Inaugural Lecture Explores African Higher Education in the 21st Century

Inaugural Lecture Explores African Higher Education in the 21st Century
Professor Damtew Teferra delivers his inaugural lecture on the challenges and prospects of African Higher Education in the 21st Century.

“The challenges and prospects of African Higher Education in the 21st Century” was the title of the inaugural lecture of Professor Damtew Teferra of the College of Humanities School of Education.

With over 20 years of working on the frontlines of Higher Education, Professor Teferra took to the stage at the Howard College Theatre to deliver his inaugural lecture to a packed hall on the broader perspectives of Higher Education with a look at quality, productivity and remuneration with emphasis on South Africa.

‘Higher Education in Africa is undergoing major transformation wrought by massive expansion. Whether by design or popular demand, “massification” of Higher Education is the hallmark of the sector in virtually all parts of the world,’ he said. 

According to Teferra, countries around the world are striving to build their Higher Education systems to meet mounting demand, as is the case in Africa, or as part of their strategic development plan to enhance global competitiveness, as is the case in the developed and emerging countries.

‘Unquestionably, building a strong Higher Education system is not a luxury for which countries can now be chastised for indulging, but a national imperative that is critical for national development and global competitiveness.’

‘What makes Africa’s growth unique is that it has seen a “flash flood” of growth with consequent implications that range from quality to funding, from governance to employment. Africa thus must do more in facing the dual and contradictory challenges of increased expansion and improved quality at the 21st Century.’

He went on further to share growth trends in Higher Education in Africa and pointed out that from 2004-2012, there has been an increase in enrolment at universities in South Africa but that institutions of Higher Education should be looking to improve the quality of PhD research outputs instead of looking at producing “lightweight” quantity PhD’s. Teferra highlighted that Africa itself only contributes 1% of the Global Knowledge system with South Africa being the largest knowledge producer on the African continent but it could lose out to Nigeria in the future. And that South Africa has only 28 Black women Professors in the country, which he believes needs to change to enable transformation and gender equality.

He then went on to discuss the financial crisis and implications associated with Higher Education in Africa and noted that Africa relies heavily on external funders with universities not even having the dedicated budget for research. ‘Funding in Higher Education availability does not tantamount to deploy-ability,’ he said.

Teferra even brought up the issue of current governance structures and management trends in African universities where the academic profession is increasingly losing its venerable tradition. ‘Vice-Chancellors are dressed as CEOs and students as clients and mentors as coaches.’

The academic productivity measurement was also brought to the table and dissected by the speaker where he proposed that there is a need for a national debate to challenge the status quo.

‘Research and publishing must be strengthened. Governments, major donor institutions, NGOs, and bilateral organisations should and must direct their policies toward prioritising the revitalisation of these important African institutions if Africa is to cope effectively with the challenges of the present and the future.’

He also noted, based on a comparative international study on academic salaries, South Africa stood as the second highest in the world in which academics were paid significantly, coming in just under India. He also raised the exorbitant benefits of university executives in the South African Higher Education sector. He also narrowed in on the responsibilities of South African academics and students owing the world in leadership, compassion and justice by reminding the global solidarity of academics and students at the time of the struggle.

Reaching the end of his lecture, Teferra focused on Academic Freedom stating that it makes it possible for new ideas, research, and opinions to emerge; for widely accepted views to be tested and challenged; and for critics to comment on and scrutinize the status quo.

‘Most African countries are still intolerant of dissent, criticism, nonconformity and free expression of controversial, new or unconventional ideas. The stability of a culture of academic freedom in a nation is measured by the nation’s tolerance of open and frank debates, criticism and comments. And in South Africa, you have that academic freedom and that should be guarded by all means necessary.’

* Damtew Teferra, is Professor of Higher Education at the Higher Education Training and Development (HETD) at UKZN and the Founding Director of the International Network for Higher Education in Africa, which is jointly hosted by HETD and the Center for International Higher Education, Boston College, USA - where he got his terminal degree and also served as an Associate Professor. Teferra is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of two African Higher Education journals - DHET recognised Journal of African Higher Education (formerly) and the just launched International Journal of African Higher Education which is supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York, Center for International Higher Education, Boston College and UKZN.

Teferra is an Editor and Author of more than 10 books, including the Conover-Porter Award of the African Studies Association based in the United States and numerous articles regionally and internationally. He is also the Editor of the Chronicle of African Higher Education and a member of a number of professional associations regionally and internationally. He was also featured on 60th Diamond Edition of Who is Who in America (2005).

Melissa Mungroo

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New Employees Welcomed to UKZN

New Employees Welcomed to UKZN
Ready to make a difference.

A total of 47 new employees were welcomed to UKZN during the Employee Induction Programme held at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership towards the end of last month.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, officially welcomed the  employees, encouraging them to perform their duties with passion and enthusiasm. 

Makgoba said the occasion was the last time he would welcome new employees at the Induction Programme as he was retiring next month.

He said when he looked back at his time at UKZN he did so with satisfaction considering the positive changes that had taken place during his term of office.  

Makgoba encouraged the new employees to add value to areas where they had been appointed so in time when they looked back they too would be able to see positive differences they had made.

They also received information regarding the University’s structure, policies and procedures, benefits as well as training on the Performance Management and Talent Management systems.  The new employees used the opportunity to interact with each other and to form relationships during the tea breaks and over lunch.

Michael Cloete

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Senior Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Officers Visit UKZN

Senior Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Officers Visit UKZN
Dr Rufaro Madakadze (seated, left), Ms Stacy Mwangala (standing, left), Professor Mark Laing and Dr Yilma Kebede together at UKZN.

Senior officers from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) in the United States spent two days with staff at the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) at UKZN.

The US delegation comprised the Senior Officer for Agricultural Development, Dr Yilma Kebede; the Allianace for a Green Revolution in Africa’s (AGRA) Programme Officer for Education and Training; Dr Rufaro Madakadze, and the Programme Co-ordinator of the Programme for African Seed System (PASS), Ms Stacy Mwangala.

The ACCI, founded in 2002, is situated in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) at UKZN.

It has been funded by the BMGF and the Rockefeller Foundation through AGRA, an organisation set up by the two funding organisations as part of their strategy to improve economic and agricultural sustainability in Africa.

The ACCI trains PhD students primarily in 12 countries in southern and eastern Africa in projects related to plant breeding and crop improvement, to improve 18 staple crops grown in the region. The students are trained with the view of equipping them to return to their own countries, where their research projects are carried out, with the goal of releasing better crop varieties, thereby strengthening the agricultural economy of the whole continent.

Kebede stressed the importance of the ACCI’s continental impact during his visit, saying his vision would be that the centre would take up the mantle of acting as a regional hub of training across multiple fields of agriculture from animal science to crop science to water resource management and more. The School, with its 14 disciplines and multiple specialised centres, would be the ideal place to build this sort of focus.

The ACCI’s innovative approach to the institutionalisation of participatory rural appraisal methods into its curriculum was lauded by Kebede, who has recognised the need for the development of leadership skills in agricultural and plant breeding practitioners operating within their own countries to ensure the productivity of their countries’ agricultural sectors.

The ACCI PhD students spend one year of their studies at the ACCI in Pietermaritzburg acquiring the necessary enabling skills to conduct doctoral research in their own country, including a week engaged in developing leadership skills to better implement the changes they hope to inspire.

Kebede’s two-day visit to the centre was aimed at evaluating the progress of the centre and assessing its sustainability and how best to continue the activities of the ACCI. 

He was shown around the facilities at Ukulinga, the Controlled Environment Facility (CEF) and Cedara Agricultural College to see where students receive their training. He also had discussions with Professor John Derera, one of the first graduates of the ACCI, about the new Master’s programme in Plant Breeding that has been set up by AGRA, to create applied plant breeders.

Kebede was also present at the farewell dinner for the nine PhD students who have completed their enabling training and have now set off to begin their research in their home countries.

Kebede gave a speech to the students highlighting the discussion of philosophies needed to establish a culture of excellence in centres such as the ACCI. He spoke about leadership, ethics, the impact of these studies and the need to ensure that varieties of plants bred through the centre are adopted by the farmers they are intended for. 

Kebede said the ACCI was the best centre of its kind he had ever visited and only wished he had come to see it sooner. He was impressed at how efficiently the centre was run and the results it was obtaining as well as the publication of those results in top journals.

The ACCI has graduated 56 PhD students from 13 African countries, published over 130 research papers, and its graduates have released more than 120 new crop cultivars or lines.

The Centre faces the challenges of ensuring that there is long term commitment at all governmental levels as well as from philanthropic funders such as AGRA, to ensure the sustainability of a programme which seeks to positively impact the livelihoods and food security of people in Africa.

Christine Cuénod

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UKZN Team Scoops Six Awards at MACE Congress

UKZN Team Scoops Six Awards at MACE Congress
The Corporate Relations Division team at the MACE Congress.

UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division (CRD) team scooped six awards at the Marketing, Advancement and Communications in Education (MACE) Congress held at Sun City earlier this month.

The Congress - this year themed: “Connecting the Past, Present and Future” - fulfils a leadership role in the Higher Education and FET sectors within Southern Africa by adding value to practitioners in Marketing, Communication and Advancement.

Congratulating the team, UKZN Corporate Relations’ Executive Director, Mr Lesiba Seshoka, said, ‘We are honoured to be able to get awards and it is an affirmation of the quality of work we do. This is also a demonstration of the impact that CRD has at the University that other people affirm.’

UKZN received two Excellence and four Merit Awards.  One of the Excellence awards was from the Integrated Marketing Campaign category for the “Cashless is King” registration campaign done at the beginning of the year, while the second was for the UKZN Graduation Facebook Page in the Social Media Category.

The University’s Annual Report, UKZNTouch and the Research Report Publications all received Merit awards in the Printed Publications Category. The Chemistry Instructional Video received a merit award in the Audio Visual category.

MACE provides high quality development programmes, facilitating networking partnerships and transformation, as well as promoting best practices among these professions at member institutions.

The Congress has three strategic goal areas: (1) to promote best practices and create benchmarks and standards of excellence; (2) to provide networking and partnership opportunities for stakeholders; and (3) to strategically position MACE practitioners in Higher Education and FET colleges.

A number of prominent speakers motivated and informed congress members on the latest trends in the marketing, communication and advancement fields. Members from the different institutions had the opportunity to engage with each other and with the speakers.

Every year a different region has the opportunity to host the Congress. This year it was the turn of the North-West University while next year the congress will be in KwaZulu-Natal, hosted by the University of Zululand.

Sithembile Shabangu

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College of Humanities Hosts Memory Studies Conference

College of Humanities Hosts Memory Studies Conference
From left: Professor Donal McCracken, Professor Philippe Denis, Professor Sabine Marschall and Mr Philani Dlamini.

The College of Humanities recently hosted the 2nd Annual Conference on Memory Studies on the Howard College campus under the theme“Memory in Africa”.

Following on from the inaugural Memory Studies Symposium held at UKZN in September, 2013, the event was expanded and extended with more than 30 presentations by scholars from South Africa and all over the world.

According to one of the organisers, Professor Sabine Marschall, Memory Studies is a recent but strong, multidisciplinary field of academic research internationally, but still underdeveloped in South Africa and the continent.

‘This is despite the fact that memory has long played a pivotal role in some disciplines, notably history and political science, where it was often the foundation of alternative versions of the past, countering the official narratives promoted by the state.’

College Dean for Research, Professor Donal McCracken, said he was impressed by the Conference work and encouraged participants and organisers to continue with it next year.

The majority of contributors to Memory in Africa are from Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, notably the disciplines of history, heritage studies, religious studies, arts, literary studies and education with a focus on personal or autobiographical memory and collective forms of memory, including oral history, social memory, cultural memory, and political memory.

Conference Organiser Professor Philippe Denis said a few presenters were from neuroscience and cognitive psychology, illustrating the truly interdisciplinary nature of Memory Studies, which held much promise for mutual learning, innovative research and ground-breaking insights.

The aim of Memory in Africa is to provide a platform for information sharing, critical debate and showcasing current research among scholars whose work is substantially focused on memory or informed by theoretical frameworks from the field of Memory Studies.

‘It is most especially meant to provide inspiration to young, emerging academics and postgraduate students, whose participation is particularly welcome. For this reason, registration fees were kept to an absolute minimum,’ said Denis.

The Conference attracted participants from across South Africa as well as from the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland and Zimbabwe.

Dr Nadaraj Govender of UKZN’s School of Education presented his research on: “How Memories are Stored in Custodians of Zulu Culture via their Indigenous Knowledge System”.

Govender explored how the KwaZulu-Natal indigenous community of elders, chiefs, inyangas and sangomas preserve (memory and artefacts) and practise their knowledge. ‘My research involved field interviews and dialogues conducted with chiefs and indunas in northern and southern KwaZulu-Natal on their aspirations for inclusion of their knowledge into formal societal structures such as universities and schools.’

He said their knowledge needed to be recognised, preserved and interacted with in current knowledge systems and suggested education modules should incorporate their experiences.

Dr Lubna Nadvi of the School of Social Sciences presented a paper titled: “Sowing the Seeds of Democracy In South Africa: the Role Played by UDW in the Early Transition to a Post-Apartheid Society”.

‘The years between 1990 and 1994 were critical and foundational to the building of South Africa’s democratic dispensation and for crafting a vision for a post-apartheid society,’ said Nadvi. ‘The role played by the University of Durban-Westville (UDW) in contributing to this process was invaluable and in particular its hosting of the first ANC conference in 1991 after the party’s unbanning was a milestone in the broader political landscape.’

She examined the Conference and unpacked the institutional contributions made by the former ‘Black’ university to ‘sowing the seeds of democracy’. Nadvi also engaged in a critique of how the historical memories of these momentous occasions could be understood after more than two decades.

Other UKZN presenters at the Conference were:

Professor Michael Samuel, who spoke on: Remembering and Redirecting the Self: Journeys Towards a Philosophy of Education. Institutional Biographies: a Review of Examples.

Mr Karthigasen Gopalan - Memories of Forced Removals: Group Areas Act and Displacement of Residents from the Durban Municipal Magazine Barracks.

Dr Nokuthula Cele - Romance, Memory, Gender and Patriarchy: Analysing the Zwelibomvu Faction Fight of the 1980s.

Dr Vanessa Noble - Memory Struggles: Remembering Apartheid at the University of Natal’s Medical School, 1990s to the early 2000s.

Dr Joram Ndlovu - Solidarity or Ethnic Cleansing: the Presence of the Past in the ‘Gukurahundi’ Aftermath, Zimbabwe.

Professor Catherine Madgwick - Memories Take on a Rosy Hue in Old Age: Investigating the Positivity Effect on Memory in Older People.

Dr Gunasekharan Dharmajara - The Remnants and Reminiscences of Tamil Culture among the South African Tamils: a Cultural Anthropology Survey.

Professor Sabine Marschall: Tourism and Memories of Home: Roots Tourism, Homesick Tourism, Migrant Return Travel and Other Journeys Inspired by Memories of Home.

Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Academic Speaks at PhD Conference

UKZN Academic Speaks at PhD Conference
Speakers at the PhD Conference in Umhlanga, from left Dr Zilungule Kwitshana, Dr Conradee Write and Ms June Rose Ngcobo.

UKZN’s Dr Zilungile Kwitshana addressed the 2nd South African PhD Conference in Umhlanga on the topic: “What to Expect during a PhD Examination”.

The Conference was convened by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

Speaking from an examiner’s perspective, Kwitshana said a thesis was always checked to establish whether it was of an acceptable standard and was presented and discussed appropriately enough to merit the doctorate being conferred.

Examiners were required to hold a PhD qualification and have sufficient postgraduate supervision and research experience. ‘Examiners need to be independent and objective at all times,’ she said.

When marking a thesis, examiners looked at whether it made a contribution to new knowledge and if there had been a systematic investigation of a question to arrive at a new result. Kwitshana said they also checked to establish whether the thesis was in line with several aspects of the candidate’s scholarship and followed a well-developed and well-structured argument.

Dr Conradee Write spoke on: “Publishing during your PhD”, in which she said it was vital to never give up trying to get a thesis published. ‘It could take up to 10 years!’

Write said it was wise not to accept offers from unknown journals and to define issues of copyright upfront. ‘Insist on face to face meetings and signed agreements.’

She said publishing during a PhD was important for paving a future in academia. She advised candidates to always aim at high impact publications as opposed to lower impact ones. However, she warned: ‘Don’t expect your first paper to be earth shattering, but it must be well written. Papers give you a reputation while a thesis only gives you a doctorate.’

Ms June Rose Ngcobo of the National Research Foundation’s Funding Directorate addressed candidates on funding and what the organisation offered once PhDs had been completed.

Ngcobo said the NRF provided human capacity support and financial support and also had a national post-doctoral research forum that had been operating in Cape Town for five years. She said the forum consisted of international researchers, funders and potential employers, and hosted grant writing workshops.

Also at the Conference were two doctoral candidates from the UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, Mr Khayelihle Makhathini and Ms Thabisile Mpofana, whose masters research projects in neuroscience were funded by the NRF.

Makhathni said earning a doctorate was usually a long, hard road. ‘You start out enthusiastically and then over time your energy levels might drop. Conferences such as this one equip us with the necessary skills to keep going. You also get inspired by meeting other scholars and academics who excel in their work.’

Said Mpofana: ‘It is very important for researchers to conduct studies that are relevant to the community.’

 Nombuso Dlamini

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UKZN Academic Contingent Part of Care in Context HSRC Book

UKZN Academic Contingent Part of <em>Care in Context</em> HSRC Book
From left: Professor Cheryl Potgieter, Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Professor Tamara Shefer, Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul and Professor Vasu Reddy.

Honorary Associate Professors within the College of Humanities, Professor Vasu Reddy and former Director of the UKZN Gender Studies programme Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa recently launched their book Care in Context: Transnational gender perspectives with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Press at Ike’s Books and Collectables.

The book was edited by Professor Vasu Reddy, Lecturer at the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Basel, Switzerland; Mr Stephan Meyer, Deputy Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of the Western Cape’s Faculty of Arts; Professor Tamara Shefer and Durban University of Technology Registrar, Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa. The foreword was written by former Deputy President Mrs Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and the preface by Professor Joan Tront.

Care in context is a thought-provoking book that looks at gender inequalities in the context of care. Drawing in part from unique transnational perspectives and gripping interviews, this book focuses on key questions that intellectuals, policy makers and all of us who care and need care have to ask, such as: What is good care? Who should be involved in providing it? And how should care be arranged and organised so that the interests of both care givers and care recipients are equally provided for?

Deputy Vice-Chancellors and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Cheryl Potgieter and Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul of the School of Applied Human Sciences were also in attendance and lent their support to the book.

At the event, both Shefer and Meyiwa talked to their personal journey on completing the book and thanked everyone who was involved in getting the book to print.

Reddy also added, ‘It was a long laborious four years in putting this book together and the work was pain-staking but we worked passionately on it. Within the book, we look at the challenges and unpack the complexities and make it fairly simplistic to understand. We feel the book is reflective of care and we believe that care is a form of social justice and democracy and we break down stereotypes within the book too.’

Current UKZN academics also contributed chapters in the book; Professor Pearl Sithole of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS) looked at “Care and social cohesion in South Africa: Political engineering versus dealing with social discordance” and Dr Nomvuyo Nkani of the School of Education who tackled “Early motherhood, education and childcare: Experiences of social and institutional support among young mothers at school in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal”.

The book is available for purchase at R290 at Ike’s Books and Collectables and online at Kalahari.

Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Delegate Joins Global Conversation on Student Affairs and Services

UKZN Delegate Joins Global Conversation on Student Affairs and Services
From left: President of the International Association of Student Affairs and Services, Dr Rob Shea; UKZN’s Dr Saloschini Pillay, and President of NASPA, the American Association for Student Affairs Practitioners in Higher Education, Dr Kevin Kruger.

UKZN’s College of Health Science’s Manager: Student Support Services, Dr Saloschini Pillay, attended a Global Summit on Student Affairs and Services in Rome.

Pillay was one of 60 selected senior student affairs and services staff members from 37 countries across the developed and developing world who represented six continents to formalise key goals and strategies to address critical challenges for Higher Education worldwide.

Pillay is the President of the Southern African Federation of Student Affairs and Services (SAFSAS) and was specially selected to ensure that the global conversation on student affairs and services included African voices.

Reflecting on the Summit, she said: ‘Student affairs and services in the Higher Education sector are poised to play a key role in shifting the attention of universities towards developing responsible and responsive global citizens.’

The Summit was held to initiate high-profile debate on how student affairs and services can promote access, inclusion and integration, support and development and employability.

The issue of soft skills and civic engagement for employability was the main topic of  Rethinking Education, which is an initiative launched by the European Commission to encourage student affairs and Higher Education to take measures to ensure that young people’s development is articulated into their civil lives and labour markets.

Mr Jigar Patel, Principal of McKinsey & Co in the United Kingdom, presented the EU report titled: “Education to Employment, Getting Europe’s Youth into Work”.

The McKinsey report is one of the most important cross-national studies on Higher Education’s relationship with employment and is based on rigorous research that involved more than 8 000 participants in eight countries.  It also highlights the articulation gap between Higher Education and the labour market providing suggestions for closing the gap.

President of EUCA-European University College Association, Professor Gianluca Giovannucci, said: ‘The years at university are fundamental for academic engagement but are also the time when young people can best develop all the complementary competencies needed to meet the challenges of living an active civil life and making contributions to the national and global economy.’

MaryAnn Francis

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UKZN Professor Speaks at Mangosuthu University of Technology

UKZN Professor Speaks at Mangosuthu University of Technology
UKZN’s Professor Kriben Pillay with Ms Arthi Ramrung of MUT.

Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College of Law and Management Studies, Professor Kriben Pillay, was one of the guest speakers at the year-end function of Mangosuthu University of Technology’s (MUT) Teaching and Learning Development Centre, which recognised mentors and tutors who had played a vital role in the Centre’s mentorship programme.

Ms Arthi Ramrung, a Lecturer from the Centres’s Maths and Science Education Unit who co-ordinated the event, said MUT wanted to build a partnership with UKZN in terms of teaching and learning. Ramrung added that the students had been inspired by Pillay’s motivational presentation.


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School of Life Sciences Soccer Team Wins League Cup

School of Life Sciences Soccer Team Wins League Cup
Victorious soccer players from the School of Life Sciences, Pietermaritzburg campus.

Building on last year’s league title victory, the soccer team of the School of Life Sciences in Pietermaritzburg won the Staff League Cup and finished second in the league competition.

This year the league comprised teams from Chemistry, Gardens, Estates, Mathematics, Risk Management Services, and Life Sciences. Despite a patchy start to the league campaign, the Life Sciences team lost just two games during the season.

The cup was contested between teams which finished in the top four in the league. Life Sciences won their first cup game 6-1 against Risk Management Services, and defeated a very strong Mathematics outfit 2-1 in an exhilarating final.

Under the watchful eye of coach George Carelse, Life Sciences have found excellent form and play an attractive, attacking style of football with a great team spirit. The team comprises academic staff, technical staff, postdoctoral researchers, and postgraduates. It is a truly international team, including players of all backgrounds hailing from seven different countries.

The staff league on the Pietermaritzburg campus is played during lunchtime on Thursdays during winter and spring.

The league, which wants to grow and develop next year, hopes to attract new teams to compete in the league and cup competitions. All involved see this as a great way to keep fit, develop friendship, and have fun outside of the workplace.

Karl Duffy

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Study on Antenatal Depression and HIV Published by UKZN Academic

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UKZN Doctoral Graduate Wins Prestigious Economics Award

UKZN Doctoral Graduate Wins Prestigious Economics Award
Mr Justin Visagie.

Economics doctoral graduate Mr Justin Visagie has been awarded the prestigious Economics Society of South Africa’s (ESSA) PhD Founders’ medal for the best postgraduate dissertation in economics in South Africa.

The gold-plated medal is awarded to a doctoral candidate whose thesis contributes significantly to and provides evidence of original economics and outstanding quality research conducted in the field of economics at a South African university.

Visagie, who is the Director of Economic Planning and Research at the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism in the Eastern Cape, graduated with his PhD from the College of Law and Management Studies this year.

Supervised by Professor Dori Posel, the title of his thesis was: “The Development of the Middle Class in South Africa since the Transition to Democracy”, which investigated the development of the middle class in post-apartheid South Africa.

Visagie said the aim of his research was to show there were competing definitions of middle class which did not reconcile in a developing country context.

‘Those who have a “middle-class” lifestyle are actually at the top of the South African income distribution, whilst those in the real middle, border on poverty. My research focused on how these two middle class groups progressed over the first 20 years of democracy. Interestingly, whilst the affluent middle class became more multi-racial, this was driven by declining numbers of Whites against increasing numbers of Africans,’ he said.

‘At the same time income became more polarised and tightly concentrated in the upper class - in the top 3% of the distribution. Those in the actual middle showed the slowest income growth of all groups. A multivariate and decomposition investigation into the probability of affluence between Africans and Whites suggests that rising Black affluence is driven by positive increases in the levels of characteristics associated with affluence, rather than any change in the returns to these characteristics.’

This is not the first time Visagie’s excellence in research has earned him an award from ESSA as his masters dissertation titled: “Changes in Household Composition Since the End of Apartheid: An Analysis of Household Composition and Well-Being”, also supervised by Posel, earned him the Society’s Founder’s Medal for the Best Honours and Masters dissertation in South Africa in 2011.        

‘This award would never have happened without my supervisor Professor Posel - she is a genius. Her master craftsmanship continuously guided me through to the end, even when I was struggling to see the way through. I cannot overemphasise her role in shaping my thesis and career in economics. I am so privileged to have had her invest her talent in me.

‘A lot of energy was put into finishing strong, so it was well packaged and polished at the end. I think the focus was also good throughout and the topic on the middle class in South Africa is both interesting and relevant,’ said Visagie.

Posel said she was proud of Visagie’s achievement which sees him join a number of her students who have won the ESSA PhD Founders’ medal under her supervision.

‘It’s an excellent achievement as there is considerable competition. It is very important recognition for the student, the supervisor, and the quality of research undertaken.’

Thandiwe Jumo

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Arts Graduate Exhibits Work at artSPACE Durban

Arts Graduate Exhibits Work at artSPACE Durban
UKZN Fine Arts graduate Dr Louise Hall (right) speaking about her exhibition titled “Migration”.

UKZN Fine Arts graduate Dr Louise Hall exhibited her work at artSPACE durban from 13 October to 1 November.

Hall, one of only two known artists in the country to do a practice-led PhD, conducted a walkabout just before she dismantled the exhibition.

Her exhibition, titled “Migration”, featured mixed media drawings - open-ended and light-hearted works which explore some of the fundamentals of drawing - in particular, line and point - and reflect what seem to be perennial themes in her work of transition, departure and change.

‘Drawing as medium and process is fundamental to my artistic practice, so when I paint, I am drawing. Drawing helps me chart my artistic direction and after an intense period of working I use drawing to cast around to find new ideas and images. The drawings in Migration represent the beginnings of a new body of work,’ said Hall.

Discussing how UKZN has helped her as an artist, she said: ‘In my experience, impartial and outside perspectives on my art work are fundamental to the development of my artistic practice. Studying within the UKZN context gave me the privilege of receiving guidance and rigorous criticism of my art work from UKZN staff as well as from examiners from other universities in South Africa and abroad.’

Hall recently completed a practice-led PhD at the Centre for Visual Art, (CVA), UKZN. ‘It is a costly process to produce and exhibit a big body of art work. While an exhibition of a body of artwork is not necessarily a requirement for practice-led research internationally, UKZN identified this as important,’ said Hall

‘The whole of the practical component of the PhD was therefore conceived and executed on the assumption that the works made should and would lead to an exhibition, which would be the basis for judging the practical body of work.’

This research body of art work, titled “Fine Lines” was exhibited in 2012 at the University of Johannesburg Gallery, at Durban’s KZNSA Gallery, and at the Grande Provence Gallery in Franschhoek.

She also pointed out that by studying at UKZN she was able to apply for scholarships and grants to assist with her artistic practice and exhibition costs. She received a Rita Strong Scholarship from the Centre for Visual Art (CVA) at UKZN, a doctoral grant from UKZN and National Research Foundation scholarships.

In addition, Hall has art teaching experience at high school, university and adult education levels. She is also an experienced facilitator, having worked in the organisational and development facilitation context.

She was a founder member of DWEBA, an NGO that worked with rural craftswomen and developed a participatory training methodology using drawing as a central component. This methodology was published as a resource guide in 2001 titled: “Drawing Our Lives”.

Melissa Mungroo

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Clerkship Programme Gives Law Students an Edge Over Their Peers

Clerkship Programme Gives Law Students an Edge Over Their Peers
From left: Mr Musa Kika, Ms Stephanie-Jayne Maher, Justice Malcom Wallis, Ms Diann Bishunath, Ms Angelique Barasso, and Mr Linda Matshinga.

The necessity for Law students to have an understanding of the judiciary through enhancing their research skills and knowledge of real life court cases is what drives the Clerkship programme facilitated by Judge Malcom Wallis in the School of Law.

The programme sees senior students appointed by Judge Wallis research cases and prepares case notes of cases that Judge Wallis will sit in at the Supreme Court of Appeal and debate them as a group. While the Court is in recess, the students go through the court records and written summaries to prepare their own cases notes in which Judge Wallis will be involved. After they have concluded and compiled their notes they present their findings to their peers and debate them with the judge.

Judge Wallis had this to say about the rationale behind the programme:

‘The idea for the programme came from the many courts around the world, including our own Constitutional Court, that have clerks undertaking research and working with judges for a year after graduating. The students involved are senior students who have a grasp of basic legal principles. This introduces them to the practical work of the law where they encounter real legal problems and see how they are addressed by the courts.’

‘In the process their research skills are honed and their horizons broadened, which I hope will make them better lawyers. The fact that a number of the participants over the past few years have gone on to win prestigious scholarships, to study at top universities and take on roles in large firms and as clerks at the Constitutional Court is an indication that the programme is  achieving some of these goals.’

Reflecting on this learning experience, Law students, Mr Linda Matshinga, Mr Musa Kika, Ms Diann Bishunath, Ms Angelique Barroso and Ms Stephanie-Jayne Maher has given them an opportunity to put the theory they have been learning into practice.

‘My approach to theory is now very informed having spent a full year putting that in practice. I have also learnt to be very open minded in my thinking and approach to legal problems. That has refined my thinking and my academic career will benefit greatly from this,’ said Kika who will be pursuing a research masters in Public Law at the University of Cape Town next year.

Matshinga said: ‘The skills acquired from this programme are meant to prepare you for being a lawyer even though I have no doubt that they are relevant in a person’s academic career as they include analysing facts and determining the relevant from the irrelevant and, among other things, broadens your knowledge of the law.’

Bishunath said the programme has sharpened her research, writing, reading and speaking skills which will assist her in future career as an attorney.

‘These skills may sound basic but it takes time and practice to perfect. These skills have taught me how to be objective - so as to separate myself from the matter, critical - it has taught me how to challenge arguments and find the loopholes, and how to think and respond quickly, not to mention how to take all these skills, and reflect them on paper,’ she said,

Thandiwe Jumo

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Staff Team Building Workshops at College of Health Sciences

Staff Team Building Workshops at College of Health Sciences
Staff of the College of Health Sciences at a team building workshop.

In line with the College of Health Science’s (CHS) communication strategy and UKZN’s REACH campaign,  team building workshops to stimulate and improve communication as well as to increase collegiality among College staff were held at the UNITE Building on the Howard College campus in Durban.

REACH stands for Respect, Excellence, Accountability, Client orientation and Honesty - five core values based on uBuntu which formed the basis of the team building workshops.

The workshops, facilitated by Team Attitude which provides training, development and team building, assisted in getting staff ready for a fun-filled day with ice breakers, team building and a motivational talk.

Dean of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack, told staff the workshops were part of an effort to revitalise collegiality. ‘Despite our difficulties, we know where we want to be within the University as a School, and regardless of our stresses, we are delivering, as we have the greatest trajectory in research. This workshop will assist us to unwind and re-establish our relationships with our fellow colleagues’ said Essack.

Staff participated in a variety of tasks which tested their communication skills and ability to work as a team. Group tasks such as “Crossing the Crocodile River”, a beanbag throwing challenge, a  giant inflatable obstacle course and human football were some of the exciting, competitive activities staff got involved in.

Dean of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, Professor William Daniels, said activities of the day generated great camaraderie. ‘Many of the exercises were metaphors.  Not only have these workshops encouraged socialising they reminded us to not shy away from challenges and that if we have the right mindset and are focused we can be a great team.’

Team Development specialist and motivational speaker, Mr Brett Ellis addressed some of the many issues people experienced in their daily lives, saying ‘one of a person’s greatest leadership qualities is their ability to communicate’.

Operations Manager from the School of Clinical Medicine, Mrs Antoinette Botha, said the workshop assisted in raising awareness for staff who were dealing with certain issues. ‘We’ve learned that we need to bond as a team, respect each other, prove our excellence, be accountable in our dealings with each other and with clients, as well as being honest within the team. The REACH values prove the kind of attitude we want to adopt during a time when many changes are being made and I truly appreciate the spirit each of you have shown in doing what is needed to take part.’

After the School of Nursing and Public Health’s workshop, Dean and Head of School, Professor Busi Ncama, thanked all those who participated in the day’s events.

‘It’s always important to take time off from our busy schedules to look back and see if we still identify with the University’s vision of being a research driven Institution.’

Ncama emphasised the University’s REACH principles, especially the principle of honesty which is represented by the blue lanyards. ‘The exercises showed that sometimes it’s easy to be dishonest if you’re desperate to win or when put under pressure.’

She encouraged the staff to always work diligently and honestly at all times.  ‘We want to work in strong teams and move the College towards this.’

A specific theme in Ellis’ talk was that leadership inspired teamwork. He asked whether when the power of leadership in an organisation was discussed, it was regarded as a skill or rather an attitude that was adopted?

‘One’s own agenda is secondary to the team’s agenda. When we work as a team, we must remember that competition hinders the vision we work towards. Being a team player is how you can bring value to the team. We have to be the influence to make the change,’ said Ellis.

After the successful Communications Workshop held in August this year within the CHS, team building workshops were held at all Schools within Health Sciences.

Staff is now encouraged to send in any queries or suggestions they have in this regard to the Ask account, an anonymous online platform at

 Nombuso Dlamini

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Abafundi BezeSayensi Yezamabhizinisi Bebemele i-UKZN e-Bloomberg Institute

Abafundi BezeSayensi Yezamabhizinisi Bebemele i-UKZN e-Bloomberg Institute
Abafundi bezeziMali begubha impumelelo yabo.

Click here for English version

Abafundi ababili basesikoleni sezokuHlelwa kwamaBhuku, Ezimali, Ezomnotho NezeziMali banqobe umncintiswano i-Bloomberg Aptitude Test Ambassador South African Challenge.

Lo mncintiswano wenziwa emazweni angama-58 futhi ungenelwa abafundi basemanyuvesi emva kokuhlolwa okunzulu okususelwa ezihlokweni ezimayelana nezezimali ukuze kuvivinywe ukulungela kwabafundi imisebenzi emikhakheni ehlobene nezamabhizinisi.

UMnu Andile Mngadi noMnu Sashin Reddi bazolibhekisa e-Bloomberg Institute eLandani ngoMasingana.

Ukuzilungiselela lo mncintiswano uMngadi no-Reddi bathole ukuqeqeshwa eqenjini lase-Bloomberg e-London ukuze kuqinisekiswe ukuthi bazilungiselele ngokufanele  lokhu kwenziwe ngokwakhiwa kweqembu ebelibasekela elakhiwe abafundi nabafundisi babo uDkt Mabutho Sibanda noNkz Ailie Charteris.

UReddi  uthe lokhu kumfundise amakhono amasha azoqinisekisa ukuthi  ungaphezulu kozakwabo uma esesebenza.

‘Lolu hlelo lwe-Ambassador beluyithuba elihle kithina. Besinesiqiniseko sokuthi sizothola ulwazi namakhono ngisho kungaba nomphumela onjani. Emncintiswaneni waseNingizimu Afrika futhi lamakhono azosisiza kakhulu uma sesifuna imisebenzi. Bekuyintokozo ukusebenza neqembu lomhlaba kanye nabebemele amanyuvesi omhlaba wonke’ usho kanje.

UMngadi uthe ukuphumelela lo mncintiswano emva kokubhekana nezinselelo eziningi endleleni bekuwubufakazi bokuthi ukusebenza kanzima nokuzimisela kuyakhokhela.

‘Lo msebenzi unginike ithuba lokuzikhandla nokusebenza kanzima ezingeni lasekhaya nelaphesheya. Bekuyinto ehluke kakhulu kunalokhu engikujwayele ngaphambilini ngakho kungiphoqile ukuphuma esimweni sokunethezeka ngakhulisa amakhono enginawo,’ usho kanje.

‘Ngiqale ngabhala isivivinyo sakwa-Bloomberg emva kwalokho ngathintwa yihhovisi lesikhungo i-Bloomberg e-London . Emva kochungechunge lwezinhlololwazi ngayiphothula indima yokubuthwa ngase ngihlonyuliswa ngethuba lokuba i-BAT ambassador,’ kusho uMngadi.

 uThandiwe Jumo

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Economics Student to Represent UKZN at The 2014 Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition

Economics Student to Represent UKZN at The 2014 Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition
Mr Ranvir Mohanlal.

Bachelor of Commerce in Economics Honours student Mr Ranvir Mohanlal has been selected as one of the finalists for the 2014 Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition.

The essay competition which is supported by the National Treasury sees undergraduate and postgraduate students from the country’s universities compete to be one of the 20 finalists who will travel to Cape Town in February next year for an opportunity to meet and network with the key players in the financial industry. They will also get an opportunity to hear Finance Minister Mr Nhlanhla Nene deliver the 2015 Budget Speech in Parliament. Furthermore, the winners will be announced at a banquet where the students will be given an opportunity to ask the Minister questions.

For his entry, Mohanlal chose to analyse the impact of trade union’s proposal to withdraw the employment tax incentive (youth wage subsidy) and their proposal of implementing a national minimum wage. Speaking about what being selected means for him, Mohanlal described it as an opportunity to showcase the skills and knowledge that he has attained through his studies.

‘The competition is an opportunity for me to further develop my skills and knowledge of economics and economic writing. It also presents me with a platform on which I could put forward my ideas on how to tackle the economic issues that South Africa, as a developing country, faces which will be invaluable in the development of my future career in economics,’ he said.

Looking to the future, Mohanlal said this achievement has motivated him to study further after completing his honours as a first step towards a successful career.

‘I aim to complete my honours degree in economics and then go on to do a masters degree in economics next year. After that I would like to start my career as an economist, working in a research based position where I will hopefully be able to contribute to developing economic policies that would help to further the development of South Africa and other developing countries around the world,’ he said.

Thandiwe Jumo

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Enactus UKZN Celebrates 12 Years of Innovating Social Entrepreneurship

Enactus UKZN Celebrates 12 Years of Innovating Social Entrepreneurship
From left: Mr Sazi Gcume; Ms Bongeka Dlamini; Mr Sizwesihle Gumede (Enactus UKZN President), Mr Njabulo Buthelezi; Dr Sibusiso Chalufu; Mr Siyabonga Dube; Ms Nanana Sabele, Manager of Enterprise Development at Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Mr Lee du Preez, Enactus UKZN Business Advisory Board member.

Enactus UKZN hosted a business breakfast seminar to commemorate notable achievements in the 12 years the organisation has empowered communities around South Africa and Africa.

Held at UKZN’s UNITE building on the Howard College campus, the function also acknowledged sponsors and partners who have made it possible for Enactus to champion projects.

Executive Director: Student Services, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, expressed his fondness for the student organisation. ‘Enactus is one of those organisations which is very dear to my heart because it gives me hope that there is still a future for this country. It gives me hope that there are still young people whose orientation is altruistic and who espouse this notion of servant leadership.’

He applauded the students for not being swayed by greed, materialism and the pursuit of tenders at any cost.

Chalufu encouraged members of Enactus UKZN to ‘fly like eagles,’ saying: ‘you don’t win an international competition twice if you are not an eagle. You don’t do the kind of great work that Enactus does, if you are not an eagle.’

He commended Enactus UKZN for hosting the Business Breakfast and thanked all the partners, sponsors and organisations that support the organisation, helping the members ‘make a difference in the lives of others’.

Ms Slindile Mncube, a past member of Enactus UKZN, shared her journey with the organisation. ‘We were a team of honest people, we told each other the truth and were driven by being excellent.’

Mncube spoke about the team competing in Malaysia and Washington DC as well as being selected by Walmart to travel the United States to represent Africa in America as Walmart was coming to South Africa in that year.

She said: ‘It has been a journey of growing - where you honed skills learned in the classroom.’ A former President of Enactus UKZN on the Pietermaritzburg campus, Mncube encouraged the current team to avoid mediocrity and to ‘drive change in our community’.

Another former UKZN Enactus member, Mr Sazi Gcume, now an Entrepreneur who also works at Enactus South Africa, spoke on the first time he heard about SIFE (SIFE was recently rebranded as Enactus). Referring to it as a “secret society”, he joked that the student organisation was not well known on campus. ‘Once we understood what Enactus was all about, and what it could achieve, we couldn’t keep it to ourselves.’

He cautioned Enactus UKZN against complacency and encouraged members to reflect on the organisation’s achievements so far saying ‘be the best that you can ever be’.

Head of Training and Organisational Design at Ithala Development Finance Corporation, Mr Siyabonga Dube, discussed social entrepreneurship. A UKZN alumnus, Dube owns  a company, BlackStone Towers, which handles media, communications, human resources and agriculture.

Dube advised students to be trendsetters and to have a mentor to guide them, echoing Chalufu’s sentiments about ethical leadership and encouraging students to maintain their honesty and integrity.

He extolled the merits of talent scouting to drive a vision forward. ‘Don’t just take people for the sake of having employees. Have people you know will add value - they will grow your business.’

Discussing social entrepreneurship, he said: ‘To address social issues, you need to become a social thinker and social innovator.’ 

He encouraged entrepreneurs to come up with innovative solutions for social issues including poverty, health, water, energy, sanitation and security.

Enactus UKZN alumnus and Chairperson of KwaZulu-Natal Youth Designers, Mr Njabulo Buthelezi, was the Programme Director, while the vote of thanks was delivered by Enactus UKZN’s Ms Bongeka Dlamini, who acknowledged everyone who contributed to the success of the event.

*Established in 1975 in the United States, Enactus brings together a community of students, academics and business leaders who are committed to harnessing entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.

 Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

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The UKZN Griot. Of New Math and Transformation

The UKZN Griot. Of New Math and Transformation

Keyan G Tomaselli*

Bunk Carter’s Law states: ‘At any given time there are more important people in the world than important jobs to contain them.’   Just think, when last did you see your Dean?  When last did you talk to any Dean? Bureaucracies expand constantly and work expands to fill the time available. Rarely now do Deans lead their Schools from the front, from the bottom-up, working with and through their constituencies located in the academic trenches. They’re too busy generating data for Very Important People (VIPs) doing Very Important Jobs (VIJs) who drive Very Posh Cars (VPCs) and who occupy Very Remote Offices (VROs).  Carter’s Law comes into play when expanding bureaucracies mutate academics into managers who are rarely visible anymore except at statutory meetings.

But academics do consider Deans to be doing VIJs even as they whiz about in their VPCs and isolate themselves in their VROs.  The problem is that with the neo-liberal inversion of “transformed” responsibility they are no longer in the trenches with academics, students, tear gas and classrooms.  They are caught in a top-down glare that locates them as glaze-eyed flack catchers (G-EFCs) who are solely responsible to top management (the VIPs).   Deans, in their own ways, like the rest of us, spend their long and frustrating days putting out fires.  Problem is, the fire extinguishers don’t work anymore. 

Neither does the math.  As one correspondent lamented, ‘This new transformation math has me baffled What cost-benefit analysis was done?  Where are the axioms, and the rules of deduction?’ Sherlock Holmes, where are you other than on TV?  “Elementary” was not a term Holmes ever uttered, but little is elementary, or elegantly simple anymore. Thanks to the “V” condition identified above South African policy makers always devise the most complicated ways of solving simple problems.

Across the country, university enrolments are up, to the point of classes now being partly populated with functional illiterates. But the budgets are down.  Security and cleaning staff get cut, fewer outsourced workers work fewer hours on less pay while exhausted and bewildered academics are working much longer hours, increasingly with reduced benefits.  Who takes responsibility for ensuring operational efficiency anymore?  Performance Management (PM) theory assumes a stable and functioning environment.  PM indicators are unable to discount chaos, confusion and operational meltdown, which daily characterises the conditions of those working in the trenches in so many institutions across the country.

In the New Transformation Math ‘1+1 = 3’.  How do we find the logic in this addition?  As someone mentioned on trying to make sense of transformation math: ‘I think I’ll return to something I understand such as trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.’

Now, I really don’t think that this wag understands the notion of synergetic geometry.  So let me kindly elucidate. Anyone who knows anything about synergy knows that 1 + 1 can indeed equal 3.  This is how it works:

One circle plus another circle partially overlaid on each other results in three forms, even if the middle circle is less circular.  See, 1+1 = 3. Or, one and one means: 11.  This is known as exponential synergy.

So, if you have not seen your G-EFC recently (‘cos s/he is always in meetings,  anxiously tracking enrolment graphs, trying to make sense of targets,  or being (ad)dressed down or up by top management, avoiding contact, exhausted, driving between centres, at planning retreats, or trying to comprehend transformation math,  etc.), we should apply synergetic principles.

If we can synergise two Deans into three, then maybe we academics can claim the third Dean to work with us in the trenches.  Then, we can apply the same principles and apply the New Math (or exponential synergy) to manufacture the necessary budgets to pay them.  It’s all funny money anyway. There is always a solution to any problem.  Problem is, I am not sure about the medical ethics of cloning by synergy.

No-matter, synergy’s the way to go.  But for good measure we should engage the services of mathematician/comedian/pianist/singer Tom Lehrer’s New Math, where he says: ‘the important thing is not to get the answer right but to understand what one is doing!’ (See

When we all understand what we are doing with transformation (i.e. new) math we will also know where all the money that was sloshing about in 2012 went, that is, why was there so little around in 2013 and even less during 2014. As someone explained, and listen for the Lehrer-type piano rhythm, the 2013 budget, calculated by something called a RAM model, is based on 2011 data.  The year 2012 is skipped, it got lost in transformation.  But where did RAM2012 go?  Good old Tom explains: ‘Addition is commutative,’ which is a logical mathematical operation that combines two objects at a time. So, if one plus one equals three, (i.e. years 2011+2013 = budget reduction) then the answer, if I understand what I am doing, is that less funding (because we had more in 2012) results in greater synergies – we do more with less because less is more.  This is the New Math. Go figure. 

The budgetary losses incurred in the flushness of 2012 are like losing a bit of DNA.  This is known as transubstantiation, not to be confused with transformation.  If we put two “trans’s” together, we can start a department (oops, I mean ‘programme’) in Cloning. However, setting up a programme in Cloning will take a lot of time what with QPA assessments,   SAQA registration, SGB/NQF/DNA assessment criteria, couriering documents to Pretoria, budgeting for the programme (applying transformation math), and just finding an office to house it.  My suggestion:  employ one of those driver’s licence counterfeiters who hang out outside testing centres to forge SAQA approval.  That will be instantaneous and much cheaper.

My goodness, my story has lost sight of Deans.  They’re still lost in making sense of transformation/transubstantiation/translation math in the V environment.  The answer is simple.  In a study of over 100 Deans, John Randolph Willis observed that doubling of vacation periods enables Deans to work with maximum efficiency.   If this is not possible, Father Damian Fandel, Dean at Dallas, formulated two rules for effective administration:  a)  Rule 1 – Hide!!!.  Rule 2 – If they find you, lie!!!

* Keyan G Tomaselli has never been a Dean. So he does not have to hide or lie or do New Math, confusing as it is.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author’s own.

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UKZN’s Leading Centre in HIV Research Sets Up Medical Advisory Board

UKZN’s Leading Centre in HIV Research Sets Up Medical Advisory Board
Members of the Medical Advisory Board at the inaugural meeting.

UKZN’s Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, funded by the UK-based Wellcome Trust, recently convened the inaugural meeting of its newly-created Medical Advisory Board (MAB).

In a quest to undertake globally recognised research informed by the local context, the Africa Centre’s Professor Deenan Pillay said: ‘In keeping with our vision to undertake world class research in the pursuit of improved health for the local population with relevance to providing global solutions, the Africa Centre wants to strengthen its link with local medical specialists by creating an MAB. It is hoped that the MAB will guide and recommend to support the development of high quality primary health care research at the Centre.’

The committee includes local, district, and provincial senior medical professionals as well as leading KwaZulu-Natal-based health specialists whose expertise is directly related to developing the clinical scientific strategy of the Centre.

The Centre sought to create an MAB to render advice and counsel regarding the Africa Centre’s clinical research strategy and ensure that it is aligned and responsive to research priorities in South Africa – principally KwaZulu-Natal. The MAB would also facilitate engagement with the Department of Health and UKZN’s College of Health Sciences as well as clinical research and health service management structures.

‘The formation of the MAB represents a tangible advancement towards the new vision and strategic direction of the Centre, and we are optimistic that this new forum will augment the Africa Centre’s ability to contribute to world class science in this province and in South Africa,’ commented Pillay.

 MaryAnn Francis

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Memories and Suffering After Apartheid Explored at Conference

Memories and Suffering After Apartheid Explored at Conference
Oral Historian Professor Sean Field presented the keynote address at the College of Humanities 2nd annual Conference on Memory Studies.

Empathy and remembrance through difference after apartheid were explored by UKZN Oral Historian Professor Sean Field at the 2nd annual Conference on Memory Studies presented by the College of Humanities.

Field unpacked how memory studies can work through and beyond the conceptual and emotional legacies of apartheid.  He was motivated by the need to conceptualise new ways to think, write and talk about human remembrance and suffering after apartheid.

‘Memory is not only about the past - both individual desires and collective aspirations for the future are key to understanding how memory cultures are sustained. Remembering necessarily leads to “reconciliation” while memory-work “after apartheid” requires working through various cultural and other differences and subjectivities.’

Field believes there is a need to develop a ‘critical use for empathy’ grounded in an awareness of ethical risks. ‘Instead of striving for “equality” and “rapport” in research,  a critical  empathy involves accepting - and interpreting - differences and disconnections  as central to memory studies and understanding how people live with the “afterwards-ness” of apartheid.

‘In my practise as an Oral Historian, empathy is neither sympathy nor an emotion but imagining how the past was possibly experienced by others at specific moments in time and place. In other words, empathy is not about sharing feelings but “perspective shifting” and attempting to imagine historical scenes through “the eyes” of the other with a view to better understanding their past and present worlds,’ he added.

‘I am not suggesting researchers should feel nothing. But we need to distinguish between “imagining” and “feeling”, given that empathic imagination, especially when talking to survivors of violence, evokes feelings in us that will blur the imagination/feeling distinction. And researchers should not allow shared identities or political sympathies, to blind or mute their critical and empathic abilities.’

Field shared a personal example of a research dialogue framed through age, culture, race, gender and class. A working class woman, who was a Black Consciousness activist and writer, using isiXhosa and English was interviewed. The woman, who grew up in Cape Town’s oldest Black township, Langa and is still resident there today, spoke at length about her memories of life under apartheid. Field said there was a ‘lowering of the walls’ in the interview, and ‘some trust’ co-created.

‘This wise woman was teaching me and simultaneously revealing strength in how she spoke about her fragilities.  But our dialogue was overshadowed by her memories of the systemic violence of apartheid and there were echoes of loss throughout.

‘The multiple losses of the past weigh heavily on/in Black South Africans who lived through apartheid. The loss of loved ones, of homes, of work opportunities, the loss of fantasies of a particular kind of future life, which cannot be rekindled in old age, even though democracy now exists in South Africa.’

He also pointed out that full comprehension of loss, pain and other feelings will ‘elude us but the possibilities for people to experience an “enlivening” within themselves by telling their stories to an empathic listener is significant.

‘Empathy might contribute to reconciliation - although that is not its primary purpose. Rather I think its benefit for memory studies will be in helping us understand how people remember and forget the irreconcilable legacies after apartheid, such as the evocative “after-words” that resist expression in any language or culture.’

He suggested that critical empathy together with holding dissonance in mind would assist people think beyond their own paradigms making them more receptive to the ‘belated’ legacies still to be comprehended in what people remember and convey.

‘Memory studies can support individuals and communities but we cannot provide “redemptive” solutions/cures for post-apartheid sufferings. There is no easy road in doing memory studies after violence, but one place to start, is to know our motives and ourselves more deeply, before we try to “bear the unbearable” that survivors “try to” convey to us.’

Melissa Mungroo

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Education Students Present their Work at Research and Service Learning Seminar

Education Students Present their Work at Research and Service Learning Seminar
Students in Biological Sciences for Educators 420 presented their research during a seminar on the Edgewood campus.

Biological Sciences for Educators 420 students presented their work at a Seminar presentation on the Edgewood campus as part of their Research and Service Learning module for this semester.

The Seminar showcased the students’ research and service learning projects while also celebrating, recognising and valuing their research efforts.

Topics included developing learners awareness about sex education and contraceptives; investigating the development of young children’s fine motor skills at a local day care centre; engaging “lazy” students in physical activity; and nutrition and permaculture gardens at an old age home.

Nine groups presented for up to 20 minutes with each student within the group being given the opportunity to talk about their research project.

One of the groups investigated the control of upper limb movements in people with cerebral palsy at PalsyCare in Pinetown through the development of activities. These activities included colouring in, wheeling, catch and bean picking.

Speaking about their project, students Ms Jennifer Sheokarah, Ms Nokubonga Biyela and Ms Nelisiwe Ngcungama said caregivers at the centre were not able to supervise the improvement of upper limb movement and did not provide opportunities for people with cerebral palsy to do things independently, due to a lack of human resources for this work. 

‘People with cerebral palsy at the centre had poor upper limb movement before our activities were implemented and supervised. During our activities there was constant improvement. This shows that practice and simple activities can improve upper limb movement with supervision and motivation,’ said Sheokarah.

The students believe that caregivers at the centre should consult with physiotherapists on appropriate activities, then implement them as a cost effective method.

‘The centre should also design a programme with simple activities to aid in improving upper limb movement and parents should be encouraged to also implement these activities at home.’

In light of the overall work by the Biological Sciences for Educators 420 students, Lecturer Dr Angela James said: ‘The students’ work was connected to their lives and that of the community they engaged with. Their “learning in action” has relevance for greater development for the students personally and professionally. The students said every project has “been an exciting, frustrating and a great learning experience.’

‘Service learning and research knowledge and skills are excellent foundations for undergraduate student teachers for life-long learning. In fact, all university students should be engaged in a structured service learning module during their study programme, as agents of community and sustainable development socially, economically and environmentally.’

The seminar was well attended by students, staff, placement managers, family members and friends. 

Melissa Mungroo

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