Reducing the Time and Cost of Drug Susceptibility Testing for Mycobacterium Tuberculosis

Reducing the Time and Cost of Drug Susceptibility Testing for Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
Ms Tashmin Rampersad.

Drug susceptibility testing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is often either time consuming or expensive, says UKZN student, Ms Tashmin Rampersad.

In her Masters research, Rampersad looked into alternative ways of speeding up this process by investigating the novel high throughput methodology known as multipoint inoculation which offers the advantage of testing multiple isolates on one drug embedded medium, thus reducing the time and cost of drug susceptibility testing.

The study was significant because an accumulative number of TB patients, especially in the local context, showed drug resistance. Conducting rapid tests to discover which drugs the TB bacteria in a person were sensitive to, was one such way of improving the disease’s management and treatment.

Rampersad presented the study at the College of Health Sciences’ Annual Research Symposium where she said there was a lack of high throughput methods for resistance testing of laboratory isolates.

Although the multipoint inoculation had been performed with other bacterial isolates, it had never been performed using Mycobacterium tuberculosis due to its slow growth and the fact that it is a hazardous infectious agent, she explained.

Supervised by the esteemed Professor Willem Sturm and Dr Mantha Makume, her study used multipoint inoculation to test 12 anti-TB drugs for 30 Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates and the results were analysed and compared to the gold standard - agar proportion method.

Rampersad said susceptibility testing of one more drug was done using multipoint inoculation and the gold standard in the study.

‘The expected outcome is to conduct a third susceptibility test and compare this to multipoint inoculation and the gold standard.’

‘TB is a widespread disease that raises concern in HIV-infected individuals and immune compromised individuals in general. This makes TB research a passion of mine; knowing that I am contributing to the fight against it or making at least a small impact to society.’

Rampersad attained a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry before graduating with a Bachelor of Medical Science Honours degree in Medical Microbiology.

She said UKZN was her institution of choice for her Masters research because of its international recognition and state of the art facilities. ‘Research conducted here is also very interesting and ground-breaking.’

Rampersad added that after completing her Masters research on TB, pursuing a PhD was at the top of her list.

‘My parents and brother have been my greatest support throughout my academic career. Their undying love and encouragement keep me moving forward,’ she said.

Lunga Memela

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Owayengumfundi Wezomculo eUKZN uSteve Dyer edlala emcimbini i-Confluence Homecoming Tour

Owayengumfundi Wezomculo eUKZN uSteve Dyer edlala emcimbini i-Confluence Homecoming Tour
Owayengumfundi wase-UKZN esizindeni somculo we-Jazz ne-Popular Music.

Click here for English version

I-Centre for Jazz and Popular Music (CJPM) eyingxenye Yesikole SezobuCiko e-UKZN ibivakashelwe yisihlabani esasingumfundi e-UKZN uMnu Steve Dyer odlale esiteji njengengxenye yohambo lwakhe i-Confluence Homecoming Tour 

I-Confluence, okuyialbhamu ka-Dyer’s yesi-6 iyingxubevange yemisindo enemisuka ehlukene ekhombisa ukuthi imiphakathi iguquka kanjani, nokuthi amasiko ahlukene, izinhlelo zezinkolelo  nabantu sebexhumana ngezinga elithe xaxa.

Imicabango kaDyer ngohambo lwasezweni lakhe iNingizimu Afrika, ibalulekile kakhulu ngoba ihlanganise nokunye okunomthelela kuye nasohambweni lwakhe. Ngisho ngabe kukuphi , inhloso yakhe ayiguquki: ukuhlanganisa izwi laseAfrika  nomculo ohleliwe nongahleliwe.

UDyer ongowokuzalwa eMgungundlovu waphothula izifundo zakhe zomculo e-Natal University ngonyaka wezi-1981. Wenqaba ukubuthelwa ebusosheni, wase elifulathela elaseNingizimu Afrika wayozinza eBotswana, United Kingdom naseZimbambe. Ngowezi-1993 wabuyela e-UKZN ezofunda emnyangweni womculo wasethuthela eGauteng lapho esehlala khona.

Lolu hambo olubizwa nge-Confluence Tour  lwaseKZN luwukubuyela ekhaya emva kwesikhathi eside engekho. Ebuzwa ngalokhu, u-Dyer uthe: ‘ Imisindo eminingi kwengikubhalayo isuselwa esikhathini esiphambilini sempilo yami. Lokhu kuhlangene nolwazi enginalo lomculo olusukela ngenkathi ngihamba eThekwini yingakho ngimagange ngokwabelana ngakho nezethameli zaseKZN. Ngiyabonga ukusebenzisana nabaculi abasebasha futhi abanethalente kanye nomngani wami wakudala onguzakwethu kwezomculo uAndile Yenana.’

Badlale umculo othathelwe kwi-albhamu esanda kukhishwa “i-Confluence’ namanye ama-albhamu amadala.

Iqembu lakhiwe uSteve Dyer, (umhlabeleli, i-seksofoni, umtshingo; Andile Yenana, (upiyano), Lwanda Godwana, (ithrampethi, necilongo i-lfugel), Amaeshi Ikechi (isiginci se-bass), noLungileThe group comprised Steve Dyer, (vocals, saxophone and flute); Andile Yenana (piano), Lwanda Gogwana (trumpet/flugelhorn), Amaeshi Ikechi (acoustic/electric bass) and Lungile Kunene (izigubhu),

uMelissa Mungroo & Thuli Zama

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Contributing to Lung Cancer Research

Contributing to Lung Cancer Research
Ms Refilwe Molatlhegi.

UKZN Medical Biochemistry student, Ms Refilwe Molatlhegi, has successfully synthesised and tested the anticancer properties of the novel compound known as carbazole in her Masters project.

Molatlhegi said carbazoles and their derivatives had been reported to have anticancer properties and her research entailed synthesizing the novel carbazole compound to test its efficacy in killing of lung cancer cells.

Aware that cancer had become the second leading disease in the world after cardiovascular diseases, with lung cancer as the main cause of cancer-related deaths, Molatlhegi’s study was titled: “Antiproliferative Effect of a Novel Synthesized Carbazole Compound on A549 Lung Cancer Cell Line”.

She said it was alarming that most of the global cancer cases were reported in developing countries, such as South Africa.

‘Different therapies including chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy have been used for cancer treatment,’ said Molatlhegi. ‘However, chemotherapy and radiotherapy lack specificity therefore healthy cells can also be harmed during treatment.’

The survival rate of lung cancer patients undergoing surgery was also poor, said Molatlhegi, and subsequently there were no effective drugs for treatment of the condition.

Presenting her study at a College of Health Sciences Research Symposium, Molatlhegi said there was therefore a need for development of more potent and specific anti-lung cancer drugs.

‘The results of this study demonstrated that the cytotoxic properties of this novel synthesized compound could possibly be associated with its ability to down regulate the expression of antioxidant defence proteins (Nrf2 and SOD) and Hsp70 thus activating ROS overproduction.

‘This was an in vitro work, therefore more work still needs to be done in order for us to authenticate the cytotoxic pathway of this novel carbazole compound on A549 lung cancer cells before it can be tested in the animal models of lung cancer and then clinical trials.’

Molatlhegi obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry in 2012 and graduated with an Honours in Biotechnology from Rhodes University in 2013.

Her Masters research at UKZN was supervised by Medical Biochemistry Head, Professor Anil Chuturgoon, and Dr Alisa Phulukdaree.

She said the research project was in collaboration with Professor Robert Gengan and Dr Krishnan Anand from the Durban University of Technology’s Department of Chemistry who were responsible for the synthesis of the novel carbazole compound.

‘Developing countries such as South Africa have high cases of HIV, TB, cancer and malaria, which continue to affect the socioeconomic state of our country. As a result South Africa needs young ambitious people working on cutting-edge biomedical science, technology and innovation research to develop early diagnostics and treatment.’

Molatlhegi said it was exciting to conduct research where the ultimate goal was to help people; in this case those affected by lung cancer.

‘The results of the study have the potential to be quickly translated from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside treatment for lung cancer. This makes me passionate about my research, knowing that the findings are somehow contributing to medical research in addition to actively joining other scientists worldwide in developing technological entities to cure these diseases.’

Molatlhegi said she hoped to devise novel techniques, compounds and interventions that would help to control some of the diseases burdening the country.

Lunga Memela

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Improving Primary Emergency Care for KZN Communities

Improving Primary Emergency Care for KZN Communities
UKZN equips doctors and nurses with skills for primary emergency care.

UKZN ran its eighth successful Emergency Medicine Workshop, training doctors and nurses from KwaZulu-Natal hospitals and community health centres to provide effective and preventative primary emergency care to patients.

The highly interactive workshops are multidisciplinary and modelled on the principles of experiential learning, according to the Department of Family Medicine’s Dr Mergan Naidoo.

Naidoo said the workshops equipped participants with the ability to share the latest knowledge and skills acquired with colleagues as a way of increasingly saving lives of patients brought into the emergency units of their respective hospitals. They also addressed significant challenges they faced on a regular basis as emergency health care practitioners.

Supported by the University and its Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) project, the Departments of Emergency and Family Medicine, Nursing, Paediatrics and Surgery have consistently collaborated to ensure that these ‘train-the-trainer’ workshops achieved the objective of up-skilling KwaZulu-Natal’s health districts in primary emergency care.

Naidoo said: ‘The overall development of emergency care in the province is essential.

‘You see many patients managed poorly, and this results in adverse outcomes for the patients.’

Not only was he passionate about teaching, but Naidoo said seeing the emergency care programme becoming more and more interactive was in itself rewarding.  He said two further workshops were planned for uThungulu and the uMgungundlovu districts in 2015.

While Naidoo delivered stimulating presentations on HIV and medical emergencies in asthma, hypertension and diabetes mellitus, his colleague, Dr Ruben Naidoo – Head of the Clinical Unit in Family Medicine – spoke about the medico-legal urgency of caring for a rape survivor as an emergency.

With intervals of fire drills, case studies and sharing best practices, the two-day workshop covered a host of other topics including paediatric emergencies, resuscitation, cardiology, trauma, toxicology, dealing with an unconscious patient experiencing fits, and ethics in the Emergency Room. These were presented by UKZN-affiliated lecturers and doctors who work in the eThekwini and iLembe health districts; making it easy for those attending to form strong networks for later encounters.

The Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Nursing and Public Health, Professor Busi Ncama, also addressed the workshop participants.

She praised them for taking time to attend the workshop which she believed was an ideal opportunity to update their skills and reflect on current practices.

Ncama spoke about the prioritisation of training students and healthcare practitioners within the decentralised communities they come from as strategically embarked on by UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.

Ncama alerted participants to the various postgraduate degrees and scholarships offered in the School, encouraging them to not shy away from sending applications.

A professional nurse at Stanger Hospital, Mrs Lindiwe Zulu, said the workshop was informative and covered an impressively broad scope of topics in a short space of time.

Dr Mahavishnu Moodley of Sundumbili Community Health Centre in the Ilembe District said he was also impressed with the workshop as it covered a lot in a short space of time.

Moodley said: ‘The workshop was a good refresher to keep updated with current trends.’

Participants agreed it was essential to recognise and treat medical conditions appropriately so that they did not result in emergencies.

Lunga Memela

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UKZN Academics Contribute to New Speech-Language Therapy Textbook

UKZN Academics Contribute to New Speech-Language Therapy Textbook
Dr Penelope Flack (left), Professor Mershen Pillay and Ms Jenny Pahl.

Three academics from UKZN’s Discipline of Speech-Language Pathology have contributed chapters to a new 2015 textbook which focuses on ways in which Speech-Language Therapists and Audiologists work with learners in South Africa’s education system.

Editors Professor Harsha Kathard of the University of Cape Town, who obtained her undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications from UKZN and Dr Sharon Moonsamy of  Wits, invited academics from the country’s six universities which offer Speech-Language Pathology programmes to contribute chapters to the first-of-its-kind textbook titled: Speech Language Therapy in a School Context: Principles and Practices (Van Schaik). 

There are also contributions from professionals in the fields of Education, Psychology, Occupational Therapy and Social Work.

Dr Penelope Flack, UKZN’s Academic Leader for Speech-Language Pathology, said as a result of this collaboration across universities, every chapter had its own flavour. She described the textbook as ‘a unique resource’ for both students and health care professionals, across a number of disciplines, who work in schools. 

Currently, there are many learners with barriers to learning in mainstream schools and are unable to access the support they need.  This is even more of a challenge for learners attending schools in rural and underserved communities. 

Flack explained there were currently less than 2 000 registered Speech-Language Therapists in South Africa with its population of 55 million. She said many clinicians chose to work in private practice because there were not enough funded posts in the public sector.  As a result the clinicians working in the public sector had enormous case loads, and those working in education in particular needed to find new models of service provision. 

The textbook was said to promote collaborative practices among professionals, including Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Learning Support Therapists and Teachers, while reinforcing the ethical principles and practices required by the Health Professions Council of South Africa. 

Flack and her colleague, Ms Jenny Pahl, co-authored a chapter on multiculturalism in the classroom, with UKZN PhD graduate, Ms Thandeka Mdlalo, also contributed; while Professor Mershen Pillay contributed a chapter focusing on communication in an educational context, co-authored with Professor Kathard. 

Observors believe Speech-Language Pathology students will benefit immensely from the textbook because not only is it informed by research and reflective practice from each of the contributors, it also has a strong focus on training graduate competencies around multilingualism and multiculturalism in clinical practice where students get to engage with clients more on an interpersonal level.

* A Speech-Language Therapist works with anyone with language, speech, voice or swallowing disorders. UKZN is the only institution in KwaZulu-Natal which offers a programme allowing students to get the hands-on experience of learning about the science of speech, and what qualifies them to practise as Speech Language Therapists.

Lunga Memela

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UKZN’s Ujamaa Centre Hosts Strategic Planning Workshop

UKZN’s Ujamaa Centre Hosts Strategic Planning Workshop
Participants at the Ujamaa Centre Strategic Planning Workshop.

UKZN’s Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research within the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) recently hosted its Strategic Planning Workshop in association with Africa Research associates who hail from countries across the continent.

Former postgraduate students and scholars from Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland, the DRC, Rwanda, Mozambique, Lesotho, Uganda and South Africa were recruited at the School to be ambassadors in their countries.

Academic Leader of Community Engagement in the School and Co-ordinator of Research, Pedagogy and Publications at the Centre, Professor Gerald West, facilitated the workshop.

Said West:  ‘The purpose of the workshop was twofold: to introduce the participants to the methodology of Contextual Bible Study (CBS) and to introduce and institutionalise Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) as a tool for Results Based Management (RBM) in our work in the community.’

The workshop sessions were facilitated by Chairperson of the Board, the Reverend Sibusiso Gwala, who was assisted by Programmes Co-ordinator, the Reverend Sithembiso Zwane.

The Director of Ujamaa Centre, Professor Raymond Kumalo, introduced the participants to the Ujamaa Centre, pointing out that the Centre is the only recognised Research and Community Engagement Centre within the School.

Melissa Mungroo

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Town and Regional Planning Students Attend Conference for Young Graduates

Town and Regional Planning Students Attend Conference for Young Graduates
Town Planning students attend Conference for planning students and young graduates.

Six Town Planning students from the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (SoBEDS) recently attended the Conference for planning students and young graduates at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), where they presented individual papers throughout the course of the Conference.

They attended the conference – thanks to sponsorship organised by Professor Matthew Davomi - to interact and engage with Town Planning students from a variety of Higher Educational Institutions in South Africa.

One of the students, Mr Phumlani Gumede added, ‘We also wanted to reposition the perceived status associated with UKZN’s Built Environment students, by showcasing just some of the exceptional research work we have done during our tenure at the institution over the past two years.’

According to Lecturer Ms Annette von Riesen, it was evident that the UKZN group was diverse in research approaches and even though unaccompanied by the lecturing staff were able to “defend their research ideas when challenged by fellow students and other academics.’

She further added, ‘Overall, our students exemplified exceptional professionalism, attention to detail, and incredible bounds of confidence.’

The group brought back with them a certificate they won on behalf of the University as well as an individual award given to Mr Zethembe Khuluse from the Conference.

‘Their continuous engagement with an array of professional planners, academics and young graduates, catapulted their understanding of their vocation and every widening base of potential employers and vocation peers,’ said Ms von Riesen.

Dr Khoyi Mchunu, a Senior Lecturer in the MTRP, also confirmed that the Conference has been able to secure a link with UJ in forming a youth planning cell that will sort to inspire fellow BEDS students to form one of their own. ‘The networking opportunity has also exposed students to personal interests that are career related and also has shown a different side to what was expected of UKZN Planning.’

‘We have been able to form new ties that we hope can be planted in the planning school even after we have left the Institution. We sincerely would like to thank the School in making it possible for the trip to happen and also a round of congratulations for all students that took part,’ said Mr Zethembe Khuluse ‘As much as they have grown, they have also raised the UKZN banner very high and for next year, the same is expected,’ said Mchunu.

They are currently working on developing a graduate programme for UKZN’s planning discipline, overseen by a team of SACPLAN accredited Professional Planning Mentors. ‘The main purpose of this establishment is not to generate wealth, but to create an environment which will train and mentor young graduate planners in a professional yet realistic environment.’

Papers presented were:

Mr Njabulo Ngcobo: “The potential of ecological infrastructure/environmental services as an effective strategy to address flood risk in Ladysmith town: The lessons for strategic planning and planning practice in the eMnambithi/Ladysmith Local Municipality”.

Mr Phumlani Gumede: “Evaluating an integrated active pavement template for transport interchange zones, as a renewable energy strategy for informal trade - The case study of the Warwick Transportation Precinct located near the eThekwini Central Business District”.

Ms Tracy Nokuzola April: “Assessing the inclusion of the physically challenged in the KwaZulu-Natal Transport System: The case study of Umlazi District, (Z section)”.

Mr Nhlanhla Nkwayana: “The impact of peri-urban densification on basic social service delivery in eNtshongweni area in eThekwini municipality”.

Mr Sikhosonke Nipha: “The contribution of the minibus (taxi) industry in alleviating the problems associated with public transportation: the case of uMhlathuze Local Municipality”.

Mr Zethembe Khuluse: “Power Dynamics, Conflict resolution and the profession of planning in a post-apartheid South Africa: various case studies within the province of KwaZulu-Natal”.

Melissa Mungroo

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Pregnancy Prevention and STI Awareness Campaign at UKZN

Pregnancy Prevention and STI Awareness Campaign at UKZN
Peer Educators at an STI awareness and anti-pregnancy event on UKZN’s Howard College campus.

UKZN’s AIDS programme hosted an STI/Condom and Pregnancy Prevention Awareness campaign on the Howard College campus.

‘The programme was held in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day when love is in the air with everyone’s attention on relationships and intimacy. It is important at such times to remember to be safe and responsible,’ said a programme organiser, Ms Noxolo Batembu.

HIV counselling and testing, condom distribution and demonstrations of female condoms, male condoms and dental dams took place.

The theme was: ‘You and I can prevent sexually transmitted infections’ and programme members went to all areas where students gather with the goal of providing educational information. STI information pamphlets and condoms were handed out.

Sessions were very informative and students received roses and valentine cards with a message promoting HIV counselling and testing. The emphasis was on promoting abstinence, faithfulness and the correct and consistent use of condoms.

The campaign aimed to:

·        reduce the spread of STIs and curb the spread of HIV and AIDS;

·        reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancy amongst students;

·        promote safe and healthy sexual decisions by reducing social stigma surrounding condom usage;

·        increase awareness of the importance of knowing your status by testing regularly;

·        increase awareness of the availability of free, quality treatment in campus health clinics; and

·        promote delayed sexual activity.

The event was held in partnership with the Department of Health and various stakeholders.

Noxolo Batembu

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Professor Keyan Tomaselli has Retired after 29 Years at the Helm of UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society

Professor Keyan Tomaselli has Retired after 29 Years at the Helm of UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society
Professors Ruth Teer-Tomaselli and Keyan Tomaselli.

This is his farewell speech:

A few months ago I got this missive from a past student.  Nilika Bidasee wrote: 

‘I do hope that you remember me - I was in CCMS as an undergraduate and postgraduate student, and miss my days of you torturing us, while Professor Ruth soothed our wounds: Jokes aside, my time at UND/UKZN, and particularly in CCMS, set me on the path I am today - a passionate Lecturer at the Midrand Graduate Institute.’

Well, I will be torturing UKZN students no more.

As from February 1, 2015, I took up a five-year post at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as a Distinguished Professor. I will thus be returning to the city in which Ruth and I grew up and where we got married.

My 30-year stint at UKZN started in 1985 when I was a green, brash, and inexperienced Professor, in a relatively small and highly collegiate institution. I departed from a massively enlarged university as a Professor Emeritus, wiser, grizzled and in search of new creative and intellectual challenges.   Some of these will include UKZN where I am now a Professor Emeritus.

I had not initially applied for the CCMS post that I was to assume. But the indefatigable Chris Ballantine visited us in Grahamstown in 1983 and he persuaded me to apply. He assured me that the University of Natal was no longer the politically conservative institution that it once was.  Indeed, so democratic had it become that faculty meetings sometimes ran for two days, often well into the night, as we debated and made policy. No-one had to fill in time sheets or workload calculations – we just did our jobs with great passion, like our students.

Few academics are afforded the opportunities that I and the CCMS team have experienced – the research-based graduate programme being the key.  Building CCMS’s global reputation could not have occurred without the dream team of Ruth Teer-Tomaselli, Lauren Dyll-Myklebust, Eliza Govender, and earlier lecturers such as Eric Louw, Miranda Young, Eunice Ivana and Nhamo Mhiripiri, and the hundreds of CCMS graduates, many of whom  who later returned significant resources to the Centre.  Space does not permit me to list all of them, so here are just a few who both studied and worked in the Centre, many since inception:  the late Lynn Dalrymple, Warren Parker,  Patrick Coleman and Richard Delate, Emma Durden and Mkhonzeni Gumede and Dudu Zwane with regard to public health communication.    Mary Lange, Jeanne Prinsloo, Mike Maxwell and Arnold Shepperson contributed significantly to other areas of activity over long periods.

In advisory capacities, the support of Ntongela Masilela, Lionel Ngakane, Moosa Moosa, Mazise Kunene, Graeme King, David Wiley, Helge Rønning and Stuart Hall need to be acknowledged. Administrators who went the extra mile included the irrepressible Santie Strong who has outlasted all of us, as well as Susan Govender, Sarah Strauss and Ausie Luthuli.

In the early start up days a succession of deans batted for us in faculty and Senate.  Ben de Wet, Tony Voss, Andrew Duminy, Hilstan Watts, George Trotter and Mike Chapman kept things going through the difficult 1980s into the 1990s, while the support from Vice-Chancellors and their deputies, Pieter Booysen, Colin Webb, Chris Creswell, Ahmed Bawa, Brenda Gourley, James Leatt, Eleanor Preston-Whyte and David Maughan Brown, was unstinting. More recently, deans like Donal McCracken. Michael Green and Nhlanhla Mkhize played key roles.  My thanks also to Professors Malegapuru Makgoba, Joseph Ayee, Salim Abdool-Karim and Cheryl Potgieter in recent years whose support has been valued.  In the 1980s, when UKZN was smaller, Manfred Hellberg, Derek Wang, Costas Criticos, Jasper Cecil, the late Ben Parker and many others made life and work interesting.

The early Unit drew its lecturers from the Faculties of Science, Education, Medicine, Arts and Social Science.  We were a wonderfully eclectic and energetic bunch and, in the pre-SAQA days, seminars would sometimes go on for two days or more in the classroom, in the corridors, the stairwells and back again.    Now its two hours or get bust by HEMIS and the work load calculator.

The establishment of CCMS was a momentous development at the University of Natal.  A palace coup, so to speak, had seen off a conservative top management, and the new brooms Pieter Booysen, Colin Webb and Chairman of Council Graham Cox, swept clean.  They, with the Faculties of Arts and Social Science, pushed through a long standing proposal for the establishment of a Unit that would examine and theorise media-society relations and cultural studies as a form of anti-apartheid struggle, and we developed a structure that would be popularly engaged.

Natal University was during the next five years to become known in local communities as a historically Black institution, a symbolic recognition of the University’s community engagement via the 70+ community organisations working from campus in opposing apartheid.  CCMS itself housed a number, like the Durban Media Trainers’ Group, the Natal Video and Allied Workers Organisation and the Westville Residents’ Support Group.  These were the days before PMs, PUs and workload templates when we did what we had to do to educate our students and bring democracy to the country.

These were also the days when deans got dirty with academics in the trenches, when VCs led peaceful student protest marches through the adjacent suburb, and confronted the security police impatiently flexing their sjamboks.  We all got tear gassed and chased across campus together.  These were the days when academics and students themselves made institutional policy.

During the 1990s folks like Ruth Teer-Tomaselli, who had just completed her UKZN PhD,  I am told by some ex-SABC Board members, single-handedly saved the Corporation, and she via the SABC’s voter education project, took the procedure to the nation via radio and TV.   At Brenda Gourley’s invitation, she represented Natal University at the Forum of African Women Educators, and she was offered a UNESCO Chair in Communication based here at Howard College.

The merger in 2004 brought its own challenges and opportunities, and CCMS went from strength to strength with extensive external funding from USAID/Johns Hopkins Health and Education, with smaller amounts from other social change and research organisations. Two hundred and fifty students participated in indigenous knowledge research projects, many of them now published and working in the field.   Our graduates are indicative of our success.   Two such successes are our two strategic research partners DramAidE, led by Mkhonzeni Gumede, and Art:  A Resource for Reconciliation Over the World, managed by Mary Lange.  Both have done extraordinary work and actively enriched CCMS.

CCMS was the first stop in Vice-Chancellor-elect Professor WM Makgoba’s pre-appointment tour of the University in 2001.   Makgoba had rearranged his schedule to include our Centre in his official itinerary. This news spread like wildfire across the University.  I was getting calls from everyone – why CCMS?  What’s our secret they asked?   

Some of the war stories and general strategies were told by Dr Vincent Maphai during his keynote address at the 10-year merger commemoration held on 29 October, 2014. It’s been a long haul since then as all South African universities had to engage three simultaneous and endlessly exhausting interacting processes:  i) post-apartheid transition, ii) integration into the Information society, and iii) re-incorporation into the community of nations.

CCMS has travelled a long path.  My appreciation to all who came along for the ride.  And, what a ride it’s been.  Avatar in big screen 3D ain’t got nothing on a CCMS field trip through the dunes, the battlefields, the jungles and SACOMM (SA Communication Association) conferences. 

My apologies to those whom I know I annoyed in the process. I took on finance officers, campus vice-principals and support division managers.  My mischievious reputation as a “fixer” – or as a trouble maker – according to my recent very supportive Dean, Nhlanhla Mkhize, follows me to this day.  But, as the Professor of Politics Sandy Johnston used to say, ‘Somebody’s gotta do the dirty work’.  Ruth tells me she has the scars to show for my impetuousness. For the hardy, you might like to read the official history of CCMS here:   (free access).

To UKZN, my appreciation for the extraordinary opportunity given us.

Ruth will continue as leader of the new CCMS as its moves into the future with new projects, new directions and new students.   Inevitably, my creative swashbuckling management style needs to be replaced with a tight approach that Ruth brought to the Centre in 2014.   

My best wishes to everyone.

Keyan Tomaselli

My UKZN email address will continue:

My UJ address is

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Renowned Researcher and Scientist Lauded at Memorial Function

Renowned Researcher and Scientist Lauded at Memorial Function
Professor Pat Berjak.

Family, friends, colleagues and students gathered at a function on the Westville campus to pay a warm tribute to Professor Patricia Berjak who died recently.

Berjak, an NRF A-Rated Scientist, was an Emeritus Professor in UKZN’s School of Life Sciences.  Her speciality was research into recalcitrant seeds – these are seeds which cannot be stored dry and therefore lack the ability to survive long enough in storage thus undermining food security in the developing world. 

A recipient of the NRF President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement and a world leader in her field, Berjak’s career at UKZN and the former University of Natal spanned 48 years.

During a simple, dignified and heartfelt ceremony in the Biological and Conservation Sciences Building, “Pat” - as she was affectionately known - was remembered for her unique character and incisive academic excellence.

Master of Ceremonies at the gathering, Dr Sershen Naidoo, who was Berjak’s colleague and former student, said her memory would live on through her research group as well as in the School of Life Sciences and in the conversational space engendered by its home, the Biological and Conservation Sciences building.   Naidoo paid tribute to her exceptional ability to teach:  ‘Pat didn’t just teach you, she taught you how to approach and appreciate science.  She was not easy to work with because she challenged you to be better.  She demanded excellence and saw the potential within you. 

‘When Pat was in the building, you knew.  You would never expect someone so small to shout so loud.  She was the only person I knew who could yell at me with care.  I will miss her screeching my name down the hall, cigarette in hand.  I will miss my source of inspiration.  Being her student was the highlight of my career.’

Another colleague, Professor Jenny Lamb, focused on Berjak’s academic achievements.  ‘Pat’s PhD thesis, a bright red, six inch tome on ageing in stored maize seeds, marked the start of her work in seed biology,’ said Lamb.  ‘Her work on the eco-physiology of mangroves was her first important published work, while her work on recalcitrant seeds is what she is best known for.  Over the course of her career she supervised 37 MSc and 16 PhD degrees.   Pat valued collaboration, and had the ability to fit people to projects.

‘Pat was hugely influential as a thinker, leader and researcher,’ said Lamb.  ‘She was competent and decisive, a scientist through and through, with an insistent curiosity that was followed by rigorous study.’  Lamb quoted A-rated academic and a former student of Berjak’s, Professor Jill Farrant, who referred to Berjak as ‘a supervisor and mentor of the highest order who made me the scientist I am today’.

Lamb also touched on Berjak’s human side, calling her ‘utterly memorable’ and alluding to her love of cats,  her passion for ballroom dancing, her enthusiasm for photography, her wry humour and her colourful expressions of disapproval, including ‘Oh vomit!’, ‘Pah!’, and ‘Cretin’, which she reserved for particularly  “slow-witted” students.  ‘But this tough exterior masked a marshmallow interior,’ explained Lamb.  ‘She wanted her students to try harder, work longer, think stronger and strive for excellence.’

The University of Witwatersrand’s Professor Dave Mycock was also a former student of Berjak’s.  ‘My first meeting with Pat in 1979 was memorable because she reprimanded me about my incorrect spelling of xylem.  She was my mentor, a dear friend, and a fellow drinker of tea and of cold tea - which was whiskey and water after work, disguised in a tea cup.

‘Thank you, Patricia, for your generous nature in all that you did,’ said Mycock.  ‘So many people benefitted from your wisdom so generously given.  You achieved so much and influenced so many.  Thank you for your razor intellect, for unpacking what recalcitrant is in scientific terms.  For your wicked humour and for your sense of the ridiculous.  Thank you for your obstinate resolve when fighting for a cause, especially for your beloved mangroves.’

Mycock especially thanked Berjak’s husband and academic collaborator, Professor Norman Pammenter, for ‘allowing me into your personal time and space with Pat’.

Ms Rosanne Diab, President of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), was next to pay tribute to Berjak, detailing her involvement with ASSAf, the 400-strong ‘brain trust of the nation’.  As a founding member of ASSAf and vice-president for the past seven years, the academy was a cause dear to Berjak’s heart because ‘it embodied the values she lived by, namely, excellence and service to society’.

Diab said that the tributes which had poured in for Pat from around the world had two common strands – they recognised her stature in the South African and global scientific community as a ‘giant and role model who made a huge contribution to knowledge production’, and lauded her ‘unique persona’.  ‘Pat was never afraid to voice her opinions, which were always strong.  There were no shades of grey.  She truly made her impact wherever she went,’ said Diab.

Current PhD student Ms Cassandra Naidoo referred to Berjak as ‘the woman who had the most profound impact on my life.’  Naidoo said it was difficult to comprehend that her supervisor was no longer around to correct her writing.  ‘Everything I did and achieved in science was for her,’ said Naidoo.  ‘She was the reason I could face any challenge because I knew she was behind me.’

Naidoo said she felt privileged to be a product of Professor Pat Berjak.  ‘Through the continued work in seed science research, her legacy will live on forever.’

As past Chairman of the Durban Botanic Gardens Trust, historian Professor Donal McCracken worked closely with Berjak who was later the Deputy Chair and a fellow trustee. McCracken said Berjak was an ‘intellectual who was hard working, methodical, free thinking and an outstanding research leader. 

‘Pat had an ingrained natural courtesy,’ he said.  ‘She was a non-conformist but she never used that non-conformity for personal advancement.  She had no time for humbug.’

Ms Denise Berjak shared fond memories of growing up under the benevolent interest and guidance of her aunt, who ‘loved crime novels but hated moths.  Determined is a great word to describe Pat.  She taught me that good things happen to those who work hard for them.

‘She was the strong woman behind many of us.  Under that tough shell lived a great, big, soft heart.’

In closing, Berjak’s husband for more than 48 years, Professor Norman Pammenter, warmly thanked people for their tributes and commented especially on the ‘loyalty Pat engendered in people, and her ability to turn that loyalty into love. 

‘She had a tremendous ability to impact people,’ he said.  ‘Loyalty, love, impact.  She was a remarkable woman.  I will miss her.’

 Sally Frost

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Death of Dedicated Educationalist

Death of Dedicated Educationalist
Dr Paddy Ewer.

Former Senior Mathematics Lecturer and Deputy Dean on UKZN’s Petermaritzburg campus, Dr Paddy Ewer, has died.

Known to his friends as “Mr P”, he had a long association with the Pietermaritzburg campus with his parents having lectured in Zoology in the then Faculty of Science during the 1940s and 1950s.

Ewer studied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, gaining a BSc in 1965 and MSc in 1967.

He began his academic career as a Junior Lecturer at UCT followed by posts at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana; St Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia; Varndean School for Girls, Brighton, England as a Teacher; the University of Malawi, where he rose to Associate Professor and Dean; and then the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe.

While in England he completed a second masters degree at the University of Sussex in 1971 (with Distinction).  During his tenure as Senior Lecturer at NUST, Zimbabwe, he completed a doctoral qualification in 2000. 

His principal areas of interest were Nonlinear Parabolic Partial Differential Equations, Heat Conduction, Functional Analysis, Dynamical Systems, Nonlinear Difference Equations and Mathematics Education.

He excelled in Dynamical Systems, Nonlinear Difference Equations and Mathematics Education contributing to their development through the national structures for advancing the teaching of Mathematics in every country he worked in, often as a member of the National Executive.

Ewer taught Mathematics on the Pietermaritzburg campus and from very early after his arrival as a Senior Lecturer developed a reputation for being a tough but lovable teacher.  Students learned he was a high quality and caring teacher with their best interests at heart and his classes were always bursting at the seams.  For those modules that were duplicated to account for the numbers, several students either rearranged their timetable or “did” the other lectures by “correspondence” to ensure they got maximum exposure to this outstanding educationalist.  Students in “commerce” were renowned for this so his influence goes beyond the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.

His other great strength was his ability to create a cordial environment within which usually onerous administration tasks were done with an esprit de corps, largely generated from his personality and charisma.  His administration skills were well honed from his time at the University of Malawi where he served as Dean of the Faculty of Science for seven years, overseeing many new educational initiatives.

He also served UKZN tirelessly in this critical area, both as a volunteer and in various full-time and acting appointments.  He was always willing to assist the Faculty Office and exercised his extensive knowledge in academic rules and attention to detail until he was no longer able to operate a keyboard.  As was typical of the man, he completed the 2015 Student Handbook late in 2014 while in hospital fighting the cancer he succumbed to.

Such a meticulous brain is usually housed in a not always pleasant personality but this was not the case with Ewer.  His razor wit, plethora of appropriate jokes or stories and his willingness to participate in every fun-run, dressed as ridiculously as possible to honour the theme, will stay with all who had the privilege of working with him.

His willingness to listen made him friend and colleague to administrative, technical and academic staff across the University.  He was, for many years, a stalwart of the Grignard Pub darts team earning himself an “honorary” membership of the Chemistry Department.  He was also a very skilled bridge and poker player often putting a deadpan expression to good use to win money from unsuspecting young guns. 

Outside of the University, Paddy’s reputation was also well established.  His encyclopaedic knowledge of just about everything was way beyond normal general awareness as was evidenced over many years of prize-winning participation in Pietermaritzburg quiz nights.

Those with a keen eye would have noticed the finger nails of his right hand were kept long.  This was for his quiet time when he played a classical guitar with considerable proficiency. 

His great sporting loves were tennis and cricket.  He was a good tennis player, very encouraging to younger players, especially in Malawi where he provided material support to promote the game.  He served as an umpire for club cricket in KwaZulu-Natal for several years. 

Our deepest sympathies to his wife, Paddy, and family.

* Compiled by Dr Murray Low (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Pete Zacharias (Safe Blood for Africa Foundation™).

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School of Life Sciences Gets Cutting Edge Equipment

School of Life Sciences Gets Cutting Edge Equipment
From left: Nanosight Specialist, Ms Clare Hannel; Senior Technician and PhD student, Mrs Nirasha Nundkumar, and Dr Mogie Singh.

A Senior Lecturer in UKZN’s School of Life Sciences, Dr Mogie Singh, has managed to secure funds from the National Research Foundation (NRF) through the National Equipment Programme (NEP), the National Nanotechnology Equipment Programme (NNEP) and the University Research Office for the purchase of Nanosight NS500 equipment.

The Nanoparticle tracking and characterisation system is the first in Africa and was purchased primarily to visualize, characterise, and measure particle size distribution, fluorescent labelling and zeta potential. It addresses the needs of a wide variety of applications including protein aggregation, exosome and microvesicle research, and gene /drug delivery systems. It contributes to characterisation under the new EU Definition of Nanomaterials, and is also suited to the analysis of particles labeled with fluorescent quantum dots.

Singh said: ‘In the Non-Viral Gene Delivery laboratory it will be routinely used in the training of young scientists adding to the development of human resource capacity. Research is being undertaken in the treatment of cancers using nanoparticles for delivery of genes/drugs. Hence physicochemical characterisation of these nanoparticle carriers and their complexes is crucial for future clinical application.’

Currently the equipment is located in the Non-Viral Gene Delivery laboratory in the Discipline of Biochemistry within the School of Life Sciences.

Singh emphasised that the instrument had a tremendous multi-user capacity and said researchers from the medical, pharmaceutical, chemical, biological or engineering fields who are undertaking work on nanoparticles would be able to utilise the instrument.

Training was conducted in the latter part of 2014 and students from the Discipline of Biochemistry who have started using the instrument were extremely pleased with the capabilities and information generated for their research output.

PhD student Miss Saffiya Habib said: ‘The equipment presents a more complete characterisation of nanoparticles than was possible with conventional methods of electron microscopy and DLS previously used in our lab. Furthermore, its user-friendly software, capacity for automation, fluorescence detection and measurement has extended the possibilities for the design of new experiments.’

Leena Rajpal

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Statistics Professor Receives SA Teaching Advancement at University Fellowship

Statistics Professor Receives SA Teaching Advancement at University Fellowship
Professor Delia North.

Professor Delia North of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) has been awarded a South African Teaching Advancement at University (TAU) Fellowship.

North is one of three UKZN staff members to receive the Fellowship and, like her colleagues, is a past recipient of the UKZN Distinguished Teacher’s Award, demonstrating her impact in the area she teaches in.

The TAU Fellowship Programme is an initiative of the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (Heltasa) which aims to provide academics who have been recognised for their excellence in teaching to extend their knowledge about teaching and learning with the support of other distinguished teachers at universities around the country.

This is the first year that the programme has been implemented and it will consist of several contact and training sessions with assignments and frequent online contact between the Fellows. Participants in the Fellowship programme will be able to execute a teaching research or development project during the programme, at the end of which they will become certified TAU Fellows.

North is eagerly anticipating the chance to be involved in the new venture. ‘Any activity that involves the distinguished teachers from other tertiary institutions around the country will be rich and fulfilling,’ said North. ‘I am sure that I will learn a lot from other expert teachers in Higher Education.

North has been teaching for over 25 years and has a remarkable history at UKZN, having completed her undergraduate studies in Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics at the former University of Natal (UN), as well as her BSc (Hons), Masters and PhD in the field of Statistics. She began lecturing at UN in 1982 with a break to complete her PhD, and returned to the Discipline of Statistics with a PhD in 1993, and is now the Academic Leader.

Throughout her years at UKZN, North’s excellence in teaching has frequently been acknowledged. She was the recipient of the Distinguished Teacher’s Award in 2004, and has also received ESKOM’s Award of Appreciation, a Golden Key International Honorary Award, a Certificate of Appreciation from the national Department of Education and a Medal of Honour from the Natural Sciences and Technology of the Suid – Afrikaans Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

‘Teaching is my passion and my joy and it feels great to be recognised for something that I truly care about,’ said North. It is her students, she says, who inspire her to go the extra mile in her teaching activities.

‘Just looking at their faces, seeing them understanding, makes it worthwhile - you see it in their eyes,’ said North. ‘I always tell them “this is hard, yes, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it”, so that they have a good appreciation for the value of what they get if they work hard. I go that extra mile but I make them go that extra mile for themselves, as in the end, I can only inspire - the real work must come from them.’

North’s passion for her Discipline has also led her to take up leadership positions in both national and international initiatives in Statistics, such as being the Theme Chair for the World Statistics Congress in Hong Kong in 2013, the Topic Chair at the International Conference on Statistics Education Conference in the United States in 2014 and acting as a guest Editor for the Statistics Education Research Journal from 2011 to 2014. She is also a master trainer for Statistics Outreach to Teachers in South Africa (maths4stats), a programme which trains high school Mathematics teachers to effectively teach their students the Statistics portion of the curriculum.

In terms of using the TAU Fellowship to encourage capacity building, North plans to investigate strategies to tackle the issue of student drop-out and improve throughput, an issue all universities are grappling with. North hopes to better understand the thresholds and challenges to success for first year students, particularly as they come from a schooling system that is vastly different to what they will experience in Higher Education.

‘Improving the teaching of mathematically-based subjects to large classes of students with varying levels of ability where many are not studying in a home language is an ongoing challenge,’ explained North, who believes this would possibly be a suitable topic for her TAU research project.

‘Our country has high unemployment, so I like to teach in a way that gives each one the opportunity of passing if he/she works hard,’ added North.

North credits some of her expertise in teaching to the time she spent completing her PhD while raising her three sons. ‘Anyone who has stayed home with three sons and three dogs will know how to teach if you want any peace in the house,’ she laughed. ‘Crowd control after those years came naturally.’

To other teachers who aspire to achieve what North has, she has following advice: ‘Don’t ever complain about the ability of students; they are what they are, so find a way to improve their knowledge and inspire them as they have often had shocking role models and don’t always have the support we might have enjoyed growing up.’

Christine Cuénod

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UKZN Academic Elected Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers

UKZN Academic Elected Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Professor Saneshan Govender.

UKZN’s Professor Saneshan Govender has been elected as a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

The high achieving Professor, who is extremely passionate about engineering, has received many accolades during his career but is especially proud of his ASME achievement.

‘This recognition leaves me with a warm feeling and a true sense of achievement,’ said Govender.

Prior to joining UKZN in 2000, Govender worked at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for five years during which time he focused predominantly on Aircraft Gas Turbines and Computational Fluid Dynamics.  The need to share his expert knowledge in the field led him to UKZN in 2000, where he felt he would be able to make a meaningful contribution to the development of aspiring engineering students.

Govender is also proud of the recognition he received in 2001 when he was the recipient of the Conference Fellowship Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.  This award was an outstanding achievement for Govender and thereafter he was appointed as associate professor at UKZN and full professor in 2005.

The choice to leave the University in 2007 was a difficult one, however, he felt a pressing need to make a contribution to industry and he joined Eskom as Chief Engineer Gas, getting involved in the design of gas, coal, solar and wind plants.

In 2008 he obtained his Doctor of Engineering from the University of Pretoria.  Between 2012 to 2014 he published three books aimed at practising engineers and scientists with topics covered including coal, gas, wind and solar CSP plants. In addition he has published 44 articles in leading international journals as well as 18 conference papers and has presented lectures at institutes all over the world.

Govender, who is still employed by Eskom as Corporate Specialist Gas Turbines and Thermo-flow Systems, holds the position of Honorary Professor at UKZN.

 Prashina Kallideen

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Model Rocket Car Challenge at UKZN

Model Rocket Car Challenge at UKZN
Representatives of Clifton College in Durban with the Bloodhound racing car model and their own winning car design that reached an average speed of 152.15km/h.

The boundaries of innovative engineering design were recently tested at a model Rocket Car Challenge Workshop at UKZN’s Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC).

BLOODHOUND SSC Education Director, Mr Dave Rowley, and the BLOODHOUND SSC Education team in South Africa visited UKZN to facilitate the workshop which was the first for the South African science and education community. A total of seven teams participated in successfully building their own model rocket cars from basic materials, such as dial sticks and Styrofoam.

BLOODHOUND SSC is the most advanced racing car ever designed. Using a jet and a rocket engine, the car is designed to travel faster than a bullet when it is tested on the desert surface of Hakskeenpan in the Northern Cape later this year and in 2016.

The aim is to break the world land speed record and in so doing inspire a generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science is well versed when it comes to rocketry. The School of Engineering’s residing ‘Hybrid Sounding Rocket Programme’ (HSRP) team at Howard College launched Phoenix 1 in 2013 and Phoenix 1A last year.

A hybrid rocket uses a liquid oxidiser in combination with a solid fuel grain which combines under pressure to produce thrust.

BLOODHOUND SSC has a hybrid rocket developed and supplied by NAMMO, which uses high test peroxide (HTP) and hydroxyl terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), to produce 122 kN of thrust. HTP functions as an oxidiser, and HTPB as the solid fuel.

Despite Howard College’s successes, the Westville campus is the home of UKZN’s Science Centre, and served as the location for the rocket workshop, hosting participants from Maritzburg College, George Campbell Technical School, Clifton College, LIV Village and three teams from Wiggins Secondary.

Rowley welcomed and introduced the students to BLOODHOUND SSC and emphasised that by participating in the workshop the students were taking an active leap towards becoming scientists or engineers.

The students were put in teams and given the task of designing and building a car from a 30cm long block of Styrofoam. The design needed to be aerodynamically stable, and include wheel axles and rocket motor housing as well as being able to withstand typical forces when travelling at speeds of more than 100 km/h. This was the participants’ introduction to “rocket science”!

The teams also had to give their creations a unique name.

The range of designs and “branding” configurations the seven teams produced was outstanding. Once completed, each team got involved in testing their models which involved attaching the car to a guided-wire track and using a radio control transmitter to ignite a solid rocket motor placed inside the car. The activation of the solid rocket motor was the catalyst for high speed trajectory. Each car passed a timing device which calculated the speed of the car as it travelled past. All teams were then required to reload their designs for a repeat run.

The necessity of a repeat run is consistent with BLOODHOUND SSC plans for Hakskeenpan, when the world’s-fastest car will need two test runs within an hour of each other to validate its average speed.

Teams then went to the Vibration Research and Testing Centre (VRTC), which facility was kindly made available by Mr Pravesh Moodley. This 95m long, temperature related facility is used by Engineering students with the conductor vibration test rig. Protected from the elements and with a smooth concrete floor, the VRTC proved a perfect run site for cars. Pan African Pyrotechnics supplied the equipment for the testing, while Edit Microsystems provided the timing device to calculate the average speed of each team’s car.

Team members lined up alongside the track to marvel at their creations being ignited from the start of the track in a flurry of flame and smoke. Mr Simon Watson of Pan African Pyrotechnics loaded the cars onto the wire track one after the other. The first car, the creation of the George Campbell Technical team, reached an impressive speed of 122 km/h while the Maritzburg College design achieved 138 km/h.

After each car had completed two runs, the teams returned to STEC to debrief on the top speeds of each car. The Clifton College design clocked the fastest average speed of 152.15 km/h.

BLOOHOUND hopes to organise many more rocket car challenges in South Africa.  The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, has said she would like to see the challenge launched through all science centres.

To find out more, follow the project at 

 Christopher Maxwell, BLOODHOUND SSC

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20 000+ Partnership has Achieved its Goal

20 000+ Partnership has Achieved its Goal
Health professionals at the 20 000+ Partnership meeting.

The close-out meeting of the 20 000+ Partnership project was held recently in the knowledge that its founding goal declared seven years ago had been achieved!

The project took its name from the assertion that if the prevention of the mother-to-child transmission of HIV programme was run effectively, 20 000 children a year in KwaZulu-Natal would be saved from being infected by HIV.

On presenting the background to the project, Mrs Zama Luvuno, formerly of 20 000+ and now with KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health (DoH), said the partnership which comprises UKZN, KwaZulu-Natal DoH and the Institute for Health Care Improvement (IHI) was awarded a five-year grant by the Centre for Disease Control.

The PEPFAR funded 20 000+ Partnership was a health systems strengthening project aimed at improving the quality of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMCTC) services in public health facilities in three KwaZulu-Natal districts.

Luvano said: ‘The programme provided support and mentorship to the eThekwini, Ugu and Umgungundlovu districts with the aim of significantly reducing perinatal HIV transmission within two years and improving overall child survival within five years.’

‘At the time there was a gap in the performance of the PMTCT programme. Perinatal HIV was high at 20% despite existing programmes,’ said Luvuno. ‘20 000+ introduced a quality improvement methodology that made sure that the service delivery was reached by all targeted groups,’ she added.

Dr Wendy Maphatswe-Dhlomo, who outlined the successes of the project over the period of its work, said significant decreases in perinatal infections were noted as well as improved uptake of HIV counselling, retention in care of HIV positive mothers and follow-up of babies. This was also in the context of a number of health systems changes – such as nurse-initiation of anti-retroviral medication and changes in the ART guidelines.

Mrs Lindiwe Ngwenya shared the eThekwini district’s experience with the meeting. ‘After being engaged with 20 000+, we saw the improvement in meetings, challenges were identified and strategies devised. We learned a lot about collecting accurate data and information and doing presentations armed with that knowledge.’

Ngwenya said she also learned a lot on quality improvement training through the project. ‘Working as a team with districts, sub-districts and level facilities provided us with much needed skills.’

‘The project helped strengthen communication between the district and its seven sub-districts,’ said Mrs Thuli Tembe of the Umgungundlovu district. ‘The project helped strengthen ties with feeder clinics and mother hospitals. It promoted a team approach into solving problems since we are all working to towards achieving the same goal. We have also noticed an increase in service delivery.’

Mrs Mpume Shibe, PMTCT Co-ordinator in Ugu district, said the programme taught them the importance of work and accountability, ‘Ugu noticed a big change in their work since 20 000+. We won awards, including the Impumelelo award, and linked community health care givers to strengthen service delivery. We really appreciate 20 000+. Masibavikele Campaigns also helped a lot in the reduction of maternal deaths.’

Charting the way forward, Dr Bernhard Gaede indicated that the partnership had since been incorporated in the Centre for Rural Health (CRH) at UKZN as a strategic partner in advancing health systems innovation and quality improvement. As part of the strategic vision of the CRH, health systems innovation and quality improvement were key to responding to the priority needs of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.’

Nombuso Dlamini

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Primary School Learners Targeted in National Deworming Campaign

Primary School Learners Targeted in National Deworming Campaign
UKZN representatives at a meeting in Gauteng (from left) Dr Eyrun Kjetland, Dr Zilungile Kwitshana and Professor Myra Taylor.

Three UKZN academics attended a Unicef-funded meeting in Gauteng where delegates heard about the rollout of a national deworming programme in South African primary schools.

The University representatives were Dr Zilungile Kwitshana, Professor Myra Taylor and Dr Eyrun Kjetland.

The national deworming programme linked to the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) was announced by Health Minister Angie Motshekga in her budget vote speech last year. The programme is aimed at improving quality education through the Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP) to prevent Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) in learners.

Programme Manager: NTD Control, Partnership for Child Development at the Imperial College in London, Dr Laura Appleby, told the meeting 600 million children of school-going age world wide were at risk of parasitic worm infections.  Appleby encouraged governments to implement the deworming programme in public schools because worm infestation impacted negatively on school attendance.

Deputy Director-General for Social Mobilisation and Support Services in South Africa, Dr Granville Whittle, said the implementation of the deworming programme was necessary because there was a high prevalence of infection by various worms including roundworms, whipworms and hookworms.

Whittle added that the programme would only be feasible in the schooling system if the private sector, civil society and education stakeholders came on board to assist Government in providing health services to children. A budget of R7 million had already been made available.

In South Africa, STH infection is most prevalent among disadvantaged children who live in densely-populated and under-serviced areas such as informal settlements.  High levels of infection have been documented in children in all provinces.

Research indicated that in 1999, 90% of children attending 12 primary schools in Cape Town were infected, while in 2001, the prevalence of roundworms and whipworms was 89.2% and 71.6% respectively in children aged between two and ten years old in an informal settlement in Durban.

In 2003, 45% of children in a study conducted in the Free State were infected with pinworms; while in 2005 the overall STH infection rate was 55.8% in a large, non-selection sample of children attending nine schools in Cape Town.

The meeting was attended by officials from the Departments of Basic Education, Health, and Social Development as well as development partners, international NGOs and research and academic institutions.

 Nombuso Dlamini

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Career Opportunities Explored at Law Professions Day

Career Opportunities Explored at Law Professions Day
Law students engaging with recruiters at Law Professions Day.

Students at the 8th Law Professions Day hosted by the School of Law in Pietermaritzburg and Durban were told by prospective employers how the skills they acquired in achieving their qualification would play a major role in their development into sought-after graduates.

The annual event involved South Africa’s top legal firms advising students on a variety of career avenues available to them within the legal profession and also provided a platform for firms to recruit the University’s top Law students.

More than 20 firms attended both events, including representatives from Adams&Adams, Norton Rose, Werkmans, Bowman Gilfillan as well as from other organisations such as Legal Aid and the National Prosecuting Authority.

The School of Law uses this event to strengthen ties with the legal fraternity. The Dean and Head of School, Professor Managay Reddi said: ‘Apart from exposing our students to the legal profession the Day also serves to forge important links between the academics and members of the profession. The most obvious benefit of this relationship is that our academics are kept abreast with the needs of the profession. As a result we are able to ensure that the training we offer to our students is always relevant and of the highest standard.’

The representatives had discussions with students about the value of early job applications and any concerns they had regarding the legal profession. UKZN Law graduate and Constitutional Court of South Africa Law Researcher, Ms Winnie Ngubane,  said the event gave them an opportunity to not only inform final year students about the law clerk programme but to help ease the anxiety every graduate faced concerning finding a job.

‘It is amazing to engage with students and hear their views as well as to give them knowledge that will broaden their way of thinking and also expose them to wonderful career opportunities,’ said Ngubane.

Taking full advantage of the information-gathering opportunity, students carefully read the information pamphlets handed out by the law firms while listening to briefings as they stopped at each stand.  Some even used the opportunity to apply for jobs at the legal firms by submitting their CVs to the recruiters.

Final year Law student, Ms Mandy Mthethwa, said the event was very useful as it had led to her doing her articles with Adams&Adams.

‘A representative from the company last year encouraged us to leave our CVs with them. To my surprise she later called and invited me to their bootcamp and I eventually did my articles with them. It was such a wonderful learning experience that would not have been possible if this platform did not exist,’ said Mthethwa.

For second year student, Mr Kyle Frey, the event was enlightening as he felt it was never too early to start finding out about career options.

‘Talking to representatives of law firms I would like to work at after completing my degree has given me an idea of the working world and how I should structure my studies to get into the field of my choice.  Interacting with the law firms has also boosted my self-confidence as I know that I am on the right career path.’

Thandiwe Jumo

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Law Students' Outreach Programme Empowers Vulnerable Communities

Law Students' Outreach Programme Empowers Vulnerable Communities
Members of UKZN’s Law Clinic during one of their visits.

Final year Law students recently empowered Durban communities with legal education through an outreach programme co-ordinated by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Law Clinic in partnership with Urban Aid and C.A.S.T’s and Street Law South Africa.

The pilot programme saw the students who are doing Clinical Law or Street Law elective deliver a presentation to the communities of Chesterville and Addington in Durban with the aim of giving the public an in depth understanding of the legal issues they are faced with.

This includes cases ranging from divorce, unlawful evictions, and contractual and estate matters for Durban residents who cannot afford legal assistance. It achieves this through offering legal advice and informing the community of their rights.

The clinic recognises the importance of blending theory and practice in preparing the students for a successful legal career as most of its students are practising as attorneys, advocates or are employed in the legal sector, business sector or in government departments.

In its mission to offer students a well-rounded education, the clinic also has strategic partnership with Legal Aid South Africa which funds a supervising attorney for three years to mentor the clinic’s Candidate Attorneys making it possible for the clinic to increase capacity.

Thandiwe Jumo

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GSB&L Celebrates the Success of its LED Programme

GSB&L Celebrates the Success of its LED Programme
The award recipients with GSB&L staff and DEDTEA representatives.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) held an awards function on the Westville campus to celebrate the strides it has made in Local Economic Development (LED) education through its partnership with the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DEDTEA).

The celebratory function highlighted the success of the Regional and Local Economic Development (LED) Initiative which has played a vital role in developing capacity building and harnessing the skills of RLED practitioners required for sustainable economic growth and development.

GSB&L Acting Dean and Head, Professor Kriben Pillay, said the programme continues to play a vital role in producing research and skilled RLED practitioners who in turn contribute to a number of organisations where they work or practice and towards the future of the economy.

RLED Project Manager, Dr Jennifer Houghton gave an overview of the programme which currently includes welcoming 36 news students, their third group of social entrepreneurship champions as well as 10 new young researchers in 2015.

‘Today, we are celebrating the hard work of people who create change in people’s lives and play a valuable role in growing the economy. We have accomplished a lot as an experimental programme and we are still growing,’ said Houghton.

She also highlighted that the School is excited to see the partnership with the DEDTEA bearing fruit as the project will be graduating five full time research masters, eight coursework masters students and 18 postgraduate diploma students at this year’s Graduation ceremony.

‘These   programmes bring   together business practitioners, government officials and   academia and produce graduates who are abreast of issues in LED and are instrumental in solving complex issues in this field.

We are proud of the fact that we are equipping these practitioners with knowledge and skills and we hope that they will continue to engage with this programme and create the path for others to follow,’ added Houghton.

The event also created a platform for postgraduate diploma student Ms Rosheila Thomas, Master’s student, Mr Mandla Mkhungo and young researcher, Mr Sinakho Mpanza to share how they have benefitted from the programme.

Thomas said the two year journey opened a new world for her as the research equipped her with new knowledge of how she, as an LED practitioner at Emnambithi-Ladysmith Local Municipality can contribute to the fights against poverty.

‘This partnership is a golden opportunity for us practitioners as our research taught us what we can do to address the challenges in our communities. The knowledge we have gained has changed our outlook and how we contribute to our work. As we speak, I have been able to turn my research into a project which is currently being adopted by the municipality, this would not have been possible if I was not part of this programme,’ she said.

Mkhungo and Mpanza thanked the academic and administration staff for supporting them through their studies and encouraged LED practitioners to join the programme and enhance their potential.

The ceremony also saw the introduction of the 2015 cohort of young researchers and the new intake of champions who will be mentored by Professor Shahida Cassim. Awards were given to students with outstanding performances.

Thandiwe Jumo

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University of KwaZulu-Natal is now Live with OCLC WorldShare Management Services


UKZN becomes the first African institution to implement Online Computer Library Center (OCLC’s) cloud-based library management services.

The University is now using OCLC WorldShare Management Services as its library management system.

WorldShare Management Services (WMS) provide cloud-based library management and discovery applications in an integrated suite. WMS offers librarians a cost-effective way to manage workflows efficiently, and improve access to library collections and services for their users.

‘WorldShare Management Services offer a global, cooperatively managed knowledge base, and helps us widen access to learning, research and innovation, for both our local and overseas scholars,’ said Joyce Myeza, Acting Library Director. ‘WMS enables us to deliver infrastructure and support services designed around their learning needs.’

‘The cost of maintaining our previous library system was becoming unsustainable,’ said Myeza. ‘This, combined with a desire to provide consolidated access to all of our resources and make better use of our collections budget, played a key role in our decision to implement WMS.’

‘OCLC is excited to welcome the University of KwaZulu-Natal to the WMS community,’ said Eric van Lubeek, Managing Director, OCLC Europe, Middle East and Africa. ‘One of the institution’s strategic objectives is to establish efficient, effective management systems for students. We are delighted that the university saw WMS as a way to achieve this for its many library users.’

OCLC works in conjunction with its local partner, Sabinet, in the African region. Sabinet provided implementation support and training for UKZN and will be providing ongoing support for WMS in Africa. ‘We are pleased to have played a significant role in this project,’ said Ros Hattingh, Managing Director of Sabinet. ‘Sabinet has worked with OCLC for years and the successful implementation of WMS at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is a result of this strong partnership.’

More than 300 libraries on four continents-Africa, Australia, Europe and North America are currently using OCLC WorldShare Management Services to gain efficiencies and improve usability in library services and end-user discovery.

More about WorldShare Management Services is on the OCLC website.

Courtesy of OCLC

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