Study Finds Breastfeeding Results Lowers Risk of HIV Transmission

Study Finds Breastfeeding Results Lowers Risk of HIV Transmission
From left: Professor Anna Coutsoudis, Dr Louise Kuhn and Professor Hoosen Coovadia.

“HIV in Populations where Breastfeeding is Essential for Child Survival: Trials and Tribulations”, was the title of a Public Lecture presented at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine by Dr Louise Kuhn of the Columbia University in the United States.

‘There have been many trials and tribulations in the field of HIV and breastfeeding which have helped us to better understand the problems being experienced around the African continent with respect to breastfeeding,’ said Kuhn.

Kuhn presented data on a study she conducted in Lusaka, Zambia, which showed that exclusive breastfeeding resulted in a lower probability of HIV transmission from mother to child.

Kuhn found that exclusive breastfeeding was welcomed by the community as it gave women something within their own control that they could do to protect the health of their babies.  But for those women who chose non-exclusive breastfeeding there was 3.5-fold increased risk that the baby would be infected.

Promotion of exclusive breastfeeding was also a non-stigmatising message as it provided for both HIV negative and positive people.

Kuhn said the relationship between exclusive breastfeeding and transmission had proved to be a really robust association that had been supported in several other studies.  However, it remained a mystery why exclusive breastfeeding produced positive results but contributing factors included reduced antigen exposures which could reduce gut inflammation, changes in gut microbiota, and increased concentration of soluble factors in breast milk.

Kuhn presented data from her Zambian study which showed that exclusive breastfeeding reduced mastitis (inflammation of breast tissue) and lessened viral shedding in breast milk.  This could be because of the regularity and frequency of breastfeeding that occurred when breastfeeding was exclusive.

Her study among 957 HIV-positive women in Zambia also showed that stopping breastfeeding early created many problems, including increased concentrations of HIV RNA in the milk.

Kuhn said formula feeding was not a safe and acceptable way to provide nutrition for an infant.  ARVs, when used either by the mother or the infant, produced a dramatic reduction in the risk of HIV transmission and needed to be taken throughout the breastfeeding period and continued for a reasonable duration afterwards to help prevent further breast milk exposure.

* Kuhn is a Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University where she manages an active research programme focused on mother-to-child HIV transmission and HIV care and treatment of children.

-           Zakia Jeewa

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Education Project Aimed at Transforming the Accounting Profession

Education Project Aimed at Transforming the Accounting Profession
Grade 12 learners getting ready for their Saturday Classes on the Westville campus.

Saturday classes introduced for Grade 12 pupils in February by UKZN’s College of Law and Management Studies in partnership with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) have again proved to be a great success and will continue until the end of September.

One of the main goals of the initiative is to encourage more African youngsters to study for a career in Accounting.

SAICA’s Project Manager responsible for Transformation and Growth, Mr Xolela Sohuma, says subjects taught are Mathematics, Physical Science, Accounting and English.

The programme also offers training in life skills such as how to apply for admission to university and for bursary support.

The Association of Mathematic Educators in South Africa (AMESA) assists with the provision and selection of suitable tutors.

‘This year we planned for a maximum of 200 Grade 12 learners but due to the demand and the need for this type of support and intervention we had to open it up to 340 learners,’ said Sohuma. 

‘Last year’s UKZN and SAICA Saturday Classes Initiative was a resounding success with a 100% pass rate in the final Grade 12 results in Mathematics, however, two learners only managed to get just above 50% indicating there was still room for improving methods to support learners.

‘After several meetings between AMESA, UKZN and SAICA, where we were looking for ways to better our support to learners, it became clear that apart from providing academic support,  account needed to be taken of the circumstances that some learners face at home, including poverty,’ said Sohuma.

‘We all agreed the programme needed to introduce a feeding scheme to provide learners with at least one meal a day and this was done. Not only did this improve class attendance but also performance. Learners were more focused and motivated to participate in classes and engage in vigorous discussions with one another, even during breaktime.’

The programme relies heavily on the support of Ernst & Young Services (Pty) Ltd. ‘Sponsoring the SAICA Saturday classes at UKZN is something we view as critical to changing the pass rate of students from disadvantagd communities across KwaZulu-Natal,’ said HR Manager at Ernst & Young, Mr Jeremy Beukes.’ We are proud to partner with SAICA to change the landscape of education and maths proficiency in this country.’

Ms Hazel Langa of the College of Law and Management Studies said: ‘This project is viewed by the College as a strategic initiative aimed at assisting Grade 12 leaners with meeting the high university entrance requirements – the project is one of the contributors to the College meeting its undergraduate enrolment targets this year.’

* For more details about the UKZN and SAICA Saturday Classes and the Winter School, contact Mr Xolela Sohuma at  or phone 031-266 2672 or 082 962 0305.

 - Xolela Sohuma

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Touchy, Feely Entertained at Open Days!

Touchy, Feely Entertained at Open Days!
Science is brought to life at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Open Day.

Impressive displays were the outstanding feature of Open Days at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.

The five Schools within the College outdid each other in their bid to attract potential learners to their particular fold and to encourage them to study at UKZN.

Touching and feeling were definitely allowed and no question was considered too ignorant!

Ever wondered how water stays in a glass that is upside down, or if a banana can make music, or exactly what is the secret recipe for instant ice-cream? UKZN’s scientists and postgraduate students were on hand to answer those sort of questions as well as demonstrate the solutions!

The Open Days were held over two successive weekends early in May on the Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses.  The events attracted over 2 000 high school learners and their families and allowed potential recruits to investigate career and study opportunities by interacting with academics, students, and admission and support staff. 

‘Our learners thoroughly enjoyed the experience,’ said Mrs S Mthembu, a teacher at the Moses Zikhali High School in Mbazwane.  ‘They were able to pose questions about their career interests directly to staff at the various exciting and interesting exhibition stands.’

Mr A Ncanana of Mfinyeli High School in Nongoma was equally impressed. ‘Open Day was very informative for our learners. They were very happy with the information and material given to them which included information brochures and Central Application Office forms.  These will assist them make informed decisions about their future careers.’

Said Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College, Professor Deo Jaganyi, ‘Open Day in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science would not have been the success it was without the enthusiastic involvement and support of College staff and students. I thank everyone in the Schools and College who gave their time.  The effort made is really appreciated.’

-          Sally Frost

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Careers Symposium at UKZN

Careers Symposium at UKZN
From left: Ms Anette Meyer; Cllr Barbara Fortein; Professor Deresh Ramjugernath; Mr Gideon Vundla, and Co-ordinator, Support Services, Ms Veena Naidoo.

More than 2 400 pupils from 34 schools attended the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Careers Symposium held on the Edgewood campus.

The Symposium was organised by the Human Settlements, Engineering and eThekwini Transport Authority and Trading Cluster: Support Services in collaboration with the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES).

The cluster was created to groom future Engineers by identifying and managing the various STEM programmes for disadvantaged schools in the eThekwini Municipality region.

Learners from a wide spectrum of schools were transported by the eThekwini Municipality to the Edgewood campus to be at the official opening which featured speakers from the eThekwini Municipality, the Department of Education (DOE) and UKZN.

Programme Director, eThekwini’s Ms Gugu Shongwe, kept the learners interested while Acting Deputy City Manager, Trading Services Cluster, Mr Gideon Vundla, welcomed the audience giving an outline of the background, purpose and vision of the Careers week. 

eThewikini Municipality’s Councillor Barbara Fortein, representing the Mayor, said: ‘I was impressed to see so many young people from previously disadvantaged areas enthusiastic and eager to learn subjects perceived to be difficult. I feel really honoured to have been part of the launch of such a prestigious event.’

Lecturer in the School of Statistics, Mathematics and Computer Science, Dr Meghandran Govender, presented a magic show which thrilled the audience.

Said Govender, ‘I was glad to see the emphasis placed on the importance of Mathematics and Science as career choices.  The positive response to the science demonstrations by the learners, educators and officials clearly indicates that science can be cool, fun and intellectually stimulating.’

In his address Pro Vice-Chancellor: Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, said, ‘Your generation needs to make its mark in the history of this country by being clear about what you want to be taught in the classroom, which is quality education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. By this generation embracing STEM, we will not only have freedom but hopefully a more equitable and prosperous nation.’

Ms Anette Meyer of the Department of Education commended the various stakeholders for forming partnerships to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths among young pupils. ‘The event was well organised and structured and the programme content was appropriate. Dr Govender’s contribution was definitely the highlight of the launch!’

After the formal programme the learners where shown all the  21 exhibits and later treated to a delicious meal.

-          Leena Rajpal

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Academics and Students in Community Engagement Research

Academics and Students in Community Engagement Research
UKZN students working in their organic vegetable garden on campus as part of their community engagement activities.

A recently completed action research project to investigate the experiences of incorporating service learning with community engagement activities was undertaken as a collaborative effort between UKZN’s School of Social Sciences, the School of Education and the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State (UFS). 

The project relates to eight case studies that were conducted on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus beginning with stakeholder consultations followed by implementation and evaluation of the case studies over 12 months.

The Community Engagement with Service Learning (CELS2) project tackled the challenge of how to address the competing goals and values of student service learning course requirements and those of community organisations in order to enhance university contributions to local development needs.

Heading the research are academics Professor Julia Preece of the School of Education, Dr Desiree Manicom of the School of Social Sciences, and UFS staffers, Dr Cias Tsotetsi and Dr Dipane Hlalele and their respective students.

The project responded to global interest in making Higher Education more responsive to development needs, national priorities for developing responsible citizens and institutional priorities for “responsible community engagement”.

According to Preece and Manicom, a community development approach was used which applied asset based development theory - supporting communities to build on their own assets to solve local problems - with the concept of adaptive leadership - being sensitive to context and encouraging communities to take responsibility for decision making.  This was done with a view to building trust and contributing to community empowerment.

Preece said, ‘The study found that students and community members were able to learn from each other, contributing to new knowledge, skills and understandings but that the time frame for service learning militated against the CESL relationship.’

Manicom said: ‘It also found that clarification of competing goals and values prior to the service learning placements enhanced the community relationship but there is a need for ongoing feedback and monitoring to accommodate shifting goals and priorities during project implementation. Grassroots communities were motivated by the interest the University showed in their activities.’

The study is a partnership between UKZN and UFS with funding from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and UKZN’s Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO). The findings have resulted in presentations at one international and two local conferences. Journal articles will be submitted for review later this year.

-          Melissa Mungroo

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Bassist Featured at Centre for Jazz and Popular Music

Bassist Featured at Centre for Jazz and Popular Music
UKZN Masters in Jazz Performance student Ildo Nandja.

Durban-based Mozambican Bassist and UKZN Masters in Jazz student Mr Ildo Nandja was on stage at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music (CJPM).

Nandja’s band features Shemual Mahabeer (piano), Sbu Zondi (drums), Professor Salim Washington (sax) and George Mari (trumpet).

Nandja is a regular on the CJPM stage because of his collaborations with various local and international performers.

Growing up in Mozambique, Nandja became the first musician in his family beginning as a percussionist before taking up the bass and following a music degree at UKZN.

‘It wasn’t easy to tell my parents that I wanted to be a musician but they were fairly accepting of my career choice. They could see that I was able to generate income from my music, even at a young age,’ he said.

Nandja’s latest CJMP performance comprised an exclusive selection of recent compositions which combine the musician’s mastery of the double bass with his vocal abilities.

The arrangements derive inspiration from traditional Mozambican and African music as well as jazz, Latin and contemporary styles. Nandja explored these genres with his own unique and harmonious flair with audiences being treated to a night of pan-African music and rhythm.

-          Melissa Mungroo

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Student Support Services Hosts Stress Management Workshop

Student Support Services Hosts Stress Management Workshop
College of Humanities students attend a Stress Management workshop on the Howard College campus.

The College of Humanities Student Support Services (SSS) hosted a well-attended Stress Management Workshop which examined ways students can deal with and manage stress.

According to Student Counsellor and workshop facilitator, Ms Candice McCain, the workshop equipped students with stress management techniques which can be used in situations where they are under pressure, such as exams.

‘Many students struggle with test anxiety and this often becomes even more acute during high pressure periods such as the exams when they are often writing numerous papers in a very short space of time,’ said McCain.

The workshop helped students identify the physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural symptoms associated with stress such as headaches, memory failure and confusion, demotivation, dissatisfaction with regards to work and even disturbed sleep and insomnia.

Students also learned about the ways in which stress can be managed and were offered stress management techniques they could apply in their lives.

McCain advised students to try the Shoulder Roll which involves rolling your shoulders forward for about a minute and then back for another minute. Deep breathing was suggested that focuses on breathing in deeply and slowly thus allowing more oxygen to flow to the brain to be able to think more clearly.

‘It is hoped that these skills will enable the students to manage their anxiety better, and use it to their advantage, rather than being overwhelmed by it,’ she said.

Social Science students Ms Londeka Zondi and Ms Nokukhanya Zuma said the workshop was very helpful.

‘With exams approaching, I usually get very stressed out and sometimes go into panic mode, even while writing my papers. After attending this workshop, I now know some techniques that can help me with stress relief and assist me to achieve better marks,’ said Zondi.

Zuma added: ‘Student Support services really understands what students have to deal with and it’s great to have this non-judgemental support system in place.’

Exam Preparation Workshops take place at Student Support Services on 21 May 2014 (Wednesday) from noon to 2pm and on 23 May (Friday) from 10am to noon.

•  Date: 21 May 2014 (Wednesday) •  Time: 12h20 - 14h00 •  Venue: Student Support Services •  Date: 23 May 2014 (Friday) •  Time: 10h00 - 12h00 •  Venue: Student Support Services

- Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Academics Attend Important Meeting on Agriculture in Africa

UKZN Academics Attend Important Meeting on Agriculture in Africa
Delegates at one of the break-away sessions.

Several UKZN academics attended the 10th annual Partnership Platform Meeting held by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in Durban. 

The Programme is an initiative of NEPAD - The New Partner for Africa’s Development - which aims to build a framework to guide African countries in their agricultural and land investment practices.

Among those in attendance were the new Chair of Agronomy in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Professor Paramu Mafongoya; Dr Maxwell Mudhara of the Food Security Discipline, and the Academic Leader of the School’s Food Security Discipline, Dr Joyce Chitja.

CAADP works in four areas - land and water management, market access, food supply and hunger and agricultural research.

UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) is the lead technical agency for the food supply and hunger focus of NEPAD’s work, led by the Food Security Discipline in SAEES. NEPAD has declared 2014 the year of Agriculture and Food Security, a topic which guided the meeting’s focus on setting goals for the next 10 years of its development.

The meeting was well-attended, with more than 800 delegates from Africa and all over the world. Organisations in attendance included governmental departments, academic institutions, donors and non-governmental organisations, such as the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Delegates from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa were also present.

The format of the meeting allowed for smaller group workshops to take place and facilitate discussions around CAADP’s goals for the next 10 years. This was in line with their focus on bottom-up planning to encourage Africans from all over the continent to claim ownership of the programme which is run by and for Africans.

The CAADP hopes to focus on maintaining its momentum in the years to come, as well as encouraging Heads of State to sign their commitment to the programme which, according to Chitja, involves the dedication of 8% of its budget to agriculture.

The African Union Commission’s (AUC) Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Ms Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, represented AU’s Chairperson, Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is the lead technical agency for CAADP’s focus area of Agricultural research. FARA has championed the idea of improving science to enable the agricultural development in Africa that is necessary for its economic and social transformation.

‘Africa’s future is in agriculture,’ said Mafongoya, ‘and we need science to develop and implement effective agricultural strategies. I believe that CAADP is integrating the continent’s agricultural practices through the frameworks that it proposes, and the meeting focused on the need for making its policies binding across the continent.’

The meeting focused on standardising guidelines for land investments in Africa as well as the sustainability of natural resources and the threat of climate change to Africa’s agricultural future.

Additional cross-cutting issues also became part of the discussions.

‘The issue of availability of agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers was discussed at length because of its importance,’ explained Mudhara. ‘Seed was identified at particularly undermining productivity.  Other related issues were land tenure and the rights of women.’

‘The meeting was most useful,’ said Mafongoya, ‘and I believe UKZN, having been part of the planning process will be able to participate fully for the next 10 years.’

The discussions and decisions undertaken at this meeting will be presented to a Joint Conference of African Ministers of Agriculture, Fisheries, Livestock and Rural Development in Addis Ababa this month, while the 23rd Ordinary Summit in June in Equatorial Guinea will continue the process of making well informed, guided, and evidence-based decisions to transform Africa’s agriculture in the next decade.

-          Christine Cuénod

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UKZN Music Discipline Celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month

UKZN Music Discipline Celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month
Jazz performance students with their Lecturer Mr Neil Gonsalves (back row, third right) celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month.

As part of the Music Discipline’s celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in April, Music Lecturer Mr Neil Gonsalves took a few of his jazz students to Lotus FM to participate in a radio interview and a live performance.

And on International Jazz Day - April 30th - the Discipline hosted South African UK-based jazz vocalist, Ms Estelle Kockot, in the company of bass maestro Herbie Tsoaeli, and UKZN alumnus drummer extraordinaire Kevin Gibson.

‘Every month is Jazz Appreciation Month within the Music discipline because our jazz students are immersed in music all the time. The concept of a dedicated month to jazz appreciation is only starting to gain footing in South Africa, and besides those students who were actively involved in JAM events, I suspect that JAM was largely a non-event for most of our students.

‘JAM does however represent an opportunity to promote jazz and jazz education to a broader audience and to celebrate the wonderful tradition of jazz as an international language that reminds people of our shared humanity,’ said Gonsalves.

UKZN’s Centre for Jazz and Popular Music (CJPM) served as a conduit for musicians, music educators and music industry people from all over the world to interact with music students and staff at UKZN.

‘Besides serving as an on-campus music venue, the Centre facilitates all manner of extra-curricular music activity for our students that is an essential part of a tradition and education.’

Gonsalves also believes that jazz needs more air play on local radio stations. ‘More fundamentally though, music education as part of a rigorous arts education needs to return to our primary and secondary schools to shape reflective and responsible citizens. And jazz, in as much as it represents a way of playing, improvising and interacting with the world, should form part of any thorough music education.’

Asked about next year’s JAM programme, Gonsalves said, ‘It’s exciting to see more interest and inquiries around JAM from sectors of our communities that are not among our regular jazz patrons. Besides fielding these enquiries, JAM represents an opportunity for the CJPM to undertake various jazz and jazz education activities this year and in April next year. Watch this space!’

-          Melissa Mungroo

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Isikole seziFundo ngokuPhilayo Sibungaze Ihora Lomhlaba wezi 2014

Isikole seziFundo ngokuPhilayo Sibungaze Ihora Lomhlaba wezi 2014
Abafundi nabasebenzi beSikole seziFundo ngokuPhilayo behlangene kubungazwa Ihora Lomhlaba lezi 2014.

Isikole seziFundo ngokuPhilayo e-UKZN sibambe imibungazo enhlobonhlobo ekhempasini yase-Westville okubalwa kuyo usuku lokugqoka ngokukhethekile, ukudwetshwa kwamaphepha ayizazisi, inkulumo eyethulwa yisimenywa kuphendulwa isicelo esenziwe yi-World Wildlife Fund (WWF) kubantu baseNingizimu Afrika sokwethembisa umhlaba njengendlela yokukhombisa ukuzibophezela ekwakheni ikusasa elisimemeyo.

Obekwenziwa bekuhlelwe abafundi nabasebenzi beSikole seziFundo ngokuPhilayo beholwa uMnz Aluwani Nemukula ofundisa kulesi sikole,nomele abafundi uMnu Divesh Sookdeo.

Inhloso yohlelo ukuqwashisa, ikakhulukazi abasebenzi nabafundi bakulesi Sikole seziFundo ngokuPhilayo, ngomthelela wokuguquguquka kwesimo sezulu emhlabeni.

Ungoti we-Evolutionary Ecology uDkt Corrie Schoeman ongumfundisi omkhulu, obemenywe njengesikhulumi sosuku, wethule inkulumo ejabulisayo ngemiphumela "yokungcolisa ezindaweni ezisemadolobheni".

Umfundi obhalisele iziqu zeBsc Honours uNkz Carolina-Mari Barausse uthe: 'Siyithokozele kakhulu inkulumo efundisa ngemiphumela yokungcolisa nezinye izinkinga zempilonhlalo (anthropogenic) ezikhungethe umhlaba wethu.’

Uhlelo lokugqoka ngokukhethekile lusebenzise imibala eluhlaza okwesibhakabhaka noluhlaza okotshani kwababegqokile bekhombisa ukuseka kwabo lolu Suku loMhlaba. ‘Bekujabulisa ukubona ukuthi abafundi bagqugquzeleka kanjani uma kunohlelo lokugqoka ngokukhethekile,’ kusho uSookdeo. Obegqoke kahle ukubadlula bonke abesilisa kube u-Michael Staegemann kanti owesimame kube u-Nkz Bryaleen Lee Naidoo.

Amaphepha ayizazisi ohlobo lwe-A3 abedwetshwe abafundi ukugubha lolu suku abekhombisa izindlela ezilula kodwa ezinobuchule zokusebenzisa ugesi.

‘Njengoba sigubha lolu suku eSikoleni SeziFundo zokuPhilayo, ngikhumbule amazwi ka-Margaret Mead athi "Ungalokothi ungabaze ukuthi iqeqebana lezakhamizi elizibophezele ukuthi lingawuguqula umhlaba",’ kusho uNkz Philisiwe Mhlanga obhalisele izifundo ze-MSc.

Lokhu kungikhumbuze ukuthi sonke sinayo indlela yokubamba iqhaza, ngisho nangezindlela ezincane, ekuguquleni nokwenza ngcono umhlaba. Amaqhinga nezindlela zokonga noma zokusebenzisa amandla ngokunakekela abemancane kodwa asivule amehlo esikhumbuza ukuthi singalibamba kanjani iqhaza ekulondolozeni umhlaba wethu.’

Emva kohlelo losuku, abafundi bazitike ngezoso esakhiweni sakwa-Biology.

Click here for English version

-          Leena Rajpal

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Award Allows Student to Attend Biology Conference in the USA

Award Allows Student to Attend Biology Conference in the USA
PhD student Mr Tendekai Mahlanza.

PhD student in the School of Life Sciences, Mr Tendekai Mahlanza, has been awarded the 2014 Phillip R. White Award by the Society for In Vitro Biology, (SIVB) allowing him to travel to the United States to attend the World Forum on Biology in Georgia.

Mahlanza was chosen after the SIVB’s Student Affairs Committee selected his abstract as the best submitted by a student. Mahlanza’s work is titled: “In vitro mutagenesis and selection of Fusarium sacchari-tolerant sugarcane plants for biological control of Eldana saccharina”.

His research involves trials on sugarcane mutants to assess the potential of using the fungus Fusarium sacchari as a biological control agent against the African sugarcane stalk borer Eldana saccharina - a pest which has hampered sugarcane production in South Africa.

Mahlanza said his interest in biology was sparked partly by the challenge of feeding a growing population in Africa and the rest of the world. ‘I am inspired by the potential of plant biotechnology to provide solutions which can contribute to food security.’

Mahlanza completed his BSc Honours degree in Biological Sciences at Midlands State University in Zimbabwe before pursuing his master’s degree while at the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI). He was awrded his master’s degree cum laude in 2012 and continued his PhD research through SASRI. He was also the recipient of a College Award from UKZN which will contribute to his trip to the Forum.

‘The Society of In Vitro Biology meetings are attended by crop improvement scientists from leading universities and companies and they feature presentations on the latest technologies in plant biotechnology,’ said Mahlanza.  ‘It is also a very student-orientated meeting.

‘This year’s Conference is a joint meeting with the Society of Cryobiology so I am looking forward to interacting with all these dynamic scientists and students with different expertise and experience.’

Mahlanza said his drive to succeed and his passion for science had earned him impressive results.

Mahlanza thanked his supervisors Professor Paula Watt, Dr Sandy Snyman and Dr Stuart Rutherford for their guidance, and his family for their motivation and support.

‘I hope my work will contribute meaningfully to the production of improved crops that will result in economic benefits for the countries they are grown in,’ said Mahlanza.

-          Christine Cuénod

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UKZN Presentation at Careers Exhibition

UKZN Presentation at Careers Exhibition
Grade 12 learners were addressed by UKZN representatives at a careers exhibition.

UKZN did a presentation at a careers exhibition in the Umzinto Town Hall which attracted hundreds of Grade 12 learners from 29 schools in the Ugu Municipal District.

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) represented UKZN which had been invited to participate in the exhibition by the Department of Education (DOE) and the Ugu District Municipality.

The youngsters were impressed with the presentation, particularly the video, and asked numerous questions about degrees offered, entrance requirements and bursary opportunities. Learners all received drawstring bags and brochures from the College.

Provincial Co-ordinator-Career Guidance and Counselling, Ms Cornelia Mcunu, said: ‘The object of the Career Guidance and Counselling Programmes is to support both educators and learners by providing resources and skills to help learners make informed career choices.

‘We appreciate the participation of UKZN in the exhibition and hope to continue engaging with them for future district exhibitions.’

-          Leena Rajpal

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UKZN Helping Develop Tomorrow’s Water Resource Champions

UKZN Helping Develop Tomorrow’s Water Resource Champions
UKZN third-year Hydrology students doing on site work.

Building a large enough skills base to deal with South Africa’s water challenges – both now and in the future – is a significant focus for South Africa’s Water Research Commission (WRC) and one which it can only achieve with the assistance of academic partners.

One of the most enduring and successful of these relationships is with UKZN’s Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR).

Global change and its impact on Africa’s water resources is a critical concern. Africa is experiencing rapid changes in land use (such as urbanisation) with a corresponding degradation of its soil and water resources.

Change is a consequence of the continent’s own economic development needs coupled with a strong demand from international role players’ intent on securing land for future production of food, fuel, fibre and fodder.

While the imperative for development is clear, it is equally clear that Africa needs to develop its soil, land and water resources in a sustainable way and that this requires rigorous scientific input to inform policy as well as strong governance systems to ensure sound decision making and enhanced human capacity.

It is with the intention of providing the education and training of individuals and the technological advances to meet these challenges that the CWRR was established in 2012 out of a cohesive group of academics specialising in hydrology and water resources research since 1984. It is also since that time that the group has collaborated on WRC-funded research.

The Centre undertakes water-related research across a range of topics. Broadly, these are arranged as earth observation and hydrological process studies; model development and application (including design flood estimation); agricultural water use; global change and water resources (including land use and climate change) as well as water resources governance.

At the time of writing, the Centre was completing no less than seven research projects with funding from the WRC, with another seven underway. This is in addition to research projects being undertaken with funding from other institutions. All of these projects involve postgraduate students.

According to the Centre’s Professor Graham Jewitt, who is also the Umgeni Water Chair of Water Resources Management, the academic programme in hydrology is the core feeder for CWRR’s post-graduate programmes.

‘Over the past few years we have seen significant growth in numbers in this programme. For example, this year we have 14 honours students, compared to only nine in 2012 and just six in 2011. In turn, there are 40 students currently undertaking third year Hydrology compared to 35 last year, and the numbers are growing.’

Today, the Centre boasts 80 students in second year, compared to only 25 five years ago.

Over the past three years the Centre has also seen an increase in the number of students meeting master’s entrance requirements. ‘This year we are delighted that nine of the 14 honours students have progressed to masters. They join another 35 students this year,’ said Jewitt.

The challenge of attracting good students to continue with postgraduate studies turned the Centre’s attention to building skills within its own programmes, with efforts particularly focused at honours students. Students are part of a broader research team, including the honours students. In this way, students are able to interact with each other and share ideas.

Having honours students linked into a broader team of postgraduate students (from masters to post- PhD) allows students to see the progression through the academic ranks, and also share in the enthusiasm generated by these students and their supervisors.

‘The effort we have put into the honours class also means that junior staff members who do not have PhDs yet can gain experience in research supervision – so the benefit works both ways,’ said Jewitt.

In addition, undergraduate students are encouraged to become “vac students” – working on research projects during the longer vacations. Undergraduates are also exposed to the research through second-and third-year level field trips, which take them to several of the research study sites as well as enabling them to make contact with research contract staff teaching their specialisation.

Building skills in the water sector has not come without its challenges.

‘As our student numbers have increased, we have seen a decline in student literacy and numeracy,’ said Jewitt. ‘This was probably worst about three years ago, but we are now seeing an improvement.’

The Centre has identified literacy – particularly scientific writing – as a major shortcoming. As a result all honours students now have a scientific writing course and a dedicated writing tutor who works with them throughout the year. This has made a huge difference; the standard of work submitted has substantially improved, and students who were scoring poorly because of their poor oral and written communication skills are now meeting the postgraduate entrance requirements.

Another challenge the Centre has had to overcome is its limited supervision capacity. The CWRR is fortunate to have a number of well qualified, contract staff among its members. These members are focused on the research projects which fund them, but also contribute to the undergraduate hydrology programme in their field of expertise and supervise students working in their projects.

According Jewitt, these members play an enormous role in supporting the Centre’s teaching and research. ‘Without the support of the WRC and other funders there is no way that we could sustain the levels of supervision needed for our current student numbers.’

Another aspect which limits student progression is a lack of funding. Through the WRC projects they are involved in, students are assured that their research project will be adequately funded. However, the Centre also directly funds both their subsistence and research if they do not have another bursary. This begins at honours level, where the Centre pays tuition fee level bursaries and then to master’s and PhD levels where the bursaries cover full living expenses.

‘UKZN offers a full fee remission for one year to full-time master’s students and three years for PhD students, which makes a big difference to the affordability of studying further,’ said Jewitt, who has this advice for students considering a career in the water sector: ‘Study as far as you can while you are in the academic system. Very few part-time students complete their degrees, but most full-time ones do. It is incredibly difficult to complete a research degree while you have a full-time job.’

Commenting on the importance of skills development, particularly in the field of hydrology, WRC Research Manager, Wandile Nomquphu said: ‘Hydrology forms the basis for water resources management. Hydrologists monitor (by collecting data), manage and protect the water environment (through the interpretation and analysis of the data), and inform decision-making. The capacity of a country to manage its water resources is largely determined by its capability in hydrology, and this capability is a function of the ability of universities to train knowledgeable hydrologists.’

‘The function to academically train hydrologists resides with the universities that should be purposely supported financially to churn out these scientists consistently. Centres of excellence [such as the CWRR] have proven to be a sustainable mechanism through which to nurture competent Hydrologists who keep the national capability at the cutting edge.’

Lani van Vuuren, The Water Wheel

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Fulton School for the Deaf Visits UKZN Science Centre

Fulton School for the Deaf Visits UKZN Science Centre
Pupils from the Fulton School for the Deaf at UKZN’s Science and Technology Education Centre.

UKZN’S Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC) hosted 12 highly enthusiastic learners and three Teachers from Durban’s Fulton School for the Deaf.

‘I think they had a great time and enjoyed their visit,’ said Science Centre Co-ordinator, Dr Tanja Reinhardt.   ‘We did a rock box workshop and a geological time workshop with them.’

While Rienhardt led the workshop and a tour of the Science Centre and Geology Museum, one of the Fulton teachers interpreted what she was saying.

‘The school brought learners from all grades.  Even though the Geological Time workshop is designed for high school learners,  the Fulton Primary learners managed well and enjoyed the walk along the time line,’ said Reinhardt.

During the rock box workshop, learners used hand lenses and drizzled acid on to rocks and also did very well in identifying rocks from KwaZulu-Natal.

In the Geology Museum they looked at sand and slices of rocks through the microscope and saw “glow in the dark rocks”.

Most exciting of all for the Fulton learners was the model of a tsunami.

The accompanying Teachers thanked the Science Centre and Dr Reinhardt, commenting that it was vital for their learners to get hands-on experience.

-          Sally Frost

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Small Business in Developing Countries Under the Spotlight

Small Business in Developing Countries Under the Spotlight
Ms Katrina Makuch with Economics students.

Building and supporting small business enterprises in volatile developing countries was the thrust of a lecture titled: “Foreign Finance, Investment, and Aid” delivered by Development Economist Ms Katrina Makuch at the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance.

Makuch is an international development professional with overseas experience in economic growth, microenterprise development, monitoring and evaluation in Afghanistan, Cambodia, DR Congo, Indonesia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, and Vietnam, including USAID-funded projects.

The lecture discussed issues of building and supporting small business enterprises in volatile developing countries and helping create stabilisation and employment while addressing the needs of vulnerable populations.

‘The lecture was intended to engage reflective thought on the crossroads of politics, development, conflict and foreign aid,’ said Makuch. Present day examples, both global and specific to sub-Saharan Africa, were designed to give context to the theoretical concepts of the broader economic development course.’

School of Accounting, Economics and Finance Lecturer Dr Gerry Bokana said the lecture highlighted the fact that “Foreign Finance, Investment and Aid are crucial and essential ingredients in the development process of developing countries.

‘Ms Katrina Makuch provided students with real-world practical knowledge and experience which supplemented conventional teaching and reinforced knowledge on development economics topics and discourse that were previously covered only by means of classroom lectures and prescribed textbook materials,’ he said.

Economics student, Mr Josh Kwibuka, said the talk had been educational on issues of economic development.

‘I gained insight to the extent to which developed countries intervene in helping alleviate poverty through humanitarian aid and foreign investment among other aid measures,’ he said.

-          Thandiwe Jumo

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UKZN Alumnus Wins 2013 LexisNexis Prize

UKZN Alumnus Wins 2013 LexisNexis Prize
Mr Brett Bentley.

UKZN alumnus and founder of Bentley Attorneys, Mr Brett Bentley, is the 2013 LexisNexis Prize winner for the best published article by an attorney.

The article titled: “Separating the Baby and the Bathwater - Garnishee Orders”, was published in the March issue of De Rebus.

Interviewed by News Editor of De Rebus, Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele, Bentley was asked how he felt about his award: ‘It was a big surprise but a great honour to be awarded this prize in a magazine which is the official journal of the attorneys’ profession. I also thank LexisNexus for the kind sponsorship of the prize.’

Bentley said the article dealt with the emotive topic of Emolument Attachment Orders, commonly known as garnishee orders, which in some instances have been abused and resulting in a knee-jerk reaction call for their abolition.

Bentley says the calls were made without proper consideration of the alternatives open to judgment creditors. The article proposes a middle ground where Emolument Attachment orders are maintained but the laws amended to afford debtors greater protection.

The prize confirms Bentley Attorneys’ position as one of the leading experts in South Africa in the field of debt collections and credit law.

Bentley is also on the SA Law Society’s expert panel for the subject of Debt Collections and runs the SA Law Society's LEAD seminars, which update and educate attorneys in the area of debt collections.

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GSB&L Regional and Local Economic Development Initiative Wins Top International Award

GSB&L Regional and Local Economic Development Initiative Wins Top International Award

Excellence and innovation in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Skills in Africa has earned the Graduate School of Business and Leadership’s Regional and Local Economic Development Initiative (RLEDi) the International Education Business Partnership Network’s (IPN) 2014 Global Best Award.

The programme, a partnership between UKZN and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDT), enables young researchers to study towards their master’s degree under the guidance of UKZN with research focused on issues of social capital, clusters and entrepreneurship.

The biennial IPN competition for global best practice partnerships has a variety of categories related to the interface between skills development, skills gaps and education.

The GSB&L won the award in the category for initiatives which support learning about entrepreneurship and enterprising approaches through both schooling and exposure to entrepreneurial mentors and networks and which guide youth in taking decisions about when, with whom, and how to create viable businesses.

Speaking on behalf of the School, RLEDi Facilitator Dr Jennifer Houghton said they were delighted about the achievement and were now in the running for the overall best partnership.

‘This is a wonderful acknowledgement of the ground-breaking collaboration between the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and the GSB&L, along with the many stakeholder municipalities and development organisations we work with. We are so pleased the initiative to build appropriate and much needed skills for regional and economic development in KwaZulu-Natal has been recognised,’ she said.

Houghton added that the award would enable them to highlight the importance of the programme and facilitate the launch of the self-funded programmes and self-funded postgraduate diploma and masters degrees.

‘We’re involved with a second two-week partnership later this year with MIT staff and students to conduct problem-solving, field-based work on economic development in four sites across the province. We will also run a winter school in June which provides short courses for RLED practitioners in KwaZulu-Natal,’ she said.

The initiative will host a research symposium in September at which practitioners and academics in the field of RLED will be able to engage with cutting edge research and best practice case studies.

The School and winners from each of the six geographic regions - Africa, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America and South America - will receive their awards at the 12th International education business Partnership Conference in Brussels in September.

The Conference is themed: “Youth Employability Partnership Solutions”, and creates an opportunity for the sharing of experiences and networking with partnership professionals from across the globe.

-          Thandiwe Jumo

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The Benefits to Women of Raising Children in SA Explored in Research

The Benefits to Women of Raising Children in SA Explored in Research
Ms Michelle Hatch.

Doctoral research by UKZN Economics Lecturer Ms Michelle Hatch aims to explore the costs and the benefits to single, married and working women in South Africa of raising children.

Hatch hopes to achieve this through quantitative research which will provide answers to questions such as who is responsible for childcare in South Africa, what are the indirect economic costs of childcare and what are the non-economic costs and benefits?

‘I love doing quantitative work and this is a topic I have background on - that is how it evolved from my masters into my PhD.  In South Africa we have not had a lot of data on physical and financial childcare but with the release of the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS)  I am hoping to provide the answers to these questions,’ said Hatch.

Hatch’s research also examines family dynamics such as caregivers versus biological parents, the disparity existing between earnings of men and women in the SA labour market and whether social grants realistically bridge that gap, and the differences and similarities between races.

‘What I have found in my research to date is that it is the biological mother who tends to take care of the day to day responsibilities of childcare. Interestingly enough, among Africans it is often grandparents who look after the children due to poverty and other economic factors, while many  fathers unfortunately do not meet their financial obligation to their children,’ said Hatch.

The research has also opened up possibilities for interdisciplinary collaboration which Hatch is keen to explore.

‘I have had discussions with colleagues from the School of Law to see which legal aspects they can tap into while I do the number crunching so we can combine our research for publication. I am also planning to publish in economic journals,’ she said

-          Thandiwe Jumo

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