It took just seven years from inception to reality – a record in the sphere of scientific development.

But the big day has arrived. The new global KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV is now open for business in the grounds of the UKZN Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. The highly modular building with its distinctive wood interior and unique mosaic designs houses nine university departments that will now be the linking hub between three existing UKZN Medical School buildings.

The establishment of K-RITH as a major player in the global fight against TB and HIV has set a powerful and fundamental new precedent in terms of collaborative science.

In his welcoming address Robert Tjian, President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) emphasised the need to translate research into novel treatment for the “twin scourges” and new ways to manage the diseases.

‘It is fresh thinking that has led to the creation of this international research facility - the first of its kind outside the US and filled with extraordinary scientists,’ he said.

The opening of the new airy and attractive building on Tuesday October 9 was a joyous and proud occasion with celebrated storyteller, Gcina Mhlope, bringing a unique blend of traditional magic to the event. Other crowd-pleasing interludes were a performance by the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Wind Band, the rhythmic and harmonious Kholwa Brothers and the Wiggins Secondary School Choir.

Among the VIPs celebrating the birth of this international facility were The National Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Kurt Schmoke, Chairman of the HHMI Trustees and Vice President of Howard University, Dr Zweli Mkhize, premier of KwaZulu-Natal, K-RITH’s new Director Professor Bill Bishai, UKZN Vice-Chancellor, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba who outlined the history of the new building and those who had made possible a far-reaching dream.

The high point of the opening ceremony was the official unveiling of the K-RITH Tower Building. Pressing the start button were Dr Motsoaledi, Professor Makgoba, Professor Tjian and Professor Bishai.

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Vice-Chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has received the first South African-German Science Award at a special function held recently in Johannesburg. The award honours Professor Makgoba for his contribution as one of South Africa’s “top researchers and scientists”.

The presentation of the award formed part of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry at which Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe and Vice-Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr Philipp Rösler, were present.

In a letter to the University community, Mrs Phumla Mnganga, Chair of Council, congratulated Professor Makgoba on the prestigious achievement. ‘This serves to reaffirm the global recognition and respect that he continues to earn for his contributions to science. Council acknowledges his leadership in advancing the scientific endeavour at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and in South Africa,’ said Mrs Mnganga.

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Professor Keyan Tomaselli of the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) has been awarded a LifeTime Achievement Award for Communication Research by Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA).

The award was made at a recent gala dinner hosted by the JHHESA, USAID and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.

The Alan Jaffe Humanitarian Award for Lifetime Achievement was presented to Tomaselli in recognition of his significant contribution towards the institutionalised and stable continuation of training, research and capacity building in health communication for academics and practitioners in the field.

The late Alan Jaffe was a Doctor working on HIV issues in rural KwaZulu-Natal. ‘It is truly humbling to be recognised in the company of great scholars and practitioners such as Jaffe and researchers such as Larry Kincaid, Maria Lena Figouera, Professor Lynn Dalrymple, the Johns Hopkins University contingent and my own colleagues,’ said Tomaselli.

Tomaselli has played a crucial role in the development of a public health communication programme at the CCMS funded by the JHHESA through USAID for the past 10 years.

In partnership with a group of CCMS graduates, he was instrumental in developing a national AIDS campaign in the mid-1990s, using a communication/cultural perspective which moved beyond awareness to provide valuable research into cultural/socio-economic constraints to effective responses.

Tomaselli was also Supervisor of the late Lynn Dalrymple’s PhD which resulted in the development of DramAidE which uses performing arts and peer education in schools and universities across the country.

His on-going networking and mobilisation of his graduates and DramAidE led to a partnership in 2001 with the JHHESA to offer the first postgraduate course in Entertainment Education via a Health promotion module. The course has attracted graduates, practitioners and scholars internationally and is now a full programme within the School of Applied Human Sciences where it partners with Psychology.

In 2012, the programme was extended to offer specialised graduate programmes in health promotion and communication and associated community engagement initiatives.

Since 2002, 175 honours students, 30 master students and eight PhD students have graduated through the health communication programme. Many of these graduates have pursued health-related careers in education, the media, the NGO sector, management and the State.

Some of the high profile graduates mentored by Tomaselli include Dr Warren Parker and Professor Lynn Dalyrymple; a specialist in theatre for development, Dr Emma Durden; the Director of DramAidE, Mr Mkhonzeni Gumede; the Programme Manager of CCMS, Ms Eliza Govender and Managing Director of JHHESA, Mr Richard Delate.

Tomaselli has also contributed in the field of public health communication through an extensive publication output. His co-edited Development and Public Health Communication (2011) has been followed by a case study anthology, with Editors Durden and Govender, documenting 10 years of student research generated through this health communication research track.

Tomaselli started his media career in the film and TV industry in 1974, later teaching in the Wits School of Dramatic Art. In 1981, he joined Rhodes University’s Journalism and Media Studies Department completing his PhD in 1984 before relocating to Durban to establish what is now known as the CCMS.

A Fellow of UKZN and of the International Communicology Institute, his accomplishments include a Fulbright Scholarship and a KWANZA Award. He is Academic Co-ordinator for the School of Applied Human Sciences’ graduate programme on Culture, Health and Communication.

Tomaselli has served on the Future of the Humanities panel constituted by the Academy of Science of South Africa.

He is also an active member on the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) working group on Communication and HIV and AIDS which is the fulcrum for a seven-country reception study of the SABC-TV series, Intersexions, led by Govender and Dr Lauren Dyll-Myklebust.

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A UKZN sponsored team won the Senior Section of the recent 2012 SA Inter-Provincial Mathematics Olympiad (SAIMPO) recording a first victory for KwaZulu-Natal in the event’s 22-year history.

Fifty teams comprising 23 seniors (Grades 10-12) and 27 juniors (Grades 8-9) took part in the competition Co-ordinated by UKZN’s Dr Sudan Hansraj, who headed a panel of lecturers from the University which set the test papers.

Since April, staff at the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, headed by Emeritus Professor Poobhalan Pillay, have been training high fliers in mathematics from secondary schools in Durban and its immediate vicinity, to engage with challenging problems requiring mathematical insight.

The youngsters were part of the Siyanqoba Project administered by the South African Mathematical Foundation. Two two-hour classes are run weekly at the Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC) on the Westville campus with top performing students invited to attend, a significant number of whom are from the nearby Star College.

The UKZN Centre is one of 11 around the country, several being based at South African universities.

Four teams of 10 were eventually selected to represent the UKZN Centre at the SAIPMO. Guest of Honour, Professor Sunil Maharaj, Research Chair in Gravitational Systems at UKZN, delivered an inspirational message in which he urged the finalists to join the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science after high school.

UKZN organisers acknowledged sponsorship from the Actuarial Society of South Africa and thanked the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science for the excellent lunch provided for all.

In the individual rounds of the South African Maths Olympiad, KwaZulu-Natal bagged four of the top 10 positions. Three of these – Dhaneshwar Dlaien Sunder, Lloyd Mahadeo and Nashien Govindasamy, all from Star College, were part of Professor Pillay's training group and part of the Team that won the InterProvincial Contest.

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UKZN academic staff and postgraduate students walked off with the lion’s share of awards at the recent national Conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA) in Bloemfontein.

Mr Garreth Sparks, who graduated summa cum laude with an MScAgric (Agricultural Economics) degree in April 2011, Professor Gerald Ortmann and Professor Mike Lyne won the prize for the Best Paper published in Agrekon - the official ISI-accredited journal of AEASA – in 2011/12 for a paper titled: “A normative economic analysis of co-operative biodiesel production using soybeans produced by smallholders in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa”.

Sparks, Ortmann and Mr Louis Lagrange, formerly a Senior Lecturer in Agricultural Engineering at UKZN, won the Protein Research Trust Best Scientific Article award for 2011/12 for their paper titled: “An economic evaluation of soybean based biodiesel production on commercial farms in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa”. It was published in Agrekon Vol 50(3) in September, 2011.

Senior Lecturer Dr Edilegnaw Wale won the prize for the best article published in a scientific journal other than Agrekon for his paper titled: “Explaining farmers’ decisions to abandon traditional varieties of crops: empirical results from Ethiopia and implications for on-farm conservation”. This paper was published in the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture (2012).

Lecturer Ms Grany Senyolo was awarded a South African Agricultural Economics Professional Fellowship, which is administered by the National Agricultural Marketing Council and AEASA. The Fellowship provides support and networking opportunities for South Africa’s young agricultural professionals working in the areas of land reform, agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy, and marketing.

This award will enable Senyolo and two other young researchers to visit well-known American institutions, including Cornell University, USDA or other US government agency research facilities, the World Bank, Tuskegee University, not-for-profit institutions and international research centres, for two weeks in December.

Senyolo presented a poster titled: “Examining the household purchasing decision of underutilized leafy vegetables (ULVs) in Limpopo province, South Africa”.

Ms Michelle Browne, who graduated in April with an MScAgric (Agricultural Economics) degree cum laude, shared first prize with a student from the University of Pretoria for the 2011/2012 AEASA Best Masters Thesis award. Her thesis is titled: “Measuring household resilience in developing countries: evidence from six African countries”. Browne was supervised by Ortmann and co-supervised by Professor Sheryl Hendriks of the University of Pretoria.

Lecturer Dr Lloyd Baiyegunhi and postgraduate students Mr Stanley Sharangua, Mr Binganidzo Muchara and Mr Royal Mabe also presented papers at the Conference.

Ortmann presented a paper by Akankwasa et al. The titles of the papers presented and the authors were:

“Social capital and household poverty in rural KwaZulu-Natal”, by L Baiyegunhi; “Smallholder maize value chain in the Eastern Cape: constraints and opportunities for chain development”, by M Muchara, GF Ortmann, E Wale & B Letty; “The values rural households attach to forest products and services: the case of three communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa”, by S Sharaunga, M Mudhara and E Wale; “Mentee and mentor competencies for forming and sustaining mentorship: perspectives from the South African sugar industry”, by R Mabe, E Wale & SRD Ferrer; “The effect of banana cooking qualities and other consumption characteristics on consumers’ intentions to purchase East African Highland Banana hybrids in Uganda”, by K Akankwasa, GF Ortmann, E Wale & WK Tushemereirwe.

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Indawo yokufunda nokufundela ebizwa ngeThe Writing Place (WP) e-UKZN, iklomelise abafundi beKolishi lakwaHumanities abebehambele umkhando wokubhala ngokwezemfundo.

Abafundi bonke banikwe izitifiketi zokubakhona, abanye bazuze izipho zesitolo i-Adams Bookstore ezifikela kuR200 ngemibhalo yabo abebeyingenisele kulomncintiswano we-WP.

‘Othisha sibaqeqesha ukuthi bahole abafundi kumasonto amane bephethe imikhando ebhekelene nokusiza abafundi; ngokuqonda imibuzo yemibhalo (essay), baqhamuke nesakhiwo semibhalo, bakhe inxabano eqinile, ukubhala isiqalo nesiphetho,’ kusho uNksz Jessica Dora ongumdidiyeli we-WP. ‘Abafundi baphinde banikwa imibono ngolimu lemfundo, isimo sephimbo, nokubhala uphatho olulungile.’

uMphathi wezokufunda nokufundela zeKolishi, uSolwazi Nobuhle Hlongwa, ukhulume kulomcimbi wagqhugqhuzela abafundi ukuthi bacabange ngokuhlakanipha futhi bamele iNyuvesi ngomsebenzi abawenzayo.

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Umanqoba kumqhudelwano wokubhala kube uNksz Patience Lushaba, oyijabulele impumelelo yakhe wabonga othisha ngosizo neziluleko zabo. ‘Ukuba ingxenye yemikhando kungifundisile futhi kwathuthukisa umsebenzi wami.’

i-WP Drop-in Centre igumbi lezincwadi ezingaphumi esesitezi sokuqala somtapowolwazi we-EG Malherbe eHoward College. Abafundi kumele baphathe umbhalo wabo womsebenzi asebewenzile kuleligumbi kusukela ngoMsombuluko kuze kube nguLwesihlanu (8am-4pm) balinde uthisha otholakalayo ozobasiza.

Uma udinga enye imiyalelo bhalela umdidiyeli we-WP ku noma ufonele u-031 260 2943/2413 ngamahora okusebenza.

Othisha beWP bangabafundi beKolishi lakwaHumanities abahlanganyela imikhando yokubhala imibhalo.
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A documentary highlighting the impressive work done by the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders organisation was shown to appreciative audiences on the Medical School and Pietermaritzburg campuses recently.

MSF is an international medical humanitarian organisation created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. Every year, MSF provides emergency medical care to millions of people caught in crises in more than 60 countries around the world.

The organisation provides assistance when catastrophic events such as armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, or natural disasters overwhelm local health systems. MSF also assists people who face discrimination or neglect from their local health systems or when populations are excluded from health care.

The documentary titled: “Access to the Danger Zone” shows places the world has given up on - ‘conflict zones where people desperately need care and assistance’.

The documentary illustrates that in every conflict area guaranteeing access to care is crucial. The directors of the documentary said: ‘In the chaos, it is the wounded and sick struggling to survive who need help.’

The screening was part of an MSF tour around South Africa.

Mr Brett Sandler of MSF said the organisation had a rich history with South Africa, primarily in providing antiretroviral treatment for HIV positive people living in Cape Town.

Sandler said UKZN was a “fantastic” academic institution and an obvious venue to screen the documentary. ‘We thought it was very important to include staff and students.’

Sandler said they wanted UKZN to partner with them in a successful global network of student societies in universities known as Friends of MSF (FoMSF or Friends).

‘Students are the most excited and intrigued by the work we do. We would like to present more screenings like these for student societies.’

Members of the audience said it was “mind-blowing” to learn about the challenges of delivering healthcare in conflict areas around the world. ‘It’s interesting to see how MSF works with vulnerable populations and the impact their work has on their lives. The work they do is just amazing,’ said one of the students.

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UKZN’s Mr Nhlanhla Mathaba was named the Best Performing Agricultural Sector Education and Training Authority AgriSETA bursary student during the organisation’s annual gala dinner in Johannesburg.

A variety of awards recognising various role players in the agricultural sector were made at the event.

Mathaba, a Science Foundation Programme student, has recently submitted his thesis for a PhD in Horticultural Science.

The AgriSETA evaluated nominees by interviewing students, their supervisors and project industry partners which in Mathaba’s case is the Citrus Industry.

Mathaba’s PhD project investigates the events leading to chilling injury in lemons - a physiological disorder of fruit and vegetables leading to severe peel discolouration, thereby reducing the marketability of produce.

The project resulted in a deeper understanding of the occurrence and mitigation techniques of chilling injury in citrus fruit.

‘This achievement would be impossible without the guidance and support of my Supervisor, Dr Sia Beetling, and my industry partner, the Citrus Academy of the South African Citrus Growers’ Association,’ said Mathaba.

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The College of Humanities recently held its first postgraduate conference at the Innovation Centre with registered postgraduate students presenting papers pertinent to their current research study.

About 80 students delivered presentations at the event which proved to be a great success.

The Conference theme was: “Surveying the Humanities Research Landscape: What’s under the Postgraduate Lens”?

‘The theme was appropriate because it was an exercise of stock-taking of research conducted in the Humanities from the viewpoint of postgraduate students and how this could be nuanced and deepened for beneficial outcomes in the future for both scholars and students,’ said Deputy Vice-Chancellor for the College of Humanities, Professor Joseph Ayee.

‘As postgraduate students in the Humanities the future is bright for them because they are being nurtured to become the next generation of scholars.’

College Dean of Research, Professor Sarojini Nadar, said: ‘I am confident the conference enabled us to get an overview of the rich and wide variety of research being conducted and foregrounded in the Humanities at UKZN.

‘Furthermore, postgraduates got to showcase their varied research areas and were exposed to scholarly critique and most importantly were afforded the opportunity to have their papers published in peer-reviewed conference proceedings.’

Ms Nqobile Dlomo, a postgraduate student from the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), was thrilled to be given the opportunity to share her research paper.

‘It was the first time I presented a paper at a conference and it was terrifying but it was all worth it because I got a lot of constructive feedback from the audience. This will now help me continue and improve my research paper. The conference was a great learning opportunity for me as a masters student,’ said Dlomo.

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UKZN alumnus Ms Sarisha Rameshlall Komal is one of 17 South African teachers awarded for Excellent Performance in Education by the South African Council for Educators (SACE).

As part of the award, Komal who lives in Durban and has been in education for the past 18 years, was invited to Centurion in Gauteng for a two-day programme which included orientation with SACE and ARGO, interviews with E-TV’s Mind Set, and meet and greet sessions with other experienced academics and role players in education in South Africa.

‘A highlight was being able to meet and communicate with Angie Motshega the National Minister of Basic Education. Teachers were honoured and acknowledged for doing a great job in their field,’ said Komal. ‘I was brought up to believe that excellence in my profession and life is the only option.’

Komal has travelled to India, Kenya and Mauritius sharing ideas on youth development in education. She has also researched and presented many papers to principals and senior management teams focusing on development of holistic youth development programmes for schools as policy.

Currently she is doing a Doctorate in Education focussing on youth leadership development in schools with her research concentrating on the input of emotional intelligence.

At the function in Centurion, Komal was also recognised for being placed in the Top 10 in the 2012 Stars in Education Awards which acknowledges the central role educators play in their communities.

Komal earned the recognition for making a difference through an educational intervention for a school’s project called Conversation Circles for Parents (CC4P) which she created and facilitated with counsellors in a Western Cape school and now at schools in KwaZulu-Natal. (YOUTUBE link

‘It is about bridging the gaps between parents, pupils and schools through experiential learning,’ said Komal.

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The School of Law recently hosted members of a delegation from the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Humanitarian Law in Turkey who were on a week-long tour of South Africa organised by UKZN’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS).

The tour, aimed at increasing the level of knowledge of the delegation about setting up a street law programme in Turkey, was the result of a presentation on UKZN’s Street Law programme delivered by CSLS Chairperson Professor David McQuoid-Mason in Turkey last year.

‘Academics from the Anadolu University were impressed by my talk on the Street Law programme and were interested in setting up a similar programme,’ said McQuoid-Mason.

Under the guidance of McQuoid-Mason, the delegation discussed how to write street law material, enjoyed presentations by law students and academics and also attended the Ellie Newman Moot Court Final Competition.

The delegation visited the Constitutional Court, Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, UKZN’s Street Law office based at Howard College, and the School of Law’s Centre for Criminal Justice on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Delegation spokesman, Ms Gamze Rezan Sarisen, said the tour had provided them with essential knowledge which would be vital in establishing their own street law programme in Turkey.

‘We have seen the importance of developing the practical legal skills of law students and paralegal officers and also had the opportunity to learn about different models of street law and law clinics which gave us a better idea of legal education in South Africa. It is interesting to see how the law school interacts with society and how they work together,’ said Sarisen.

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UKZN recently hosted a joint meeting of the South African Committee of Health Sciences Deans (SACOHSD), the Committee of Medical Deans and the Committee of Dental Deans to deliberate on matters in health sciences Higher Education.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director for the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and President of the Medical Research Council (MRC), presented his proposal for the revitalisation of the MRC which was strongly endorsed by the meeting.

The meeting also confirmed its support for the Academy of Sciences of South Africa to implement the Lancet Report on Training Health Professionals for the 21st Century.

There was a robust discussion on the successes and challenges of the Clinical Training Grant together with the Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant from the perspective of the Deans as well as the Department of Higher Education and Training represented by Ms Brenda Swart and Mr Temwa Moyo.

UKZN has held the chairmanship of the SACOHSD since its inception 2008. Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences at UKZN, Professor Sabiha Essack, has been instrumental as co-founder and chair in getting SACOHSD recognised as a co-aligned community of practice by Higher Education South Africa (HESA)

Essack has also assisted in getting recognition for the committee’s:
- role in expanding the clinical training grant to cover a wider range of health professional disciplines;
- for the 240 credit diploma to facilitate the training of mid-level workers; and
- national conferences on rehabilitation professionals within the public sector in 2011 and training health care professionals for the 21st century in 2012.

Among other prestigious appointments, Essack is President of the South African Chapter of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA), a Ministerial appointee on the National Health Research Ethics Council 2010-12, and Co-ordinator to the Africa Higher Education Collaborative which is a four-country Ford Foundation-funded initiative run by the Centre for the International Exchange of Scholars in the United States.

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The School of Accounting Economics and Finance in partnership with accounting firm Ernst and Young recognised top achievers at the Accounting 300 awards ceremony held in Durban recently.

The event rewards the achievements of top students and also gives them a platform to showcase their skills to Ernst and Young in the hope of future employment.

In the presentations, students were required to analyse financial statements of a top 100 listed company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Working closely with their lecturers for guidance the groups had to creatively translate theory into practical scenarios.

Accounting Lecturer, Ms Salma Vanker, said the exercise helped students enter the workplace better prepared.

‘The project is of great value as it brings together the theory taught and the application thereof. It allows students to hone in on report writing skills, master their presentation skills and provides an outlet for students with creativity.

‘The project has been running for many years as a joint initiative between UKZN and Ernst and Young and we would like to thank the firm for their continued support,’ said Vanker.

Team 006 chose to examine the financial aspect of Netcare Limited while the Corporate Supremacists group looked at Woolworths Holding Limited’s ratio and share analysis.

The Supernova group decided to adopt a business news bulletin format to make their presentation on Pick n Pay.

The Cash Cow group won after impressing the judges by adopting a game show theme titled “Invest or Don’t Invest” which analysed the benefits and risks of investing with Mr Price Group Limited.

Ernst & Young Director, Ms Jane Oliva, said her company was scouting for future employees who had energy, enthusiasm and the courage to lead and the Accounting 300 event capture all those elements.

‘It is not only about technical content but also about presentation skills, creativity and the energy of the students.

‘Everyone who has presented has produced quality which has given them an edge over their peers that is why we continue to build a relationship with UKZN,’ said Oliva.

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Research conducted by an expert in pedagogic factors in the medical curriculum at UKZN, Professor Ted Sommerville, has revealed that students with previous tertiary education experience tend to do better than others in the MBChB programme.

During a study investigating several demographic influences on MBChB student achievement, Sommerville found that when examined individually, age, sex and facilitator background had no significant impact on the success of students being studied.

Students’ first language and the financing of their studies did seem to influence their achievements. However, only high school quintile (socio-economic status of the community), previous tertiary experience, assessment marks and a student’s matric points were significant independent determinants of how well students progressed through their medical degree.

Sommerville presented the study at the College of Health Sciences’ Annual Research Symposium, saying the findings could have implications for student admissions for curriculum structuring, planning therapeutic interventions and for the pre-medical education sphere.

Sommerville said various studies at school and university level had documented factors that could influence students’ assessment marks – ‘the ultimate measure of academic success or failure’.

The study was inspired by his passion to teach a new generation of critical thinkers who would join the medical fraternity and meet the special healthcare needs of the country. He was concerned that students of today were a lot more relaxed than older generations about the comprehensive and packed information passed on to them by lecturers.

‘If the sort of information we teach students is held onto for a while and then forgotten then that is a pity. I try to make them think. That’s my conviction.’

Sommerville, who followed 202 first-year students from 2007 through to graduation in 2011, argues that medical education is important for shaping the future of the country’s health care ‘but if we are not producing doctors who can think for themselves then they will not be able to keep abreast of new knowledge’.

Sommerville’s analysis of the nine demographics came after holding focus groups with medical students from diverse backgrounds and listening to their perceptions on teaching and learning in the MBChB programme.

‘Most of the obvious indices of the diversity that we strive for show significant differences when examined independently. However, in combination, several turn out to fade into the background compared to schooling, tertiary education, the standards of difficulty of successive assessments and lastly – and minimally – the more directly cognitive aspect of students’ matric performance.’

Commenting on the small impact of matric performance, Sommerville said he suspected that today’s average high school student might have an advantage in the MBChB programme over some of the high fliers. His observation was that at university, some of the latter did not cope because they knew from high school that they could open their books the night before and excel in the next day’s examination.

‘Suddenly it does not work like that anymore because they now have to sit and understand the information – and some have never learned to do that.’

Sommerville mentioned that medical schools in a number of countries evidently believed that achieving ‘straight As’ was not enough to excel in medicine and added pre-selection interviews to their recruitment process.

Sommerville said, however, that it was not easy to measure an applicant’s dedication, commitment and conscientiousness simply from a pre-selection interview, particularly in South Africa, as students come from very diverse backgrounds.

A firm believer in problem-based learning, Sommerville said students with previous tertiary education experience were more likely to do well throughout the MBChB curriculum, possibly because they had already developed some independence of thinking.

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One of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of mind power and personal mastery, Mr Robin Banks, entertained and motivated the audience during a presentation at the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medicinal Sciences (LMMS).

An international speaker and a comedian of note, Banks united staff under the theme: “Success is a choice”, which is in line with UKZN’s recently launched Transformation Charter.

The presentation encouraged participants to embrace change and gravitate from being a “victim to victor” in all of life’s situations by transforming how they thought, felt and behaved.

Banks said people spent too much time worrying and complaining about things they often had no control over, and the negative energy they carried was a direct contributor to stress, baggage and ill-health.

‘The person you affect the most by carrying negative energy is yourself! Let go of the need to blame someone else because of how you are feeling.’

Banks coined accusation, blame and complaining as the “ABC” of being a victim. He said he was concerned that most people in South Africa did not have a future, but a past.

‘Most people’s lives are controlled by what happens to them. People are going to do what people are going to do… recognise that whatever you are constantly thinking about, you will bring about.’

During his presentation, Banks demonstrated the impact of various concepts on people’s lives, including: the power of mindsets, dealing and coping with change, internal versus external control, maintaining a positive attitude, creating empowering beliefs and generating a vibrant energy field.

Banks has dedicated his life to the transformation of global consciousness and his ultimate desire is to empower people to take charge of their lives and create a brighter future for themselves, their community, their country and the planet. Educational, informative and captivating the audience from beginning to end during the presentation, Banks had participants on their feet and dancing to fun-filled activities which promoted respect, excellence and collegiality among all.

Professor William Daniels, Dean and Head of the School of LMMS, said there were some serious messages in the presentation and he was confident that colleagues would adopt improved ways of professionalism and performance in their various roles.

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