winner.’

The winners of the individual categories were Mr Freedom Mazibuko (under 50 men), Mr Ndumiso Mazibuko (over 50 men), Ms Ooma Chetty (over 50 women), and Ms Susan Mercer (under 50 women). In the academics category, Mr Matthew Brown placed first, with Dr Leigh Jarvis and Professor Glen Bright coming in at a tie.

Words and photograph: Wendy Mngadi

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Workshop Focuses on Enhanced Training of Novice Registrars

Workshop Focuses on Enhanced Training of Novice Registrars
Participants deliberate at a workshop on entrustable professional activities.

Representatives from the Workplace Based Assessment (WBA) National Steering Group hosted a workshop focused on introducing entrustable professional activities (EPAs) as a framework for the holistic training of Master of Medicine (MMed) students, also known as registrars or medical doctors undergoing specialist training.

The representatives were Professor Vanessa Burch, Professor Sumiaya Adams and Professor Veena Singaram of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) and the South African Committee of Medical Deans (SACoMD).

The workshop was attended by multidisciplinary academics and heads of clinical disciplines at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences. Singaram, UKZN School of Clinical Medicine (SCM) Academic Leader of Research, said EPAs were introduced globally to help bridge the gap between competencies and clinical practice. ‘Competency-based medical education has gained popularity. With that change in conceptual models, the number of tools for workplace-based assessment in under- and postgraduate health professions education has steadily increased and evolved.’

Singaram described an EPA as a unit of professional practice that can be entrusted to a sufficiently competent trainee. ‘An EPA requires proficiency in multiple competencies simultaneously, and is a more suitable focus for assessment than separate competencies,’ she said. ‘EPAs can also stimulate more feedback-type conversations with supervisors. It is envisaged that registrars commencing their studies in the latter half of 2024 will need to complete WBA observations as part of their entry requirements to their final examination offered by the CMSA.’

Burch, a rheumatologist and health professions educationalist who is CMSA’s Executive Director for Education and Assessment, further explained: ‘Unlike competencies which are descriptors of the clinician, EPAs are descriptors of the work done - they translate competencies into clinical practice and require multiple competencies in an integrated, holistic nature,’ she said.

‘The knowledge explosion has made it difficult for novice specialists to know what to learn,’ said Burch. She gave practical examples of how EPAs can be used as a curriculum framework, covering the five essential components of a curriculum. These are: the desired product (expected outcomes of the training programme); the syllabus (learning in terms of knowledge, skills and attributes); method (the portfolio of learning activities to be undertaken); resources (prescribed materials, opportunities, and other support for learning); and assessment (the longitudinal process of advancing entrustment [competent to practice]).

Also, in attendance was SCM’s Academic Leader for Registrar Training, Dr Kimesh Naidoo.

The group activities encouraged participants to develop and implement EPAs as part of WBA in their postgraduate disciplines. The participants are expected to engage with their discipline-specific working groups to develop the EPAs for their discipline within the next three to six months in preparation for a follow-up discipline-specific workshop.

The facilitators emphasised that the idea was to leave no one behind by involving as many institutions and disciplines as possible in integrating EPAs into postgraduate medical education to enhance the quality of specialist training in South Africa.

Words and photograph: Lunga Memela

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UKZN Family Medicine Specialist Contributes to SA Family Practice Manual

UKZN Family Medicine Specialist Contributes to SA Family Practice Manual
Professor Mergan Naidoo.Click here for isiZulu version

Family Medicine specialist, Professor Mergan Naidoo, is an editor of the 4th edition of the South African Family Practice Manual (SAFPM) as well as contributing 10 chapters to the publication.

The SAFPM is a useful resource for medical students, interns, community service medical officers, general practitioners and, in some instances, registrars and doctors doing postgraduate diplomas.

Naidoo, an Associate Professor in the Discipline of Family Medicine at UKZN, is passionate about Health Professions Education (HPE) and previously served as an academic leader of Teaching and Learning in the School of Nursing and Public Health and has published extensively in the field of HPE. He is also an Academic Editor for the PLOS1 journal; an external examiner for the University of Botswana; Chairperson of the eThekwini Family Medicine Forum; Honorary Secretary: College of Family Physicians of South Africa; Postgraduate co-ordinator of the Masters of Medicine (Family Medicine) Programme at UKZN, and Head of the Clinical Unit of Family Medicine at Wentworth Hospital in Durban.

When asked about what drives him as a lecturer, Naidoo said: ‘Stimulating young people to be critical thinkers and keep them asking questions is what motivates me as a teacher.’

The SAFPM is a project of the national professional body for Family Medicine - the South African Academy of Family Physicians - and has been a key resource for Family Medicine training in this country and many others across Africa. It’s a practical guide focusing on the “how to” of working in the district health services and includes the core skills required of family physicians, which registrars in Family Medicine need to acquire during their training as well as additional skills relevant to family practice in different settings. It is also relevant to other clinicians working in district health services, such as medical officers, general practitioners, nurse practitioners and clinical associates in primary health care and district hospital environments.

In the fourth edition of the manual, new topics have been added, such as history including sexual health, point-of-care ultrasound, helping people with impairments, and mentoring and helping learners in difficulty. Naidoo has included the manual in his day-to-day teaching and assisted in training Medical students, interns, and registrars.

He said: ‘The manual is a helpful resource for everyday clinical practice and those enrolled for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. It covers the day-to-day skills needed by students and practising clinicians in Southern Africa who have written chapters relevant to the African context. It is an easy-to-read reference guide for clinicians and is especially important for those who perform procedures infrequently because using this resource promotes patient safety. Students should read the manual and practice skills in the skills laboratories under peer or expert observation. Reflection and feedback are helpful strategies for personal growth and development.

‘The manual covers skills from all disciplines, including internal medicine, paediatrics, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthetics, orthopaedics, mental health and surgical specialities such as Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) and ophthalmology,’ said Naidoo. ‘It also provides specific information on history taking in various contexts and counselling, is ideal for the undergraduate Medical student and will help improve clinical competency and performance in clinical exams.’

Dr Vesagan Deenadayalu, a community service Medical officer in the Ndwedwe Community Health centre, also commented on his experiences referring to the manual. ‘The transition between internship and community service can be a daunting experience for many. It is a period where we use the clinical skills and values learned in internship to guide ourselves and manage patients in resource-limited settings, often without the guidance of a senior. Having the SAFPM helps guide the clinician in a concise manner on practical daily tasks from women’s health to medical and surgical emergencies. It has given me the ability to further my practical knowledge and equipped me with the confidence in performing procedures ranging from draining an abscess to reducing fractures. One of the key benefits of the manual allows a Medical student to utilise it throughout their career from medical school, internship, and community service to their general practitioner practice or registrar training.’

Contact Raymond Selepe at for more information on how to get a copy of the manual.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Images: Supplied

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UKZN’s “@Bronchigirl” Receives Prestigious Global Award for Asthma Research

UKZN’s “@Bronchigirl” Receives Prestigious Global Award for Asthma Research
Professor Refiloe Masekela received the distinguished National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Global Research Professorship award.Click here for isiZulu version

Globally renowned for her work on asthma in children, UKZN’s Professor Refiloe Masekela (@bronchigirl) is the recipient of the distinguished National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Global Research Professorship Award.

The NIHR’s flagship career development award - worth more than R45 million over a five-year period - will fund research on avoidable morbidity from asthma in African children.

Masekela, who is a paediatric pulmonologist and Head of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University, is the first researcher based in a low- and middle-income country as well as the first Black African woman to receive the award.

Her research aims to improve access to effective and affordable asthma care for children in Africa. ‘Asthma affects one in 10 children globally and is the most common non-communicable disease (NCD) in children and adolescents,’ said Masekela. ‘Sadly, in Africa asthma is largely neglected with children suffering severe morbidity from the condition. Insufficient access to a diagnosis of asthma and to quality assured cost-effective medicines are key gaps in asthma care.’

The award will also fund three doctoral candidates in clinical as well as health economics research and develop a Pan African respiratory NCD repository. ‘I aim to create an African asthma observatory to determine the prevalence and risk factors involved in asthma in three African countries using validated methodologies. I will also conduct a study to assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of a pragmatic single inhaler-based approach to asthma management in children and adolescents in South Africa. My ultimate goal is that all children and adolescents with asthma in Africa should have equitable access to affordable and effective care,’ she said.

Masekela has held various leadership positions in local and international thoracic societies, including being Vice-Chairperson of the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS) where part of the mission is to highlight issues around lung health in Africa and to guide policy in various countries on the continent.

Masekela is the current Director of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) Methods in Epidemiologic, Clinical and Operations Research (MECOR) Africa programme which is a research methodology programme run by the Pan African Thoracic Society, providing training on operational and clinical lung research for trainees from all over Africa. She has trained more than 450 candidates from more than 20 countries.

Also, a member of the ATS Paediatric Global Health Group, through PATS MECOR she developed the African Women in Research Mentorship Programme.

Said Masekela: ‘The prestigious global health research professorship will provide a step-change in my career, establishing me as a global research leader. As the first female Black African to receive this award, I am humbled and excited. I am particularly pleased that this professorship includes funding for PhDs in both clinical research and health economics as well as support costs for our wider team. This helps strengthen our research capacity in an area which has historically been under-resourced.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied

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LLM Study Advocates for the Rights of Children with Disabilities

LLM Study Advocates for the Rights of Children with Disabilities
Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Nana Poku (far left) and UKZN Chancellor, Dr Reuel Khoza proudly look on as Master of Laws graduate, Mr Silomo Khumalo (centre) is assisted by Mr Dalwaine Fraser (second left).

While the South African Constitution affords the right to basic education to all citizens, scores of children with disabilities remain out of school in the country.

This anomaly prompted Mr Silomo Khumalo to embark on a research study which earned him a Master of Laws in Constitutional Litigation degree from UKZN.

Khumalo is one of 101 graduates with disabilities who were lauded at UKZN recently.

His thesis was titled: Compulsory School-Going Age for Learners with Disabilities in South Africa: Analysis of the Right of Access to Basic Education. His supervisors were legal experts, Dr Willene Holness and Ms Judy Parker.

As a person living with visual impairment, the access to education for children with disabilities is close to his heart having experienced challenges throughout his life.

Khumalo’s dissertation highlighted the failure of the Minister of Basic Education to proclaim the required compulsory school-going ages for such children to extend access to their right to basic education as enshrined in section 29 of the Constitution and in other international legal instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Khumalo’s work engaged comparative legal studies with a focus on the Kenyan legal framework in respect of the provision of education for children with disabilities. The study found similar contextual backgrounds between Kenya and South Africa in relation to the disparities and segregation of children with disabilities in the general education system of the respective countries. However, it appeared that with the recent constitutional changes in Kenya, the right to compulsory education for children with disabilities has received further protection.

The study recommends that the Minister proclaim compulsory school-going ages for children with disabilities as required in section 3(2) of the Schools Act, and in doing so, give effect to the prescripts of inclusive education as it is defined in White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education.

As an Assistant Director in the Department for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities where he has been deployed to serve in the secretariat to the Presidential Working Group on Disability - an advisory body to the President on disability issues, Khumalo’s study aims to benefit many children with disabilities who have been denied their right to access to compulsory schooling as with their counterparts, primarily due to the lack of will power on the part of government to enforce existing legislative and policy framework so as to transform the lives of persons with disabilities and enable them to participate meaningfully in society.

On his new qualification he said: ‘I believe that the master’s study has enhanced my research skills which will be very useful in future once I get the opportunity to join the Bar and practise on issues relating to disability rights and administrative law.’

Frustrated by challenges faced by people with disabilities he said: ‘We have to work extremely hard to prove ourselves that with adequate support, we are capable and deserve an opportunity. So, studying is one of the ways to demonstrate that one is capable of achieving the same milestones as others.

Khumalo has the following qualifications: Bachelor of Social Sciences, Bachelor of Social Sciences Honours in Public Policy, Bachelor of Laws and now the LLM - all from UKZN.

He is grateful to UKZN’s Disability Support Unit (DSU) which functions as a support to students with disabilities and as an advocate to ensure their rights within the living and learning spaces at UKZN are recognised.

‘Having done all my qualifications through UKZN, I know that the University has reasonably available resources to support students with visual impairments. These include computer labs with necessary software to conduct desk-top research and do assignments. The DSU assisted me with converting print materials into electronic or braille versions suitable for students with visual impairments.

‘I was also fortunate to have very supportive supervisors who really had confidence in me and wanted me to succeed. They never lost hope and encouraged me despite missing deadlines due to my slow nature of execution and other personal issues that would have caused me not to complete [my] studies,’ he said.

While Khumalo has added the LLM degree to his list of qualifications, he is concerned that there are many qualified persons with disabilities who are unemployed, yet government is not meeting its target for the employment of persons with disabilities, because of negative attitudes towards the ability of such individuals to perform satisfactorily.

Committed to advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, Khumalo plans to convert parts of his dissertation for publication in various accredited journal articles with support from his supervisors.

Proud of Khumalo’s achievement, Holness said: ‘Silomo is a remarkable person and his research is vital as part of the advocacy and legal reform needed to ensure the realisation of the right to education of children with disabilities.’ 

Khumalo’s notable experiences include serving at both the Constitutional and Supreme Court of Appeal. In 2018 he was selected as one of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Awardees - a flagship programme of the US Department of State, wherein young leaders from across Africa travel to the US and receive training at universities on various leadership themes.

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan

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UKZN Community Engagement Conference on Autism

UKZN Community Engagement Conference on Autism
Some of the attendees at the Autism Conference.Click here for isiZulu version

As part of UKZN’s bid to spread awareness about autism, the School of Education’s Community Engagement team partnered with Action in Autism to host a community engagement conference.

Action in Autism is a non-profit organisation which offers information, services, learning, and research detail on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for sufferers and their caregivers to improve their quality of life.

Academic Leader in Community Engagement and co-ordinator of the event, Professor Angela James, outlined the importance of hosting these types of events at the University, while Mr Prashant Parusnath of Action in Autism said he relates to being misunderstood, often finding it difficult to understand what others are thinking or feeling, and that he always feels anxious about interacting in social situations.

Parusnath defined the characteristics of autism, delving into the serious situation of sufferers with high support needs who require assistance with everything they do, including dressing and eating.

He spoke on how people with low needs lived experiences were different from those with high needs. ‘Caregivers for autistic people, especially those with high needs, require all the necessary information to groom sufferers to be independent,’ he said.

During the session, Ms Liza Aziz, Chairperson of Action in Autism, asked participants to break up into couples and communicate using sign language about what each person had for breakfast to get some idea of the challenges an autistic person experiences every day.

She said autistic people often did not speak or said only a few words. Those who did converse sometimes sounded unusual, such as in intonation and repeating phrases.

‘Conversational timing and rhythm may be difficult for an autistic person to learn or use and they may struggle. For instance, some have difficulties using pronouns or learning the rules of conversation,’ said Aziz, who also highlighted how autistic people sometimes battled to understand jokes and metaphors as well as struggling to communicate in an expressive or receptive way.

Autistic people were often not interested in social relationships. Aziz quoted Mr John Elder Robertson, who is autistic, who said: ‘I played by myself because I was a failure at playing with others. I was alone as a result of my own limitations, and being alone was one of the bitterest disappointments of my young life.’

Learn more about the work of Action in Autism at:

For a podcast on the presentation, click here

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied

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From Cleaner to Honours Graduate

From Cleaner to Honours Graduate
A proud Ms Sithembile Mngwengwe.

A cleaner at UKZN, Ms Sithembile Mngwengwe, has graduated with a BCom Honours degree in Human Resources Management.

Mngwengwe completed her matric in 1998 at Albini High School in Durban but did not have the opportunity or resources to further her studies until 20 years later when she enrolled for a Bachelor of Social Science degree at UKZN. ‘I was so excited to be a university student even though it was very difficult in my first year,’ she said.

She was motivated to continue studying by her daughter, Sindiswa, whom she was keen to be a great example for. ‘I became a mom at very young age,’ she said. ‘I wanted my daughter to be able to look up to me. I wanted to motivate her to go to university and for her to look within our household for a role model instead of having to look outside. She makes sure I keep going - she’s my biggest cheerleader.’

Proud of being a mother and a cleaner she wanted to achieve even more than that in life. ‘It was not easy to balance everything which made it very stressful. Sometimes I could not submit my work on time. I struggled with writing assignments and referencing but later got assistance from a friend. I also had to wake up early to go to work but throughout all those difficulties I was always reminded that if you work hard and pray God will help you achieve what you want.’

Curious to see how far she can advance in life, Mngwengwe dreams of being a PhD graduate. ‘I plan to get a better job when opportunities arise, earn a better salary and build a beautiful house for my parents,’ she said.

Mngwengwe says working for the University benefits her as she now has resources to help her in her studies. ‘I am lucky I am permanently employed by UKZN and qualify for remission of fees.’

She thanked Ms Nqobile Molefe for assisting her as well as her supervisor Dr Ashika Maharaj for believing in her and always being supportive.

Mngwengwe lives by these words: ‘Education is the key to success. No matter how old you are, if you want to fulfil your dreams, Black child, go for it!’

Words and photograph: Sphesihle Duze

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Pilot Internship Programme to Assist Law Graduates Develop Professional Identity

Pilot Internship Programme to Assist Law Graduates Develop Professional Identity
Dr Eben van der Merwe (second from left) with one of his supervisors, Professor David McQuoid-Mason (second from right); his daughter, Dr Amy van der Merwe (far left); and his wife, Advocate Mary O’Gorman.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN doctoral graduate Dr Eben van der Merwe has developed and implemented a pilot internship programme focusing on social justice for undergraduate Clinical Law LLB students which he says could serve as a model for other Law schools in South Africa.

Van der Merwe designed the programme during his studies for a PhD in Higher Education which he was awarded during this year’s Autumn Graduation ceremonies.

He said his doctorate enabled him to examine the most appropriate pedagogical approaches and learning theories to implement an interdisciplinary approach to legal education. The results of the study suggested the internship programme significantly impacted the professional identity of study participants.

His PhD thesis focused on final-year LLB students learning about social justice through an internship programme.

The South African LLB standards document implies that employability after graduating with a Law degree and developing a professional identity are some of legal education’s core aims and outcomes.

Said van der Merwe: ‘I look forward to advocating for work-integrated-learning to be a compulsory part of undergraduate LLB legal education, offering specialist master’s degree programmes that provide intensive, interdisciplinary, and transformative learning experiences for postgraduate students. The process aims to assist undergraduate and postgraduate Law students to form a professional identity to guide them in their future legal careers.’

He developed a passion for teaching and promoting development through education early in his career by teaching Social Work at the then-University of Natal in 1987, with his passion culminating in further lecturing opportunities at the Law Society of South Africa’s Practical Legal Training School, and training candidate attorneys from 1997 to 2010 and at the UKZN School of Law from 2008 to 2019.

Since 1996, he has been an attorney in private practice, continuing to be the Supervising/Principal Attorney at UKZN’s Howard College Law Clinic (which provides free legal services to indigent community members) from 2008 until 2019. Since 1996, 42 candidate attorneys have been in a service contract with him, all of whom subsequently became admitted Attorneys or Advocates. ‘There are few things in life I find as satisfying as watching a new LLB graduate grow and blossom into a legal practitioner under my guidance.’

Said van der Merwe: ‘I will be eternally grateful to my supervisors and education specialists, Professor Saras Reddy and Professor Rubby Dunpath, and Professor David McQuoid-Mason, who is a global leader in Clinical Legal Education.’

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied

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